Abhedânanda Swâmi.

Vedanta philosophy : five lectures on reincarnation online

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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

BEQUEST

OF

ANITA D. S. BLAKE





SWAMI Alilll'DANANDA.



VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY



Divine Heritage of Man



BY

swAmi abhedAnanda



SECOND EDITION



PUBLISHED BY

THE VEDANTA SOCIETY

NEW YORK



Copyright, 1903,

BY

SWAMI ABHEDANANDA.



Gwr



Bl33



Dedicated

to the

Beloved and Revered Memory

of the

BLESSED SWAM I k'lyEKANANDA

My Spiritual Brother and

Fellow Disciple of

BHAGAl^AN SRI RAMAKRISHNA



'95



Contents.



PAOB

I. ExisTBNCB o? God 9

II. Attributes of God 39

III. Has God Any Form? 6i

IV. Fatherhood and Motherhood of God. . 83
V. The Relation of Soui^ to God 121

VI. What is an Incarnation of God? 145

VII. Son op God 167

VIII. DrviNB Principi,e in Man 193

5



Existence of God.



' "That which exists is one: men coil it by various
names" — Rig veda, I, 164, 46.



The Existence of God.

Human minds seem to have almost ex-
hausted their reasoning powers in producing
all kinds of arguments that can be given both
for and against the existence of God. For
hundreds of years philosophers, scientists, and
theologians among all nations have been bring-
ing forward proofs either to show that there is
such a Being as God or to deny His existence
entirely. Of course most of the arguments
and proofs in favor of the existence of God are
convincing to those who already have some
sort of belief in the Creator or some concep-
tion of the Supreme Being. If we have been
brought up in an atmosphere where there pre-
vails a beHef in God as the Creator and Ruler
of the universe or as an extra-mundane Being

who, dwelling outside of nature, commands
9



Vedanta Philosophy.

everything and directs the movements of the
world, then unconsciously we breathe in and
imbibe that belief from our childhood, and as
we grow older we accept all the arguments
and evidences that we can find in support of
this preconceived idea.

If we have already a conception of God as
the First Cause, then all the inductions and
inferences which maintain that idea will
naturally appeal to us and we shall take them
for granted. But those whose minds are not
biased or influenced by any such idea, beHef , or
conception, those who are able to examine
these proofs critically in the light of modern
science, applying logic and reason, and those
who freely investigate nature, searching for an
extra- cosmic creator and ruler of the universe,
may fail to find any convincing proof, and may
therefore deny the existence of God, as such,
or as the First Cause of all.

We all know how the theory of evolution has
revolutionized the old idea of the special crea-
tion of the world out of nothing at some definite
10



The Existence of God.

period of time. Those who found consolation
in the design theory and held it to be the most
unassailable ground in favor of the existence of
an Omnipotent Designer, are now hopelessly
discouraged by the introduction of the Dar-
winian theories of natural selection and sexual
selection. By these theories we can explain
almost all the so-called designs of the Creator.
Moreover, the design argument cannot make
clear why under the government of a just,
omnipotent, and omniscient Ruler should
happen such disorders as the volcanic erup-
tions on the Island of Martinique, or as the
plagues, famines, and other disasters which
devastate different countries, destroying hun-
dreds of thousands of innocent Hving creatures.
The design theory cannot trace the causes of
such disasters; for if there were a Designer,
His design should be perfect and there should
be harmony instead of discord.

The monotheistic rehgions have tried to
explain the cause of all the disorders that occur

in the universe by a theory of a Creator of evil
11



Vedanta Philosophy.

as distinct and separate from the Designer of
good. This method of explanation, however,
does not help us much in proving the existence
of a perfect, all-powerful and infinite God, for
we shall then have to admit two beings, one
the creator of good and the other the creator of
evil, which will make each limited by the other
and will take away all idea of the omnipotency
and infinity of the Supreme Being.

Those who beheve that God is the First
Cause of the universe, must determine the
nature of that first cause — whether He is the
efficient or the material cause. We know that
these two causes are essential for the production
of a thing, as, in the case of a pot, the potter is
the efficient and the earth is the material cause.
Now if we say that God is the efficient or
instrumental cause of the universe, like the
maker of a pot, then it would have been im-
possible for Him to create without the help of
the material cause, which must have co-
existed with the Creator. Here we are con-
fronted with the same difficulty— that God
12



The Existence of God.

who stands outside the material cause, is lim-
ited by matter, therefore He cannot be un-
limited in the proper sense of the term. If, on
the contrary, the material cause be meant by
First Cause, then He must have gone through
all the changes of evolution, which would make
Him Hke a changeable, phenomenal object of
the universe, a conclusion which we cannot
accept.

The moral argument that the moral laws
presuppose a law-giver cannot prove the exist-
ence of God, since we know that natural laws
do not presuppose a law-giver. In the first
place we should understand what "law"
means. The forces of nature are operating in
the universe in certain modes, and when the
regularity and uniformity of these modes are
obser^^ed and interpreted by the human mind,
they are called "laws"; consequently these
laws are to be found neither in nature nor out-
side of it, but in the human mind. Secondly,
as in external nature the natural forces acting
under regular modes do not presuppose a law-



Vedanta Philosophy.

giver, so it can be shown that the moral laws
are but modes in which natural forces operate
on the moral plane; that they do not need a
moral law-giver, but their process is the same as
the evolutionary process of the physical world.
Furthermore, all such conceptions of God as
the natural law-giver or the moral law-giver
are rejected by advanced thinkers as the
anthropomorphic ideas of uncultured minds.
All these proofs and many other arguments
like these which were considered to be sufficient
to establish the existence of an extra- cosmic
creator, ruler, or law-giver of the universe, are
now thrown aside as imperfect and fallacious.
In these days of science and reason when we
try to prove the existence of God, we do not
search for a creator or fashioner of the world,
for a designer or first cause of the phenomenal
universe; neither do we look for a moral law-
giver; our conception of God has outgrown
those stages of evolution and has become as
large as the infinity of the universe. We no

longer think that this earth is the stationary
14



The Existence of God.

centre around which the sun, moon and other
luminaries of the heavens revolve, moved by
the supernatural power of angels, who, accord-
ing to the old-fashioned behef, dwelt above the
blue dome of the sky overhead and moved
these planets according to their whims and
fancies. We are just beginning to understand
the vastness of the universe. Modem astron-
omy has opened our eyes to the fact that this
earth which we inhabit is to be considered as
an infinitesimal point when compared with the
immensity of space and with the innumerable
cosmic bodies that exist above the horizon. We
have learned that there are heavenly bodies
beyond our solar system, the nearest one of
which is so distant from us that its light, travel-
ling at the rate of one hundred and eighty- six
thousand miles per second, requires three and
a half years to reach our earth. There are other
stars so remote that thousands of years are
needed for their light, travelling at the same
rate, to arrive at our planet. We are assured

that more than one thousand million stars have
15



Vedanta Philosophy.

been discovered by the telescope and that there
may be millions and millions of suns which are
yet beyond the reach of our best instruments.

Thus, as far as we can get by stretching our
imagination we do not find any limit or bound-
ary to the universe; we still have the feeHng
that there is something beyond. This sense
of something existing beyond what we know
and perceive is always with us; we cannot get
rid of it. Even when we try to perceive a
finite object, that sense of beyond is most
intimately connected with our perception and
conception of it. There is a feeling of the
infinite very closely associated with all our
ideas and concepts. Take, for instance, the
geometrical figure, a square; when we try to
perceive that square, we can only perceive it
by perceiving the space beyond it. We see it
as a figure enclosed by four straight Hnes, but
at the same time there is a feeling of the space
beyond, otherwise we could not perceive the
square.

Again when we look at the space which is cir-
16



The Existence of God.

cumscribed by the horizon we do not lose the

sense that there is something beyond that

Hmit, that infinite space extends beyond the

visible horizon. The same perception of Hmit-

lessness or of the infinite is closely associated

with the idea of time. We cannot conceive

either its beginning or its end. There always

remains the sense of the eternal beyond both

before and after our conception of time. In

this way we get the perception of eternity.

The human mind is so peculiarly constituted

that it is incapable of finding the absolutely

defined limit of any thing of the world. Trees,

mountains, rivers, earth, sun, moon, and all

other objects of the senses are tangible, but do

we find any definite Hmit when we carefully

analyze our perceptions of these objects ? No,

we do not. We may try our best, but we are

sure to discover, sooner or later, that there is a

sense of beyond constantly attached to them.

Let us take an illustration: suppose that we

stand under a big oak tree; \yq may look at

it, touch it, or smell it, but can we perceive the
17



Vedanta Philosophy.

absolute limit of that tree? Do our senses
take in the whole tree at one time? No, our
senses cannot reach its deepest roots or its
highest branches, nor do we know what is
going on under the bark or in the leaves. It is
impossible for any one to take in the whole tree
at one time ; we may take it in by parts, but at
the same time the perception of each part will
under all circumstances leave in our minds the
sense of beyond. Again when we think of the
innumerable atoms and molecules that make
up the body of that tree, its finite form vanishes,
leaving an impression that what we call *'tree"
is indeed an expression of the infinite ; for when
the form is gone, that which is left of the tree
is inseparable from the infinite ocean of some
substance imperceptible to the senses. More-
over, when we try to know the power or force
that gives form to that tree and makes it living,
which cannot be separated from it, then in one
sense we must say that the tree has in it some-
thing intangible, mysterious and unknowable;

we cannot help it.

18



The Existence of God.

In the same manner it can be shown that
every finite perception or conception of an
object brings with it a sense of beyond, a per-
ception of the infinite, or something that is
unknown and unknowable, of something that
is eternal. Take a drop of water which is
finite; put it under the microscope and you
will see infinitesimal atoms moving about, some
clearly visible, some so minute that they are
hardly perceptible with the help of the most
powerful microscope. Yet modern chemistry
tells us that we can ascertain the relative
position of these atoms so minute that millions
upon milhons of them could stand upon the
point of a needle. Is not the infinitude of this
small drop of water as wonderful as the in-
finity of space? Indeed the drop of water is
finite and infinite at the same time. When we
see a flower, or touch it, we cannot help realiz-
ing in the same way that it is the finite appear-
ance of that something which we cannot know,
which is infinite and eternal. It is like a

beautiful painting upon the canvas of that
19



Vedanta Philosophy.

eternal invisible substance of the universe which
the senses cannot perceive, which the mind
cannot grasp or comprehend; it is the expres-
sion of that infinite matter which fills all space.
No one can deny the existence of this substance
which appears to our senses in an infinite
variety of forms and shapes.

Modern science tells us that this all-pervad-
ing substance of the universe has neither be-
ginning nor end, because we cannot know its
limit either in space or in time. As far back
as we can go in our conception of time, we find
that the sense of beyond is present ; it is there-
fore eternal, that is, beginningless and endless.
It is neither increased nor diminished by any-
thing ; we cannot add one iota to this sub-
stance, nor can we subtract anything from it;
it is consequently unchangeable in quantity as
well as in quality. It is all-powerful because
all the forces manifested in the perceptible
world proceed from and rest upon that un-
limited substance. We may call it by what-
ever name we like; it is the real essence of all
20



The Existence of God.

phenomena. It is like the ocean upon which
the waves of phenomenal forms are rising and,
after playing their parts, are disappearing again
and again. All these forms of sun, or moon,
or stars, of human beings or animals, are
nothing but waves in that infinite ocean. As
the waves cannot exist without the ocean, so
finite objects cannot exist without the infinite
substance which is behind and beyond all
phenomena. That infinite substance is the
support of the universe; it is one because it is
infinite ; if the infinite were many, it would lose
its limitless nature and become finite.

Ever since the dawn of intellect upon the
horizon of the human mind there has been a
constant struggle for a definite knowledge of
this something w^hich is beyond all finite exist-
ence and yet is not finite. The human mind
cannot rest contented with the mere play of
appearances, but always yearns to know" w^hat
it is that appears. From ancient times those
who have had some kind of perception of this
infinite as related to the phenomenal universe



Vedanta Philosophy.

have also tried to express their ideas by giving
different names to it. Thus have arisen the
various names by which human minds have
designated this infinite substance; but each of
these names now stands Hke a landmark in the
path of the evolution of the conception of God.
Whether we call that infinite substance God,
or Creator, or Designer, or First Cause, or the
Father, or Jehovah, or Allah, or Brahman, we
mean the same infinite, eternal, all-powerful
and unchangeable Substance. Every individual
has a vague perception of this infinite around
him or her; some are more conscious of it
than others. The more that we are dissatisfied
and discontented with finite things, the stronger
grows in us the desire to know more about
this infinite, to understand more about that
something which is not finite, which is beyond
finite time and beyond limited space. When
we find no pleasure, no satisfaction, no happi-
ness in objects Hmited by time and space, and
when we reahze the transitoriness of all that is

finite, our inner nature longs for that which is
22



The Existence of God.

absolutely unlimited, and we wish to know
where it is and how it is. We seek it here and
there, not knowing exactly what we want; we
struggle for knowledge; and this struggle, this
search for that Infinite Being, grows stronger
and stronger until the reahzation of the true
nature of the infinite is obtained.

To a materiaHst who studies the objective
side of the universe, this infinite substance
appears as material and insentient; he calls
it matter, and tries to deduce this phenomenal
world from this infinite unintelligent matter.
The matter of the materiaHst, however, is as
infinite, as eternal, as all-powerful as the God
or the Supreme Being of the religionists. A
materialist simply studies the objective world
and does not recognize or study the subjective
universe; therefore he is satisfied with his con-
clusions; but as the objective side is only one-
half of the universe, his conclusions are one-
sided. Those who, on the contrary, study
subjective nature, discover the same infinite

behind their Hmited minds, beyond every idea,
23



Vedanta Philosophy.

thought, feehng, or sensation. The finite mind
is that which takes the forms of thoughts, ideas,
feehngs, sensations, and which is Hmited by the
sense of "I." When, however, we try to think
of the definite boundary of the sense of '^I " or
of the finite mind, we cannot find it ; we fail to
trace the beginning or end of that which thinks,
or feels, or perceives, or conceives, or imagines.
We reahze that as physical forms are like the
waves in the infinite ocean of eternal space
filled with substance, so thoughts, ideas, feel-
ings, sensations are but so many waves in the
infinite ocean of mental space filled with finer
substance. As we cannot attach the sense of
"I" to our physical form, so we cannot call
these mental forms our own. Thus after care-
ful study the students of the subjective world
come to the conclusion that the subjective
infinite is the Reality of the universe, and that
external phenomena are but the representa-
tions or projections of the subjective infinite,
or mind. According to them time and space do

not exist outside the mind, consequently every-
24



The Existence of God.

thing in space and time is Hke a picture of the

subjective idea. They deny the existence of

matter and trace the origin of all quahties or

powers of the finite mind to that infinite mind.

They give the attribute of intelligence to it and

call it the eternal, intelHgent, cosmic mind.

The existence of infinite mind is as undeniable

as that of infinite matter. But this substance,

whether we call it mind or matter, subject or

object, is the one unknowable Being of the

universe. All mental as well as all physical

forms are but its appearances. It is called

in Sanskrit Brahman. From this infinite and

eternal Brahman we have come into existence;

in It we live and into It w^e return at the end of

phenomenal existence.

In ancient India the question was asked,

*'What is God?" The answer we find in

Vedanta : " That from which all animate and

inanimate objects have come into existence, in

which they live and play like waves in the sea,

and into which they return ultimately at the

time of dissolution, know that to be Brahman,
25



Vedanta Philosophy.

or the infinite Substance, or God." Who can
hve without being sustained by this Infinite
One ? As a painting cannot stand without the
background, so phenomena cannot exist with-
out being supported by the infinite Substance
or Brahman. It pervades the universe, inter-
penetrating atoms and molecules, yet it lies
beyond all the mental and physical phenomena
of the manifested universe. It is not confined
by the limitations of sex or gender; we may
call this Being he, she, or it. This infinite
substance or Brahman is incomprehensible
and unknowable to finite minds. That to
which the modern agnostics refer when they use
the term "Unknowable" is the same Infinite
Being.

Here we must not forget the meaning of the
verb "to know." In its ordinary sense "to
know" means first to perceive through the
senses and then to form a concept of the object
perceived. Consequently, all our knowledge
is limited by the power of perception as well

as by the mind. To know God or the Infinite
26



The Existence of God.

Being by the same kind of knowledge as that
by which we know a stone or a tree or a dog
would be tantamount to annihilating God.
Because a known God in this sense would
cease to be God; He would become a phenom-
enal object, an idol, and not the Infinite Being,
for in trying to know God, we would be bringing
that Infinite Being within the limits of our finite
mind. In this sense, therefore, God, or the In-
finite Being, is always unknown and unknow-
able. Shall we then join the agnostics and be
contented with our ignorance and powerless-
ness to know the Infinite ? Shall we cease from
all our attempts and struggles to understand
the nature of the Infinite or to know the exist-
ence of God when He is unknowable? No.
Here is a great fact to learn, that although the
Infinite Being is unknown and unknowable
according to the point of view of modern
agnosticism. He is more than known, more than
knowable from the standpoint of the Vedanta.
He is the essence of our being, the essence of our

Self. He is the source of our knowledge. All

27



Vedanta Philosophy.

knowledge proceeds from that infinite Wisdom;

when we know a thing, we know it in and

through Him. When, for instance, we know

a table, we say that the table is known, but can

we trace the source of this knowledge? Do

we know from where it comes? It is not

created by us. It is eternal; it exists in the

infinite mind or that something behind the

finite mind, and through that knowledge we

say that the table is known. When we say

that ether is unknown and unknowable, we use

this same knowledge as our guide. That by

which we are able to cognize a thing and to

call it known or unknown is Divinity itself.

Therefore whether we know a thing or do not

know it, knowledge in either case is possible

only through the one source of all wisdom and

consciousness.

It is for this reason that God is more than

anything known and knowable or anything

unknown and unknowable. He is infinitely

higher than either. He is the essence of the

ego or "I" J no one can live without being sus-
28



The Existence of God.

talned by that infinite source of existence,
knowledge, and consciousness. It is not that
God dwells somewhere outside of the universe
and from there is making my blood circulate
or my heart beat, but He is in every cell of my
body. He fills the space of my form. I owe my
existence to Him. He is the Soul of my soul
as well as the Soul of the universe. He is in
you, in me, in the chair, in the wall and every-
where, yet we do not see or know Him. It
would be a great degradation of God if He
could be known by our ordinary knowledge.
He would then be like a changeable, limited,
phenomenal something such as we perceive
with our senses; whereas He is in fact the
Knower of the universe, the Eternal Subject
who knows everything in each of us. The
Knower or the Subject in us is unchangeable,
eternal and one.

When we understand that by knowledge is
meant objectification, we reahze that all our
attempts to express that infinite Subject in
language — to call Him Father, Brother, or dear-



Vedanta Philosophy.

est Friend — are nothing but so many efforts of
the human mind to objectify the infinite, un-
limited Subject of the universe. We cannot,
however, remain satisfied with this imperfect
knowledge of Divinity; we desire to know
more about the Infinite Being. Gradually we
may come to reahze that He is the Creator of
the world, the Governor of all, or the First
Cause of the universe. But here again we
shall not rest content; we shall still wish to
know more about Him. Then we shall find
that the same Infinite Substance or Being
which is beyond every finite object, beyond
space and time, above mind and body, is in
reality not very far from us; wherefore it is
said in the Vedanta :

"He is far from us, yet He is nearer than
the nearest; He dwells in everything, yet He
is outside the phenomenal universe; He is
infinitely smaller than the atom of an atom,
yet He is infinitely larger than the largest
solar system, than the space which covers the

perceptible universe."

30



The Existence of God.

When we see the sun, moon, or stars, we

see that part of the Infinite which is visible to

our eyes; when we hear a sound, we perceive

that part of the Infinite which is audible to

our ears; but God is in reaHty beyond light,

sound, odor, taste or touch. He is the same

Infinite Substance which transcends time and

space, mind and sense powers. By knowing

so much of the Infinite, however, we are yet

unsatisfied, we still desire to know more. Our

souls still long for a deeper knowledge of that


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