Abhedânanda Swâmi.

Vedanta philosophy : five lectures on reincarnation online

. (page 7 of 9)
Online LibraryAbhedânanda SwâmiVedanta philosophy : five lectures on reincarnation → online text (page 7 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

to those whose minds are contented with such
explanations, or who beheve in the Hteral
meaning of the passages descriptive of the
supernatural birth and miraculous deeds of
the only begotten son of God. But there
are many who do not believe in miracles,
who do not accept anything upon hearsay
or because it has been written in a certain
book or been declared by a certain great
personage. They wish to go to the very
bottom of things before they accept them
as true; they want to know in what sense the

divine sonship of the heavenly Father was

Son of God.

understood by Jesus of Nazareth and his
direct disciples.

It is extremely difficult for any one to know
exactly what Jesus meant by his sonship since
he has left no writings of his own. We can only
gather some idea from the interpretations of
his followers and from the writers of the four
authentic gospels. After studying carefully
the synoptic gospels we learn that there were
among the authors of these books two concep-
tions of the son of God. Matthew and Luke
accepted Jesus the Christ as the only begotten
son of God because of his supernatural birth,
which was caused by the inscrutable power
of the heavenly Father. According to these
two Gospels it was a miracle; and upon
this miraculous conception of Mary and the
supernatural birth of Jesus depends the
popular meaning of the divine sonship of Jesus
the Christ. All the orthodox sects and denom-
inations of Christianity, accepting the mira-
cles described in :Matthew and Luke as lit-
erally true, give this miraculous birth as the

Vedanta Philosophy.

reason why Jesus alone should be called the

only begotten son of God. They do not

recognize that other Saviours of the world,

like Buddha and Krishna, had a similar

supernatural birth and that their deeds were

as miraculous as those of Jesus the Christ.

If we ignore them, it will be quite easy for

us to accept Jesus the Christ as the only

begotten son of God.

The other conception of the son of God

which we find in the fourth gospel, has a

very deep philosophical significance. Before

we discuss this point, let us understand clearly

what conception of God the Jews had both

before and after the time of Jesus the Christ.

We know that the Jewish idea of God was

at that time purely monotheistic. The God

of Judaism was the creator and governor of

the universe; He dwelt in a heaven far above

mundane existence; He was so high and

separate from the world, so extra- cosmic, so

great, so majestic and so transcendent, that

no one could approach Him, no one could

Son of God.

live after seeing Him face to face. Conse-
quently there was a wide gulf of separation
between God and man, between the creator
in heaven and the creature on earth. The
idea of di\dnity in man was unknown to the
Jews; such an idea would have been consid-
ered blasphemous by them. The Jews could
never believe that Yahveh would stoop so
low as to come down on the human plane
or to live in a human form. The same spirit
prevails among the Jews of to-day, and it
has also been inherited by the Mahometans.
According to them God is far above man,
no human being can ever represent His divin-
ity, and there can be no other relation be-
tween man and God, between the creature
and his creator, than that of a servant to the
all-powerful master, or that of a subject to
the most tyrannical monarch. The passages
that have been quoted from the Old Testa-
ment like, *'Ye are the children of God,"
meant nothing more than the fatherly good-
ness of the Creator and the impHcit obedience

Vedanta Philosophy.

of the creature, as that of a dutiful son to his
father. They were never meant in the sense
in which the Christians understand the divine
sonship of Jesus the Christ. Through the
paternal goodness of Yahveh, Abraham be-
came the friend of God and Adam became
the son of God, as described in the thirty-
eighth verse of the third chapter of Luke.

Nearly two centuries before the advent of
Jesus the Christ, when the Jews came in con-
tact with the Greeks, they found in Greek
mythology a beHef in Zeus-pitar or Jupiter,
who was conceived as the Supreme Deity
and the creator of the universe. He was not
only the father of the gods and of the whole
world, but also the father of the most power-
ful kings and heroes, who were called the
children or the "offspring of Zeus" in the
literal sense of these terms. We all know
that the gods of Greek mythology could
marry mortal women of virtuous character
and could beget children, while mortal men

were allowed to marry goddesses, ^acus.

Son of God.

for instance, was born of .^gina but his
father was Zeus the Supreme Deity; while
Achilles was the son of the goddess Thetis
by a mortal father named Peleus.

These ideas, however, were not acceptable
to the Jews; on the contrary^ they were con-
sidered as blasphemous and were rejected
by the orthodox Hebrews. History never-
theless tells us that the worship of Zeus-pitar
or Jupiter was introduced into Babylon and
Northern Palestine by Antiochus Epiphanes
between 175 and 163 B.C. The orthodox
Jews revoked against this innovation; still
there were many Hberal-minded Jews among
the Pharisees who hked the idea, accepted it
and preached it. Among these was Rabbi
Hillel, one of the most prominent of Jewish
priests of that epoch, who Hved a few years
before Christ and died when Jesus was ten
years of age. He was considered by many
scholars as the true master and predecessor
of Jesus and was held in great esteem by the

Pharisaic sect of the Jews. He inculcated

Vedanta Philosophy.

the belief in the merciful and fatherly char-
acter of Yahveh like that of Zeus-pitar, and
it was he also who introduced the golden rule
for the first time. At the same moment Philo
and the Neo-Platonist Jews in Alexandria
were teaching the fatherly character of Yahveh
and the only begotten sonship of the Greek
Logos or the Word. Philo was a contem-
porary of Jesus, but he never even mentioned
his name. Many of the Oriental scholars
and higher critics of the New Testament say
that the writer of the Fourth Gospel must
have been a follower of Philo, because in this
gospel alone Jesus the Christ is identified with
the Greek Logos, which was explained by
Philo as the only begotten Son of the Almighty
Heavenly Father.

Some people claim that the Messianic hope
of the Jewish prophets was fulfilled in the
personality and character of Jesus and that
for this reason he was called the Son of God;
but critical readers of Jewish history know

perfectly well that the Jewish conception of a

Son of God.

Messiah had nothing to do with the Christian
idea of the divine sonship of Jesus the Christ.
History explains to us the social and poHtical
conditions of those days which gave rise to the
Messianic conception of a dehverer from the sea
of misfortune in which the Jewish nation was
well-nigh drowned. For centuries the Jews had
been conquered and subdued by the Persians,
Greeks and other stronger powers around them.
Social intrigues, pohtical insurrections, rebel-
lions, and constant wars raged in almost every
community and kept the people busy for many
years before, during, and after the time of the
Babylonian captivity. Such a period naturally
kindles the fire of patriotism in the hearts of a
nation and forces its members to be active in
every possible way. The misfortunes and ca-
lamities which befell the descendants of Israel
made them remember the promises of Yahveh,
which had been handed down to them through
the writings of the prophets, and compelled
them to seek supernatural aid for the fulfill-
ment of those promises.

Vedanta Philosophy.

The unconquerable pride of the sons of
Israel which made them feel that they were
the chosen people of Yahveh, the only true
God, who was their director and governor,
stimulated their minds with the hope that
through the supernatural power of Yahveh
the kingdom of their ancestors would be re-
stored, that a member of David's house would
appear as the Messiah (the Anointed), and
sit on their throne, unite the twelve tribes of
Israel under his sceptre and govern them in
peace and prosperity. This was the first
conception of a Messiah that ever arose in
the minds of the Jews. It was the principal
theme of the Jewish poets and prophets who
Hved during the Babylonian exile. The glory
of the house of Israel and the earthly prosperity
of the worshippers of Yahveh were the highest
ideals of the Jews. They did not mean by
Messiah a spiritual saviour of sinners from
eternal perdition, for they did not believe in
eternal Hfe of any kind.

The Christian idea of a Messiah as the Sa-

Son of God.

viour of the world and a deliverer from sin
and evil does not owe its origin to the Messianic
hope of the Jews but to the Persian conception
of the coming of Sosiosh, who, according to
the promise of Ahura Mazda, would appear
in the heavens on the Day of Judgment,
destroy the evil influence of Ahriman and
renovate the world. Some of the Pharisees
accepted this idea. Most probably Jesus of
Nazareth was familiar with this Persian con-
ception of the Messiah, but at the same time
he tried to spiritualize the Jewish ideal by
preaching a reign of righteousness and justice,
instead of a reign of war and strife between
nations, a kingdom of peace and love instead
of a dominion of earthly power and prosperity.
Thus we see why the Messianic hope of
the Jewish prophets was not Hterally fulfilled
in Jesus the Christ, and why the conception
of a Messiah does not explain the true mean-
ing of the Christian idea of the divine son-
ship of Christ. We have already seen how

the Judaic conception of God made Yahveh

Vedanta Philosophy.

extra-cosmic and unapproachable by human
beings, and how a vast gulf of separation was
thus created between God and man, between
the Creator and his creatures. Many of the
prophets felt it strongly, especially when
Judaism came in touch with the Hellenic
religion which made God so near and approach-
able to mortals. Various attempts were made
to bridge over this gulf of separation between
man and God, between the visible and the
invisible; and these attempts eventually re-
sulted in the acceptance of the Logos theory
of the Greek philosophers by the Alexandrian
Jews, who, as I have already said, Hved about
the time of Jesus the Christ. The foremost
of them was Philo. It was he who first suc-
ceeded in showing the connection between
the visible world and the invisible creator
through the Logos of the Stoics and Neo-
Platonists; but at the same time he gave a
new interpretation to this word.

"Logos" is a Greek term meaning orig-
inally "word," not in the sense of mere sound,

Son of God.

but also of thought embodied in sound— as
when we utter a word, the meaning is in-
cluded in the sound, since words are nothing
but the outward expressions of thoughts which
are imperceptible. From the time of HeracH-
tus, the most ancient Greek philosopher, down
to the time of the Neo-Platonists this term
was used by different thinkers in various senses.
According to Heraclitus, Logos meant fire,
which was conceived as the all-pervading
essence of the universe out of which emanated
the individual soul of man. Anaxagoras
understood by Logos the cosmic mind, a
portion of which was manifested in the human
soul; but the Stoic philosophers who came
later, meant by it reason or supreme intelK-
gence. Logos pervaded all matter, and reason
or intelligence in man was considered to be a
part of the universal reason or inteUigence
or Logos, through which was established
the connection between man and the Divine
Mind. In fact Logos always signified the nexus

between the manifested world and its Cause.

Vedanta Philosophy.

As has aheady been said, Philo, being
brought up in the Neo- Platonic school,
adopted this Stoic theory of Logos to explain
the relation between Yahveh, the Supreme
Creator of the Semitic religion, and the visible
mortal man of this world. But he meant by
Logos the ideal creation which existed in the
Divine Mind before the actual creation. For
instance, before the creation of light God
said, "Let there be Hght." These words,
however, were merely an audible expression
of the thought or idea of Hght that existed
in the Divine Mind: the creation of the
external light was therefore nothing but the
projection or expression of the idea or thought
of light in the Divine Mind. As this ideal
light may be called the connecting link between
the gross visible light and the invisible Divine
Mind, so the ideal creation becomes the
bridge that spans the gulf of separation be-
tween the invisible creator and the gross
phenomenal creation, and this idea or thought

ol the Divine Mind was the Logos of Philo;

Son of God.

it signified the universal thought of the world
or the ideal world in the mind of the Divine
Being before anything came into existence.
Like a dream, the world of ideas appeared
in the Divine Mind and was afterwards pro-
jected in physical space, just as a carpenter,
before he makes a chair, forms a mental image
of it and then projects it outside. Since this
Logos or the ideal world was the first emana-
tion or expression of the cosmic mind, it was
called the ''first born," "the only begotten
son," "the unique son;" all these terms,
however, were used by Philo and his followers
in their poetical or metaphorical sense. Ac-
cording to this theor\% the universal Logos
included all the ideas and thoughts, or rather
the perfect types of all created things that
exist in the universe. Before a horse was
created, there was a perfect idea or type of
horse in the Divine Mind. We do not see
this perfect type in the world; we may see a
red or a black horse, a large or a small horse,

but we cannot see the ideal horse. What

Vedanta Philosophy.

we call a perfect horse is nothing but the

nearest approach to the perfect ideal horse

that exists eternally in the Divine Mind. So

it is with every created species, thing or being.

Before man came into existence there was an

ideal man or a perfect type of man in the

thought of God, and its projection or physical

manifestation became something hke that

ideal type, because the gross manifestation,

being Hmited by time, space, and causation,

cannot be exactly the same as the ideal type

which is perfect.

This ideal, or the perfect type of man,

which existed in the Divine Mind, is eternal

and a part of the universal Logos. All

human beings, therefore, are more or less

imperfect expressions of that ideal man or

Logos or the first begotten son of the Divine

Mind. It does not refer to the human form

alone, but also to the perfect character or the

soul. The individual souls, however perfect

or imperfect they may be in the actions of

their daily Hfe, are potentially the same as

Son of God.

the Logos, or the universal ideal man that
existed in God's mind before creation. Every
one of us is trying to express as perfectly as
possible that ideal type of man in whose cast
we have been moulded by the divine hand.
Each one of us, therefore, is one with that
first begotten son of God — such was the orig-
inal meaning of the ''Son of God" according
to Philo and his disciples. We must not
forget, however, that Philo did not know
Jesus the Christ, although he Hved at the
same time. The writer of the Fourth Gospel,
whoever he may have been, was an advocate
of the Logos theory of Philo as well as a be-
liever in Christ as the perfect type of man or
the incarnate word of God on earth in the
truest sense of the term. It was for this
reason that he began the gospel with that
famous verse, which has created so much
confusion in the minds of Christian theolo-
gians: ''In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God, and the Word

was God." The meaning of this passage

Vedanta Philosophy.

will be clear if we remember that the author

of the fourth gospel identified the Word or

Logos of Philo with Christ — but not with

Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary — and

that since then this Christ has become the

only begotten Son of God.

Furthermore, it should be understood that

the word ''Christ," like the word "Logos"

of Philo, did not at first mean any particular

individual or personality, but it referred to the

universal ideal type of man, or the perfect man

who dwells in the Divine Mind from eternity

to eternity. In this sense the word Christ is

as universal as the Logos. It is not confined

to any particular person or nationality. We

must not confound this ideal impersonal

Christ or the only begotten Son of God with

the historical personality of Jesus of Nazareth^

the son of Mary; but we must take it in

its true spiritual sense, we must understand

that each individual soul, being the expression

of the first born Son of God, is potentially

the same as the only begotten Son of God,

Son of God.

or the child of Immortal Bliss as it is said in
Vedanta. When we have realized this imper-
sonal ideal Christ in our spuls, from that very
moment we have become Christ-like; and
it is then that the impersonal Christ, the
only begotten son, will be born within us.

Very few of the true Christians can fully
understand this most sublime universal mean-
ing of the divine sonship of Christ and conse-
quently of every Uving soul. It is extremely
difficult for them to extricate their minds
from the maze of the traditional personality
of Jesus of Nazareth. Students of Vedanta,
on the contrar)', can comprehend this universal
meaning very easily, because in Vedanta the
question of the historical personality of an
indi^'idual, however great and spiritual he
may be, is not the principal point to be dis-
cussed; its sole aim is to lift us above all
limitations of personahty and to lead us to
the reahzation of the universal Tnith or the
Divine sonship of each individual soul. We
are all children of Immortal BUss, of the


Vedanta Philosophy.

omnipotent and omniscient Divine Being.
We are not children of some other being,
nor are we children of earthly fathers. Par-
ents have not created our souls, but on the con-
trary our souls existed even before the creation
of the world. By our birthright, as it were,
we possess the claim of divine sonship. No
one can deprive us of this right. We may
think of ourselves at present as mortals sub-
ject to birth and death, to grief, sorrow, and
misery ; we may call ourselves sons and daugh-
ters of men, but the time is sure to come
when our spiritual eyes will be opened to
the truth of our being as sons of the Heavenly

The expression " Son of God " shows in a
metaphorical way the extrinsic variety and
the intrinsic unity that exist between the
soul of man and the Supreme Spirit. Out-
wardly the child is different from the father,
but his whole soul is one with the father.
If we can leave out the external and go to

the innermost depth of our souls, there we

Son of God.

shall see and realize our divine relation, and
eventually we shall become one with the
Supreme Spirit and say, as did Jesus of Naza-
reth, "I and my Father are one." We must
learn that becoming means knowing and
knowing is becoming. When we know our-
selves as children of earthly fathers, we have
become so; and when we know that we are
children of God, we become such. This we
shall be able to understand better from the
parable of the King's son and the shepherd.

There was a very powerful king in ancient
India. By his conquests he became emperor,
but unfortunately in the prime of life he sud-
denly died and within a few months his queen
passed away giving birth to his only child,
the heir to the throne. The other members
of the royal family, in order to usurp the throne,
took the babe away, left him in a distant for-
est, and spread the news that the child was
dead. Fortunately he w^as discovered by a
shepherd who went into the forest for hunting.

This man had no children of his own and out

Vedanta Philosophy.

of compassion he took the child, brought it
home, and gave it to his wife, asking her to
take care of it as her own babe. The child
was brought up as a shepherd boy; he did
not know anything of the secret, he called the
shepherd his father, played with other shep-
herd boys and tried his best to help his father
in his work and to earn a share of his Hving.
He felt sometimes very miserable and unhappy,
but he did not know anything better.

After a few years, when he grew older, he
happened to meet the old prime minister of
the deceased emperor. The minister, who
knew the whole secret, at once saw in the
face of that young shepherd a resemblance
to the emperor and, instantly recognizing
him, addressed and honored him as the
prince and heir to the throne. The shep-
herd youth looked at the minister in great
amazement and could not believe his state-
ments ; but the minister persuaded him to come
to the palace, made him sit on his father's

throne and asked him to take care of the

Son of God.

property and govern the empire. Gradually
the mind of the young shepherd woke up,
as it were, from a dream and he reahzed
that he was the only son of the emperor,
governed his empire, and became the emperor.
Even so it is with us, being children of the
Emperor of the universe; we have forgotten
our birthright and are acting Hke the shepherd
boy. The moment that we know who we
are and what we are, that very moment we
shall become conscious of our divine heritage
and shall understand that in reahty we are
not children of earthly parents but of the
Father of the universe. No one can deprive
us of this divine birthright.

All the great Saviours of the worid, like
Krishna, Buddha, Christ, were conscious
of their divine sonship from their childhood
and never forgot it. They were Uke the
prime minister; they came to the shepherd
boy of the human soul to give the message
of truth, that it is not the son of the earthly
shepherd father but of the Emperor of the


Vedanta Philosophy.

universe. Let us enter into our divine heritage
and rule our heavenly empire. Let us become
like the emperor of the universe. Let us fol-
low the paths of the great Saviours of the
world, each one of whom manifested in his Hfe
the perfect type of man, the ideal man, the
Word or Logos. Let us obey their instructions
and, by manifesting divinity through humanity,
let us become perfect even as the Father in
heaven is perfect; then we shall be happy
both here and hereafter and shall attain to
that everlasting bliss, which is the goal of all



. " ■ (*

Divine Principle in Man.

"There is in this body a higher Soul, the Looker-on
and the Sanctioner, the Sustainer and the Experiencer,
the Mighty Lord, who is also designated the Supreme
Spirit." — Bhagavad Gita xiii, 22.

"He who is the Omniscient Knower of all, whose glory is
manifested in the universe, dwells in the heart and assum-
ing the nature of the mind, becomes the guide of the body
and of the senses. The wise who understand this, realize
the Self -effulgent. Immortal, and Blissful One." — Mun-
daka Upanishad ii, 2 Kh. 7,

Divine Principle in Man.

The study of human nature is the most
interesting and the most benefcial of all
studies. The more we study ourselves, the
better we can understand the universe, its
laws, and the Truth that underhes its phe-
nomena. It is said, " man is the epitome of
the universe; whatever exists in the world is
to be found in the body of man." As, on
the one hand, we find in man all those tend-
encies and propensities which characterize
the lower animals, so on the other, w^e see him
manifesting through the actions of his life all
those noble quaHties that adorn the character
of one whom we honor, respect and worship
as the Divine Being. Human nature seems

to be a most wonderful blending of that which

Vedanta Philosophy.

is animal with that which is called divine.
It is like the twilight before daybreak, through
which the darkness of the night of the animal
nature passes into the glorious sunshine of
the supreme wisdom. Human nature may
be called the state of transition from the ani-
mal into the divine. The animal nature
includes the love of self or the attachment of
one's self to one's body and to everything
related to the body and the senses, desire for
sense pleasures and sense enjoyments, the

1 2 3 4 5 7 9

Online LibraryAbhedânanda SwâmiVedanta philosophy : five lectures on reincarnation → online text (page 7 of 9)