Abhedânanda Swâmi.

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the absolute divinity of the Cosmos. On
that highest spiritual plane there is no dis-
tinction, no idea of separation, no idea of

The Relation of Soul to God.

creation. All ideas of separatencss, all differ-
entiations of phenomenal names and forms,
merge into the absolute ocean of reality which
is unchangeable, eternal and one. The essence
of the Creator is infinite, and it interpenetrates
the phenomenal forms as the external space
pervades every particle of atoms of the phe-
nomenal world. That essence is Hke the all-
pervading background of the phenomenal
appearances. Phenomena are Hke the waves
in the ocean of Infinite ReaHty. Individual
souls are like so many bubbles in that ocean
of Absolute Existence. As a bubble rises
on the surface of the ocean, takes a form,
lives there, comes near other bubbles, hvesin
a group for some time, moves in the company
of others, changes its size, perhaps, and goes
down again; so the individual soul rises in
that ocean of infinite existence, appears in
various forms, passes through the different
stages of evolution, and lives there for ever
and ever, sometimes as manifested and at

other times as unmanifested. The light of

Vedanta Philosophy.

intelligence in the soul or ego is due to the
reflection of the Atman or Divine Spirit on
the mirror of the heart of the ego or soul.
Therefore the soul is called the image or
reflection of the Atman or Divine Spirit.

This idea is beautifully expressed in one
of the Upanishads: "In the cave of our
heart have entered the two — the Atman or
the Divine Spirit, and the individual ego or
soul. Dwelling on the highest summit, or the
ether of the heart, the one witnesses the other,
while the soul drinks the rewards of its own
works. The vdse men and sages describe
the one as the light, and the other as the
reflection, image or shadow." (Katha Upani-
shad, ch. iii, verse i.) You will notice here
what a deep meaning lies at the back of the
expression, ''Man is the image of God."
The ancient Vedic sages used the same expres-
sion in a sense which many of the best philoso-
phers of the Western world have failed to
grasp or comprehend. Thus the most ancient
Monistic sages explained the highest relation


The Relation of Soul to God.

of the individual soul to Atman or Divine
Spirit, by calling it the reflection or image of
the Self-elTulgent Light of God. But as a
reflection cannot exist independent of the
light whose reflection it is, so the soul of man
cannot exist independent of Atman. There-
fore the true nature of the soul is Atman,
the divine and real spirit which cannot be
divided into parts and is One Absolute Source
of existence, intelHgence and bliss. Such is
the monistic or non-duahstic explanation of
the relation of the soul to God.

Vedanta philosophy recognizes these three
explanations. It says that the relation of
the soul to God varies as the conception of
the individual soul and of God becomes finer
and higher. Starting from the gross form of
body, when a real and earnest seeker after
Truth marches onward toward the Absolute,
he passes through all the intermediate stages
until he reaches that state of di\'ine communion
where he realizes the oneness of the Atman,

or the true nature of man with Brahman, the

Vedanta Philosophy.

cosmic Divine essence, or the Absolute Real-
ity of the universe. Then he declares, I am
Brahman, I am He, I am in the sun, in the
moon, in stars; I am one with the All-per-
vading Reality; or as Jesus the Christ said,
"I and my Father are one." He does not
use the word *'I" in its ordinary sense of ego
or human personaUty, but in the sense of
Atman, or Divine essence. Jesus was a dual-
ist when He prayed to His Father in heaven,
and he was a monist when He said, "I and
my Father are one," ''The kingdom of heaven
is within you." A Vedanta philosopher or
sage after reaHzing that absolute oneness on
the highest spiritual plane of the Atman, says,
when he returns to the plane of relativity and

"O Lord, when I think of my body, I am
Thy servant and Thou art my Master; when
I look at my soul, I am Thy part and Thou
art the one stupendous Whole; but when I
realize my true nature, I am divine and one
with Thee, the Absolute Spirit. Such is my

conception of my relation to Thee."

what is an Incarnation of God?

"The Lord says: 'Whenever religion declines and
irreligion prevails I manifest myself to protect the right-
eous, to destroy evil and to establish true religion*" —
Bhagavad Gita iv, 7, 8.

what is an Incarnation of God?

Two great religions of the world advocate
the belief that God, the supreme Ruler of
the universe, incarnates in human form to
help mankind— the one is Christianity, the
other is the rehgion of Vedanta which pre-
vails in India.

Christianity, believing in the existence of
one personal God who is the creator, governor
and Father of the universe, teaches that this
heavenly Father incarnated Himself in human
form as Jesus the Christ to show His love.
His mercy and kindness for His suffering chil-
dren as well as to save the world from eternal
perdition. It may be interesting to many
to know how this doctrine of divine incarna-
tion, unknown to the earhest Christians of

the first centur>^ after Christ, graduaUy grew

Vedanta Philosophy.

and developed into its present fonn. Readers
of ecclesiastical history are well aware of
the fact that no problem troubled the
minds of the founders of the Christian church
and of Christian theology so much as this
one of the divine incarnation of Jesus the
Christ. During the early periods of church
history, indeed, no other question was con-
sidered to be of such vital importance as that
of the heavenly Father's incarnation in the
form of Jesus of Nazareth. Although for
many of the uneducated masses this problem
appears to have been satisfactorily solved by
the wonderfully subtle and apparently logical
arguments of certain priests and theologians,
still it is not unknown to the educated classes
that the acceptance of their solution depended
largely upon priestly power, upon anathema
and upon the persecution of those who refused
to receive these arguments as the only correct
solution of the problem.

Let us go back for a moment to that time
when Constantine the Great settled the


What Is an Incarnation of God ?

disputes of the bishops regarding the incarna-
tion of the Supreme Being in the form of the
Son of Man. In the first place we should
remember that the modern Christian idea of
divine incarnation is founded upon the belief
in the Trinitarian doctrine of the Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost in the memorable text
of the First Epistle of John: ''For there are
three that bear record in heaven, the Father,
the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these
three are one " (ch. v. 7). Before the doc-
trine of the divine incarnation of Jesus the
Christ was estabhshed and accepted by the
church, the early Christians beheved in the
Trinity and constantly discussed the most
subtle and profound questions concerning
the nature, generation, distinction and quaUties
of the three divine persons of the mysterious
triad. At that time the majority of Chris-
tian thinkers beheved in Jesus of Nazareth
as the son of God, but they did not dare de-
clare that he was "God himself in human

form," the second principle of the blessed

Vedanta Philosophy.

Trinity. It was Justin Martyr, a Christian
convert of the Platonic school and a believer
in the Platonic doctrine of the Trinity, who
about the middle of the second century for the
first time promulgated the idea that Jesus
the Christ, the son of God, was the second
person in the Triune Deity and the creator
of the universe. He is the earHest writer to
whom the origin of this idea can be traced,
and he did not ascribe his opinion to the
Scriptures but to the special favor of God.

The Trinitarian controversies which first
broke out in the Christian schools of Alexan-
dria in Egypt, the land of Trinities, took a
new form during the time of Constantine the
Great, the chief point of debate being to define
the relation of the son to the Father. The
church of Alexandria was the most powerful
of all the churches at this period, and it was
ruled by Trinitarian bishops who took part
in all these discussions. One of the most
prominent candidates for the office of bishop

was Arius, the celebrated originator of the

What is an Incarnation of God ?

Arian doctrines and a Trcsbytcr of the Alexan-
drian church. He and his followers main-
tained, in opposition to the other bishops,
that the son of God was merely a creature or
a created being, that there was a time when
he did not exist. He said: "If the Father
begat the Son, he that was begotten had a
beginning in existence; from this it is e\i-
dent that there was a time when the Son was
not in being, it therefore follows that he had
his existence from nothing." This argument
was the strongest of all the blows which were
given to the Trinitarian doctrine, as well as
the most potent against the divinity of Jesus
the Christ, because it evidently denied the
co-eternity of the Father and the Son by
proving the subordination of the Son to the
Father, and, in consequence, inequality be-
tween them. It also indirectly implied that
there was a time when the blessed Trinity did
not exist.
The question was vehemently discussed

again and again in public debates by bishops

Vedanta Philosophy.

and Christians, and gradually the strife
spread so far that the Jews and pagans amused
themselves by giving theatrical representa-
tions of the contest on the stage, the point
of their burlesques being the equality of the
age of the father and son. The violence of
the controversy at last reached the point
where imperial force was needed for the deci-
sion. Emperor Constantine, 1 eing referred
to, summoned the council of Nicca in 327 a.d.
and settled the dispute of the bishops by
formulating the famous Nicean creed and at-
taching to it the anathema: "The holy CathoHc
and Apostolic Church anathematizes those
who say that there was a time when the Son
of God was not, that before he was begotten,
he was not, and that he was made out of
nothing or out of another substance or essence
and is created or changeable or alterable."

In this manner the so-called satisfactory
solution of that most bewildering problem
of the divine incarnation of Jesus was arrived

at, and it was accepted, not because of the

What is an Incarnation of God ?

unanimous opinion of all the members of the
council, but simply because the majority of
the bishops were in favor of it. After this
decision Arius was excommunicated for his
heretical ideas, while his followers, who were
quite numerous, were cruelly persecuted and
their writings destroyed. Since that time
the bishops and clergy have been forced to
accept the doctrine of the Trinity as also that
of the incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth.

Although the question of the incarnation
of the omnipresent, omnipotent and omnis-
cient heavenly Father in human form was
thus apparently solved by the church and
theologians, still it has not ceased to rise
again and again in the thoughtful minds of
different people in different countries, dis-
turbing their peace and frequently driving
them into agnostic and atheistic behefs.
Many a soul has often cried aloud in despair:
"What a revolting absurdity it is to think
that the infinite and almighty Creator and
Ruler of the infinite universe should be born


Vedanta Philosophy.

in a manger, should suffer from hunger and
thirst, should be tempted by the devil, chas-
tised and scourged by ordinary mortals and
forced to ignominious death upon the cross!"
Devout Christians do not dare to see this
absurdity or to express their opinion for fear
of blasphemy and punishment; but truth-
seeking, rational minds cannot rest content
with mere doctrines and dogmas based upon
the quicksand of the authority of some book
or person.

The question presents itself: "Is there
any other way of understanding what is
meant by an incarnation of God?" Outside
of the Christian reHgion, there is one other
rehgion or rehgious philosophy — that of Ve-
danta — which explains through reason and
logic the problem of divine incarnation in
human form upon this earth. India is the
only country where the origin of this idea can
be traced back and where the behef has pre-
vailed from prehistoric times. Long before

Jesus of Nazareth was recognized as the incar-

What Is an Incarnation of God?

nation of divinity, the Hindus had a clear
conception of this idea. Volumes upon vol-
umes have been written in Sanskrit describing
why and how the Supreme Being manifests
Itself in human form at different times among
different nations.

One of the principal points in which the
Hindus differ from the Christians is in main-
taining that, if God incarnates or expresses
His divinity in human form, His incarnation
cannot be hmited by time, place or nationahty.
The Hindus beheve that there were many incar-
nations before and have been many since the
advent of Christ, and that all these incarna-
tions of God are equal in greatness, majesty,
wisdom and divine powers, especially in the
power of saving mankind by setting forth the
highest ideal of life and by leading men from
the path of unrighteousness to the uUimate
goal of all religions. Who could have under-
stood and reahzed the highest aim and pur-
pose of human existence, who could have

solved the most bewildering questions and

Vedanta Philosophy.

problems concerning the true nature and des-
tiny of human souls, if God himself had not
revealed these things to mankind from time
immemorial? Could ordinary human beings
with their short-sighted intellect and imper-
fect understanding, hving constantly on the
animal plane of the senses, deluded by the
phantoms of phenomenal appearances and
always mistaking the unreal for the real, have
ever discovered the ultimate purpose of life
and the true nature and destiny of human
souls? Think of the innumerable opinions
of atheists and agnostics, materialists and
thinkers of different capacities which have
bewildered the intellect and understanding
of the vast majority of people!

All true knowledge is but the expression
of divine wisdom. All the powers that make
one great, spiritual, righteous and wise, are
only the divine powers manifesting through
human forms. Therefore it is said in Ve-
danta: ''AH that is glorious, grand, extremely

righteous or spiritual, is the outcome of the

What is an Incarnation of God ?

powers which proceed from the infinite source
of all forces and of all energy in nature. Wher-
ever there is anything that is extraordinary or
unusually uphfting to the soul, there is a
special expression of the divine power."

According to the religion of Vedanta, the
incarnation of God means the embodiment
of divine qualities and divine powers. It takes
place whenever and wherever such a mani-
festation is necessary. The blessed Lord
Krishna, one of the great incarnations of di-
vinity, who appeared about fourteen hundred
years before the birth of Christ, in speaking
of divine incarnations, said :

"Wherever true reHgion declines and irre-
ligion prevails and whenever the vast majority
of mankind, forgetting the highest ideal of
life, travel on the path of unrighteousness
which leads to the bottomless abyss of igno-
rance, miseiy and sorrow, the Supreme Being
manifests His divine powers to estabHsh
righteousness and true spirituahty by assum-
ing a human form and living in our midst, but

Vedanta Philosophy.

at the same time showing to all that He is
the real master of nature and absolutely free
from all the bondages of the world and its

Such embodiments may take place at any
time in any country. The Hindus beHeve
that there have been many such incarnations
of divinity in the past and that there will be
many in the future. Krishna, Buddha, Jesus
the Christ, Chaitanya, Ramakrishna, each
one of these has been considered to be the
embodiment of divine qualities and divine
powers. The hves and deeds of all of them
were superhuman, consequently divine. They
were full of the manifestations of such powers
as ordinary mortals do not possess.

A divine incarnation is one who shows

from childhood that he is a born master of

mind, body and senses, and the real Lord

of nature, yet who never forgets even for a

moment that he has come to the world to help

mankind. He is always conscious of his

divine power and he manifests divine glory

What IS an Incarnation of God?

through every action of his daily life. He
never loses consciousness of his oneness with
the eternal Truth, or the Father of the uni-
verse, the infinite source of wisdom and intelli-
gence. He lives in the world like an embodied
soul, possessing perfect peace, tranquillity,
happiness and blissfulness, without depend-
ing upon the conditions and environments
which apparently bind the souls of ordinary

The difference between an ordinary human
being and an incarnation of God Hes in the
fact that the individual soul of a common
man takes birth subject to the laws of Karma j
or the laws of causation and of action and
reaction, in order to reap the results of the
works of his previous births and to fulfil the
desires that are latent in him; while a di\dne
incarnation is the embodiment of his own
free mil, which alone governs him. Being
absolutely free he is not forced by the law of
Karma or any other law to take a human

body, nor does he wish to fulfil any of those

Vedanta Philosophy.

desires that proceed from the selfish nature
of ordinary mortals. His soul is not subject
to the law of evolution like that of any other
being. He is absolutely perfect from the very
moment that he assumes human form through
the inscrutable power of his own omnipotent,
supreme will or Maya. Although such an
incarnation of God is beyond birth and
death, he still apparently submits, for the time
being, to the conditions of the human plane,
and obeys the laws that govern that plane;
yet at the same time he makes people realize
that he is the master of nature, not its slave,
and that in reaHty he does not obey its laws
but that the laws of nature obey his om-
nipotent will. Ordinary people, whose spir-
itual eyes are not open, may not see the differ-
ence that exists between his actions and those
of a common mortal and may treat him Hke
an ordinary man; but those who are highly
advanced in spirituality, who understand
the true nature of the individual soul and of

God and of their mutual relation, see the

What is an Incarnation of God"?

difference at once, recognize his divinity
and worship him as the ideal embodiment
of divine powers and divine quahties.

It is for this reason that the blessed Lord
Krishna, the Hindu Christ, says in the Bha-
gavad Gita: "People who are deluded by my
mysterious power of Maya, do not know Me
as unborn and unchanging; I am not manifest
to them. The unintelligent regard Me in
the light of an ordinary being with a material
form which is the result of past actions, and
know not that I assume at will glorious and
holy forms for the protection of the world."

The rehgion of Vedanta teaches that such

incarnations of Divinity are not Hmited by

distinctions of sex; they may appear in mas-

cuUne or in feminine form according to the

needs of the time and place. To the sexless

Supreme Being who is both the Father and

Mother of the Universe, the masculine and

the feminine form are of equal value and

importance. It is for this reason that amongst

the Hindus in India are to be found many

Vedanta Philosophy.

incarnations of Divinity in the form of

The latest divine incarnation was one who
appeared in the middle of the nineteenth
century. He Hved near Calcutta and his
name was Ramakrishna. He is to-day wor-
shipped by thousands of educated Hindus
just in the same way as Jesus the Christ
is adored and worshipped in Christendom.
From his childhood he showed his divine
power and set an example of absolute purity
and divine spirituality, like an embodiment
of those blessed quahties which adorned the
characters of previous incarnations, such as
Krishna, Buddha, or Jesus the Christ. Those
who had the good fortune to see and be with
him even for a short time, had their eyes
opened to the truth that he was absolutely
superhuman. Although he had received no
school education, his wisdom was vast. He
was the storehouse, as it were, of unHmited
knowledge, and he showed at every moment

of his Hfe that he was the absolute master of

What is an Incarnation of God ?

his mind, body and senses, that he was entirely
free from all the conditions that make an
ordinary mortal a slave to passions and desires.
He was Hke the personification of the Sermon
on the Mount. No one could ever find the
slightest flaw in his noble and divine char-

At one time he was asked: "What is the
difference between a holy sage and an incarna-
tion of God who is called the Saviour of man-
kind?" He answered: "A holy sage is one
who has realized God through great pain,
long prayers and severe penances and after
much trouble has saved himself from the
attractions of the world, but he has not the
power to save others; while a Saviour is one
who can easily save hundreds without losing
his own spirituality. A holy sage may be
compared to a reed floating in the ocean of

* Those who wish to know more about thr li'
i- divine man and why he is worshippe '
• J 1 ar of mankind, may read Swami Viv
nanda's lecture on "My Master," or" Lue ani,
Sayings of Ramakrishna, " by Prof. Max Miiller

Vedanta Philosophy.

life, which cannot bear the weight of even a
crow, but when a Saviour descends He
easily carries thousands across the ocean
like a large, powerful steamer which moves
swiftly over the waters towing rafts and
barges in its wake. The Saviour, like the
most powerful locomotive, not only reaches
the destination himself, but at the same time
draws with him loads of passengers eager
to go to the abode eternal of Truth."

Such is the power and strength of an in-
carnation of God. An ordinary person may
strive and after a long struggle may attain to
the reaHzation of truth which is salvation,
but with a Saviour, this is not the way; he
comes to help and save others. Whosoever
worships and is devoted to any of these Sa-
viours will, through that power of devotion
alone, reach the ultimate goal of all religions.
As Jesus the Christ said: ''Come unto me
all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I
will give you rest," so the other incarnations

of Divinity Hke Ramakrishna, Buddha and

What is an Incarnation of God?

Krishna spoke to their followers, saying in

the words of Krishna:

"Giving up all the formaHties of religion,

come unto me, take refuge in me and I will

give thee rest and make thee free from sins;

grieve not, I will also give thee eternal peace

and everlasting happiness."

Son of God.

"The Divine Lord says: M portion of Myself hath
become the living Soul in the -world of life from time with-
out beginning,* " — Bhagavad Gita, 5cv, 7.

Son of God.

It is a general belief among Christians

that nearly two thousand years ago the only

begotten Son of God descended upon this

earth to save the souls of sinners from eternal

perdition. Thoughtful people, however, may

wish to enquire into the true significance of

this expression "Son of God." Again and

again are asked the questions: ''Why should

Jesus the Christ alone be called the only

begotten son of God?" "In what sense was

he the son of the heavenly Father?" "Is

not every individual a child of the heavenly

Father when it is said in the 14th chapter

of Deuteronomy, 'Ye are the children of the

Lord your God;' or when Moses said, 'Is

not he thy father that hath bought thee, hath

he not made thee and established thee?'"

Vedanta Philosophy.

(Deut. xxxii, 6.) And the Hindu asks:
"Why should we not recognize the divine
sonship in Krishna, Buddha, Ramakrishna
and in other Saviours of the world?"

All these and similar questions disturb
the minds of those who are not satisfied with
the sectarian explanations regarding the son-
ship of Jesus the Christ which they have been
hearing over and over again from their child-
hood. Of course we have nothing to say

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