Lecture delivered in the Hermetic Brotherhood Hall, San Francisco on December 15, 1902
THE first of a series of lectures by Swami Rama, devoted to questions and answers, given at 509, Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, Cal.
Is it right to develop psychic power and hold communion with the departed, and, if so, are there any definite steps to be followed?
In order to answer this question fully, we shall have to enter in detail upon the attitude which Vedanta holds towards such things. According to Vedanta there are two ways, the Pravirtti and Nivirtti or the Path of Action and the Path of Knowledge or Renunciation. The Path of Action corresponds to what the Christian Church calls Salvation by Acts. The Path of Knowledge corresponds to what the Christian Theology calls Salvation by Faith. What is the difference between the two?
The Path of Action as defined by the Hindus, has for its goal the accumulation of selfish personal power; the extension of dominion in the world; to accumulate, extend and broaden our possessions and property, that is the aim of the Path of Action. This is natural foreverybody at a particular stage of development. Everybody wants to enlarge and extend his personal dominion, but this will not lead to true immortality or true life. Experiments have to be made in this line, but there must come a time when we will beat retreat and give up this grasping, craving, desiring ignorance and take up the path of Renunciation. This path is necessary for our supreme happiness.
The Karma Marga, the path of action, is of three kinds. This path of action is simply worldliness. Now, worlds are of three kinds, ignoring the subdivisions.
The first—Pratyaksha-Samsara, gross, material world. The second –Manasik-Samsara -psychic or astral world. The third –Avijnata Samsara, which literally means the world of the unknown.
These are the principal worlds and they are exclusive of one another to an extent.
At the time when we are in dream-land or in other worlds, the astral or psychic world, this gross, material world is, as it were, excluded, and so it is with the third world, Avijnata Samsara. Some idea of this third world may be had by referring to the deep sleep state. In that state you are in a world devoid of any connection with meum and tuum, the world of the Unknown.
The heaven and hell of the Christians, the Mohammedan paradise, the Hindu Swarg, all belong to the second world, the world of Manasik Samsara, spiritual world.
The second world has many sub-divisions: in certain sub-divisions of the second world we place the spirits. We need not at present enter into these details. The Path of Action is simply worldliness. All ideas of extending our own personal power is worldliness.
A great scientist makes wonderful discoveries as to steam or electricity and by so doing he extends his own personal power; he has also extended our dominion over the elements. We are thankful to him, we honour him, we respect and revere him, but we do not go to him for salvation. We turn to him and take his discoveries at their worth, but we do not go to him for perfect bliss, for the All. Of that subject he knows nothing.
Similarly there may be a great empirical philosopher, one who extends our knowledge of the mind’s functions. We go to him, we are grateful to him for letting us know the operations of the mind, intellect, feelings and emotions; we are grateful to him, but even a philosopher like Mill or Spencer will not be turned to for real peace of heart; each is very good in his own line, but does not give us the one thing needful.
In India there are a great many people dealing with Spiritualism, men who have to do with the departed. They have a great deal of knowledge from what is called the other world, not of materiality but knowledge of the other, the second world; but worldliness is worldliness, whether of this or the other world, whether of this first gross material world or of the second or psychic world.
The reality or noumenon underlies all these worlds and is above them. A knowledge of this Reality of Truth is the one thing needful. We welcome these people as we would welcome a scientist or philosopher, but we do not bend our knees before them for real peace and happiness, we cannot get that from them.
It sometimes happens that a scientist or an empirical philosopher possesses divine knowledge; the spiritualist may also possess the right knowledge, but then his spiritual power, his power to communicate with the departed, is related to his divine wisdom as the knowledge of Mathematics is related to Rama’s Vedanta. Rama was a Professor of Mathematics, but that Mathematics has nothing to do with the Vedanta which he is preaching. We must not confound the two.
A gentleman in India, a fast friend of Rama’s, was a spiritualist in this sense. He was taken to a place, his eyes were blindfolded and a book on Mathematics was placed before him. This book he had never been. In that state he could go on reading. Mathematics has signs of its own and this work continued names which he was not supposed to know. He asked for a blank sheet of paper and went on copying all that was in the pages of the mathematical book. He could not call the symbols by their proper names, but he copied it all: he possessed that power. He could read your thoughts and could copy instantly all that you could write with your own hand, apart from him. Well, here was a spiritualist but he was far from being a holy man, no not in the least; worldly, worldly he was, and not a holy or happy man.
Spiritualism is often designated as a Science and as a Science we may respect it, but it must not be confounded with that which brings the real joy, the Perfect Bliss, that which places you above all temptations.
We know of a man in India who was apparently dead for six months. This process of suspending life functions is called Khechari Mudra and is given in full detail in the works on Hatha Yoga. He put himself in that state. There was no sign of life, no blood flowed through his veins. After six months he came to life again. Here was a man who might be considered a wonder of wonders, another Christ. He came to life after having been apparently dead for six months, not three days only. This man was far from being happy or free. Rama need not mention the crimes he committed. The prince in whose court fee practised these things drove him out of the State.
There was another man who walked on the waters. A real saint laughed and asked him how long it took him to acquire this power. He replied that it took him seventeen years. The saint replied, “In seventeen years you have acquired a power worth two cents, (we give two cents to a boatman and he ferries us across the river).”
All personal power is limited; it binds you just as much as any possession or property binds you. Chains are chains whether of iron or gold; they enslave you all the same.
If these powers make a man so very holy, then dogs must be holy. Dogs smell out where the stag is. The dog has the power of smell that man has not; hence they must be holy.
There was a fakir who could make a king of any person. How had he acquired this power? He answered that he fasted and after that ate the droppings of cows. He lived in a certain way and thus acquired this particular power. A brother said to him, “You give this power of a king to be enjoyed by everybody, but to you fall only the cow’s droppings.”Thus Indians respect and honour persons having these powers. That is all they know that that which puts us Beyond all want is simply the knowledge of Self.
A Hatha Yogi came before an Indian prince and threw himself into a long trance. There was no sign Q£ life. The people built a cottage over him to protect him from rain and storm. One night there was a very severe storm and the bricks fell on the head of the Yogi. He came to life again end the first words he uttered were “A horse as my reward, O king: a horse, a horse, O king.”Thus Indians know that so long as persons of this kind are in a state of concentration, they are in a good state, they are happy, but when on the material plane they are just as miserable as anybody else.
Devouring a dagger, sword, or big knife through the mouth, drawing needles through the skin, and many other things are too common in India. Again, keeping the mind in a state of trance for three or four hours is not a state of trance necessarily brought about by divine wisdom. It is practised by thousands of men in India, but in most cases it is simply like Prometheus, stealing fire from Heaven. It is throwing the curtain before our eyes not permanently but for the time being only.
Take the pond or lake; over it is a green mantle or scum. Just turn aside this green mantle and there sparkles the beautiful, lovely water from below. Draw your hand aside and the green mantle covers up again the crystal water which made its appearance. It is reasonable, feasible, and practical to cleanse the lake of the mind. Clear it for a few minutes by turning aside the green mantle and we may have concentration, but it does not cure the disease permanently. Repeatedly take out some of the green mantle or scum and throw it off and thus the remaining mantle becomes thinner until ultimately the whole lake is cleared. That is the object set before itself by Vedanta.
Again, here is a snake which bites you. Now this snake can be cold-stricken; it coils itself into a ball and may be handled. Bring it home and place it before the fire. When it receives the heat, it stretches itself and bites; its venom returns and the poison is there. The venom is not gone from the snake. This is another illustration of the process of concentration adopted by some. In the case of most people concentration is simply the snake of the mind coiled around; the poisonous fangs of this snake are the desires which apparently die out for a time. This little mind sleeps, or in other words, is thrown into a state of Samadhi. The snake is practically dead, cold-stricken, but not really dead. The snake might be handled in another way. We might take up a musical instrument and blow mantrams until the snake is charmed; then by skill on our part we can get hold of the snake, and take out its fangs and teeth. The snake is then fangless and toothless, the poison being taken out of it. This is the Vedantic way of controlling the mind.
Spiritualists usually put their minds in a state comparable to that of the cold-stricken snake and are in a state of bliss, but in this work-a-day life their relatives, friends, brother, sister, and enemies, all of them come and warm up the snake of the passions and desires; they heat up this snake and then the snake of passions and desires is roused, the mind within is up to mischief again. The fangs of the snake were not taken out and are poisonous as before. No character is built, no true spirituality is gained.
Most of these people want to trade upon their powers of making money. Concentration of mind is alright, but make the snake poisonless, prick out the fangs of the snake, rise above all temptation; build your character. These things are to be looked after, and must be remembered. When all the points of weakness are cured, you are the snake without the fangs, without the teeth, and even then you can be cold-stricken, but there is no necessity of remaining in that state; there is no venom in your stings. You have Character now and in the busy work-a-day life you are unharmed, undamaged, you are Beyond it.
A man drinks wine until he becomes intoxicated and while in that condition, he sells his house for $500; while in this condition he writes out a document selling his house for $ 500. His wife soon gives him vinegar or some sour drink and he becomes sober, he is then sorry for what he has done and recognizes the folly of selling his big house for nothing. He decides to bring a law suit against the man who bought his house hoping to gain his point on the ground of his intoxicated condition which rendered him unaccountable for his actions. He was not sober at the time. Just so it is with some people. They are in a kind of intoxicated state and while in that state they sell out to God, they give all their money, renounce all their possessions, give up father, mother, sister, brother, friend, all; all for God; They have lost all for God‘s sake. Very good, they are in concentration and after a short tune worldly wants begin to tell on them and petty cares make their existence felt. They are given vinegar and all intoxication subsides and then they take back everything from God. The body becomes my body, the house my house, and they keep on wanting until they want even what is their neighbour’s to be taken back, want everything taken back from God. This is all very well so far as it goes, but true peace and happiness you can have only when you rise to that state of perfection, when you give up everything permanently for God and when you have built your Character which makes you proof against all troubles. There is no anxiety, no fear, no hope of the world. ‘You stand above all this.
According to Vedanta, if for a moment you commune with the Divine you could have certain powers. Will you not have the whole world as yours? All is yours if you succeed in reaching these heights of Renunciation regularly.
If we seek an official of the king, we make a friend of him alone; through him we may or may not be able to make friends with the king and other officials. Seek the king first and the other subordinates will seek you and become your friends of their own accord.
Some people in India want to acquire particular powers and do succeed in getting them. There are others who shun them. They want to tread the path of Renunciation, they want to know the one thing needful. There is no power in this world without renunciation hut in acquiring particular powers renunciation is imperfect. Let renunciation be perfect, then dominion is perfect; the whole world is yours. These people who tread the path of renunciation seek the king himself. The king being realized within yourself, all officials become your servants. This is the natural way. These Powers should seek you. You should not seek the powers.
Is it right to develop psychic power? For its own sake it is worldliness. Vedanta says you can communicate with the departed, it is possible no doubt; but then is it not just as good, nay better, to communicate with the living? It is a question whether the departed come to us or whether it is our own Self that takes up these forms. The conclusion of Vedanta is that if you look upon the psychic world from the stand-point of the gross material world, you may say that the departed come to you; from the stand-point of reality even the so-called gross material world people are wrong in making the statement that “such and such a person called to see me.”They are wrong from the stand-point of reality, for it is but your own Self which stands up before you, above you, below you, and nobody else. You yourself manifest in all these apparent varieties. Brother, friend, enemy ye are according to Vedanta. In reality to say that the departed come is not true; it is ourselves in other forms and in other shades.
Are there definite steps to be followed to acquire psychic power? Yes, if one would be an engineer, he must go through a particular training; if he would become a physician, he must go to the Medical College. In the same manner, in order to see these psychic phenomena, we must undergo a particular training, but this need not be told at this time. Rama would recommend no running or hunting after shadows or ghosts. Where a holy man dwells they dare not approach.
Rama lived at one time in a cave in the Himalayas which was noted for being haunted by ghosts. The people who lived in the neighbouring villages spoke of several monks having died by remaining in that cave for a night. Some of the visitors were said to have been frightened to swooning. When Rama expressed a desire to live in that cave everybody was amazed.
Rama lived in that cave for several months and not a single ghost or shade appeared. It seems that they all fled. There were snakes and scorpions inside the cave, and tigers outside it. They did not leave the neighbourhood, but never did any harm to Rama’s body.
It is proved by Vedanta that free souls or the Jivanmuktas never live after death as ghosts; it is only the slaves of their own phantoms that have to assume the garb of ghosts or spirits. It is only the bound souls that are enchained in those shadowy shapes.
Dr. Johnson, the prince of talkers, with whom it is said there was no reasoning, because “If his pistol misses fire he knocks you down with the butt end of it”, Johnson who would always have the last word to himself in an argument, in a dream found himself beaten by Burke. To a man of Johnson’s character this dream was as bad as a nightmare. He started up and lost his ease of mind; he could not full asleep; but mind cannot by its own nature Divine nature -live long in unrest. He had to control himself, he had to console himself somehow or other. He reflected and came to the understanding that the arguments advanced by Burke were also furnished by his own mind, the real Burke knew nothing about them; thus it was he himself who appeared unto himself as Burke and got the better of himself. So it is yourself that appears to yourself as ghosts, spirits, enemies, friends, neighbours, lakes, rivers, mountains. In dreams you see rivers and mountains; if they be outside yourself, the bed must become enriched by the river’s water and the bedstead together with the sleeping room must be crushed down by the weight of the mountains you see. The swelling rivers and giant mountains are all within you. You split yourself into the outside phenomena, the object on the one hand, and into the little thinking agent, the subject on the other hand. In reality you are the object as well as the subject. You are the self as well as the so called not-self. You are the lovely rose and the lover nightingale. You are the flower as well as the bee. Everything you are. The ghosts and spirits, the gods and angels, the sinners and saints, all ye are. Know that, feel that, realize that, and ye are free. This is the path of Renunciation. Do not place your centre outside yourself; this will make you fall. Place all your confidence in yourself, remain in your centre, and nothing will shake you.