Lecture delivered on December 13, 1902, before the Hermitic Brotherhood, U.S.A.
My own Self in all these forms,
Before beginning the subject, a few words will be spoken on India’s material backwardness. There was a time when India possessed probably more riches than all Europe possesses at this time; there was a time when India had more jewels and more diamonds, pearls, and rubies than all America has today. India had had her day in material prosperity. Nations after nations overran India from time to time. Greece became rich at the cost of India, Persia became rich at the cost of India, Afghanistan became rich at the cost of India, and at this day England is amassing fortune at the cost of India. India was once really the land of gold and diamonds.
We do not repent. We are not sorry at the present backwardness in material prosperity of India. We know that there is a law, a divine law, a law of our own nature, which is ruling affairs, which is bringing about everything. The divine hand which directs and leads our affairs we know and knowing that we do not pine at material backwardness. We do not worry about the loss of material wealth. These things, these material objects of prosperity, all these were tried, they were weighed in the balance by Indians and found wanting. America is very young today, very young, a mere baby; so is Europe very young. They are trying these experiments at this time. India has tried the experiments in the material line, has weighed all these things and found them wanting. They are looked upon by Indians as simply a drop of spray, nothing else. They are no factor in your happiness; they cannot make you truly happy, never, never. Iron and gold are good for buying iron and gold; that is all. Happiness is not of the same kind as these material objects are; it cannot be purchased. Happiness, true bliss cannot be purchased by these things.
The secret of happiness is different. The secret is that the more you seek things, the more you lose them. The more above desire you are, the more you feel yourself higher than want, the more the objects will seek you. Even Indians of today, Indians of worldly wisdom do not know this secret and for want of keen and deep observation they ascribe causes to some phenomena which are not the true causes. Why has India fallen politically, or from the material point of view, why is India so low? It is because the present day Indians are the Indians of those times when the fall of India began; they lack Practical Vedanta. You will be astonished to hear that the home of Vedanta, the home of spirituality, India, the fountain-head of the idea of unity, the fountain-head of the idea that all is one; the very creek from which flowed out the Ganga of divine knowledge, spiritual knowledge, self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-respect, that India lacks Practical Vedanta, and that was the cause of India’s fall. You will be astonished to hear that, but now there is no time to dwell on that subject. If time allows, in some future lecture it will be dwelt upon. How nations rise and fall, what is behind the scene that brings one nation down and raises another, what moon is there that causes the ebb and flow of nations? Suffice it to say, and you will welcome these words from the mouth of a man who comes from India, and has studied India and other nations, that no nation can fall from any point of view without being degraded spiritually. In this statement, perhaps, other Indians will not agree with Rama, but Rama makes this statement on his own authority, on the authority of keen observation. But how is it that America is at this time advancing rapidly and making wonderful progress? From the point of view of materialistic progress, why is America advancing so rapidly? Because the Americans unconsciously live Vedanta on the material plane. How the Americans live Vedanta practically and why that is the cause of their material progress, we need not dwell on any longer. Well, so it is. Truth, truth, truth alone will have the glory. The reality, the real character, sterling character alone will have the glory and will have success. Nothing else can have.
Now leaving aside all details, and leaving aside all comments upon the true, apparently paradoxical remark, those astonishing assertions we have made just now, leaving them aside for further consideration, let us come to the subject in hand.
We read in the Bible, “Ask and ye shall find it; Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Again the Hindus preach the Law of Karma (Action) which means that every desire carries with it its fulfilment, as it were; that every wish and every will gives a promise of being fulfilled at one time or another; it must be fulfilled. Rama is not going to lecture on that subject. Simply to refer to it will be sufficient for the present. They say every bud that is seen in a garden gets its promise realized, it flowers and blooms at one time or another; and all the hopes held out by the lower animals either at one time or another are carried into effect. No energy is lost in this world, no force is lost, no matter is lost, nothing is lost. We read about the law of persistence of force, the law of conservation of energy, the law of the indestructibility of matter; and so the mental activity, the mental desires, the willing and wishing, this mental energy, how can it be destroyed? It must bear fruit, it must be fulfilled sooner or later. Thus all the desires must be fulfilled. This is the sum and substance of the Law of Karma. The Hindus preach that according to this Law, “Ask and ye shall find it; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” But is it really so? Is it actually so? Do we find it so in our everyday life? It is so; but then if you want to prove it by your experience in the way in which people usually understand the Law of Karma, or if you want to verify this statement in the way in which ordinary people understand the meaning of “Ask and ye shall find it; knock and it shall be opened unto you,” you will be mistaken. You will find yourself at a loss. You will see that it does not work; this principle does not work in practice. This statement is not the whole truth; it is only a part of the truth. Ordinary people neglect or do not understand what was understood when the statement was made in the Bible or by the Hindus, “Knock and it shall be opened unto you, ask and ye shall find it;” but you will have to pay the price also for it. There is a price too to be paid. Do not forget that the price is also absolutely necessary. The question as to the price we find in the Bible, “He that would keep his life will lose it.” What does it mean? It implies that he who will crave, yearn and wish, will not have it. In yearning, craving and wishing we want to keep our life. “He that would keep his life will lose it.”
“Man shall not live by bread alone.” Look here. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” “Give us this day our daily bread,” and here we say that man shall not live by bread alone. Reconcile these statements; understand them thoroughly. The meaning of that Lord’s Prayer when it was stated, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is not that you should be craving, willing and wishing; not at all. That is not the meaning. The meaning of that is that even a king, an emperor, who is in no danger of not having his daily bread, even a prince who is sure that the daily bread is guaranteed to him, even he is to offer that prayer. If so, evidently “Give us this day our daily bread” does not mean that they should put themselves in the begging mood, they should ask for material prosperity; it does not mean that. That prayer means that everybody, let him be a prince, a king, a monk, anybody, he is to look upon all these things around him, all the wealth and plenty, all the riches, all the beautiful and attractive objects as not his, as not belonging to him, as God’s, God’s, “not mine,” “not mine.” That does not mean begging, but that means rather renouncing. Look here. “Give us this day our daily bread.” That does not mean begging, and asking, but it means rather renouncing and giving up; giving up: renouncing unto God: that was the meaning of it. You know how unreasonable it is on the part of a king to offer that prayer, “Give us this day etc.,” if it be taken in its ordinary sense. How unreasonable! It becomes unreasonable enough when the king, while offering that prayer puts himself in the mood where all the jewels in his treasury, all the riches in his house, the house itself, all these he renounces, as it were, he gives them up, as it were, he disclaims them. He breaks his connections with them, so to say, and stands apart from them. He is the monk of monks. He says, “this is God’s, this table, everything lying upon the table is His, not mine; I do not possess anything. Anything that comes, comes from my beloved One.” He realizes it that way. And if you take the meaning of “Give me this day etc.,” as explained just now by Rama, then you will find it consistent with “Man shall not live by bread alone!” Then you will find it consistent with it; otherwise inconsistent.
Again in the Bible we find, “Seek the Kingdom of Heaven and all things will be added unto you.” Here is the secret. Here is the secret of the prayer. This was the compliment the Master gave to the Lord’s Prayer; the expression, “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and all things will be added unto you.”
Again “In sorrow she would bring forth child.” Here we find the missing link, the missing factor. Child she will bring forth, but sorrow, sorrow is the price. The desires will bear fruit; all that you ask will come to pass; all that you wish you will have realized. Oh, but you will have to pay the price of sorrow. “In sorrow she would bring forth child.” It is not spoken of woman alone; it is spoken of everybody. The desires will be fructified, but by paying the price. What is the price? Sorrow! Even this word sorrow requires explanation. Sorrow means renunciation of all desires. Who will see his desires fulfilled? Who? He who clings to his desires; he who sells himself heart and soul to his wishes, no, no. The man who entertains desires majestically, as it were, who entertains desires with indifference, with a neutral attitude, will alone see his desires fructifying. People say that their prayers are answered. What are prayers? By taking the word prayer to mean asking, begging, desiring, willing and wishing (some people take the word prayer in that sense), now, by understanding the term prayer, as willing, wishing, asking; begging, are prayers heard? This is a wrong statement. If you mean by the word prayer, asking, begging, willing, wishing, desiring, then no prayers are ever heard. Pray and you will never get it. Ask and you will never have it. Beg and everything will be denied unto you. But usually by the word ‘prayer’ something higher is meant. What is that? By the word prayer, we mean just rising to a state where you will be above desire, where you will be in tune with the expression, “Thy will be done.” Look here. Prayer does not mean asking, begging, willing and desiring and having one’s own will done. People understand the word prayer to mean let their will be done, by the self they understand the little self, this begging self, but the gist, the whole life of prayer lies in the feeling—”Thy will be done.” When the body is subject to all sorts of trouble, all sorts of pain and suffering, even then from the heart of your heart, from the heart of hearts springs forth the idea or say the thought, “Thy will be done.” It is all right. When the body is sick, when all the circumstances around you, all these are adverse, and they go against you, there springs up from within you the feeling “Let thy will be done,” not mine. That is resignation, that is self-denial, the denial of the little self, that is the gist, the spirit, the soul of the prayers, of the prayers of the heart. Those prayers which end only in selfish desires, those prayers are never, never heard. Those prayers only are heard when the mind rises to such planes where the world is no world, there is absolute consecration and the body is no body; the mind is no mind, relations left behind, connections all forgotten and your mind is in that state of super-consciousness for sometime, even for a second say. And after that, just waking up from that state, ‘nay, just sleeping after that state,’ just coming down from the state, if any desire crops up before you, it must get fulfilled. Prayers of this kind are heard, when one has risen to a level, has risen to a height of perfect body-denial, perfect little-self-denial, perfect world-denial, perfect everything-denial, perfect resignation, perfect renunciation. But these should not be called begging prayers, these should not be called ‘asking prayers.’
Again there are some people who do not pray in the usual way; who do not say any form of prayers and their desires find fulfilment, their desires get fulfilled. On what conditions? What kind of men are these? What kind of persons are these? What kind of persons are these? What are they like? Just see. You have a desire and you go on desiring, yearning, willing, wishing, craving. So long as you are in that beggarly mood, everything is denied unto you. You see if you have to go to a great man, you go to him in decent clothing. God is the Greatest of the great, the Highest of the high, above all needs, above all wants. If you go to Him, go in decent dress, go in a dress which is like Him, which is worthy of a man who is to approach a Being above want. You also must be above want. You also should be above beggary, above the shopkeeper’s dress, above the beggar’s dress. Nobody likes a beggar. A beggar is refused. People shun his presence. In this country beggars and loafers are not wanted; there is no room for them. So if you have to approach God, go in a godly dress. What is a godly dress? A dress which does not smack of a beggar, which does not smack of need or want. Above need or want you should feel yourself; then you will be welcomed by God, then alone.
They say, a person who is yearning, willing, wishing, who is in a state of unhappiness, who feels want, being in a state of want and unhappiness, happiness cannot come to him. So long as you are yearning, willing and desiring, you are in a state of discomfort; you are in a state of unhappiness. Now the fulfilment of a desire which is happiness or say, that object of desire which is in your eyes full of happiness, that will not come to you. There is antagonism between the two. Your self is beggarly, needful; that object of desire is high, glorious, full of happiness. Now there is antagonism between the two. That object will not come to you. You will be drawn towards the object; you will be seeking it, but it will shun you, always so. And when you leave it and when you turn your back to the object, after being discouraged for sometime, after suffering from failure for sometime, after not achieving success, after not achieving that object for sometime, you leave and lose the object, you become hopeless about it, you give it up. You turn your back to it. Now the very moment you turn your back to the object, you leave it and lose it, that very moment you are above the object. That very moment you place yourself at a higher level than the object. You rise above the object, and that object will seek you. Is it not so? Every person knows it by experience, simply appeal to your own experience; and in every desire you have had this kind of experience. When you love a person and yearn for him and hunger for him and thirst for him, you want him, oh, you want him. It is only when you leave him and lose him for a higher sentiment, a sentiment which rises above all ‘me and thee,’ it is then alone that you will find the desired object by your side. That is a fact, a stern fact. Then alone you will have the object by your side.
How is it? Because you see the like attracts the like; the sun is matter; the earth is matter. The Sun attracts the earth and all the planets. The earth does not draw the Sun to it; but it is drawn by the Sun. The Sun attracts the earth to it. So with positive and negative electricity, there is a difference of degree, not of kind. Science proves it. Here is a magnet, and here is a piece of iron; that which is heavier will draw the lighter. That is a well-known law of Science.
So it is when you leave the object, you leave and lose the object and give it up, you rise into a sentiment or feeling which is a feeling of wantlessness, which is a feeling above need, above desire, desirelessness, which is a feeling of desirelessness. You are at a higher level and you are the Sun, and at that time that pleasure and that object simply becomes the earth or some other planet and you draw it to yourself, it comes to you.
Again when the object of desire is brought to you, there again you feel elated a little, and then again you feel yourself in want, then again there is a rupture and thus it goes on. You take the king’s throne and all other people will seek you, as to a king are drawn all the subjects, all the courtiers and officers; they seek the king, they want to have an audience with him, they call upon him, even uninvited. So it is when you feel yourself above desire, above want, above need, you keep the king’s throne; all these objects, these desires being like officers and courtiers, they seek you, they want to have an audience with you, they call upon you. And what happens? Usually people, after remaining in that state which cannot be described, which can be experienced only, in that state of transcendentalism, find the lovely, attractive objects drawn to them. When they approach them, just they leave their throne and come down, they find themselves harassed by need or want: there again they put themselves at a lower level, and the object of desire leaves them. Thus it goes on. It might be explained in another way.
In a car there is a door, and a person is standing at the door. He invites his friend, “Come in, come in.” When the friend comes, on account of over-anxiety this person at the door does not vacate the door, remains standing there. Where is the friend to come in? He make no room for the friend, the friend cannot come to him; the car goes on, and he remains without the friend. Just so.
You have a desire, this willing or craving. The desire is most intense, very deep. By desiring you are inviting the object of desire. It comes but in your anxiety you do not vacate the door, you keep the door blocked up, you do not make room for it. You suffer, you suffer. You were simply begging and you did not find it. After begging, asking, desiring, you will have to vacate the door, you will have to leave that place and turn in; turn in, and then will the friend come in, step in and you will find the friend by you. So it is.
Suppose you have a desire, will or wish, or anything of that kind. You keep on desiring; the object is drawn towards you, but you will never have it unless you rise above the desire, and enter within you, as the man has to enter the car, so you have to enter within you, in the real Self. Thus is the object received or not received according as we vacate the position or keep it blocked up.
The air in this place is warmed by the sun and rises; and the air from around rushes in to fill the vacant place. If the air keeps its place, the air from outside cannot come and take its place.
Just so long as you keep the desires and the little self, and the willing and wishing state, the objects of desire do not rush towards you. Leave those desires. First ask, you may beg even but that is not enough. You have afterwards to rise above begging and desiring and go beyond them, and then they are fulfilled.
There are people whose desires, say, whose commands or mandates are obeyed by the Sun, the Moon, the elements. What is the secret of their power and dignity? What is the secret? The secret simply is that those peoples’ desires are not personal desires, are not selfish desires. Their desires are just like the words of a king who stands above all needs, and, mark, who really wants nothing, who simply utters a sentence or speaks out anything for pleasure’s sake. If the thing is done, all right; if it is not done, then all right. He stands above all desires. A king who has no desires, asks nothing of anybody, but the courtiers and the people around him seek his pleasure. He has no desire on his own part, but simply asks his friends to do anything for him with the only motive of pleasing them and not pleasing himself. He is well-pleased and contented within himself.
It is those who are, as it were, kings, princes who stand above all desires; and those alone whose orders are obeyed by the earth, the Sun, and all the elements in this world. They are above desires and their desires are fulfilled. You have only to be above desires and then will the desires be fulfilled. That is the secret of the fulfilment of desires.
The Sun does everything in this world. But how is everything being done by it? How is it? Because the Sun is simply a sakshi, is simply a witness, a witness in his glory, just like a king. If a king or prince comes here, he will not have to ask you for anything, but everybody of his own accord will make room for him, will give him a seat, water, bread or anything else, will offer him money and other things, everybody of his own accord. Just so the Sun does all that you see. All that you see, you see through the Sun, all that you hear, you hear through the Sun. If there were no Sun, the air would become chilled, immovable and no sound could reach your ears. In consequence of the Sun’s heat you enjoy the sense of taste. The Sun’s heat produces vegetation. All that you smell is due to the Sun. The earth stays in its present form on account of the Sun. Everything is due to the Sun, and still in no law-court was ever a complaint lodged against the Sun. The thief steals everything on account of the Sun, but never was a complaint filed against the Sun in a law-court.
The Sun, the sakshi, the witness, the neutral witness! The Sun is a neutral witness in his glory and thus it is that the earth goes on turning, turning and showing all her parts to the Sun. The planets go on turning round and round, showing all their sides to the Sun. Thus it is that the very moment the Sun makes its appearance, the waters go on flowing from the glaciers; also in the presence of the Sun, the wind goes on blowing, the grass goes on growing, etc. Therefore, in the presence of the Sun, everything comes and goes. How is this? Because the Sun is in the position of a witness, a neutral witness; does not become mixed up, or travel with the things that are being done through him, he remains a witness in his glory.
Vedanta says, if you keep yourself in that state while moving about in the world, that state of the witness in his glory, that state of neutral interest, taking no personal, selfish interest in the world, taking only the interest of the Sun, so to say, shedding lustre and life wherever you go, having no personal interest, keeping yourself in the true glory of God-consciousness, of Godliness, “the same am I,” keeping yourself at the home of truth in the real Self of self, looking at nothing from the standpoint of the little selfish interested ego, if you do that, you will find yourself to be the same Supreme Power whose commands all the powers in this world must obey.
Let all the miseries, troubles, pleasures, all the magnificence, riches and all the poverty and degradation of this world fall upon you as softly, and at the same time as perfectly as a bright landscape falls upon your eyes. As the landscape passes before your vision, you see everything clearly but softly. It does not burden you; it is not wearisome to the eyes. So live in this world, travel around, pass through the streets of life untouched, the witness light seeing everything clearly but softly, not overburdened, not bothered by anything. If you can do this, you are the sage whose behests the powers of Nature obey. You are that sage.
Rise above desires, and they are fulfilled. They say, what about the Law of Karma? How is the Law of Karma (Action) to be reconciled with determinism or the powers of nature that are working through the whole world? In other words, how is determinism or fatalism to be reconciled with free-will?
A simple illustration will be given.
They say that desires within you are, as a matter of fact, not really spontaneous desires, but the desires within you are natural, these desires are simply shadows of the coming events which have to take place and come to pass in the regular course of nature; these cast their shadows before in your mind and they appear as desires.
There is a story about a lady who went to a first class photographer to have her picture taken. The operator put his camera in good order, using a highly sensitized plate. When he examined the negative, he found on the lady’s face indications of small-pox. He was astonished. What does this mean? Her face is clean but there are unmistakable signs of that dreaded disease. After repeated attempts to secure a picture of the lady without indications of small-pox on the face, he gave up in disgust and asked the lady to call some other day when conditions were better, he would succeed in taking a good photograph of her. The lady went home and after a few hours she got small-pox. What was the cause? She afterwards recalled having received a letter from her sister who was down with the small-pox, and she had wetted the envelope with her lips and closed it with her fingers. When the lady opened the letter, she became infected with the disease, and in due time became ill. The camera detected it by the refined materials used by the photographer, although the naked eye was deceived and could not see the small-pox already at work in the skin.
Well, so are desires, in fact, the small-pox marks seen in the camera, which have not made their appearance on the face. Desires are, in fact, a guarantee of their fulfilment. Desires are simply the index of the events which are sure to come to pass.
From one stand-point all these things that fall to our lot are determined by our surroundings, by the circumstances and by the influences from outside. From another stand-point all desires within usually appear to us as belonging to free-will, they must find fulfilment. We say that we are free, and our free-will is sure to have its way. Thus are free-will and determinism reconciled. The desires are in fact already fulfilled. But how and why this suffering? Why this price which we have to pay for their fulfilment? This also is necessary. This will be explained by an illustration.
There was a man, writing a letter to a friend whom he was pining for and longing to see. He had been separated from his friend for a long time. The letter he was writing was a long, long letter, and he wrote page after page. So intent was he on his writing that he did not stop or look up for a second. About three quarters of an hour he spent on the letter not raising his head during the whole time. When the letter was finished and signed, he raised his head, and lo! his beloved friend stood before him. He jumped to his feet and going to his friend embraced him expressing his love. Then he remonstrated, “Are you here?” The friend answered, “I have been here for more than half an hour.” Then the man said, “If you have been here so long why did you not tell me?” The friend said, “You were too busy, I did not like to interfere with your work.” So it is, so it is.
Your desires are like writing the letter. You are craving, willing, wishing, hungering, thirsting and worrying, all this is writing the letter and you go on writing. He whom you are addressing the letter, the object that you are desiring, is according to the secret Law of Karma (Action) already before you. But why do you not feel it, find it before you? Because you are desiring, you are writing the letter. That is the reason. The very moment you cease desiring, you give up writing the letter, you will find all the desired objects before you. This is why it becomes absolutely necessary to pay the price.
There are hundreds of stories illustrating this subjects in the Hindu scriptures. There is an Indian story about the prime minister of a king, who underwent all the ascetic practices which are necessary to see the goddess of fortune in flesh and blood before him. Well, he practised all those mantrum, incantations and charms. A million times he repeated sacred mantrum that were calculated to make him realize the presence of goddess Lakshmi. She did not appear. Three million times he underwent all the ascetic practices, still the Goddess was not visible.
He lost all faith in these things and renounced everything in the world, took up sannyasa and became a monk. The very moment that he embraced sannyasa (monk-life) and left the palace and retired into the forests, he found the goddess before him. He cried, “Go away, goddess, why are you here now? I want you no more. I am a monk. What has monk to do with luxury, with riches, with wealth and worldly enjoyments? When I wanted you, you came not; now that I do not desire you, you come before me”. The goddess replied, “You yourself stood in the way. So long you were desiring, you were asserting duality, you were making a beggar of yourself and that kind of being can have nothing.” The moment you rise above desires and spurn them, you are God, and to God belongs the glory. That is the secret.
Om! Om!! Om!!!