Lecture delivered at the Hermetic Brotherhood Hall, San Francisco, on December 17, 1902
WHAT is there in this world that remains to be desired to a man who has once known himself? Nothing in all the treasures of the kingdom, nothing in all the universe can draw his attention. Nothing in all the charms and beauties of this world can draw his notice, nothing in all the stores of knowledge can attract him. Oh, what happiness, what supreme joy, what perfect bliss, how indescribable! It transcends all language and surpasses all description. That infinite joy, that supreme bliss, that infinite happiness ye are, that is your real self; that is your Atman.
Know that and you stand above all wants and needs. Have that and the whole universe is yours.
Oh, what a mistake is made by the people, what an error is committed in giving up this infinite joy, this Supreme Bliss for worldly delusion, the shadows, the will-o’-the-wisps. This whole happiness is yours; that ye are. Why not seek that? Take possession of your birthright. Like Esau, people sell their birthright for a mess of pottage.
Just sing, just chant OM and while chanting it, put your whole heart into it, put all your energies into it, put your whole soul into it. Put all your strength in realizing it. The meaning of this syllable OM is “I AM HE”, “I AND HE ARE ONE,” OM. “THE SAME AM I.”OM, OM. While chanting, be conjuring up, if possible, before your mind all your weaknesses and all your temptations. Trample them under your feet, crush them out, rise above them and come out victorious.
In India there is a beautiful story in the Puranas. It speaks of Krishna jumping into the river Jumna while his father, mother, friends and relatives stood by struck dumb with amazement. In their very presence be jumped into the torrent. They thought that he was gone, that he would never rise again. The story says that he went to the bottom of the river and there was a thousand-headed dragon. Krishna began to blow his flute, he began to play the chanting OM, he began to kick down the heads of the dragon, he began to crush down the heads of the dragon one by one, but as he crushed the many heads of the dragon one by one, other heads sprang up and thus it was very hard for him. Krishna went on jumping and dancing upon the crested head of the dragon; he went on playing the man tram on his flute, he went on chanting his mantram and still jumping and crushing down the heads of the dragon. In half-an-hour the dragon was dead; what with the charming note of the flute and the crushing of the dragon by his heels, the dragon was dead. The waters of the river were turned to blood and the blood of the dragon mixed with the water of the river. All the wives of the dragon came up to pay homage to Krishna, they wanted to drink of the nectar of his sweet presence. Krishna came up from the river, the amazed relatives and friends were beside themselves, their joy knew no bounds, so happy were they to find their beloved Krishna, their beloved one, in their midst again. This story has a double meaning. It is an object lesson, so to say, for those who want to gain an insight of reality into their own Divinity.
That lake or river represents the mind or rather the lake of the mind, and whoever wants to become Krishna (the word Krishna means or stands for Deity or God), whoever wants to regain the paradise lost, he has to enter deep into the lake of his own mind, to dive deep into himself. He has to plunge deep into his own nature, reaching the bottom he has to fight the venomous dragon, the poisonous snake of passion, desire, the venomous dragon of the worldly mind. He has to crush it down, he has to destroy its crests, he has to kick down its many heads, he has to charm and destroy it. He must make clear the lake of his mind, he must clear his mind this way. The process is the same as that followed by Krishna. He is to take up his flute and play the mantram OM through it. He has to sing that divine, that blessed song through it.
What is this flute? It is simply a symbol for you. Look at the flute. Indian poets attach great importance to it. What a great deed was it that the flute performed that it was raised to such a dignity? By virtue of what great Karma was it elevated to such a position? Why was it that Krishna who was the object of worship, who was loved by mighty monarchs, who was worshipped by thousands of fairy maidens in broad India; how was it that Krishna, the beloved one, the powerful one, the Love personified, that Krishna who did not condescend to look at kings or monarchs, why gave he this flute kisses? What raised it to such a position? The flute’s answer was, “I have one virtue, one good point I have. I have made myself void of all matter.”
The flute is empty from head to foot. “I emptied myself or non-self.” Just so, applying the flute to the lips means purifying the heart, turning the mind unto God; throwing everything at the feet of God, the Beloved One. Just give up from your heart of hearts. Give up all claim upon the body, give up all selfishness, all selfish connections, all thoughts of mine and thine; rise above it. Wooing God, wooing Him as no worldly lover woos his lady love; hungering and thirsting after the realization of the true Self, just as a man of the world hungers and thirsts for what he has not had for a long time, hungering and thirsting for the divine; yearning for the truth; craving after a taste of the supreme reality of Self, putting yourself in that state of mind is applying the flute to the lips. In this state of mind, in this peace of heart, with such a pure soul begin to chant the man tram OM; begin to sing the sacred syllable OM. This is putting the breath of music into the flute. Make your whole life a flute. Make your whole body a flute. Empty it of selfishness and fill it with divine breath.
Chant OM and while doing it, begin that search within the lake of your mind. Search out the poisonous snake with its many tongues. These heads, tongues, and fangs of the poisonous snake are the innumerable wants, the worldly tendencies, and the selfish propensities. Crush them one by one, trample them under your feet, single them out, overcome them and destroy them while singing the syllable OM.
Build up a character, make firm resolutions, make strong determinations and take solemn vows so that when you come out of the lake or river of the mind, you may not find the waters poisoned; so that the waters will not poison those who drink from them. Come out of the lake having purified it altogether. Let people differ from you, let them subject you to all sorts of difficulties, let them revile you, but despite their favours and frowns, their threats and promises, from the lake of your mind there should flow nothing but divine, infinitely pure, fresh water. Nectar should flow out of you so that it may become as impossible for you to think evil as for the pure fresh spring to poison those who drink from it. Purify the heart, sing the syllable OM, pick out all points of weakness and eradicate them. Come out victorious, having formed a beautiful character. When the dragon of passion is destroyed, you will find the objects of desire worshipping you just as the wives of the dragon under the river paid homage unto Krishna after he had killed the snake.
Draw a diagram for your use and place on this diagram a list of the ordinary sins and shortcomings. This table having been traced, you take the day of the week, perhaps on that day you have suffered from greed or grief; you then place the mark (x) directly under the column headed greed or grief, along the line of the date and so on. By keeping this private diary you can bring before you your shortcomings and be brought face to face with your weaknesses.
Rama does not recommend that these marks be kept on the diagram. Today you yield to some shortcoming; be true to yourselves and put down the asterisk mark today. Next day in the morning or at any time convenient to you, close the door, sit down all alone and open the chart before you and here you see that you yielded to greed or grief or whatever it may be; then begin lecturing to yourself.
We in this country have too many lectures from others. Let all the great lecturers of the age come, let Christ or God Himself come and lecture, but lectures from others will be of no avail unless you are prepared to lecture to yourself. He alone can raise himself or make progress who lectures to himself. You know that you yielded to grief. Try and diagnose and prognose this feeling. Why were you overpowered by grief? Find out the cause and then find a remedy for it. You may at that time read an instructive book, say Bhagavad-Gita or the Bible, or Emerson’s works, or any books which may tend to lift you from the plane of grief and with their aid and the aid of your own lectures, reflections, meditations, try to drive out this feeling from you forever. If you feel convinced at that time that you have conquered and that you will not lose yourself again, no matter what may befall you, when you are assured you have trampled it under your feet, that you have gained the victory, then erase the asterisk mark. You are free then. Why condemn yourself for the past? Let the dead past bury its dead.
Take up these faults one by one, find the cause and the remedy for each, diagnose and prognose each one, lecture to yourself, but before such diagnosis and prognosis is done in this class, each one of you must lecture to yourself. Each one will have to do the work for himself. Sit down and meditate upon that which you suffer from, and while meditating chant or sing OM. While the lips are chanting, while the voice hums this sacred syllable, while you are firm in your resolutions, the infinite blessings celestial are on you. You will be strengthened from within. These are some of the crested heads of the dragon which infested the lake of your minds. Crush them out one by one. There is one common cause for all shortcomings, one common basis, root of all these evils, and that is Ignorance, -Ignorance in all its shapes, especially Ignorance of the real Self, Ignorance of the true Atman.
People identify themselves with the body, accumulate all sorts of things around it and want to have pleasures from without. They are identified with the body and are liable to be grieved or afflicted.
Rise above the body. Feel and realize that you are the Infinite, the Supreme Self, and how can you he affected by passion or greed?
As a sub-division to the general ignorance of the true Self, there is the ignorance of the common laws of nature which keeps people sick and weak. Here is a sacred law of nature, a law which cannot be set at naught. The law is —
Do any kind of wrong, do any mischief, harbour in your mind any kind of wrong, do these wrong deeds, commit these sins even at a place where you are sure nobody will catch you or find you out, where nobody will call you to question. Sow these seeds of evil wherever you please, even in a place as secure as any fort could be; sow the wind and by the most stern, unrelenting, irrefragable, irretrievable law, you reap the whirlwind; you must be visited with pain and suffering. The wages of sin is death.
People take it as a moral law and say that there is not the same strength in it as there is in mathematical laws; they say that there is no mathematical certainty about it. Mistaken are they who think that way. In the most solitary caves commit a sin and you will in no time be astonished to see that the very grass under your feet stands up and bears testimony against you. You will in time see that the very walls, the very trees have tongues and speak. You cannot cheat nature, Providence. This is a truth; this is a law. We commit sins only in the heart and we find ourselves in the outside world surrounded by embarrassing and harassing circumstances; in difficulties, in all sorts of straits. We find this to be the case and those who are ignorant of the real cause of their difficulties blame circumstances; they begin to fight their surroundings, they file law suits against relatives, friends, and their fellow men. Here is a divine law which should be proclaimed in all corners and in all bazaars. Try to throw dust into the eyes of God and you will be blinded yourself.
The law is that you shall be Pure. Harbour impurity and you must suffer the consequences. We will take up these spiritual laws one by one and prove them with a mathematical certainty. When a man once understands these spiritual laws, it becomes impossible for him to stoop to these selfish desires. Having gained control of these desires, the mind can be concentrated for any length of time. Character must be built first, this is necessary.
Is fasting necessary to the conquering of one’s own mind?
As to fasting, Rama says, do not starve or overfeed. Both extremes are to be avoided. Sometimes fasting comes naturally; we feel within ourselves a natural desire to abstain from eating. Such instincts of the heart should be obeyed, but at other times the inner self tells you to take nourishment. Follow these instincts.
Fasting should be taken as a help but it should not master us. People often fast because it is forced upon them; they then become servants of this slavery of fasting. Rama does not countenance slavery. As to fasting, in India some do fast and there are particular days which are especially observed as to what kind of food is taken and how much. These days are the Full Moon day and New Moon day.
On the Full Moon day, people in India eat such food as will not tell on the stomach; and on that day they specially concentrate the mind, that day being particularly favourable for concentration. This you will see if you try to verify it. Such food is taken as will not disturb the equilibrium of the mind.
The New Moon night and New Moon day are especially instinct with a particular kind of virtue in aiding the concentration of the mind.
True fasting means ridding ourselves of all selfish designs, desires, not feeding them, purging ourselves wholly of them.