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PREFACE and SAMPLE CHAPTER

 

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KARMA-YOGA and BHAKTI-YOGA
Swami Vivekananda

"Describes the way to reach perfection through the performance of daily work in a non-attached spirit and by sublimating human affection into divine love."

ISBN 0-91120622-1
336 pgs. Quality Paperback $15.00

 

Paperback $ 15.00

 

PREFACE

The present revised edition of Karma-yoga and Bhakti-Yoga has been taken from Vivekananda: The Yogas and Other Works, published in 1953 by the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York. The following lines quoted from my preface to the latter will explain the reasons for the editing of the book:

"Swami Vivekananda's public life covered a period of ten years-from 1893, when he appeared at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, to 1902, when he gave up his mortal body. These were years of great physical and mental strain as a result of extensive travels, adaptation to new environments, opposition from detractors both in his native land and abroad, incessant public lectures and private instruction, a heavy correspondence, and the organizing of the Ramakrishna Order in India. Hard work and ascetic practices undermined his health. The Swami thus had no time to revise his books, which either were dictated by him or consisted of lectures delivered without notes and taken down in shorthand or longhand… I have therefore felt the need of editing the present collection, making changes wherever they were absolutely necessary, but being always mindful to keep intact the Swami's basic thought."

Ninety pages of new material from the lectures of Swami Vivekananda have been added to the present volume in order to give the reader access to more of the Swami's teachings and also to make the present volume uniform with the other three books of the series.

NIKHILANANDA
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center
New York
February 21, 1955

 

KARMA AND ITS EFFECT ON CHARACTER (From "Karma-Yoga")

THE WORD karma is derived from the Sanskrit kri, "to do." All action is karma. Technically this word also means the effects of actions. In connection with metaphysics it sometimes means the effects of which our past actions were the causes. But in karma-yoga we have simply to do with the word karma as meaning work.

The goal of man is knowledge. That is the one great ideal placed before us by Eastern philosophy. Not pleasure, but knowledge, is the goal of man. Pleasure and happiness come to an end. It is a mistake to suppose that pleasure is the goal; the cause of all the miseries we have in the world is that men foolishly think pleasure to be the ideal to strive for. After a time a man finds that it is not happiness, but knowledge, towards which he is going, and that both pleasure and pain are great teachers, and that he learns as much from pain as from pleasure. As pleasure and pain pass before his soul, they leave upon it different pictures, and the result of these combined impressions is what is called a man's "character." If you take the character of any man, it really is but the aggregate of tendencies, the sum total of the inclinations of his mind; you will find that misery and happiness are equal factors in the formation of that character. Happiness and misery have an equal share in moulding character, and in some instances misery is a better teacher than happiness. Were one to study the great characters the world has produced, I dare say it would be found, in the vast majority of cases, that misery taught them more than happiness, poverty taught them more than wealth, blows brought out their inner fire more than praise.

Now knowledge, again, is inherent in man. No knowledge comes from outside; it is all inside. What we say a man "knows" should, in strict psychological language, be what he discovers or unveils; what a man "learns" is really what he discovers by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge. We say that Newton discovered gravitation. Was it sitting anywhere in a corner waiting for him? It was in his own mind. The right time came and he found it out. All the knowledge that the world has ever received comes from the mind; the infinite library of the universe is in your own mind. The external world is simply the suggestion, the occasion, which sets you to studying your own mind; but the object of your study is always your own mind. The falling of an apple gave the suggestion to Newton, and he studied his own mind; he rearranged all the previous links of thought in his mind and discovered a new link among them, which we call the law of gravitation. It was not in the apple nor in anything in the centre of the earth. All knowledge, therefore, secular or spiritual, is in the human mind. In many cases it is not discovered, but remains covered. When the covering is being slowly taken off we say that we are "learning, " and the advance of knowledge is made by the advance of this process of uncovering. The man from whom this veil is being lifted is the knowing man; the man upon whom it lies thick is ignorant; and the man from whom it has entirely gone is all-knowing, omniscient. There have been omniscient men, and, I believe, there will be yet; there will be many of them in years to come.

Like fire in a piece of flint, knowledge exists in the mind. Suggestion is the friction which brings it out. So with all our feelings and actions. Our tears and our smiles, our joys and our griefs, our weeping and our laughter, our curses and our blessings, our praises and our blamings-every one of these we shall find, if we calmly study our own selves, to have been brought out from within ourselves by so many blows. The result is what we are. All these blows taken together are called karma-work, action. Every mental and physical blow that is given to the soul, by which, as it were, fire is struck from it, and by which its own power and knowledge are discovered, is karma, using the word in its widest sense. Thus we are all doing karma all the time. I am talking to you: that is karma. You are listening: that is karma. We breathe: that is karma. We walk: that is karma Everything we do, physical or mental, is karma, and it leaves its marks on us.

There are certain works which are, as it were, the aggregate, the sum total, of a large number of smaller works. If we stand near the seashore and hear the waves dashing against the shingle, we think it is a great noise. And yet we know that one wave is really composed of millions and millions of minute waves: Each one of these is making a noise, and yet we do not hear it; it is only when they become the big aggregate that we hear them. Similarly every pulsation of the heart is work. Certain kinds of work we feel and they become tangible to us; they are, at the same time, the aggregate of a number of small works. If you really want to judge the character of a man, do not look at his great performances. Every fool can act as a hero at one time or another. Watch a man do his most common actions; those are indeed the things which will tell you the real character of a great man. Great occasions rouse even the lowest of human beings to some kind of greatness; but he alone is the really great man whose character is great always, the same wherever he may be.

Karma in its effect on character is the most tremendous power that man has to deal with. Man is, as it were, a centre and is attracting all the powers of the universe towards himself, and in this centre is fusing them all and again sending them off in a big current. Such a centre is the real man, the almighty and the omniscient. He draws the whole universe towards him; good and bad, misery and happiness, all are running towards him and clinging round him. And out of them he fashions the mighty stream of tendency called character and throws it outwards. As he has the power of drawing in anything, so has he the power of throwing it out.

All the actions that we see in the world, all the movements in human society, all the works that we have around us, are simply the display of thought, the manifestation of the will of man. Machines, instruments, cities, ships, men-of-war-all these are simply the manifestation of the will of man; and this will is caused by character, and character is manufactured from karma. As is the karma, so is the manifestation of the will. The men of mighty will the world has produced have all been tremendous workers-gigantic souls with wills powerful enough to overturn worlds, wills they got by persistent work through ages and ages. Such a gigantic will as that of a Buddha or a Jesus could not be obtained in one life, for we know who their fathers were. It is not known that their fathers ever spoke a word for the good of mankind. Millions and millions of carpenters like Joseph had come and gone; millions are still living. Millions and millions of petty kings like Buddha's father had been in the world. If it was only a case of hereditary transmission, how do you account for the fact that this petty prince, who was not, perhaps, obeyed by his own servants, produced a son whom half the world worships? How do you explain the gulf between the carpenter and his son, whom millions of human beings worship as God? It cannot be solved by the theory of heredity. The gigantic will which manifested Buddha and Jesus -whence did it come? Whence came this accumulation of power? It must have been there through ages and ages, continually growing bigger and bigger until it burst on society as Buddha or Jesus, and it is rolling down even to the present day.

All this is determined by karma, work. No one can get anything unless he earns it; this is an eternal law. We may sometimes think it is not so, but in the long run we become convinced of it. A man may struggle all his life for riches; he may cheat thousands; but he finds at last that he does not deserve to become rich and his life becomes a trouble and a nuisance to him. We may go on accumulating things for our physical enjoyment, but only what we earn is really ours. A fool may buy all the books in the world, and they will be in his library; but he will be able to read only those that be deserves to. This deserving is produced by karma. Our karma determines what we deserve and what we can assimilate. We are responsible for what we are; and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in the future can be produced by our present actions. So we have to know how to act. You will say: "What is the use of learning how to work? Everyone works in some way or other in this world." But there is such a thing as frittering away our energies. Karma-yoga, the Bhagavad Gita says, is doing work with cleverness and as a science. By knowing how to work one can obtain the greatest results. You must remember that the aim of all work is simply, to bring out the power of the mind which is already there, to wake up the soul. The power is inside every man; and so is knowledge. Different works are like blows to bring them out, to cause these giants to wake up.

Man works with various motives; there cannot be work without motive. Some people want to get fame and they work for fame. Others want money and they work for money. Some want to have power and they work for power. Others want to get to heaven and they work for that. Still others want to earn a name for their ancestors, as in China, where no man gets a title until he is dead; and that is a better way, after all, than ours. When a man does something very good there, they give a title of nobility to his dead father or grandfather. Some people work for that. Some of the followers of certain Mohammedan sects work all their lives to have a big tomb built for them when they die. I know sects among whom, as soon as a child is born, a tomb is started; that is among them the most important work a man has to do; and the bigger and the finer the tomb, the happier the man is supposed to be. Others work as a penance; they do all sorts of wicked things and then erect a temple or give something to the priests to buy them off and obtain a passport to heaven. They think that this kind of beneficence will clear them and that they will go scot-free in spite of their sinfulness. Such are some of the various motives for work.

Now let us consider work for work's sake. There are some who are really the salt of the earth, who work for work's sake, who do not care for name or fame or even to go to heaven. They work just because good will come of it. There are others who do good to the poor and help mankind from still higher motives, because they believe in doing good and they love good. As a rule, the desire for name and fame seldom brings quick results; they come to us when we are old and have almost done with life. If a man works without any selfish motive, does he not gain something? Yes, he gains the highest benefit. Unselfishness is more paying; only people have not the patience to practice it. It is more paying from the point of view of health also. Love, truth, and unselfishness are not merely figures of speech used by moralists, but they form our highest ideal, because in them lies such a manifestation of power. In the first place, a man who can work for five days, or even five minutes, without any selfish motive whatever, without thinking of the future, of heaven, of punishment, or anything of the kind, has in him the capacity to become a powerful moral giant. It is hard to do it, but in our heart of hearts we know its value and the good it brings.

It is the greatest manifestation of power, this tremendous restraint; self-restraint is a manifestation of greater power than any selfish action. A carriage with four horses may rush down a hill unrestrained, or the coachman may curb the horses. Which is the greater display of power-to let the horses go or to hold them? A cannon-ball flying through the air goes a long distance and falls. Another is cut short in its flight by striking against a wall, and the impact generates intense heat. All outgoing energy following from a selfish motive is frittered away; it will not cause power to return to you; but if selfishness is restrained, it will result in the development of power. This self-control will tend to produce a mighty will, a character which makes a Christ or a Buddha. Foolish men do not know this secret; they nevertheless want to rule mankind. Even a fool may rule the whole world if he works and waits. Let him wait a few years, restrain that foolish idea of governing, and when that idea is wholly gone, he will be a power in the world. The majority of us cannot see beyond a few years, as some animals cannot see beyond a few steps. just a little narrow circle-that is our world. We have not the patience to look beyond, and thus we become immoral and wicked. This is our weakness, our powerlessness.

Even the lowest forms of work are not to be despised. Let the man who knows no better work for selfish ends, for name and fame; but everyone should always try to move towards higher and higher motives and to understand them. "To work we have the right, but not to the fruits thereof." Leave the fruits alone. Why care for results? If you wish to help a man, never think what that man's attitude should be towards you. If you want to do a great or a good work, do not trouble to think what the result will be.

There arises a difficult question in this ideal of work. Intense activity is necessary; we must always work. We cannot live a minute without work. What then becomes of rest? Here is one side of life: struggle and work by which we are whirled rapidly round. And here is the other: calm, retiring renunciation everything is peaceful around, there is very little of noise and show, only nature with her animals and flowers and mountains. Neither of them is a perfect picture. A man used to solitude, if brought in contact with the surging whirlpool of the world, will be crushed by it, just as the fish that lives in deep-sea water, as soon as it is brought to the surface, breaks into pieces, deprived of the weight of water on it that kept it together. Can a man who has been used to the turmoil and the rush of life live at ease if he comes to a quiet place? He suffers and perchance may lose his mind. The ideal man is he who in the midst of the greatest silence and solitude finds the intensest activity, and in the midst of the intensest activity, the silence and solitude of the desert. He has learnt the secret of restraint; he has controlled himself. He goes through the streets of a big city with all its traffic, and his mind is calm as if he were in a cave where not a sound could reach him; but he is intensely working all the time. That is the ideal of karma-yoga; and if you have attained to that you have really learnt the secret of work.

But we have to start from the beginning, to take up works as they come to us and slowly make ourselves more unselfish every day. We must do the work and find out the motive that prompts us; and in the first years we shall find that almost without exception our motives are selfish. But gradually this selfishness will melt through persistence, and at last will come the time when we shall be able to do really unselfish work. We may all hope that some day or other, as we struggle through the paths of life, there will come a time when we shall become perfectly unselfish; and the moment we attain to that, all our powers will be concentrated and the knowledge which is ours will be manifest.

 

DEFINITION OF BHAKTI

BHAKTI-YOGA is a real, genuine search after the Lord, a search beginning, continuing, and ending in love. One single moment of the madness of extreme love of God brings us eternal freedom. "Bhakti is intense love of God," says Narada in his bhakti aphorisms. "When a man gets it he loves all, hates none; he becomes satisfied for ever." "This love cannot be reduced to any earthly benefit"-because so long as worldly desires last that kind of love does not arise. "Bhakti is greater than karma, greater than jnana, and greater than yoga," because these have in view the attainment' of an object, while bhakti is its own fruition, "its own means, and its own end."

Bhakti has been the one constant theme of our sages. Apart from the special writers on bhakti such as Sandilya or Narada, the great commentators on the Vyasa Sutras, evident advocates of jnana, have also something very suggestive to say about love. Even when those commentators are anxious to explain many, if not all, of the texts so as to make them impart a sort of dry knowledge, the sutras, in the chapter on worship especially, do not lend themselves to be easily manipulated in that fashion.

There is not really so much difference between jnana and bhakti as people sometimes imagine. We shall see, as we go on, that in the end they converge and finally meet in the same point. So also is it with raja-yoga, which, when pursued as a means to attain liberation and not (as unfortunately it has frequently become in the hands of charlatans and mystery-mongers) as an instrument to hoodwink the unwary, leads us to the same goal.

The one great advantage of bhakti is that it is the easiest and the most natural way to reach the great divine end in view. Its great disadvantage is that in its lower forms it oftentimes degenerates into hideous fanaticism. The fanatical crew in Hinduism or Mohammedanism or Christianity have always been almost exclusively recruited from these worshippers on the lower planes of bhakti. That singleness of attachment (nishtha) to a loved object, without which no genuine love can grow, is very often also the cause of the denunciation of everything else. All the weak and undeveloped minds in every religion or country have only one way of loving their own ideal, and that is to hate every other ideal. Herein is the explanation of why the same man who is so lovingly attached to his own ideal of God, so devoted to his own ideal of religion, becomes a howling fanatic as soon as he sees or hears anything of any other ideal. This kind of love is somewhat like the canine instinct of guarding the master's property from intruders; only the instinct of the dog is better than the reason of man, for the dog never mistakes its master for an enemy, in whatever dress he may come before it. Again, the fanatic loses all power of judgement. Personal considerations are in his case of such absorbing interest that to him it is no question at all of what a man says-whether it is right or wrong; but the one thing he is always particularly careful to know is, who says it. The same man who is kind, good, honest, and loving to people of his own opinion will not hesitate to do the vilest deeds against persons beyond the pale of his own religious brotherhood.

But this danger exists only in that stage of bhakti which is called the gauni or preparatory stage. When bhakti has become ripe and has passed into that form which is called the para or supreme, no more is there any fear of these hideous manifestations of fanaticism. That soul which is overpowered by this higher form of bhakti is too near the God of Love to become an instrument for the diffusion of hatred.

It is not given to all of us to be harmonious in the building up of our characters in this life; yet we know that that character is of the noblest type in which all these three-knowledge and love and raja-yoga-are harmoniously fused. Three things are necessary for a bird to fly: the two wings, and the tail as a rudder for steering. jnana is the one wing, bhakti is the other, and raja-yoga is the tail that maintains the balance. For those who cannot pursue all these three forms of worship together in harmony, and take up, therefore, bhakti alone as their way, it is necessary always to remember that forms and ceremonials, though absolutely necessary for the progressing soul, have no other value than to lead us on to that state in which we feel the most intense love of God.

There is a little difference in opinion between the teachers of knowledge and those of love, though both admit the power of bhakti. The jnanis hold bhakti to be an instrument of liberation; the bhaktas look upon it as both the instrument and the thing to be attained. To my mind this is a distinction without much difference. In fact, bhakti, when used as an instrument really means a lower form of worship; and when this lower form is further cultivated it becomes inseparable from the higher form of bhakti. Each seems to lay great stress upon his own peculiar method of discipline, forgetting that with perfect love true knowledge is bound to come unsought, and that, at the end, true love is inseparable from perfect knowledge.

Bearing this in mind, let us try to understand what the great Vedantic commentators have to say on the subject. In explaining an aphorism of the Vedanta Sutras, Sankara says: "Thus people say, 'He is devoted to the king' or 'He is devoted to the guru.' They say this of him who follows his king or his guru, and does so, having that following as the one end in view. Similarly they say, 'The loving wife meditates on her loving husband away in a foreign land.' Here also a kind of eager and continuous remembrance is meant." This is devotion according to Sankara

Bhagavan Ramanuja, in his commentary on the first aphorism of the Vedanta Sutras, says:

"Meditation, again, is a constant remembrance [of the thing meditated upon], flowing like an unbroken stream of oil poured from one vessel to another. When this kind of remembering has been attained [in relation to God], all bondages break, Thus it is said in the scriptures regarding constant remembering as a means to liberation. This remembering, again, is of the same form as seeing, because it has the same meaning, as in the passage: 'When He who is far and near is seen, the bonds of the heart are broken, all doubts vanish, and all effects of work disappear. He who is near can be seen, but he who is far can only be remembered. Nevertheless the scriptures say that we have to see Him who is near as well as far, thereby indicating to us that the above kind of remembering is as good as seeing. This remembrance, when exalted, assumes the same form as seeing. . . . Worship is constant remembering, as may be seen from the principal texts of the scriptures. Knowing, which is the same as repeated worship, has been described as constant remembering. . . . Thus the memory which has attained to the height of what is as good as direct perception is spoken of in the Sruti as a means of liberation. 'This Atman is not to be reached through various sciences, nor by intellect, nor by much study of the Vedas. Whomsoever this Atman desires-by him is Atman attained; unto him Atman reveals Itself.' Here, after saying that mere hearing, thinking, and meditating are not the means of attaining this Atman, the Sruti says: 'Whomsoever this Atman desires-by him is Atman attained.' The extremely beloved is desired. He by whom this Atman is extremely beloved becomes the most beloved of the Atman. So that this beloved may attain the Atman, the Lord Himself helps. For it has been said by the Lord: 'Those who are constantly attached to Me and worship Me with love-I give that direction to their will by which they come to Me.' Therefore it is said that he to whom this remembering, which is of the same nature as direct perception, is very dear, because it is dear to the object of such memory perception-he is desired by the Supreme Atman and by him the Supreme Atman is attained. This constant remembrance is denoted by the word bhakti.

In commenting on the sutra of Patanjali, "Or by the worship of the Supreme Lord," Bhoja says: "Pranidhana ('worship') is that sort of bhakti in which, without one's seeking results, such as sense enjoyments and so forth, all works are dedicated to the Lord, who is the Teacher of teachers." Bhagavan Vyasa also, when commenting on the same sutra, defines pranidhana as "the form of bhakti by which the mercy of the Supreme Lord comes to the yogi and blesses him by granting him his desires." According to Sandilya "bhakti is intense love of God." The best idea of bhakti, however, is given by the king of bhaktas, Prahlada: "May that intense and deathless love which ignorant people have for the fleeting objects of the senses not slip away from my heart as I keep meditating on Thee!"

Love for whom? For the Supreme Lord Isvara. Love for any other being, however great, cannot be bhakti; for, as Ramanuja says in his Sri Bhashya, quoting an ancient acharya, or great teacher: "From Brahma to a clump of grass, all things that live in the world are slaves of birth and death caused by karma; therefore they cannot be helpful as objects of meditation, because they are all in ignorance and subject to change." In commenting on the word anurakti used by Sandilya, the commentator Svapnesvara says that it means anu, after, and rakti, attachment; that is to say, the attachment which comes after the knowledge of the nature and glory of God -else a blind attachment to anyone, such as wife or children, would be bhakti. We plainly see, therefore, that bhakti is a series or succession of mental efforts at religious realization, beginning with ordinary worship and ending in a supreme intensity of love for Isvara

 

WHAT IS RELIGION

A HUGE LOCOMOTIVE rushes on down the tracks, and a small worm that has been creeping upon one of the rails saves its life by crawling out of the path of the locomotive. Yet this little worm, so insignificant that it can be crushed in a moment, is a living something, while the locomotive, so huge, so immense, is only an engine, a machine. You see, the one has life and the other is only dead matter, and all its power and strength and speed are only those of a dead machine, a mechanical contrivance. The poor little worm which moves upon the rail and which the least touch of the engine would surely deprive of its life is a majestic being compared to that huge locomotive. It is a small part of the Infinite and therefore it is greater than the powerful engine. Why should that be so? How do we know the living from the dead? The machine mechanically performs all the movements its maker made it to perform; its movements are not those of life. How can we make the distinction between the living and the dead, then? In the living there is freedom, there is intelligence; in the dead all is bound and no freedom is possible, because there is no intelligence. This freedom that distinguishes us from mere machines is what we are all striving for. To be more free is the goal of all our efforts; for only in perfect freedom can there be perfection. This effort to attain freedom underlies all forms of worship, whether we know it or not.

If we were to examine the various sorts of worship all over the world, we would see that the crudest of mankind are worshipping ghosts, demons, and the spirits of their forefathers. Serpent-worship, worship of tribal gods, and worship of the departed ones-why do they practice all this? Because they feel that in some unknown way these beings are greater, more powerful, than themselves and so limit their freedom. They therefore seek to propitiate these beings in order to prevent them from molesting them-in other words, to get more freedom. They also seek to win favour from these superior beings, to get as a gift what ought to be earned by personal effort.

On the whole, this shows that the world is expecting a miracle. This expectation never leaves us, and however we may try, we are all running after the miraculous and extraordinary. What is mind but that ceaseless inquiry into the meaning and mystery of life? We may say that only uncultivated people are going after all these things; but the question still is there why should it be so? The Jews were asking for a miracle. The whole world has been asking for the same thing these thousands of years.

There is, again, the universal dissatisfaction: we take up an ideal, but we have rushed only half the way after it when we take up a new one. We struggle hard to attain a certain goal and then discover we do not want it. This dissatisfaction we are experiencing time after time; and what is there in life if there is to be only dissatisfaction? What is the meaning of this universal dissatisfaction? It indicates that freedom is every man's goal. He seeks it ever; his whole life is a struggle after it, The child rebels against law as soon as it is, born. Its first utterance is a cry a protest against the bondage in which it finds itself. This longing for freedom produces the idea of a Being who is absolutely free. The concept of God is a fundamental element in the human constitution. Satchidananda Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, is, in Vedanta, the highest concept of God possible to the mind. It is by its nature the Essence of Knowledge and the Essence of Bliss. We have been stifling that inner voice, seeking to follow law and suppress our true nature; but there is that human instinct to rebel against nature's laws.

We may not understand what all this means; but there is that unconscious struggle of the human with the spiritual, of the lower with the higher mind, and through this struggle we attempt to preserve our separate life, what we call our "individuality." Even hell illustrates this miraculous fact that we are born rebels. Against the inevitable facts of life we rebel and cry out, "No law for us!" As long as we obey the laws we are like machines; and the universe goes on and we cannot change it. Laws become man's nature. The first inkling of life on its higher level is in seeing this struggle within us to break the bonds of nature and to be free. "Freedom, oh, freedom! Freedom, oh, freedom!" is the song of the soul. Bondage, alas-to be bound in nature-seems its fate.

Why should there be serpent-worship or ghost-worship or demon-worship and all the various creeds and forms for the obtaining of miracles? Why do we say that there is life, there is being, in anything? There must be a meaning in all this search, this endeavor to understand life, to explain being. It is not meaningless and vain. It is man's ceaseless endeavor to become free. The knowledge which we now call science has been struggling for thousands of years in its attempt to gain freedom, and people still ask for freedom. Yet there is no freedom in nature. It is all law. Still the struggle goes on. Nay, the whole of nature, from the very sun down to the atoms, is under law, and even for man there is no freedom. But we cannot believe it. We have been studying laws from, the beginning and yet cannot--nay, will not-believe that man is under law. The soul cries ever, "Freedom, oh, freedom! "

With the conception of God as a perfectly free Being, man cannot rest eternally in this bondage. Higher he must go, and were the struggle not for freedom he would think it too severe. Man says to himself: "I am a born slave, I am bound; nevertheless there is a Being who is not bound by nature. He is free and the Master of nature." The conception of God, therefore, is as essential and as fundamental a part of the mind as is the idea of bondage. Both are the outcome of the idea of freedom. There cannot be life, even in the plant, without the idea of freedom. In the plant or in the worm, life has to rise to the concept of individuality; it is there, unconsciously working. The plant lives in order to preserve a principle; it is not simply nature. The idea of nature's controlling every step onward overrules the idea of freedom. Onward goes the material world, onward moves the idea of freedom. Still the fight goes on. We are hearing about all the quarrels of creeds and sects; yet creeds and sects are just and proper; they must be there. They no doubt lengthen the chain, and naturally the struggle increases; but there will be no quarrels if we only know that we are all striving to reach the same goal.

The embodiment of freedom, the Master of nature, is what we call God. You cannot deny Him. No, because you cannot move or live without the idea of freedom. Would you come here if you did not believe you were free? It is quite possible that the biologist can and will give some explanation of this perpetual effort to be free. Taking all that for granted, still the idea of freedom is there. It is a fact, as much so as the other fact that you cannot apparently get over, the fact of being under nature.

Bondage and liberty, light and shadow, good and evil, must be there; but the very fact of the bondage shows also this freedom hidden there. If one is a fact, the other is equally a fact. There must be this idea of freedom. While now we cannot see that this idea of bondage, in uncultivated man, is his struggle for freedom, yet the idea of freedom is there. The consciousness of the bondage of sin and impurity in the uncultivated savage is very slight; for his nature is only a little higher than that of the animal. What he struggles against is the bondage of physical nature, the lack of physical gratification; but out of this lower consciousness grows and broadens the higher conception of a mental or moral bondage and a longing for spiritual freedom. Here we see the divine dimly shining through the veil of ignorance The veil is very dense at first, and the light may be almost obscured, but it is there, ever pure and undimmed-the radiant light of freedom and perfection. Man personifies this as the Ruler of the universe, the one free Being. He does not yet know that the universe is all one, that the difference is only in the concept and not in things themselves.

The whole of nature is worship of God. Wherever there is life there is this search for freedom, and that freedom is the same as God. Necessarily freedom gives us mastery over all nature and is impossible without knowledge. The more we know, the more we become masters of nature. Mastery alone makes us strong; and if there be some being who is entirely free and a master of nature, that being must have a perfect knowledge of nature, must be omnipresent and omniscient. Freedom must go hand in hand with these; and only that being who has acquired these will be beyond nature.

Blessedness, eternal peace, arising from perfect freedom, is the highest concept of religion, underlying all the ideas of God in Vedanta absolutely free existence, not bound by anything-no change, no nature, nothing that can produce a change in Him. This same freedom is in you and in me and is the only real freedom.

God is always established upon His own majestic changeless Self. You and I try to be one with Him, but find ourselves diverted by nature, by the trifles of daily life, by money, by fame, by human love, and all these changing forms which make for bondage. When nature shines, upon what depends its shining? Upon God, and not upon the sun or the moon or the stars.

Wherever anything shines, whether it is the light in the sun or in our own consciousness, it is He. He shining, all shines after Him.

Now, we have seen that this God is self-evident, impersonal, omniscient, the Knower and Master of nature, the Lord of all. He is behind all worship, and all worship is directed to Him whether we know it or not. I go one step farther: That which we call evil is His worship too. This too is a part of freedom. When you are doing evil, the impulse behind is that of freedom. It may be misguided and misled, but it is there, and there cannot be any life or any impulse unless that freedom is behind it. Freedom throbs in the heart of the universe. Such is the conception of the Lord in the Upanishads.

Sometimes it rises even higher, presenting to us an ideal before which at first we stand aghast: that we are in essence one with God. He who is the colouring in the wings of the butterfly and the blossoming of the rose-bud is the power that is in the plant and in the butterfly. He who gives us life is the power within us. Out of His power comes life, and the direst death is also His power. He whose shadow is death-His shadow is immortality also.

Take a still higher conception; see how we are flying like hunted hares from all that is terrible, and like them hiding our heads and thinking we are safe. See how the whole world is flying from everything terrible. Once when I was in Benares, I was passing through a place where there was a large reservoir of water on one side and a high wall on the other. There were many monkeys around that place. The monkeys of Benares are huge brutes and are sometimes surly. They now took it into their heads not to allow me to pass through their street; so they howled and shrieked and clutched at my feet as I passed. As they pressed closer, I began to run; but the faster I ran, the faster came the monkeys, and they began to bite at me. It seemed impossible to escape. But just then I met a stranger, who called out to me, "Face the brutes." I turned and faced the monkeys and they fell back and finally fled. That is a lesson for all life: face the terrible, face it boldly. Like the monkeys, the hardships of life fall back when we cease to flee before them. If we are ever to gain freedom, it must be by conquering nature, never by running away. Cowards never win victories. We have to fight fear and troubles and ignorance if we expect them to flee before us.

What is death? What are terrors? Do you not see the Lord's face in them? Fly from evil and terror and misery and they will follow you. Face them and they will flee. The whole world worships ease and pleasure, and very few dare to worship what is painful. To rise above both is the ideal of freedom. Unless a man passes through pleasure and pain he is not free. We have to face them. We strive to worship the Lord, but the body comes between, nature comes between Him and us and blinds our vision. We must learn how to worship and love Him in the thunderbolt, in shame, in sorrow, in sin. All the world has ever been preaching the God of virtue. I preach a God of virtue and a God of sin in one. Take Him if you dare. That is the one way to salvation. Then alone will come to us the Truth Ultimate which comes from the idea of oneness. Then will be lost the idea that one is greater than another. The nearer we approach the ideal of freedom, the more we shall come under the Lord and troubles will vanish. Then we shall not differentiate the door of hell from the gate of heaven, nor differentiate between men and say, I am greater than any other being in the universe." Until we see nothing in the world but the Lord Himself, all these evils will beset us and we shall make all these distinctions; for it is only in the Lord, in the Spirit, that we are all one, and until we see God everywhere, this unity will not exist for us.

The man who is groping through sin, through misery, the man who is choosing the path through hell, will reach freedom, but it will take time. We cannot help him. Some hard knocks on his head will make him turn to the Lord. The path of virtue, purity, unselfishness, spirituality, he will know at last, and what he has been doing unconsciously he will do consciously. The idea is expressed by St. Paul: "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you." This is the lesson for the whole world to learn. What have these philosophies and theories of nature to do, if not to help us to attain this one goal in life? Let us come to that consciousness of the identity of everything and let man see himself in everything. Let us be no more the worshippers of creeds or sects with small, limited notions of God, but see Him in everything in the universe. If you are knowers of God, you Will everywhere find the same worship as in your own heart.

Get rid, in the first place, of all these limited ideas and see God in every person-working through all hands, walking through all feet, and eating through every mouth. In every being He lives, through all minds He thinks. He is self-evident, nearer unto us than ourselves. To know this is religion, is faith. May it please the Lord to give us this faith When we shall feel that Oneness we shall be immortal. We are immortal even physically: one with the universe. So long as there is one that breathes throughout the universe, I live in that one. I am not this limited little being; I am the Universal. I am the life of all the Sons of God. I am the soul of Buddha, of Jesus, of Mohammed. I am the soul of all the teachers, and I am the soul of all the robbers that robbed and of all the murderers that were hanged. Stand up then! This is the highest worship. You are one with the universe. That alone is humility-not crawling upon all fours and calling yourself a sinner. That is the highest evolution when this veil of differentiation is torn off. The highest creed is Oneness. I am So-and-so-is a limited idea, not true of the real "I." I am the Universal: stand upon that and ever worship the Highest through the highest form; for God is Spirit and should be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth. Through lower forms Of worship man's materialistic thoughts rise to spiritual worship, and the universal Infinite One is at last worshipped in and through the Spirit. That which is limited is material. The Spirit alone is infinite. God is Spirit, is infinite; man is Spirit and therefore infinite; and the Infinite alone can worship the Infinite. We will worship the Infinite; that is the highest spiritual worship. How grand these ideas are, and how difficult to realize! I theorize, talk, philosophize, and the next moment I come up against something and I unconsciously become angry; I forget there is anything in the universe but this little limited self. I forget to say: "I am the Spirit, what is this trifle to me? I am the Spirit." I forget it is all myself playing. I forget God; I forget freedom.

Sharp as the blade of a razor, long and difficult and hard to cross, is the way to freedom. The sages have declared this again and again. Yet do not let these weaknesses and failures deter you. The Upanishads have declared: "Arise! Awake! and stop not until the goal is reached." We shall then certainly cross the path, sharp as it is, like the razor, and long and distant and difficult though it be. Man becomes the master of gods and demons. No one is to blame for our miseries but ourselves. Do you think there is only a dark cup of poison if man goes to look for nectar? The nectar is there and is for every man Who strives to reach it. The Lord Himself tells us: "Give up all these paths and struggles. Do thou take refuge in Me. I will take thee to the other shore; be not afraid." We hear that from all the scriptures of the world that have come to us.

The same voice teaches us to say, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory." It is difficult, all very difficult. I say to myself this moment: "I will take refuge in Thee, 0 Lord; unto Thy love I will sacrifice all, and on Thine altar I will place all that is good and virtuous. My sins, my sorrows, my actions, good and evil, I will offer unto Thee; do Thou take them and I will never forget." One moment I say, "Thy will be done," and the next moment something comes to try me and I spring up in a rage. The goal of all religions is the same, but the language of the teachers differs. The goal is to kill the false "I" so that the real "I" the Lord, will reign. "I the Lord, am a jealous God. Thou shalt have no other God but Me," say the Hebrew scriptures. We must cherish God alone. We must say, "Not I, but Thou," and then we should give up everything but the Lord. He, and He alone, should reign. Perhaps we struggle hard and yet the next moment our feet slip, and then we try to stretch out our hands to Mother. We find we cannot stand alone. Life is infinite, one chapter of which is, "Thy will be done," and unless we realize all the chapters we cannot realize the whole.

"Thy will be done"-every moment the traitor mind rebels against it; yet it must be said again and again if we are to conquer the lower self. We cannot serve a traitor and yet be saved. There is salvation for all except the traitor, and we stand condemned as traitors -traitors against our own selves, against the majesty of God-when we refuse to obey the voice of our higher Self. Come what will, we must give our bodies and minds up to the Supreme Will. Well has it been said by the Hindu philosopher, "If man says twice, 'Thy will be done,' he commits sin." "Thy will be done"-what more is needed? Why say it twice? What is good is good. No more shall we take it back. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for evermore."

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Copyrightę 1996, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York.


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