Informal talks on Self-Realization- Golden Gate hall, San Francisco, January 18, 1903
[The following talks deal with the objections raised by the readers of the last lecture on “The Way to Self-Realization” which was printed in a pamphlet form in America—Ed. ]
We say we want life, we want life, we don’t want inactivity.
Vedanta says, “Be not inactive, go on desiring, do not stop.”Truth is very paradoxical; both sides must be taken into consideration. Those who think that Vedanta teaches pessimism are mistaken. Vedanta teaches you the right way of conducting yourself, in the way to keep the whole world under your control.
We will take up the question of Desire.
Vedanta does not mean that you shall live a life of inactivity, never; always a life of activity. One’s desires according to Vedanta are alright, but we must make the right use of them. What is desire? Desire is nothing else but Love. Usually the word ‘love‘ means intense desire for an object. If love is intense desire for an object, then all desire is nothing else but love, and they say that God is love, therefore all desires are God. That being true, how happy is the man who realizes his own life to be one with all Desire and then feels that he himself, his own true Atman, is contained in the whole world in the form of Desire and is governing and ruling it. How happy does that man become who realizes his unity with the all-ruling force of desire, who feels that “I am the source of all desire”; “All desire is due to me”, the father, the origin, the fountain-head, the spirit of all desire in this world, that am I; thus I rule the whole world by the reins of desire. The reins are in my hands, I am he who holds these reins and rules these bodies. All hatred, all animosity stops the very moment you reach that point. The desires of friends or foes are my desires. I am the Infinite power which governs or rules those desires. The yearnings and cravings of this person or that are mine. O happy I, the true Atman, the Governor of the whole Universe.
People make a wrong use of desires; they turn things topsy-turvy. If desire is love and love is God, Vedanta requires you to realize that you are all desire; but do not make a wrong use of it, do not make a mistake by calling one desire yours and all other desires someone else’s. Desires are pernicious when one works against another. All desires are like waves, ripples, eddies, in the one ocean of Love. The whole universe is made up of one Infinite Ocean of Love, what you might call Love. The stars are held together by Gravitation. Gravitation is attraction, and that is love. All chemical combinations take place through the force of chemical affinity. That is love between atom and atom. Love between atom and atom is called Affinity. Love between one planet and another is called Gravitation. Love between molecules is called affinity. This book is held together by the force of Cohesion. Cohesion is Love.
The whole world is like the waves and ripples in one great Ocean of Love, and Science has shown, Lord Kelvin and others have shown, that “all matter is nothing else but force”. Now force in this world is manifested chiefly as Gravitation, Cohesion, Chemical Affinity, Electricity, Magnetism, Light, Heat, etc.
Magnetism and Electricity, what is there in them? You find attraction. Heat seems to disunite apparently, to separate particles, but Science proves by looking at matter from another standpoint, that, that which is dissolution or separation from one standpoint, is love and attraction from another standpoint.
The whole world is simply the eddies and the ripples in the Ocean of Force. That power, that energy of force is, according to Vedanta, your real Self, the same you are. Realize that. That same power and energy of force is called Love.
The theory propounded by Darwin and other Evolutionists, as based upon struggle for existence, is supplemented or complemented by thinkers like Drummond; they show that Evolution takes place not only through struggle and war, but mostly through love, character, and attraction.
All desire is love, and love is God, and that God you are. Realize your oneness with that and you stand above everything. People look upon these eddies or rings of desire as separate from the ocean in which these eddies and rings are.
For instance, here is a lake and we say, “Come, child, look, here is a beautiful calm lake”. After a while there comes a storm and on the smooth, unruffled surface of the lake there are some breakers, ripples, waves, and you say, “Child, see, here are ripples, eddies, breakers,” and we forget the calm water, but think only of the new forms upon the lake. Even now when the lake has those eddies, those breakers, even now the lake is water and the breakers are the same water as the lake.
The water was there when the surface of the lake was smooth, and the water is there now when the surface of the lake is ruffled or disturbed, but new forms, rings, etc., have made their appearance and we do not tell the child to come and see the water, but we call the child’s attention to the eddies and breakers. Here the form of the eddies and the breakers has cast the water into shape. Rings or ripples have covered the lake, the idea of ripples overshadows the idea of water or lake. Similarly in the case of men, the desires are a kind of ripple or
eddy, a mere form; this form of desire overshadows the idea of the Reality. The Reality is overpowered by the form. Vedanta requires you to consider the form, not to ignore it, but while considering the form of the ripple or eddy, do not ignore the Reality which underlies it. Thus when someone retaliates, you are insulted, you get mortally offended. Realize the law. The law is that you have made your own mind out of harmony with nature, and that man comes and shows you that you are out of harmony with nature. Cure yourself and that man will not insult you. That is the law. Religionists ought to take it up. The very moment you are in a state of despair or at war with nature, the whole world will stand up against you. Cultivate peace of mind, fill your mind with pure thoughts, and nobody can set himself against you. That is the law. Vedanta says, ‘Do not make a wrong use of the desires of others or of your own desires‘. If you keep your balance, all those desires which are manifesting themselves in your mind will be overcome, will most certainly disappear. If you take the right attitude towards them, this will be realized in a most marvellous way in due time. It is by keeping the wrong attitude toward your
own desires that you pervert matters and bring about undesirable ‘circumstances.
Make a right use of these desires which appear in your mind. How is that to be done? Let us illustrate. Here is a man riding on horseback to some distant place. The horse seems to be fatigued, the man must feed the horse, but then the hunger or fatigue of the horse he does not attribute to himself. He knows that the horse is hungry and fatigued and he will attend to his needs, but he will not attribute to himself his fatigue. He attends to the horse but lie does not get himself in a rattled, disturbed or unhappy condition.
A man of Realization or a true Vedantist looks upon this body, just as the horseman looks upon his horse. If the body is fatigued, if the stomach requires food or drink, he will give to the body the required food and drink, if it be available, but he will at the same, time keep himself above hunger and thirst. It seems a strange idea, but when you begin to practise it, you will realize it in no time; it is practical.
Hunger and thirst are of the body and are felt by the mind, but he himself, the true self, is not pained or disturbed. He who realizes his own Divinity which is God, is not pained or disturbed by the fatigue, hunger, or thirst of the body. The fatigue and hunger of the horse do not disturb the rider; they are felt, but are no cause of pain. Similarly, environments and circumstances of the body require certain objects. Those objects are needed by the mind and intellect in order to perform their necessary functions, and are like desires. These desires of the mind are seen by a Vedantist but even while the mind is observing these desires, a man of Realization keeps his head above water, he is above desire. So desire becomes the cause of pain to him. Just as a bird when sitting upon the twig of a tree keeps perched there for some time, the twig of the tree moves this way and that, but the bird minds it not, the bird is alright, he knows that even if the twig breaks and falls to the ground, he has his wings. He is, as it were, always on his wrings. He is sitting on the twig but is yet above it. Apparently he is dependent upon the twig, yet in reality he is above the twig. Similarly, Vedantins may appear to possess the desires of the ordinary man, yet they are above them. When a Vedantin loses an object of desire, he cannot be grieved or sorry. People possessed of all sorts of desires, sigh and weep when an object of desire leaves them, because they are dependent upon it. The Vedantin does not depend upon it.
Here is a pencil, it belongs to a person. If it be lost, are you sorry? No. You may search for it, but if it be not found, it matters not to you. Suppose however that you lose $ 5,000. Oh, that will break your heart. You search for the pencil, and you also search for the $ 5,000 which is lost, but there is a world of difference in the manner of search. You search for your $ 5,000 with a broken heart, but you do not search for the lost pencil with a broken heart. To the Vedantin the loss of the $ 5,000 is as the loss of the pencil. We will illustrate the point by a story.
In India a sage was passing through the streets of a large city. A lady approached him and asked him to go with her to her house. She beseeched him to be kind enough to visit her home. He went with her and when at her home she brought the sage a cup of milk. Now this milk was boiling in a pot and there was a good deal of cream gathered on the top of the pot, and when the milk was poured into the cup, all the cream fell into the cup. In India women do not like to part with cream, and so it worried her, disturbed her very much to see that nice cream fall into the cup, and she exclaimed, “O dear me, dear me.”She added sugar to the milk and then handed the beautiful cup full of milk to the sage. He took it from her, placed it on a table and began to talk about something.
The lady thought that the sage did not drink the milk because it was too hot. At last he was ready to leave the lady’s house, and she said, “O sir, will you not do me the favour of drinking this milk? “Now in India ladies are always addressed as goddesses, and the monk replied, “Goddess, it is not worthy of being touched by a monk.”She said, “Why, what is the reason?”He replied, “When you poured the milk, you added sugar and cream, and you added something more still, you added “Dear me” and milk to which “Dear me” has been added I will not have. She was abashed at the answer, and the sage left the house.
Giving milk to the sage was alright, but to add “Dear me” was wrong. So Vedanta says, do work, entertain desires, but when you are doing something, why should your heart break. Do not add that. Never, never add that to the act. Do the thing, but do it unattended as it were; do not lose your balance; adjust yourself to circumstances and you will see that when you do things in the right spirit, all your works will be crowned with success, most marvellously and wonderfully.
Now, how to adjust your position, how to remain in equilibrium? The great difficulty with people is that all their relations and connections are unscientific, impure, and loose. Vedanta says that your relations and connections ought to be an aid to you and not an obstacle. Everything you meet in this world should be a stepping stone instead of a stumbling block. Convert your stumbling block into a stepping stone.
You know that if this be a dark room and we enter it, we see nothing at first, but when we keep looking in the dark, all the objects in the dark room will be seen; by keeping an intent watch, all the objects will become visible.
Vedanta says that all these connections which are blinding you, which are keeping you from your true Reality or God, you should see through them, observe them, watch them intently, and they will become transparent; you will be able to look through them and be able to see Divinity beyond them. It will seem strange at first, but by and by it becomes practical. By adjusting your position, by looking at things in the right way, all relations, all our connections become as transparent as panes of glass; they do not hinder our vision. Thus Vedanta requires you to adjust your position, so that everything becomes transparent, lot an obstruction; nay it is possible for you, if you rightly understand Vedanta, if you comprehend its teaching, it is possible to convert stones not only into transparent panes but into lenses, into spectacles, aids to vision, not obstructing but adding to vision. The microscope helps, it is no drawback.
If one ton or more of fodder is carried on the back of an elephant, the animal must bear that weight, he has to carry that weight with difficulty and by exerting strength. Here is a ton or more of grass, fodder, or hay carried upon the back of HI: elephant and this weight is a source of trouble and inconvenience to the animal, but when the same grass, hay or fodder is eaten by the elephant, as he assimilates it and carries it as his own body, does not that same burden become a source of strength and power to the elephant? Certainly.
So Vedanta tells you to carry all the burdens of the world on your shoulders. If you carry them on your head, you will break your neck under them; if you assimilate them, make them your own, eat them up, so to speak, realize them to be your own self, you will move along rapidly, your progress will become wonderful instead of being retarded.
When you realize Vedanta, you see, -O wonder of wonders! You see God, you eat God, you drink God, and God lives in you. When you realize God, you will see this. Your food will be converted into God. God’s eyes protrude every object. A Vedantin’s eyes make God of everything. Every object here is the Dear one, Divinity, God facing us on every side, staring at us from every nook and corner, the whole world is changed into a paradise. Thus, Vedanta does not make you unhappy by taking away your desires, but Vedanta makes you adjust these desires and makes them subservient to you; instead of being tyrannized by them, it wants you to become their master.
Here is a horse and one man catches hold of the horse’s tail; the horse kicks and rears and runs fast, jumps, and drags him on and on. Is that a desirous or easy situation? This is the way of the people of the world. Desires are as horses, and they have hold of the tails of the horses and the horses (the desires) drag the people after them and place them in a wretched, miserable situation. Vedanta says, “Do not catch hold of the tail of the horse of desire; be the master, not the slave or the subject, of the situation. You can master the body when you realize your true self. When you realize the Divinity within, then alone you can master, and not otherwise.