Lecture delivered at the Hermetic Brotherhood Hail, San Francisco, on Saturday, Dec 6, 1902.
MY ALTER EGOS, MY OTHER SELVES
There will be a regular course of lectures, to which tonight’s talk may be looked upon as an introduction. “What is the Goal of Religion, and How do the Hindus Try to Realize It?”
According to the Hindus, everybody is God, the most precious jewel, the whole treasure, the supreme bliss and source of all happiness in Himself. Everybody is God and all in Himself. If so, how is it that people suffer? They suffer not because they have not the remedy; not because they do not possess the infinite joy in themselves; not because they have not the priceless jewel within themselves, but because they do not know how to untie the knot which holds it, how to open the casket which contains it. In other words, people do not know how to enter their own spirits and realize their own Self. All religion is simply an attempt to unveil ourselves and to explain our Self.
We have placed a curtain before the precious jewels within us with our own hands, by our own efforts, and have made ourselves miserable, poor wretches, as Emerson puts it, “Every man is God playing the fool.”
All creeds are simply the efforts to strike out, to rend asunder the veil which covers our eyes. There are some creeds which have succeeded in making the veil much thinner than other creeds, but in all creeds there are people who have the true spirit, and wherever the true spirit comes, whether the curtain be thick or thin, it is pushed aside for the time being and a glimpse into the reality is had. It will be illustrated by this example: Here is a curtain or veil. (Here the Swami placed a handkerchief before his eyes). It is before the eyes. We can push aside the curtain and see, but the curtain again comes up before the eyes. The curtain is made thinner (here some of the folds of the handkerchief were taken down), and when the curtain is very thin it can be still shoved aside, but it conies up before the eyes again. It does not leave the eyes permanently. We will make it thinner still. In this state also it can be slid aside for a while, but it comes before the eyes again. When the veil is made extremely thin, even though it be not thrust aside, the veil does not stand in the way of our vision. We can see through it, and even now as before, we can also remove it at times. When the curtain is made extremely thin, it is practically no curtain, and we enjoy supreme happiness in spite of it; we are face to face with God; nay, we are God. Nothing in this world can disturb us or mar our happiness; nothing can stand in our way. This is the advantage over other creeds of Vedanta which reduces the curtain of ignorance (Maya) to its thinnest and enables a Jnani to enjoy blissful vision even in business-life.
The votaries of all religious creeds can at times be ‘en rapport‘ with Divinity and lift off the veil, thick or thin, from before their eyes for so long as they remain in communion with the Supreme Being. A Vedantin also can do that, am throw himself into a state of happy trance; but he enjoys celestial vision even in the ordinary state, a celestial vision which creeds of thicker veil do not.
All the sects in this world, including those of India, may be branched under three principal headings. In Sanskrit we call these ‘Tassyaivaham‘, ‘Tavaivaham‘, ‘Twamevaham’. The meaning of the first ‘Tassyaivaham’ is “I am His”. This form of creed keeps the curtain in its thickest form. The second stage of religious creeds is ‘Tavaivaham,’ which means, “I am Thine”. You will notice the difference between the first phase of creeds or dogmas, and the second. In the first attempts in the religious direction, the devotee, the worshipper, looks upon God as away from him, as invisible, and he speaks of God in the third person, as if he were absent, “I am His.”This is the beginning of religion, it is like mother’s milk to every child of religion. Without having once fed upon this milk, a man is incapable of making further progress in religion. “I am His. “Is it not sweet when a man realizes even this perfectly; awakes early in the morning and thinks. “My Master wakes me”; goes to his official duties and looks upon those duties as imposed upon him by his dear, sweet Master, God; looks upon the whole world as God’s and regards his house, his relatives, his friends as God’s, as vouchsafed unto him by God? Oh, is not the world turned into a veritable heaven, is not the world converted into a paradise? Let the man be sincere, let him earnestly and with his whole heart feel and realize this: everything about him is his Master’s, his God’s and this body is His. When realized perfectly, even this idea brings exquisite joy, indescribable happiness, supreme bliss -it is sublime. This is sweet enough when realized and put into practice, but as a creed it is only the beginning.
Compare with it the second phase of creeds, the second stage of religious life and devotion called ‘Tavaivaham,’ “I am Thine. I need Thee every hour, I am Thine, Thine.” The first was sweet, but this is sweeter. The first state was very dear and very lovely, but this is more lovely and more dear. Just mark the difference. The difference is illustrated by the veil having become thinner. You know that in “I am Thine,” God is no longer spoken of in the third person; He is no longer looked upon as absent, as behind the curtain, but comes face to face with us. He is near and dear to us, very close to us. He comes closer to us, we become more familiar with Him. As a creed this is higher. But it often happens that people believe in this creed, and address God as very familiar, very near to them, but they lack the true earnest spirit, the; Living Faith.
Living Faith being conjoined to the first state of religious development, the curtain, though very thick is for the time being removed. While a man is feeling with his whole heart and soul -with every drop of his blood -the idea that he is God’s, “I am His”, as it were, being poured forth from every pore of his body; the sincerity, the earnestness, the ardour and the zeal for the time being remove the curtain from before his eyes, and he is lost, merged in God, in the All, becomes godly, he becomes God for that time. Sometimes the man who believes in the high principle “I am Thine” lacks that true Living Faith and docs not enjoy full well the sweets of God’s presence. But Living Faith and earnestness can be conjoined to the second stage of religious creed as well.
The third form of creed is called Twamevaham, and means “I am Thou”. You see how near it brings us to God. In the first form “I am His,” God is away, off. In the second form “I am Thine”. God is face to face with us, He has become closer to us; but in the final stage of religious development the two become one and the lover and the beloved are lost in love. Thus is Vedanta realized. The moth neared and neared the light till it burned its body and became Light. The word Upanishad (Vedanta) means literally approaching so close (Upa) to the Light of lights that most certainly (ni) the moth of separating and dividing consciousness may be destroyed (shad). The true lover of God becomes one with Him, and unconsciously, spontaneously, involuntarily such expressions find utterance through his lips, “I am He,” “I am He,”“I am He,” “I am Thou,”“Thou and I are one.”“I am God, I am God. Nothing less can I be.”This is the final state of religious development. That is the highest devotion, This is called the Vedanta, which means the end of knowledge. Here does all knowledge find its end; here is the goal reached. Even in this creed, where the curtain is so thin that we can see the whole reality even though the curtain is one, there are some who lack earnestness, sincerity or single-mindedness, and do not slide away the curtain entirely to taste full realization; and there are those also who, after arriving intellectually at this conviction, begin to realize the idea through feeling to such a degree that they remove the curtain and enjoy heavenly bliss -they become heaven itself. These are called liberated, even in this life, Jivanmuktas.
The refining of creed or the thinning of the curtain conies chiefly through the intellect, and the lifting of the veil is effected through feeling. The three forms of creed have been described. Now let us see how far it is possible for men in the different creeds to shift the curtain between whiles. A few Hindu stories will serve as illustrations.
There was a girl very deeply in love, her whole being transformed into love. At one time she was seriously ill, and the doctors were called. They said that the only way to cure her was to take out some of her blood. They applied their lancets to the flesh of her arms, but no blood came out of her body. But at the same time curiously enough blood was observed gushing from the skin of her lover. What a wonderful union! You will call that a tradition, a false story, but it can be true. Often do those people who experience love, though of a lower degree, verify something like that in their own lives. That girl had forgotten her own personality and had made herself one with her lover and the lover had merged himself in the lady’s love.
Such a union with God is religion. Let my body become His body and let His Self become my Self.
In a religious book of the Hindus, Yog Vasishtha, we are told of a lady who was thrown into fire. The people saw that the fire did not burn her. Her lover was thrown into the fire, but it did not burn him also. How was it? They were thrown into the river but it did not carry them off. They were thrown down from the tops of mountains and not a bone was broken. How was it? At that time they could not give any explanation, they were Beyond themselves, they were in that state where no questions could reach them. Long afterwards the reason was asked, and they said that to each of them the beloved one was all in all; the fire was no fire, it appeared to that lady her lover and to the man the same fire appeared to be his beloved one. The water was no water to them: it was all the beloved one. The stones were no stones to them; the body was no body to them: it was all the beloved one. How could the beloved one harm them?
We read in the Hindu Puranas of a young boy whose father, a king, wanted to turn his son from religious life. He desired him to remain a worldling, like himself, but the remonstrances and admonitions of the parent did not prevail upon the child -they were all lost on him. In order to prevent the child from his intention, the father cast him into tire but it burnt him not. The king then threw his child into running water but it bore the child up. To him the fire, the water, and the elements had ceased to be harmful—they were realized in their true state. The boy had dehypnotized himself into this real state. Everything unto him was God, all Love. The threats, frowns, and brow-beating, a word and flame were nothing else than sweet heaven. How could he be injured?
Some time ago a Hindu monk was sitting on the bank of the Ganges, in the deep Himalayan forests. On the opposite bank some other monks were observing him while he was chanting to himself Shivoham! Shivoham! Shivoham! which means I am God, I am God. There appeared a tiger on the scene. The tiger came and got him in his claws, and though in the fangs of the tiger, the same chant was coming out from him in the same tones, in the same fearless strain, Shivoham! Shivoham! Shivoham! The tiger tore off his hands and legs, and there was the same sound, unabated in intensity. What do you think of that? What do you think of this saying, “I am God, I am God”? Could you call it agnosticism? Far from it, far from it. This is the final realization. Do not lovers, on reaching that summit of love, feel themselves to be one with their beloved one? Does not the mother call her child the flesh of her flesh, the blood of her blood, the bones of her bones? And does not the mother regard the child as her other ego, as her other self? Are not the interests of the child identical with the interests of the mother? Indeed they are.
Embracing Him, accepting Him, wedding Him, become one with Him to such a degree and so intensely that there may be left no trace of separation. Instead of praying “Thy will be done, O Lord,” let your joy be “My will is being done.”
In India, long ago, ways and customs were very different from what you find them in America in these days. In America, you have electric lights to illuminate your houses at night. At the time of which Rama is going to speak, the Hindus used clay lamps, and when one family got their lamps lit, the people of the adjoining houses would go into their neighbour’s house to light theirs. One evening a maiden who was ardently in love with Krishna went to the house of his father on the pretext of lighting her lamp.
It need not be said that it was in reality a desire to get herself singed like a moth at the light of Krishna’s face that led her to the house of Krishna rather than to any other house with lighted lamps. She really went to see him: the lighting of the lamp was only the excuse she gave her mother. She had to apply the wick of her lamp to that of the burning lamp, but her eyes were not on the lamps, they were on the face of the dear little Krishna. She was looking at that charming, bewitching face of Krishna; she was looking at him so intently that she did not notice that instead of the wick of her lamp being in contact with the burning lamp, her lingers were burning in it. The flame continued to burn her fingers but she noticed it not. Time passed on and she did not return home. Her mother became impatient and could bear the delay no longer. She went to her neighbour’s house, and there she saw her daughter’s hand burning and the daughter unconscious of it; the fingers were singed and were shrivelling, and the bones were charred. The mother panted for breath, gasped and wept and cried aloud, “Oh, my child, my child, what are you doing? In the name of goodness, what are you doing? “Then was the girl brought to her senses, or, you may say, she was brought from her senses.
In such a state of divine love, in this stage of perfect love, the beloved and the lover become one, “I am He,”“I am Thou.”
This is the third state, and Beyond that comes the state where even these expressions cannot be used.
The above stories illustrate the third kind of Love, The following will illustrate the second state of religious development, “I am Thine,”“I am Thine.” Two boys came to a master and wanted him to instruct them in religion. He said that he would not teach them unless he had examined them. Well, he gave them two pigeons, one to each, and asked them to go out and kill the pigeons at some retired place where nobody might see them. One of them went straight into the crowded thoroughfare. Turning his back to the people who were passing through the streets, and putting a piece of cloth over his head, he took up the pigeon, wrenched its neck and came back straight-away to the teacher and said, “Master, master, (Swami, Swami,) here is your order carried out.”The Swami inquired, “Did you strangle the pigeon when no one was seeing you? “He said, “Yes.”“All right; let us see now what your companion has done.”
The other boy went out into a deep, dense forest, and was about to twist the neck of the pigeon, and lo I there were the gentle, soft and glittering eyes of the pigeon looking him straight in the face. He met those eyes, and in his attempt to break the neck of the pigeon, he was frightened. The idea struck him that the condition laid upon him by the master was a very trying, hard one. Here the witness, the Observer, is present even in this pigeon. “Oh, I am not alone! I am not in the place where no one will see me. I am being observed. Well, what shall I do? Where shall I go? “He went on and on, and retired into some other forest. There also when he was about to commit the act, he met the eyes of the pigeon, and the pigeon saw him. The Observer was in the pigeon itself.
Again and again he tried to kill the pigeon; over and over again he tried, but did not succeed in fulfilling the conditions imposed upon him by the master. Broken-hearted, he came back reluctantly to the master, and laid the pigeon alive at the feet of the Swami and wept and wept and cried: “Master, master, (Swami, Swami,) I cannot fulfil this condition. Be kind enough to impart the knowledge of God to me. This examination is too trying for me. I cannot bear this examination. Please be merciful, have mercy on me and impart to me divine knowledge. I want that, I surely need it.”The master (Swami) took up the child, raised him in his arms, caressed and patted him, and lovingly spoke to him: “O, dear one, O dear one, even as you have seen the Observer in the eyes of the bird that you were going to slay, even so, wherever you may happen to go, and wherever you are moved by temptation to perpetrate a crime, realize the presence of God. Realize the Observer, the witness in the flesh and in the eyes of the woman for whom you crave. Realize that your Master sees you even w her eyes. My Master sees me. Act as if you were always in the presence of the Great Master, ever face to face with the Divinity, all the time in the sight of the Beloved.”
They say that in a grand museum in Naples, there is a beautiful angelic face on the roof, and at whatever part of the museum you may happen to be, whatever part you may happen to visit, you may go to the roof, you may go to the basement, wherever you may be, the bright, dazzling, pure eyes of the angel look you straight in the eyes. People, who are in the second state of spiritual development, if true to themselves, live constantly under the eye of the Master. They feel and realize that wherever they may go, in the innermost chaimber of the house, in the most secluded caves of the forest, they find themselves under the eyes of God, seen by Him, fed by His light, nourished by His grace.
Now we come to the primary stage of spiritual development. “I am His! I am His! I am God’s!” This seems to be an elementary stage. Oh! But how difficult it is for people to realize the elementary stage of religious development, and if a is sincere, really single-minded, really devout, puts into practice what he believes, makes this idea course with the blood through his veins, feels it with every drop of his blood, gets himself saturated with it, with this elementary creed, he may become an angel in this world. A highly revered saint in India was in his early youth working in a place where it was his duty to give away alms, to distribute food and treasure to the people. Some poor men were brought before him, with an order from his Master to give unto them thirteen bushels of flour. He gave them one bushel; he gave them the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, until he came to the number thirteen. He was counting the number of bushels audibly while dealing out the flour. The number thirteen is called tera, in the Indian language. This is a very remarkable word. It has two meanings; one is thirteen -ten plus three; and the other meaning of the word is “I am Thine! I am Thine! I am God’s!”“I am part of Him, I am His.”
Well, he counted twelve and then came the turn of the number tera. When he had given them the thirteenth bushel and was pronouncing tera. Such holy associations were aroused in him that he actually gave up his body and all to God. He forgot everything about the world; he was Beyond himself; no, he was in himself. In this state of ecstacy he went on saying tera, tera, tera, tera, and went on unconsciously giving to the people bushel after bushel, saying tera, tera, until he fell down in a state of super-consciousness, in a state of transcendental bliss.
Thus we see that the people who are in the elementary stages can often rise to the greatest heights, if they are as good as their word; if they are sincere and earnest; if they do not want to throw dust into the eyes of God; if they do not want to make promises with God and then break them. When once in the temple or church, they say, “I am Thine.”Let them feel it. Let them live it. Let them realize it. This is true religion.
The different sects throughout the world can be classed under these three heads -”I am his!”“I am Thine!”“I am He.” So far as the forms are concerned, the second form, u I am Thine” is higher than the first, “I am His” and the third form, “I am He” is the highest. Into any of these three forms we may infuse the true religious spirit.
According to the Hindus, those who bring a true religious spirit to bear upon the elementary state of the creed will in this birth, or in the next, rise to the highest creed; they will rise to the second creed, and, with the second creed, again associating the true religious spirit in this life or the next will by and by rise to the next higher religious creed, which is “I am He,”“I am Thou.”When this state is reached, there are no more births. The man is free, free, free! Man is God, God! He has reached the end! OM!
Oh! Brimful is my cup of joy,
Fulfilled completely all desires;
Sweet morning zephyrs I employ,
It‘s I in bloom their kiss admires.
The rainbow colours are my attires;
My errands run light, lightning fires.
All lovers I am, all sweethearts I,
I am desires, emotions I.
The smiles of rose, the pearls of dew.
The golden threads so fresh, so new,
Of Sun’s bright rays embalmed in sweetness,
The silvery moon, delicious neatness,
The playful ripples, waving trees,
Entwining creepers, humming bees,
Are my expression, my balmy breath,
My respiration in life and death.
All ill and good, and bitter and sweet,
In that my throbbing pulse doth beat.
What shall 1 do, or where remove?
I fill all space, no room to move.
Shall I suspect or I desire?
All time is me, all force my fire.
Can I be doubt or sorrow-stricken?
No, I am verily all causation.
All time is NOW, all distance HERE.
Ail problem solved, solution clear.
No selfish aim, no tic, no bond,
To me do each and all respond.
Impersonal Lord of foe and friend,
To me doth every object bend.