Abhedânanda Swâmi.

Vedanta philosophy : five lectures on reincarnation online

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clinging to earthly life, fear of death and the
struggle for existence. Each of these quaH-
ties or tendencies is to be found in the lower
animals as well as in human beings, the dif-
ference being only in degree and not in

The savage man who lives like a wild beast
in a cave or under trees and does not know
how to build a house or cultivate the ground,
but who sustains life by depending entirely
upon fruits, roots, wild berries, or upon the

birds and beasts that he can trap, expresses

Divine Principle in Man.

in all the actions of his life nothing more than
what we have described as animal tendencies
and animal propensities. If the Darwinian
theory be true, then we can easily explain why
there should be so Httle difference between
primitive man and his distant ancestor, the
chimpanzee, or some other member of the
anthropoid species. When, however, the same
wild man becomes partially civilized by learn-
ing to cultivate the land, to raise food and
cook it, to build houses and Hve in communi-
ties, he no longer manifests these animal tend-
encies in their simpler and more savage
forms. He gradually adopts more artful
methods to accomphsh his purposes. For
instance, the struggle for existence depends
chiefly upon physical force among savage
tribes as well as among animals, while among
civilized people in ci\iHzed countries a similar
result in the form of the survival of the fittest is
obtained, not by the display of brute force,
but by art, skill, diplomacy, pohcy, lying,

strategy, and hypocrisy. These are the offen-

Vedanta Philosophy.

sive and defensive weapons of the so-called
*' civilized man."

All the vicious qualities and wicked deeds,
such as murder, theft, robbery and other crimes
which are to be found in civiUzed communities,
are nothing but the expressions of the animal
tendencies of man working under the heavy
pressure of the rigid laws of society, state and
government. They proceed from love of self
or extreme attachment to the animal nature.
Being guided by these lower tendencies, man
becomes extremely selfish, and does not recog-
nize the rights or comforts of his fellow-beings.
On the contrary, he does everything to satisfy
the cravings of his body and senses at the ex-
pense of his neighbors. But the moment
that this savage man, or the man who lives
Hke a lower animal, begins to see the rights
of others, learns to love and care for his fellow-
beings in the same way that he loves his own
dear self and cares for his own belongings,
from that time he rises a step higher than the

absolutely animal plane; he becomes truly

Divine Principle in Man.

human and gradually manifests the other
quahties and tendencies that accompany this
fundamental moral principle — to love one's
neighbor as one's self.

Upon this foundation has been built the
whole structure of ethics among all nations.
The \drtuous quaHties such as disinterested
love for humanity, mercy, justice, kindness
towards others, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, all
these help the animal man to expand the
range of his love of self and to subdue all
that proceeds from purely selfish attachment
to his own body and senses. The higher we
rise above the animal plane, the wider becomes
the circle of self-love, and instead of being
confined to the body and senses of the indi-
vidual, it becomes general, covering the selves
not merely of dearest relatives and nearest
friends, but of neighbors, countrymen, and
at last, of all humanity. Thus, the more
universal our love of self becomes, the nearer
we approach the Divinity, because the Divine

Principle is the universal Being whose love

Vedanta Philosophy.

flows equally towards all living creatures, as
the sun shines equally upon the heads of the
virtuous and the wicked.

Anything that is done, not with a motive
confined to some particular person, community
or nation, but through love for all humanity,
nay with a feeling that seeks the benefit of
all living creatures, is unselfish; consequently
it is guided by the universal or Divine Prin-
ciple, The tendency of the individual self
of each man is not to remain confined within
one narrow circle, but to go beyond the bound-
ary of the circle of the animal nature, beyond
human nature, and ultimately to become
universal. All charitable acts and philan-
thropic deeds are but steps toward that one
goal. Well has it been said by Ralph Waldo
Emerson that ''the Hfe of man is a self-evolv-
ing circle, which from a ring imperceptibly
small rushes on all sides outwards to new
and larger circles, and that without end."

Indeed the self of man has the constant

tendency to break down all limitations, to

Divine Principle in Man.

transcend all boundaries, and to become one
with the Self of the universe. A human
being cannot rest contented, cannot remain
perfectly satisfied while living within the
limitations of his animal nature. He may
appear to be contented for a time, or he may
delude himself by thinking that he is perfectly
happy and satisfied under these conditions,
but the moment is sure to come when, being
forced from within, he will give vent to the
natural tendency to expand by struggHng
hard to reach out from the animal self and be
united with the universal Self. This tend-
ency is inherent in the very nature of man
and its expression will force him to control
the lower animal desires and propensities, to
become the absolute master of them, and
will gradually lead him to live a moral and
spiritual life.

The awakening may come at any time and
under any circumstances. One may be sud-
denly awakened in the midst of all the com-
forts, luxuries and pleasures of the earthly

Vedanta Philosophy.

life. No one can tell when or how such an
awakening will come to the individual soul.
There have been many instances in India
and in other countries of this sudden awakening
of the higher tendency of the soul. Buddha
was suddenly awakened when he was enjoy-
ing all the pleasures and luxuries of a princely
life, when his mind was deeply absorbed in
every enjoyment that a human being can pos-
sibly have. This awakening, which made
Buddha one of the Saviours of the world and
which has made others live on this earth like
embodiments of Divinity, is not the result of
some animal force or some lower tendency to
be found in lower animals or in those who
live like slaves of passion and desire, but it is
the expression of a higher power. It is not
love of the body or desire of the senses, not
attachment to the pleasures and comforts of
the animal self; it is just the opposite. It is
love for humanity which makes one forget
one's self. It is not a desire to gain some-
thing for one's own comfort, but it is a desire

Divine Principle in Man.

to help mankind, to remove their grievances,
their sorrows and sufferings and to make
them happy. It is not a clinging to earthly
existence, but on the contrary, it is the expres-
sion of the desire to sacrifice one's own Hfe
for the sake of others \\dthout having the
slightest fear of death. It is not a struggle
for existence or the survival of the fittest at
the expense of others, but it is the cessation
of all gladiatorial fights, struggles and com-
petitions, and the attainment of peace, tran-
quillity and happiness. It is making the
weak to survive and the strong to be kind
and merciful toward those who are about to
be crushed by social competition. Are not
these powers and tendencies diametrically
opposed to those which characterize the
animal man?

These higher powers and tendencies have
been manifested again and again by differ-
ent individuals at different times in different
countries. The rehgious histor}^ of the world

stands as a Uving witness of this fact. But

Vedanta Philosophy.

the question arises, how do we happen to
possess these higher tendencies and higher
powers? Did we inherit them from our
anthropoid ancestors? No indeed, because
animal nature cannot produce anything that
is not entirely animal. The beUevers in the
Darwinian theory cannot explain the origin
of these super-animal or rather superhuman
tendencies. Have they been super-added to
our animal nature from outside by the grace
of some extra- cosmic Being, as it is supposed
by the duaHstic and monotheistic believers
of Christianity and other religions? No,
such a statement cannot be supported either
by reason or by scientific investigation. No
one has ever succeeded in proving when and
how these powers and higher tendencies
were super-added to the human soul. The
most rational explanation lies in the state-
ment in the book of Genesis: "So God created
man in his own image, in the image of God
created He him."

Let us understand clearly the meamng of

Divine Principle in Man.

this passage. We are familiar with the popu-
lar meaning which seems absurd when we
examine it in the Hght of modern scientific
knowledge. In the first place the creation
of man out of nothing six thousand years ago
does not bear the test of modern geological
research and discoveries. On the contrary,
we are aware of the fact that man existed in
the Tertiary period, several thousand years
before this Bibhcal creation of man was sup-
posed to have taken place. Secondly, we
know that this word "image" does not mean
the physical form of man, nor does it refer
to the first man Adam, who was supposed
to have been the perfect image of God before
the Satanic temptation, and who after the
fall lost that image and became imperfect,
because of which it is said that all human
beings have since been born in sin. We can-
not beUeve that all of us were born in sin and
iniquity, and, having lost the Divdne image
within us, thus became the sons of Satan or
the Devil. If man was created in the image

Vedanta Philosophy.

of God, it could not possibly mean that one
particular man of a particular nation at a
special time possessed His image, but it was
meant for all human beings, irrespective of
their caste, creed or nationality.

We must remember that there are no ex-
ceptions in the laws of nature. That which
we take for an exception refers to some hidden
universal law or truth, whether we see or
understand it or not; and that explanation
is correct which harmonizes with universal
law and points out universal truth. If we
admit the existence of the Divine image in
one man, we shall have to admit it in all human
beings; otherwise it will be an exceptional
case, which cannot be true. As by discover-
ing the cause of the fall of one apple from one
tree, we learn the universal law of gravitation,
which explains that all apples under those
circumstances will fall, so by knowing that
one man was made in God's image, we under-
stand the universal truth that all men, women

and children of all countries and of all times

Divine Principle in Man.

have been made in the Divine image, whether
or not they have feU it, reaUzed it, or mani-
fested it in their actions.

If, on the other hand, it were true that all
of us were born in sin and iniquity or under
Satanic influence, it would have been abso-
lutely impossible for any man at any time to
manifest any of those tendencies and powers
which we call di\dne, and we should be unable
to explain why the great sages and spiritual
leaders of mankind, who flourished in India
and in other countries both before and after
the Christian era, could show all the Divine
powers and quahties that characterized the
only begotten Son of God. Their Hves show
that every one of them manifested dignity
in the actions of their daily Hfe. Therefore
we must lay aside the mythical meaning of
that scriptural passage and understand it in
its universal sense. Furthermore, this uni-
versal meaning of the Divine image in man
was most strongly emphasized by the great

seers of Tri-ith in India from ver>^ ancient

Vedanta Philosophy.

times and centuries before the book of Genesis
was written or thought of. The same uni-
versal idea is the foundation of the philosophy
and rehgion of Vedanta.

Vedanta teaches that when we speak of a
man or woman as the image of God, we do
not mean his or her physical form, but we
mean the individual ego or the soul. If the
Divine Being or God be this universal spirit
then His image cannot be the physical form
of man; this does not convey any idea or
meaning at all. The ego or the soul of each
individual man or woman is the image of
Divinity. This idea has been beautifully
expressed in Vedanta: "In the cave of the
heart have entered the two, the one is the
eternal, absolute, real, perfect and self- efful-
gent Hke the sun, and the other, the individual
ego or soul, is Hke its reflection, or shadow,
or image. The one is Hke the fountain-head
of the blessed qualities and the infinite source
of all divine powers, while the other contains the

partial reflection of those qualities and powers."

Divine Principle in Man.

Thus according to Vedanta every individual
soul, whether it be more or less animal in its
thoughts and actions, possesses the Divine
image and is no other than the image of the
Divine Principle or Being. The Divine Being
is one and universal but its reflections or
images are many. As the image of the sun,
falling upon the dull and unpohshed surface
of a piece of metal, does not properly reflect
the grandeur and power of that self-luminous
body, but appears dull and imperfect, so the
Divine image, faUing upon the dull surface
of the animal nature cannot reflect all the
blessed quahties, cannot manifest all the
divine powers, but, on the contrary, appears
animal in its tendencies and propensities.
As the same image of the sun will shine forth
brighter and more effulgent when the sur-
face of the metal is pohshed, so the individual
soul will show its brighter and more effulgent
aspect and will more fully reflect the divine
qualities when the heart which contains the

image is poHshed and made free from the dirt

Vedanta Philosbphy,

of animal desires and animal tendencies;
then and then alone, this same individual soul
will begin to manifest all the blessed qualities
like justice, mercy, kindness, and disinter-
ested love for all humanity. These powers
are latent in all individuals, but they will be
expressed when the heart is purified. " Blessed
are the pure in heart for they shall see God,"
said Jesus of Nazareth.

The perfect manifestation of these divine
powers depends entirely upon the removal of
all obstructions like desire for earthly pleas-
ures, for the enjoyments and comforts of
earthly Hfe, attachment to the gross physical
body and to the senses, which force the indi-
vidual soul to remain on the animal plane.
Yet however animal the expression of the
nature of an ordinary man of the world may
be, his soul is still the image of the Divinity
which holds potentially in its bosom all divine
powers and all blessed qualities. Nay, even
the souls of lower animals are potentially

divine, according to Vedanta. The evolution


Divine Principle in Man.

of nature is required to bring out tlicse po-
tential tendencies, powers and qualities into
their actual or real manifestations. Climbing
the ladder of the evolution of nature, each
individual soul or germ of life expresses its
latent powers, first through the limitations
of the animal nature as animal tendencies
and animal desires, and lastly as spiritual
powers by rising above all limitations, by tran-
scending the boundaries of the various circles
of animal, moral and spiritual nature, and
approaching the abode of the infinite Divine
Principle. At that time the individual soul
becomes absolutely free from the bondage of
nature, enjoys the supreme Bliss which is
divine, and manifests all the blessed quaUties.
In passing through these various stages the
individual ego studies its own powers, gains
experience and reahzes all the powers that
are lying dormant within the soul.

Many people ask the question, "Why is it
necessary for the individual soul to gain

experience when it is potentially divine?"

Vedanta Philosophy.

The very fact that creation, or projection,

means the manifestation of the potential

energy as kinetic or as actual reaUty, forces

the soul to objectify and project the dormant

activities on to the plane of consciousness;

otherwise how can the soul learn its own

powers when they are on the subconscious

plane? Take as illustration the deep sleep

state: when all the sense-powers, such as the

power of walking, moving, talking, and all the

mental and intellectual functions become

unmanifested, do we know in that state what

powers we possess? No, certainly not. We

can only know their existence when they are

brought out on the conscious plane, when

they are awakened. Is not this awakening

of the dormant powers that He buried on

the subconscious plane, the same thing as

the gaining of experience?

If for a moment all the individual souls

that exist in the universe should cease to

manifest their dormant powers, instantly

the relative existence of phenomenal activity

Divine Principle in Man.

would vanish and the whole world would go
back to its primordial, undifferentiated con-
dition of nescience, wliich is almost similar
to the unmanifested state of deep sleep when
we do not dream. Therefore each individual
soul is bound to gain experience after experi-
ence in the process of this manifestation of its
latent powers and potential energy. Ha\ing
experienced the powers and actions of the
animal nature with their results, the soul
longs for higher manifestations, tries to rise
above that plane, and after realizing the
effects of the moral and spiritual nature, it
reaches perfection. In this state the soul
becomes absolutely happy and contented,
and, transcending the limitations of sense-
powers, self-love and selfishness, it mani-
fests the blessed qualities in the actions of
its every-day life.

This idea was illustrated by an ancient
sage in India thus: ''Two birds of the most
beautiful plumage dwell upon the tree of

Ufe, they are bound together by the tie of

Vedanta Philosophy.

closest friendship. The one sits calm, serene,
contented, peaceful and happy, and constantly
watches the movements of his friend like a
witness; while the other bird flies and hops
from branch to branch, being attracted by
the sight of the sweet and inviting fruits
which the tree of Hfe bears. When he is
drawn toward a fruit, he tastes it and enjoys
the sensation; then he tries another which
appears more attractive, but unfortunately
when he tastes it, he finds it extremely bitter
and does not like it. (We must remember
here that the tree of life is not like an ordinary
tree; it bears all kinds of fruits from the sweet-
est to the bitterest.) Having tried the various
fruits according to his desires, the bird happens
to come to one that is exceedingly bitter, and
having tasted it, he suffers intensely, and
unhappy and distressed, he remembers his
friend, whom he had forgotten for the time
being. He looks for him and at last finds
him seated on the top of the tree, calm, peace-
ful and perfectly contented. He envies his

Divine Prirxiple in Man.

peace, happiness and contentment and slowly
approaches him. As he comes nearer and
nearer, lo! he is forcibly drawn into the per-
fect being of that witness-like friend, for he
was his reflection or image."

The bird which flies from branch to branch,
which enjoys and suffers, is the individual
ego or the living soul of man. The fruits of
this tree of Hfe are nothing but the results of
all the good and bad acts which the ego per-
forms; and the witness-like friend is the
perfect Divine Being, whose image the indi-
vidual soul is. Thus having experienced all
the fruits of our good and bad deeds, when
we become discontented and unhappy, we
seek our true, eternal friend, admire him,
aspire to attain to his peace and happiness,
go nearer and nearer, and ultimately become
one with him. It is then that we feel happy
and contented, it is then that true peace and
happiness come.

As the image or reflection of the sun cannot

exist for a second independent of that self-

Vedanta Philosophy.

luminous heavenly body, so the individual
soul, being the image of God, cannot exist
even for a moment without depending upon
the Divine Principle. The individual ego
owes its Hfe, its intelligence, its intellect,
mind and all other mental and physical
powers to that infinite source of all powers,
all knowledge, all love, and everlasting happi-
ness. In fact the individual soul does not
possess anything. All these powers and forces
that we are expressing in our daily life, whether
animal, moral or spiritual, do not belong to
us, but proceed from that one inexhaustible
source. Nor is the Divine Principle far from
us; He is the soul of our soul, the life of our
life, and the omnipotent essence of our

"The Divine Principle is smaller than the
smallest and larger than the largest; it per-
vades the infinite space and also dwells in
the minutest atom of atoms; it resides in
the innermost sanctuary of the soul of every

man and woman; whosoever reaHzes that

Divine Principle in Man.

omnipresent Divinity, whose image the indi-
vidual soul is, unto him come eternal peace
and perpetual bliss, unto none else, unto

none else."


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India and Her People

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I. Philosophy of India To-day.
II. Religions of India.

III. Social Status of India: Their System of Caste.

IV. Political Institutions oi India.
V. Education in India.

VI. The Influence of India on Western Civilization and the
Influence of Western Civilization on India.

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Online LibraryAbhedânanda SwâmiVedanta philosophy : five lectures on reincarnation → online text (page 8 of 9)