From REPLIES TO CLASS QUESTIONS chapter, delivered at Golden Gate Hall, Sunday, January 25, 1903
The theory of Evolution being that we rise from the Imperfect to the Perfect, does it prove transmigration?
As to that, it may be said that this sort of transmigration extends from the beginning and is not retrograde, even if a man becomes a dog tomorrow. Yesterday’s example of a man making himself a hog is a hypothetical case; only one side was taken up, but when treating of a great question, we should take up both sides.
In teaching Dynamics to students, we take the law of Action and Reaction per se, by itself, as if other laws were for the time inactive: afterwards in our further teaching, we have to take up all those laws. So last night only one phase was taken up for Lack of time. In dealing with this question the other side must be dwelt on.
A man may try today to fall back, nay, may do his best to live the life of a lower animal. He may try to push out of his mind all higher or finer feelings, and if he really succeeds in making a monkey of himself, and in making his desires nothing but animal desires, then of course he will be born a monkey in the next incarnation. But man cannot do that, for there are other forces which prevent him. Now what are those forces? What are called sorrow, trouble and suffering, lire the guaranteed agencies against any falling back.
These forces will not allow you to fallback; thus progress is secured. Life of Evolution is progress, and progress must be made, and thus constant struggle and continuous warfare are necessary.
Similarly the Vedanta says the struggle going on in your bodies, all these tribulations, anguish, pain, suffering, sorrow, anxiety, trouble, chafing, worrying, which infest your hearts, and make fearful warfare in your mind, make you progress. Through these forces you must go onward, we are assured, and it was shown yesterday that warfare is brought on by a conflict of desires fighting against each other.
Certain circumstances may be pleasure for one man and trouble for another. For instance, if a man drawing $ 1000 per month be reduced to a monthly salary or income of $ 500, then that $ 500 is a source of anguish and trouble. If, on the other hand, a man drawing $ 100 per month gets a position which carries with it $ 500 monthly, then that position becomes to him a heaven; it is a source of happiness, joy and peace. Similarly no position by itself can be said to be either good or bad. All positions by themselves are indefinite, as no acts by themselves are sinful or virtuous. All depends upon your relation to outside environments and circumstances. If this state is one of advance, you are happy; if it is not a state of advance, then sorrow and pain are yours. So these desires being of different kinds are desires which bring about your progress, and are not due to or brought over from past incarnations; they are the desires which want you to overcome this Inertia. If Inertia be enforced and spiritual force be weakened, then you suffer. This suffering, this pain is a kind of spiritual reminder, it sets you right, as it were and reminds you of your higher nature, and thus cures your spiritual disease. Pain and suffering are blessings of this world; if there were no pain or suffering, there would be no progress. Thus the Vedanta says that through this law of suffering, there is no fear of your falling. Think not that you will ever be dragged down, that you will ever fall back.
If you see somebody far ahead of yourself, be not jealous, for you will be there yourself some day; and if you see somebody far below yourself, do not look down upon him, for he will someday be where you are now. Some people are today where you were ten births back, and some people are today where you will be ten births hence. Thus you must have universal love for all, looking down upon nobody. Envy not those who are so high above you, for you will be there in due time. Thus the Vedanta sets matters right through fair understanding.