My Ivy League Leaves
The Vedanta Philosophy1Seventy-three long years ago, precisely on this date, the great spiritual giant Swami Vivekananda dynamically blessed this university, the university unparalleled in the whole of the United States of America, with his august presence. He spoke on the Vedanta Philosophy. Today I am invited to speak on the same lofty subject. Seventy-three springs later, call it a mere stroke of fate, call it a destined, divine dispensation, on this fruitfully significant day, I am at once proud and blessed to associate my name with that of Swami Vivekananda, a spiritual hero of Himalayan stature.
Thomas Jefferson, on replacing Benjamin Franklin as envoy to France, remarked, "I succeed him; no one could replace him." With all the sincerity at my command, I dare neither to replace nor to succeed Swami Vivekananda, but, as a son of Bengal, I wish to bask in the unprecedented glory of Sri Ramakrishna's dearest disciple, a unique son of Mother Bengal.
O Harvard University, I tell you a sweet secret of mine. Perhaps you have heard about the Royal Bengal Tigers. The fear of these tigers ruthlessly tortured my infant heart. O Harvard, your very name used to create almost the same fear in my mind in my adolescent days. But today, to my extreme surprise, you have awakened enormous joy in my heart.
Vedanta means "the end of the Vedas"; indeed, this is purely a literal meaning. Otherwise, Vedanta has a reservoir of countless meanings; religious, philosophical, moral, ethical, spiritual, earthly human and heavenly divine. Vedanta reveals guideposts for a spiritual pilgrimage — a pilgrimage towards the absolute Truth. This pilgrimage welcomes all those who soulfully cry for the Transcendental Brahman.
The earth-bound mind is too feeble to enter into the Truth Absolute. "The words return with the mind fruitlessly endeavouring to express what Truth is." This truth sublime we learn from the Vedas.
Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma, "Verily all this is Brahman." A true lover of Brahman needs must be a true lover of mankind. Never can he see eye to eye with Samuel Johnson, who voiced forth: "I am willing to love mankind, except an American." Needless to say, the teachings of Vedanta are marked by a rare catholicity of vision — always.
Vedanta welcomes not only the purest heart, but also the scoundrel of the deepest dye. Vedanta invites all. Vedanta accepts all. Vedanta includes all. Vedanta's inner door is open not only to the highest, but also to the lowest in human society.
India's Shankaracharya is by far the greatest Vedantin that our Mother-Earth has ever produced. At the dawn of his spiritual journey, before he had attained to the Consciousness of the Absolute Brahman, a certain feeling of differentiation plagued his mind. Hard was it for him to believe that everything in the universe was Brahman. One day as Shankara was returning home after having completed his bath in the Ganges, he chanced to meet a butcher — an untouchable. The butcher, who was carrying a load of meat, accidentally touched Shankara in passing. Shankara flew into a rage. His eyes blazed like two balls of fire. His piercing glance was about to turn the butcher into a heap of ashes. The poor butcher, trembling from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head, said, "Venerable Sir, please tell me the reason of your anger. I am at your service. I am at your command." Shankara blurted out, "How dare you touch my body which has just been sanctified in the holiest river? Am I to remind you that you are a butcher?" "Venerable Sir," replied the butcher, "who has touched whom? The Self is not the body. You are not the body. Neither am I. You are the Self. So am I." The Knowledge of the One Absolute dawned on poor Shankara. People nowadays in India claim that the butcher was no other than Lord Shiva who wanted Shankara to practise what he was preaching. But, according to many, Shankara himself was an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
By no means should we neglect the body. The body is the temple. The soul is the Deity therein. Have we not learned from Vedanta that it is in the physical that the spiritual disciplines have to be practised?
Lo and behold, Walt Whitman is powerfully knocking at our heart's door: "If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred."
The five cardinal points of Vedanta are: the Oneness of Existence, the Divinity in Man, the Divinity of Man, Man the Infinite and Man the Absolute.
Vedanta expresses itself through three particular systems: Advaita or Non-Dualism, Vishishtadvaita or Qualified Non-Dualism and Dvaita, Dualism. These three ancient systems developed large sects in India that were later shaken by the arrival of Buddhism. Buddhism shook the Vedic-Upanishadic tree. India is eternally grateful, therefore, to Shankara for the revival of the Non-Dualistic system, to Ramanuja for the Qualified Non-Dualistic System and to Madhava for the Dualistic System.
IVY 1. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 25 March 1969.↩
Shankara's Advaita or MonismAccording to Shankara, there is only one Reality, and this Reality is Brahman. Brahman and Brahman alone is the Absolute Reality. Nothing does or can exist without Brahman.
To our sorrow, the world has misunderstood Shankara. He is being misrepresented. If one studies Shankara with one's inner light, one immediately comes to realise that Shankara never did say that the world is a cosmic illusion. What he wanted to say and what he did say is this: the world is not and cannot be the Ultimate Reality.
Shankara saw the light of day in the eighth century A.D. In those days, spirituality was on the wane in India. The Indian spirituality or, should I say, the Hindu spirituality, was undergoing a serious operation while a good many pseudo-religious sects were growing like mushrooms. The Supreme commanded Shankara's appearance on Indian soil to cast these unhealthy sects aside and reestablish one religion, the religion of the Vedas, the sanatana dharma, the Eternal Religion. Shankara advocated monism. This monism is the oneness absolute of the universe, man and God.
The Buddha stole God's Heart and Compassion; Shankara, God's Mind and Intellect; Chaitanya, God's Body and Love; Ramakrishna, God's Soul and Vision; Vivekananda, God's Vital and Will.
India's champion philosopher, Shankara, founded modern philosophy in India. Europe's champion philosopher, Spinoza, founded modern philosophy in Europe. America's champion philosopher, Emerson, founded modern philosophy in America.
Shankara's Kevala Advaita is above all dualism. In his monism, there is no room for relative things, relative values, the pair of opposites, for all these come and go, appear and disappear. What is eternal is the Transcendental Brahman. Ekam eva advitiyam, "That is one without a second."
Shankara's philosophy has dealt considerably with maya. Maya is now taken to mean "illusion," but its literal meaning is "measurement of extension." It refers to a way of conception. When we want to conceive and express the Truth with our incapacities or our very limited capacity, maya offers its help and comes to our rescue. But Brahman, being Infinite, escapes both our conception and our expression. Maya is the power that causes the world to be really real, and at the same time distinct from God. Maya is a power, a mysterious power, a power always inconceivable.
To quote Swami Bodhananda:
Ramanuja's Vishishtadvaita or Qualified Non-DualismAccording to Ramanuja, the world is real, absolutely real, but it is wanting in perfection. At the same time, it does not care for perfection. It has no destined goal. The world was created by God's inspiration, is sustained by His Concern and will be dissolved by His Will. The world is God's playground. He performs His lila, "drama", here. This eternal sport of His is His constant movement, His spontaneous expression in endless repetition. Man is real. But he has to depend on God. The world is real. But it has to depend on God. Without God, both man and the world are meaningless futility. Man can be released and will be released from the meshes of ignorance one day and he is bound to realise God. But some difference between man and God will always remain. Man will remain eternally below God, hence he will always have to worship God. Ramanuja's path is mainly the path of Devotion. He stands firm against the theory of Shankara's undifferentiated Kevala Advaita. To him, Brahman is and can only be personal. A true aspirant can realise the Highest Truth and achieve the Knowledge Infinite while he is still on earth.
Madhava's Dvaita or DualismMadhava's philosophy affirms the complete duality between the Brahman and the self (the small self). God, man and the world have a permanent existence. But man and the world have to depend solely on God for their existence. God is at once above the universe and in the universe. God has a divine body that transcends all our human imagination. Nothing can be done on earth without God's immediate concern, direct approval and express command from the inner planes. The Supreme Will of the Supreme guides the world. It pilots the world to its destined goal. Man can be free from the shackles of ignorance only when it is the Will of the Supreme. Liberation is not only possible, but inevitable. What is absolutely essential for liberation is man's loving adoration of God.
Now I wish to tell you what I feel about Vedanta. Just once, soulfully utter the word Vedanta. Immediately it will have the effect of a magic spell on you. At once your heart is inspired, your consciousness elevated and your life illumined.
To my sorrow, in the consciousness of the Western world the idea of sin is extravagant. A Vedantin's dictionary does not house the word sin. What he knows within and without is a series of obstacles — doubt, fear and desire. He feels that he must not doubt the Divinity within him. No earthly fear can he allow to take birth in him. No desire, significant or insignificant, can ever blight the purest heart in him. Very often we are inclined to see ignorance all around. A Vedantin is justifiably apt to see the underlying Truth here, there and everywhere.
Religious people, especially the spiritual ones, cherish abundant joy in their feeling that they live in God's world, in one undivided world. Each individual is a true brother to them. The sense of brotherhood reigns supreme in their all-loving hearts. A Vedantin's heart is fully at one with them. He goes one step ahead. He sublimely declares, Tat Twam Asi, "That Thou Art." He sees and feels each human being as the embodiment of the Absolute Brahman.
Vedanta means freedom, freedom from limitations, freedom from bondage and freedom from ignorance. America is the land of matchless freedom. The American soil is exceptionally fertile for God to grow the Vedantic truth in measureless measure. Vedanta's freedom is the inner freedom. When the inner freedom comes to the fore and guides and directs the outer freedom, the outer freedom unmistakably and gloriously runs towards its destined Goal. This Goal is the manifestation of God's Infinite Truth, Peace, Light, Bliss and Power here on earth. The inner freedom is the realisation of the Eternal. The outer freedom is the manifestation of the Infinite. When the inner freedom and the outer freedom soulfully and divinely run abreast, today's man changes into tomorrow's God,
I would like to conclude my talk with a word about your universally cherished student John F. Kennedy. I would like to offer today's talk, our collective dedication, our unifying love and our united achievements to his hallowed memory and soaring aspiration.
God's Dream-Boat and man's life-boatThere is always some compensation, even on God's part! God has not blessed me with a college degree or diploma. No, not even a high school certificate. But out of His Infinite Bounty, He has blessed my searching heart with the opportunity to serve Him in the seekers of the Infinite Truth. You who are the fortunate students of Yale serve the university with your devoted heads. The university serves you with its fathomless knowledge. I have now come to serve your matchless university, your distinguished professors and your significantly blossoming minds with my heart's climbing flame and my soul's glowing love.
To be unreservedly and perfectly honest with you, while I was in India, my ignorance prevented me from being aware of more than six universities in the whole of the United States, namely Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Rutgers and Cornell. Lo, where am I now? I am basking in the warmest kindness-invitation of Yale.
Socrates, the grandfather of philosophy, once said, "What I know is nothing." I am devotedly trying to follow in his inimitable footsteps. At this point, perhaps you, my young friends, are tempted to accuse me of taking shelter under the blue-vast canopy of the Upanishadic lore. True, the Kena Upanishad says:
To come back to the university and the students, the profound thought of Adlai Stevenson flashes across my mind: "Men may be born free; they cannot be born wise, and it is the duty of the university to make the free wise."
Freedom and wisdom must always shake hands. If not, freedom will suffer from headache and wisdom from stomach-ache. O land of peerless freedom! I am positive that yours is the heart that cries for loftiest wisdom, too. God is showering His choicest Blessing on you. Before long, you will be crowned with unparalleled success.
"God's Dream-Boat and Man's Life-Boat." Today is the possessor of our Dream, tomorrow is the possessor of our Reality. What our earth-bound consciousness experiences is really our dream. What our heavenward consciousness realises is our Reality. Our Dream not only prepares us, but also offers itself to us as our solid preparation. Likewise, Reality not only illumines us, but also presents itself to us as our brightest Illumination.
Here I record the conversation between God's Dream-Boat and Man's Life-Boat.
Man's Life-Boat: I am crying, struggling, striving, desiring and aspiring, O God's Dream-Boat. What more is expected of me?
God's Dream-Boat: Something more.
Man's Life-Boat: I concentrate, I meditate, I contemplate. What else is left?
God's Dream-Boat: Something more.
Man's Life-Boat: I know I am imperfection incarnate. You are Perfection embodied, revealed and manifested. What else have I to know?
God's Dream-Boat: Something more.
Man's Life-Boat: I can only tell you that if I were you, all your longings would have had their due fulfilment in me by this time.
God's Dream-Boat: O Man's Life-Boat, I needed you. I need you. I shall forever need you. You have at long last seen in me your friend, true friend. Me you have won.
God is man's Eternal Friend. When man approaches God, not as a beggar, but as a friend, he gets God sooner. He gets God in His sweetest form. We are not God's slaves. We are His children, His chosen children.
God's Dream-Boat is the heavenly individuality of man's Life-Boat. Man's Life-Boat is the earthly personality of God's Dream-Boat. Man's Life-Boat is sailing towards the Promised Land where Infinity plays, Eternity sings and Immortality dances. But where is this Promised Land? It is in the heart of Here and in the soul of Now. Human life is precious, priceless. The poet-soul in Emily Dickinson softly and unerringly tells the world:
I'll tell you what I paid,
Precisely an existence" —
The market-price, they said.
We all must realise God. We must stand firm on this resolve. Ours must be the aspiration to explore the realm of the Spirit. Our inner urge should be insistent, nay, irresistible. Then the certainty of God-realisation will loom large before us on every side. A regular chart of divine duties must be drawn up by us, in which top priority must, by all manner of means, be given to meditation.
Let us work. Let us meditate. Our life-breath let us not waste. Death will give us enough rest, more than we need. Let us work, let us meditate, for our dedicated life-activities are unmistakably the supernal glories of God.
We know what our earthly activities are. It is high time for us to focus our soulful attention on God's activities. What does God do with His Life? He flows His Life through us. What does God do with His Peace? He comes with His Peace to us to transform our weaknesses into strengths. What does God do with His Joy? He gives us His Joy and tells us that His Joy is our Life-Boat's only Goal. What does God do with His Power? He gives us His Power to love the world, to brighten the face of the world, to perfect our responsibility to others, so that we can truly fulfil our heavenly responsibility on earthly soil.
Dear friends, you have many teachers. I have three, and no more. My teachers are Mind, Heart and Soul.
My mind tells me that
God is an Eternal Mystery.
My Heart tells me that
God is an Eternal Experience.
My Soul tells me that
God is an Eternal Achievement.
I end my talk with a fervent request to you:
Think of God.
You will see God standing behind you.
Pray to God.
You will see God standing in front of you.
Meditate on God.
You will see God seated inside you.
Devote yourself to God.
You will see God within, without, here and beyond.
Surrender yourself to God.
You will see God's stupendous Pride in you.
— Walt Whitman
Princeton University, a flood-tide of enthusiasm and joy sweeps over me now. In 1902 Woodrow Wilson became the president of this university. For eight long years he served this university and carried out a good many reforms of this institution. I am all admiration for him, for his heart cried for human unity. The world remembers him as the chief architect of the League of Nations, a step towards human unity. In his inaugural Address, on becoming President of the United States, he said, "This is not a day of triumph; it is a day of dedication. Here muster not the forces of the party, but the forces of humanity." This message of his can serve as a safe harbour for humanity's life-boat.
Woodrow Wilson, once the president of this university, said something striking with regard to the university and its students: "The use of a university is to make young men as unlike their fathers as possible." This means that the past, no matter how grand and significant, must be surpassed, transcended. The message of yore need not be and cannot be the ultimate seal for humanity's ever-progressing march towards the Absolute Fulfilment.
I hope it will not be out of place to say a word about his daughter, Margaret Woodrow Wilson. But before I invite her into the picture, let me invite Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy said, "To say that you can love one person all your life is just like saying that one candle will continue burning as long as you live." This is true in the case of a flickering candle, and it may be true in the case of fleeting human love, but it was definitely not true in the case of Margaret Woodrow Wilson. In 1938 she joined a spiritual community, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in South India, and sat at the feet of her spiritual Master, Sri Aurobindo. She declared, "Here is one on earth whom one can love all one's life and in whom one can lose oneself." She received the name Nishtha from her Master. He wrote this about it: "Nishtha means one-pointed, fixed and steady concentration, devotion and faith in the single aim — the Divine and the Divine Realisation" (November 5, 1938). Both father and daughter embodied faith, the divine quality, in full measure — the father in humanity's cause, the daughter in divinity's cause. Once when a physical ailment of hers tended to be serious and it was suggested to her to return to America and consult her family doctor, she flatly refused, saying, "They can take care of my body, but who will take care of my soul?" Margaret Woodrow Wilson passed away on February 12 1944. Her tombstone in the cemetery of Pondicherry, the small town in South India that is the home of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, bears the simple inscription: "Ci-git la dépouille mortelle de Nishtha, Margaret Woodrow Wilson, 16 avril 1886 — 12 février 1944."
Our faith in God, more so in ourselves can alone lead us into the Life of the Beyond.
Men say that they do not know the Beyond. I say that they have forgotten the Beyond. They say that the Beyond has been stolen away. I say that they have unconsciously hidden the Beyond. They say that it is easier to realise the Beyond than to live in the Beyond. I say that God and the Beyond are One, indivisibly One. Once you have realised God, the Beyond itself will live in you, grow in you and be fulfilled in you.
The Beyond is for him alone who aspires. A man without aspiration does not see in the nights of ignorance. A man with desires does not see either in the nights of ignorance or in the knowledge-dawn. But a man of aspiration sees through and beyond the adamantine wall of ignorance and the luminous windows of knowledge. He takes ignorance and knowledge as one. His is the heart that pines to imbibe the Nectar-Truth of the Upanishads with a view to entering into the fulfilment of the Beyond … "He takes ignorance and Knowledge as one. Through ignorance he crosses beyond death: through Knowledge he crosses the boundaries of Immortality."
Do you want to see the face of the Beyond? Do you want to know what the Beyond looks like? If so, then launch, sooner than at once, into the sea of spirituality. Spirituality is self-development. Self-development eventually leads man to self-realisation. True spirituality is practical, extremely practical. It is not satisfied with the existence of God only in Heaven. It wants to prove to the entire world that God's existence can also be seen and felt here on earth. God is the Life of the Beyond. Earth is the Heart of God. He who wants to live without air is a fool. He who wants to live without food is a greater fool. He who wants to live without the Truth, Light and Life of the Beyond is the greatest fool.
I know that I have to love God and be loved by God, since I wish to live in the Beyond. I asked God what He does with His Love. God said that He protects me, He illumines me and He liberates me with His Love. God asked me what I do with my love. I said that like a child I bind Him, my Eternal Father, with my love. God cried with joy and I cried with gratitude.
When I see the Truth of the Beyond in me, I am something. When I see the Truth in others, I am someone. I wish to be both something and someone, if it is the Will of the Supreme. If not, I wish to be nothing. I wish to be no one. I want only to obey His express Commands. To become one with the Will of the Supreme, to fulfil the Will of the Supreme, is to possess the breath of the Beyond. To live in the Beyond is not to build castles in the air. The Beyond, the reality of the Beyond, can and does breathe in the immediacy of today, in the heart of now. Meditate! Let us meditate on the Beyond. Lo! Ours, forever ours, is the Beyond.
There is only one Time and that Time is the Eternal Now. There is only one Truth and that Truth is that we are God's and God's alone. There is only one Realisation and that Realisation is that we represent everything, earthly human and heavenly divine.
IVY 6. Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, 13 January 1969.↩
Conscious oneness with God3Hail, Columbia! Columbia, the country, Columbia, the university, Hail! The word Columbia immediately inspires my heart, awakens my mind and pulls my life straight into my soul's core.
The world is told by "The Star-Spangled Banner" what you truly and soulfully are: "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
On October 17, 1949, Columbia University conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws on Prime Minister Nehru of India. Our Prime Minister, at the beginning of his memorable speech, said something most significant.
Now I wish to tell you, in all humility, that I too have come to you as a seeker after the Infinite Truth. I have come here to serve you all, to serve this august university in its inner urge to reach the highest Truth.
God and man: God and man are one. They are eternally one. God knows it. Man also will know it. He will.
Fear separates man from God. Doubt separates man from God. Self-indulgence separates man from God.
When we fear something, we have to know that suffering has already started torturing us from what we fear. We have two children within us. One child is afraid of the teeming darkness in the world. The other child is afraid of the world-transforming infinite Light. He is the ignorance-child who is afraid of darkness. He is the child unaspiring who is afraid of Light.
Doubt is obstinate. Doubt is cruel. Poor man, with his doubt he doubts the existence of God, who is All-Existence. Alas, what is worse is that he is ever in doubt about his own doubts. He is lost. He is ruined. Sangsayātmā Vinashyate, "A doubting soul is doomed to be ruined." This is what we have learned from the Bhagavad-Gita, India's Bible.
Self-indulgence: Today what we call self-indulgence, tomorrow that very thing we call self-annihilation. Indulgence comes to man with a gift, pleasure. Man touches and feels the gift. Lo and behold, pleasure transforms itself into bitter frustration.
No conscious embodiment of God where there is fear.
No conscious realisation of God where there is doubt.
No conscious oneness with God where there is self-indulgence.
It is in man's self-knowledge that man realises his conscious oneness with God. Alas, we think that we are what other people say we are. We also think we are what we appear to be when we use our limited capacity of understanding. According to others, we are useless. According to ourselves, we are meaningless. But according to God, we are at once most useful and most meaningful. He uses us to fulfil Himself. We must use Him to realise our true Self. The meaning of man's existence is God's Delight. The meaning of God's existence is man's realisation of the Absolute.
We need love to establish our conscious oneness with God. If we want to have the accent on love in our life of aspiration, then we must put the stress on sacrifice at every moment.
We need sacrifice to establish our conscious oneness with God. If we want to have the accent on sacrifice in our life of aspiration, then we must put the stress on surrender. We must offer our total surrender to God's Will, and we must stay with our unconditional surrender at God's Feet.
Today's belief is tomorrow's achievement. In order to see your sincere belief transformed into true achievement you have to plead with your conscience to be your constant guide. When conscience is your guide, you grow into God's colossal Pride.
Very often you think of what you have to do, but you always do what you want to do. You want to have conscious oneness with God. Look around and you will see that somebody easily does what somebody else emphatically said could never be done. One was right yesterday and the other is right today. Here is a radiant proof that the message of the past can easily be challenged; or rather, it would be better to say that the knowledge of the past can be surmounted. It is meant to be surmounted.
Sisters and brothers, I offer to you my soul's assurance that you are bound to get what you want. You want to have conscious oneness with God. This oneness is certain. This oneness is destined. And to achieve this conscious oneness with God what you have to do is to meditate and concentrate, nothing more and nothing less. Meditate on the Highest in your soul and concentrate on the lowest in your nature. This is what you have to do. When you play your part, God will play His part in you and for you. During your meditation God will present you with His Infinite Joy, Peace and Bliss. During your concentration God will transform your ignorance-sea into the sea of eternal Light. And then, unmistakably, what you will have is conscious oneness with God. Then what you will be is God's Dream fulfilled and Reality manifested.
IVY 7. Columbia University, New York, New York, 16 April 1969.↩
Ignorance4Dear friends, I understand that you have a volley of questions to ask me after my talk is over. I am eager to know your deep, spiritual questions. Here at this august university you have been devotedly studying to cultivate knowledge. Today you will learn something about a subject diametrically opposite, ignorance.
Each man has a nature of his own. Each man has ignorance of his own. Complex is his nature. Manifold is his ignorance. But what is more, each man has a divine soul of his own, carrying in it his ultimate Perfection.
True, man is likely to stumble through the thorny forests of ignorance. It is equally true that God will someday lead him into the sunlit path of knowledge.
Ignorance says that God is to be found outside oneself. Knowledge says that God is to be found within oneself. Wisdom says, "God is within. He is also without."
What with unconscious ignorance, what with conscious ignorance, man's desire to see God face to face is to hope against hope. What with conscious self-sacrifice, what with unconscious self-sacrifice, man's dream to see God is not only possible and practicable but also inevitable.
Ignorance has a free access everywhere, yet it stays not, rather it cannot stay anywhere for good.
My name was obscurity. Ignorance was my teacher. What did I learn from my teacher? Only two things: how to be imperfect and how to be self-limited. Ignorance was my mother. She fed me with her despair. Ignorance was my father. He blessed me with his stupidity.
I have known. I have known that few are those who want to be free from the snare of ignorance. Fewer are those who are willing to pay the price, although they want to be free. I have realised. I have realised that man's knowledge is only a higher degree of effective ignorance.
Slowly ignorance travels in the world of night. Annihilation speedily and ruthlessly overtakes ignorance. When ignorance reaches the abysmal breath of self-limitation, man is compelled to turn into his grave with a living body.
The soul says that it has no enemy. But ignorance fails to see eye to eye with the soul, it says, "Oh soul, I am your eternal enemy. I don't want you, I don't want your light." The soul says, "I am your Eternal Friend, O ignorance. I want you because God wants me to awaken you from your endless sleep. My Light wants you because God wants you to come out of your self-chosen perpetual limitation and death."
When we are freed from the fetters of ignorance, our hearts grow into the divine beauty. This divine beauty, which is the pride of the soul, is the blessedness of life.
Human ignorance wants to control the world. Human love wants to bind the world. Human truth wants to lead the world. Divine Knowledge wants to inspire the heart of the world. Divine Truth wants the world to be fulfilled in God and for God.
Our teeming ignorance and the Devil's binding desire are hand in glove with each other. Our growing knowledge and God's glowing hope are hand in glove with each other. Our flowing wisdom and God's illumining choice are hand in glove with each other.
Doubt says to ignorance, "At long last I have come to know that you are my sister." Ignorance says, "Sorry, even now you are mistaken. I am not your sister, but your mother. And you are my bravest son."
Ignorance has a weapon. Its name is human reason. To question human reason is not unreasonable, but to question the Wisdom of the Infinite is foolish audacity. How can we judge His Wisdom without a corresponding Wisdom?
Humanity has a host of enemies. Of these, by far the most terrible is lack of knowledge. This ignorance is the last thing in man to become impotent.
What is ignorance, after all? Ignorance is the hyphen between imperfection and limitation. Ignorance signifies weakness. The greatest of human weaknesses is to be consciously unconscious of any.
The atom bomb destroyed Hiroshima. Our conscious fondness for the night of ignorance can destroy our divine Ideal on earth. Even successive failures are not certain or adequate signs of the impossibility of God-realisation. But spontaneous and stubborn fondness for ignorance is a true sign of this impossibility. Ignorance is power. When man uses this power he actually exercises his love of power. But when man is totally freed from the snares of ignorance, he will be able to offer his power of love to mankind. At that time man will have a new Name — God, and a new Home — Immortality.
IVY 8. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 30 September 1969.↩
The Inner Light5Philadelphia, to you I offer my soulful salute. You are great. You house the New World's Liberty Bell. No liberty, no divinity. No divinity, no Infinity.
All of us here are aspirants. When the time is ripe, we all shall hear the bell of inner liberty. It is in our liberty that we can and shall grow into the very Image of God.
Philadelphia, you are divine. You are called the city of brotherly love. To have brotherly love is to feel God the Love.
Our first Indian Avatar, Sri Ramachandra, said, Dese Dese Kalatrani…, — "In every country there are wives. In every country there are friends. But hard it is to find anywhere a brother of my own."
I am now at the University of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania and its founder, William Penn, will always go together. Penn was a Quaker. This evening I am speaking here on "The Inner Light." A good Quaker will correct me and ask me to call it "inward light".
June 5 1963 was a supremely significant day for this august university. It was on that day that your university conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws on Dr Radhakrishnan, a teacher of the world-awakening and the world-illumination. During his speech, Dr Radhakrishnan said something unique, something absolutely his own.
Light is the Creation yet to be realised.
Light is the Voice of Silence in the inner world.
Light is the fruit of action in the outer world.
When we live in darkness, our human life is a constant want. When we live in Light, our divine life is a constant achievement.
Light in the physical is beauty.
Light in the vital is capacity.
Light in the mind is glory.
Light in the heart is victory.
The secret of Light is divine energy. From this divine energy comes another secret — life. The secret of life is inner discipline. The secret of discipline is confidence. The secret of confidence is the aspirant's consciously surrendered oneness with God's Will.
Why do we love Light? We love Light because it embodies life. Why do we love life? We love life because it embodies Truth. Why do we love Truth? We love Truth because Truth is the breath of Reality's Realisation.
Light is freedom. There is no freedom without perfection. There is no perfection without freedom. Freedom is the soul of realisation. Perfection is the physical manifestation of realisation.
The mounting Light that glows within tells us that God is of us and for us. The dazzling light that glares without tells us that we are of ignorance and ignorance is ours.
When we use the outer light, we see how far we are away from God. When we use the inner light, we see how far we are away from ignorance. When we use the Light of our fully awakened and fully realised consciousness, we see how close we are to ignorance, although not at all affected by it. When we use the Light of the Supreme, we see how close we are to God, yet how unimaginably far from our divine manifestation.
IVY 9. University Of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 18 March 1970.↩
Opportunity divine and necessity supreme6We are all seekers of the Infinite Truth. I am one of you. On the strength of my soul's oneness with you I shall speak on opportunity and necessity.
I take no advantage of earthly and heavenly opportunities. I know perfectly well that my life itself is the greatest opportunity I have here on earth, there in Heaven and everywhere.
Opportunity is the human aspiration to live by in the outer world. Again, opportunity is the divine realisation to live for in the inner world. When I have an opportunity to know more, shall I use it to know others more, or shall I try to know myself more? I wish to say that I shall do both. I shall use the opportunity to know myself more and also to know others more. By knowing myself more, I realise God the Creator. By knowing others more, I realise God the Creation. By knowing myself more, I realise God the Breath. By knowing others more, I realise God the Life. By knowing myself more, I realise God the Unity. By knowing others more, I realise God the Multiplicity.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
— Francis Bacon
Opportunity in the spiritual life means to do and to be. What can I do? I can totally identify myself with each fleeting moment and offer myself at the Feet of God for His use in His eternal Time. What can I be? I can be God's Dream-Boat. He will be my life's eternal Pilot. Him to serve is my only awakened and illumined dream.
Opportunity is necessity. In the spiritual life a spiritual Master is a necessity; a spiritual disciple is a necessity. Let us pray with the Vedic seers:
Saha nav avatu,
Saha nau bhunaktu
Saha viryam karavavahai.
May He protect us [the disciple and the Master] both.
May He nourish us both.
May we both work together with energy, indomitable and endless.
If a disciple can establish conscious and constant oneness with the Master, then he has done the right thing, absolutely the right thing. If the Master has established his conscious and constant oneness with the disciple, then the Master has also done the right thing. Only when the disciple's oneness with the Master is perfect can the disciple work with the Master. When the Master's constant oneness with the disciple is perfect, then only can the Master work for the disciple. When the disciple works with the Master devotedly, the Mission of the Supreme for the Supreme begins. When the Master works for the disciple, the realisation of the Ultimate Transcendental Truth begins to dawn on the disciple. When the disciple works with the Master, he has to work with purest devotion. When the Master works for the disciple, he has to work with soulful and unreserved concern. The disciple has to feel that the Master is the Light of his own heart. The Master has to feel that the disciple is the strength of his own arms. When the disciple feels that his Master is the Light of his own heart, he is bound to be happy within and without. When the Master feels that his disciple is the strength of his own arms, his joy knows no bounds. And at that golden hour, choice hour, divine hour, what happens? God speaks to the disciple and the Master. To the disciple He says, "My child, you are My purest Pride." To the Master He says, "My son, you are My surest Pride. Both of you have fulfilled Me in My Vision, in My Reality, in My Mission and in My Manifestation on earth."
IVY 10. Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 4 October 1969.↩
The inner life7It is with deep joy and satisfaction that I tell you that today I complete my Ivy League talks. This is my last talk, but not the least, far from it. Yours is the college which is a veritable pride of the United States. I am most happy and most proud to be here among you this evening.
Aum Aum Aum
Before I enter into my talk, I wish to invoke, in silence, the soul of the illustrious poet, Robert Frost, once a student of this august college.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
Indeed, these soulful lines come directly from the inmost recesses of the poet. Since I am going to speak on the inner life, that is to say, the spiritual life, I would like to say a few words on these immortal lines.
The woods, from the spiritual point of view, signify aspiration. The spiritual significance of a lovely, dark and deep wood is intense aspiration. Now, what is aspiration? Aspiration is the mounting flame deep within us that leads us to the Highest Absolute. When we say intense aspiration, we have to feel that the intensity of aspiration is something that will lead us faster to our destined Goal, and at the same time it will bring our destination closer to us. When intensity looms large in our aspiration, realisation can no longer remain a far cry. Nay, realisation will soon be within our easy reach.
The poet further says, "And miles to go before I sleep." Here, aspiration is the journey's dawn, and realisation is the journey's close. When we launch onto the inner path, we come to realise that the destined Goal is far, very far. The poet unmistakably and soulfully tells us that the Goal of the Beyond is extremely far. And once he reaches the Goal, he will be able to take rest, sleep.
From the ordinary human point of view, this is absolutely correct. We enjoy the fruit of our realisation only when we reach our destination. But from the strict spiritual point of view we notice something else. We see that realisation is something that constantly transcends itself. Today's aspiration transforms itself into tomorrow's realisation. Again, tomorrow's realisation is the pathfinder of a higher and deeper Goal. There is no end to our realisation. God is eternal. Our journey is eternal, and the road that we are marching on is also eternal. We are eternal, divine soldiers marching towards the Beyond that is constantly transcending its own boundary.
The inner life is the union of Truth and Reality. This life reveals what the Transcendental Will truly is. This life manifests without what God is within.
Meaninglessness and impossibility are for the outer life. They are not for the inner life, never. The inner life unmistakably feels that everything has its own intrinsic value and that nothing can remain unachieved, unaccomplished or unfulfilled.
When we live in the gross and unaspiring physical, each hour is a deplorable loss, a dangerous sickness and a fatal failure. At this point, the message of Seneca commands our attention: "The hour which gives us life begins to take it away."
But the human breath has an inner cry for Immortality. It knows and feels that death is not and cannot be the ultimate answer. The real poet in Alfred Lord Tennyson inspires us to sing,
The inner life, which is the smile of the soul, is always in the making. There is no end to its realisation. Its past is the Pride of Eternity. Its present is the Pride of Infinity. Its future is the Pride of Immortality.
There are two levels of life: the conscious level and the unconscious level. Since we are all aspirants, let us deal only with the conscious level of life. The conscious level of life has to realise the Highest and fulfil the Absolute on earth through its ever-glowing meditative selfless service to the Divinity in humanity, and through its ever-flowing contemplative unconditional surrender to the Sole Pilot Supreme.
— Will Durant
William James said something profoundly significant: "The best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts life." Now, what is that something that outlasts life? And further, what is that something that outlasts life for the longest period of time? We have seen that man's inner hunger for the highest Truth outlasts life. But there is only one thing that outlasts life for the longest period of time, and that thing is called Sacrifice. Sacrifice is by far the best of all the immortal treasures of earth and heaven. The Vedas tell us who made the Supreme Sacrifice: Brihaspati, the preceptor of the gods. "Death he chose to help the gods. Immortality he chose not, to help mankind."
They say that life is the same uninspiring thing over and over. The seeker of the Supreme Light has a different experience to offer. He soulfully declares: Life is God the ever-transcending Vision. Life is God the ever-fulfilling Manifestation.
The cry for the endless God is an endless cry. Because of its endlessness, the outer life finds God-realisation a futile cry. But yesterday the inner life felt that God-realisation was possible. Today it discovers that God-realisation is inevitable. The inner life shook hands with yesterday's limited light. It embraces today's abundant light. It will drink deep tomorrow's Infinite Light.
IVY 11. Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 3 April 1970.↩