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BERKELEY

LIBRARY

UNIVERSITY OF
CALffORNIA ^




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S\\ AMI ABHKDAN ANDA.



VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY



Self=Knowledge

(ATMA=JNANA)



BY



SWAMI ABHEDANANDA

Author of " India and her People:' " How to be a YosU*'
'■'Divine Heritage of Man." " Reincarnatioti" etc.




THIRD EDITION
PUBLISHED BY

THE VEDANTA SOCIETY
West Cornwall, Conn.



Copyright, 190!;,

BY

SWAMI ABHEDANANDA.



Enitrtd at Stationers' I/all.



8 iss



To

THE LOTUS FEET
OK

BHAGAVAN SRI RAMAKRISHNA
MY Divine Guru

BY

whose grace

THE BLISS OF SeLF-KNOWLEDGE
IS REALIZED



779



PREFACE.

In this age of scepticism and materialism
few people care to know their real Self, which
is Divine and immortal. But the knowledge
of the true Self has always been the principal
theme of the philosophy and religion of Ve-
danta. Even in its most ancient writings, the
Upanishads, which form portions of the
Vedic Scriptures, we find how earnestly Self-
knowledge or Atma-jnana was sought after
and extolled. The great inspired seers men-
tioned in these Upanishads discovered and
taught that knowledge of the Self lies at the
root of all knowledge, whether of science,
philosophy or religion. Ever}' sincere seeker
after knowledge, therefore, who desires intel-
lectual, moral or spiritual development, must
first learn to discriminate between spirit and
matter, soul and body, and then reahze the
all-knowing Divine Self who is the eternal
foundation of the universe.



CONTENTS.



PAGB

I. Spirit and Matter 1 1

II. Knowledge of the Self 35

III. Prana and the Self 63

IV. Search after the Self. 93

V. Re.\lization of the Self 121

VI. Immortality and the Self 161

7



"Matter or object is related to spirit or
subject; and the subject or spirit is equally

RELATED TO THE OBJECT OR MATTER. If THERE
WERE NO OBJECT, THERE WOULD BE NO SUBJECT;
AND IF THERE WERE NO SUBJECT, THERE WOULD
BE NO OBJECT. FOR ON EITHER SIDE ALONE
NOTHING COULD BE ACHIEVED."

Kaushitaki Upanishad, III, 8.
9



SPIRIT AND MATTER.

Spirit and matter have always been sub-
jects for discussion in science, philosophy
and religion. The great thinkers of all
countries have tried their best to understand
the true meanings of these two terms and
to establish their mutual relation. The two
words have various synonyms, such as ego
and non-ego, subject and object, mind and
matter. Scientists and philosophers have ad-
vanced many theories from time to time to
explain their ideas and conceptions about
them and have arrived at different conclu-
sions. Some say that spirit or mind or
ego is the cause of matter, while others re-
verse the relation and believe that matter is
the cause of spirit or mind or ego. These

conclusions have given foundation to the
11



VEDAXTA PHILOSOPHY.

various explanations of the universe, which
can be classified under three heads, — the
spiritualistic or idealistic, the materialistic,
and the monistic theories. The spiritualistic
or idealistic theory claims that spirit or mind
is the creator of matter and energy, hence
of all material objects; and it denies the
existence of matter as distinct and separate
from the mode or condition of spirit or mind.
The materialistic theory, on the contrary,
maintains that matter produces spirit, mind,
ego or subject.

There have been many idealistic or spirit-
ualistic philosophers in different countries at
different times. In India, Greece, Germany,
and England have arisen a number of ideal-
ists like Bishop Berkeley, who have denied
the existence of the external world and also
of matter as an entity separate from mental
ideas. Modem Christian Science, which
teaches that there is no such thing as matter
but that everj'thing is mind, has been built

upon this idealistic doctrine of Bishop Berke-
12



SPIRIT AND MATTER.

ley and other philosophers of the same school.
In America it is new, because the nation is
new. America has not yet produced any
great idealistic philosopher. .

The materiahstic theory of the universe,
on the other hand, is maintained by a large
majority of the scientists, physicists, chemists,
medical practitioners and the evolutionists of
the present time. They try to deduce every-
thing from matter, and claim that it is the
cause of mind, ego or spirit. Although there
are thousands and millions of people all over
the world who advocate this theory and call
themselves materialists, still very few can
define the term matter and give a clear idea y^

of what they understand by it. -^ ^ y^

"What is matter? Has anybody ever seen

matter? This question can be asked of the

materialists. Do we see matter? No. We

see color. Is color the same as matter?

No. It is a quality. Where does it exist?

An uneducated man may think that the

color of a flower, as perceived, exists in the
13



VEDANTA PinLOSOPHY.

flower. But the j)hysiologists explain that
the color ^^•hich is perceived does not exist
as such in the flower, but that it is a sensa-
tion caused by a certain order of vibrations
coming in contact with our consciousness
through the medium of the optic ner^^es. This
may seem strange, but it is true. The per-
ception of color is a compound effect pro-
duced by vibrations of ether, which, enter-
ing through the eyes, create another set of
vibrations in the brain cells; and these vibra-
tions, when translated by the conscious en-
tity, are called sensations. Color, therefore,
is the result of the blending of the objective
and subjective elements. It is the product
of the combination of that which comes from
the outside world and that which is given
by the subjective or mental activities. Thus
we can understand that color does not rest
in the flower; but it depends upon the retina,
optic nen^es and brain cells as well, so it
cannot be the same as matter.

Similarly we may ask: Is sound which we
14



SPIRIT AND MATTER. 0.

hear the same as matter? No. It is the;^^_^,.ew!a-'<^'^^
result of a certain kind of vibration plus the.< - <>^ -yt^^^
conscious activity of the mind. If you go .n^^^

to sleep, the vibration of sound will enter -^-^'^'-^^ A
through your ears and be carried through
the auditory nerves into the brain cells, but
you will not hear it, because the percipient
mind is not there to translate the vibration
into the sensation of sound. Sound, there-
fore, is not the same as matter. In the same
manner it can be shown that the other senses
do not give us any information about that
which we call matter. Then we ask: WTiat
is matter? John Stewart Mill defines m.atter
as the "permanent possibility of sensation,"
and mind as the "permanent possibility of
feeling." Are we better off after hearing
this definition? On the contrary, it is more
confusing. The whole difficulty lies in the
word "possibility." It means, matter is that
which permanently makes sensation possible,
and mind or spirit is that which permanently
makes feeHng possible; or, in other words

15



VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY.

matter is that which can be permanently felt
or perceived, that which is the object of feel-
ing; and spirit is that which can perma-
nently feel or perceive, that which is the
subject of feeling.

That w^hich permanently makes sensation
possible can never be revealed by the senses,
for the senses are no more than open doors
for our sensations. All that we can predicate
of matter is that it causes sensations. When
we try to know its nature per se, or any par-
ticulars concerning it, our senses do not
help us. The eyes are only instrumental in
perceiving the sensation of color, the ears of
sound, nostrils of odor. Our perception of
the external world is limited by these sense
powers, and all sensations are either direct
or indirect results of our sense activities.
Although we know that matter is something
which exists in space and time and causes
various sensations, still we cannot see or
touch it. That which corresponds to the

name "matter" will always remain intangible.
IG



SPIRIT AND MATTER.

We may touch a chair, a piece of wood or
gold, but we cannot touch matter by itself.
This is very curious. Gold or stone is not
matter, but it is that which is produced by
matter. Matter appears as wood or stone.

It may be interesting to know the history
of the term matter. This word is derived
from the Latin materies, meaning "stuff,"
and it was originally used in the sense of the
solid wood of a tree or a timber for building.
Gradually a generalized concept was formed
which meant anything substantial out of
v.hich some other thing was fashioned. When
a wooden statue was made, the form was
distinguished from the substance wood or
mater ies. Here it was still wood. But when
a statue was made of stone or metal it was
still called materies. Thus the name materies
signified the substance out of which some-
thing was shaped or fashioned. Gradually
when the question arose, "What was the
substance out of which this world was made ?"

the answer was materies or matter. So the
17



VEDANTA nilLOSOPHY.

word matter docs not mean any definite thing.
It is used for that unknown substance out
of which the known objects of perception
are formed. Here ends the literal and real
meaning of the term. Matter can be used
in the sense of any unknown substance which
lies at the bottom or foundation of some
form or object. For instance, in our ordi-
nary conversation we use this word in such
expressions as "What is the matter?" "It
does not matter," "Important matter," "De-
caying matter."

In science and philosophy, however, matter
is that unknown substance out of which all^
phenomenal forms are fashioned. It is be-
yond sense perception, yet it underlies all
the objects of the universe. It is not the
same as space or time, but it fills space,
manifests itself in time, and cannot be hmited
by the category of causality. All these ideas
are included in the meaning of the term
matter. When we think of that substance
of which the universe is the appearance, we

18



SPIRIT AND MATTER.

imagine that it is vast, immense, marvel-
lous and possessed of wonderful powers, which
are constantly changing. But what is matter?
Is it one or many? It is one. We cannot
say that it is many. Herbert Spencer says:
"Our conception of matter, reduced to its
simplest shape, is that of coexistent positions
that offer resistance, as contrasted with our
conception of space in which the coexistent
positions offer no resistance." (First Prin-
ciples, p. 140.) Let us understand the dif-
ference between space and matter. Space is
extension offering no resistance, but that
which offers resistance and lies in space is
matter. He also states: "Of these two in-
separable elements, the resistance is primary
and the extension is secondary." As, for
example, when we touch something it re-
sists, then we have an idea of resistance; but
when we spread our hand that feeling of
resistance extends also in space. Herbert
Spencer says again: "Our experience of

force is that out of which the idea of matter
19



VEDyVNTA rillLOSOPIlY.

is built up. . . . That which opposes our
muscular energy is immediately present to
consciousness in the terms of force. Hence
forces, standing in a certain correlation in
space, form the whole content of matter."
Furthermore, he adds: "Matter and motion,
as we know them, are differently conditioned
manifestations of force. They are the con-
cretes built up from the contents of various
mental relations." In order to feel resist-
ance there must be present one who feels;
and then the force that is felt is the primary
cause which gives rise to the conception of
matter.

Again, matter has not been created by
anybody. No one has ever seen, nor can
anyone imagine the creation of matter out
of nothing or its total annihilation. Accord-
ing to modem science, matter in its true
nature is a substance uncreatable and inde-
structible, that is, it was neither created out
of nothing nor can it go back into nothing.

There are various other definitions of matter.
20



StIRIT AND MATTER.

Some physicists say that matter is "whatever
possesses the property of gravitative attrac-
tion." But still this does not tell us its true
nature. We can only say that there is
some substance which responds to attractions.
Ernst Haeckel, again, defines matter as "in-
finitely extended substance, and spirit as all-
embracing energy of thought." : J /

After studying these various definitions, we • ^ ""

learn that matter is that substance of the
universe which makes up the objective w^orld,
or that which can be perceived by the senses
and cognized by the mind. It is always ob-
jective, and spirit or mind is always subjec-
tive, always the perceiver or cognizer of matter,
the knower of the object. Now we can under-
stand the difference, — spirit is the perceiver
and knower, while matter is that which is
perceived, sensed and known. The one is
the subject and the other is the object. These
two exist in relation to each other. The
objective world or matter forms only one-half,
while the other half is the subjective world

21



VED.WTA PHILOSOPHY.

or spirit. Therefore, the materialistic theor}',
which admits the existence of the object and
denies the existence of spirit or mind or the
subject, is onesided and imperfect. It ignores
the fact that matter or object can only exist
as related to the subject.

The materialistic theor}' is a logical blunder,
because it is based upon a confusion between
object and subject. It asserts that matter is
objective, but at the same time it tries to
show that it is also the cause of the subject,
which can never be. "A" can never become
"non-A." Materialism begins with the idea
that matter is objective, and ends in attempt-
ing to prove that this objective something has
become the subjective mind, spirit or ego.
It first takes for granted that matter is that
which is perceived, or the cause of sensations,
then it gradually claims to show that it pro-
duces that which feels the sensations, which
is self-contradictor}' and absurd.

As materialism is onesided and imperfect,
so is the spirituaUstic or idealistic theory of



SPIRIT AND MATTER.

the world, which denies the existence of mat-
ter or object, and says that ever}lhing is mind.
The theory of modem Christian Science, —
that all is mind and that there is no matter,
is as erroneous as the materialistic theor}\
Spirit or mind or ego, which is always the
subject, can exist as perceiver or knower so
long as there is an object of perception and
of knowledge. If we admit the existence of
one, that of the other is implied. Therefore,
Goethe was correct in saying: "^Matter can-
not exist and be operative without spirit or
spirit without matter."

The universal substance appears as possess-
ing these two attributes of subject and ob-
ject, of spirit, mind or ego and matter or
non-ego. They are like the two modes of
the one eternal substance, which is unknown
and unknowable existence. It was called
"Substantia" by Spinoza. Herbert Spencer
calls it the "Unknowable." It is the same as
"Ding an sich," or the transcendental thing-

in-itself of Kant; Plato named it the "Good."
23



VEDAXTA I'llILOSOrilY.

It is the "Over-Soul" of Emerson; while in
Vcdanta it is called "Brahman," the abso-
lute substance of the universe, the infinite
and eternal source of matter and mind, of
object and subject. This substance is not
many but one. All varieties of phenomena
have come out of this one source, Brahman,
and into it they will be reduced at the time of
dissolution. It is the universal energ}-, the
mother or producer of all forces. We know
that all forces are related to one another and
that they are, as modem science explains, the
manifestations of the same eternal energy or
the infinite substance. From this one source
all mental and physical phenomena and
material forces have come into existence,
and have evolved into various forms and
shapes.
(V^v^'v^ ■ This is monism. The monistic thinkers of
the present age, like Ernst Haeckel and others,
admit this one eternal substance as the
source of mind, matter and all forces. They

also accept the great truth which has always
24



\1



SPIRIT .\XD INIATTER.

been taught by Vedanta that "From that
infinite substance or Brahman, the Absolute
Being, have evolved hfe-force or Prana, mind,
all the mental activities, and the sense
powers, which are included in the meaning
of the term "spirit" or subject on the one hand,
and, on the other, space or ether, and all
gaseous, liquid and soHd objects which are
understood by matter!" Matter in its sim-
plest state can be reduced to the same in-
finite substance Brahman, which forms the
background of mind or spirit. Therefore,
Vedanta teaches that the eternal substance is
both the material and the efficient cause of
the universe. Although it is one, still it
appears as many by its inscrutable power
known in Vedanta as "Maya."

This world is not made up of dead matter
alone. It is not the product of the combina-
tion of those minute particles called atoms.
Until lately the western physicists, chemists
and other materialists believed that these

atoms were indivisible units floating in the
25



VEDAXTA PHILOSOPHY.

infinite space, attracting and repelling one
another, mechanically producing the elements
of nature and creating the phenomenal world.
But now, through the application of elec-
tricity, J. J. Thomson, the great English
scientist, has proved that the so-called indi-
visible atoms can be subdivided into still
finer chrirons, which are nothing but the
force-centers of the ancient Hindu scientist.
If atoms arc made up of electrons, and elec-
trons are but force-centers, where do they
exist? They exist in that primordial ocean
of infinite substance or Brahman, the recep-
tacle of the eternal energ}', which is in turn
the mother of all forces. Thus, we can
understand how matter and force are related
to the one substance or Brahman. The
objective side of that substance appears
as matter, and the subjective side as
spirit.

I have already said that it is a scientific
truth that matter is indestructible and uncreat-

able; so is force. Matter and force can be
26



SPIRIT AND MATTER.

transformed into various manifestations, but
can never be destroyed. Now the question
rises: If the one half of the world or objec-
tive matter and force be uncreatable and
indestructible, then what is the nature of
spirit? Is it creatable and destructible? If
the objective half of the universe be un-
creatable and indestructible, how can the other
half, the subjective mind or spirit, be creata-
ble and destructible? That is impossible.
Spirit or mind in its simplest form is equally
uncreated and indestructible. If matter or ob-
ject be eternal, then the spirit or subject must
also be eternal to make it possible for the object
to be eternal. Who will know that matter and
force are eternal, if the spirit or subject be
not equally eternal? This point has been
overlooked by most of the eminent thinkers
and scientists of different countries. The
etemality of matter and force or energy pre-
supposes the etemality of spirit or mind.
If the one falls, both will disappear. There-
fore the ultimate analysis of spirit and mat-
27



VKDANTA rillLOSOPHY.

ter shows thai both arc uncrcalablc, inde-
structible and eternal. If the one pole of a
niagnet be eternal, the other pole must neces-
sarfly be eternal. Furthermore, the neutral
point where both meet must also be eternal.
This universe is like a gigantic magnet, one
pole of which is matter, and the other is
spirit, while the neutral point is the absolute
substance. For this reason these three, mat-
ter, spirit, and Brahman are eternal.

In Vcdanta, spirit is called the Atman, the
cognizer, the pcrceiver and the subject. It
is our true Self. It existed in the eternal past
and will continue to exist in the eternal future.
Nothing can destroy it. The phenomenal
world, which is the object of sense percep-
tion, may change from one form into another,
but the Atman or Self will never change. It is
absolutely unchangeable. "Weapons cannot
pierce it, water cannot moisten it, fire cannot
burn it, nor can the air dry it." It is indis-
soluble, immutable and immortal substance.

It is not destroyed at the time of death. Death
28



SPIRIT AND MATTER.

is the property of everything within the reakn
of time and space. All objects that have
form are subject to death. Birth is followed
by death. That which is bom must die.
Our body will die, because it had its birth
and exists in space and time. But the At-
man or spirit cannot die, because it was never
bom and is beyond space and time. If you
tr}' to think of the birth of your spirit, you
will never be able to find an absolute begin-
ning; therefore, Atman is beginningless and
endless. Ever}'thing which can be perceived
by our senses will change and pass away,
while the Atman or spirit will remain forever.
Here it may be asked whether spirit is one
or many? The same question may be asked
of matter. Is matter one or many? We
have seen that matter as objective substance
is one, although it appears as many on account
of its manifestations within space and time.
Similarly, says Vedanta, there is one eternal
Spirit or Subject of the universe, of which

the individual spirits or egos are but so many
29



VEDANTA rillLOSOPIIY.

manifestations. They arc but parts of one
stupendous whole or universal spirit or God.
God is the eternal Subject or Knower of the
world. He is the cosmic Ego, the sum-
total of all individual spirits or egos and
more. He is the one Infinite Being, the
eternal ocean, which contains so many eddies
or souls. The cosmic Ego or God is the
first-born Lord of the universe. He is the
first and highest manifestation of the Abso-
lute Substance or Brahman. He is the ma-
terial and the efficient cause of all phenomena.
He is the projector of evolution. He dif-
ferentiates subject from object, spirit or ego
from matter or non-ego. In Him evcr}'thing
exists, through Him all beings hve, and into
Him they return in the end. He is more
powerful than all the individual spirits to-
gether. We possess small powers; as our
knowledge is limited so are our powers; but
God is the one substance whose power is
unlimited. He dwells everywhere. He forms

the background of our individual spirit and
30



SPIRIT AND MATTER.

possesses eternal knowledge. He is the Soul

of our souls. We should meditate on Him

and worship Him; then we shall understand

the relation between spirit and matter.

"He is the one Eternal Being in the midst

of all non-eternal forms and names. He is

the one Source of intelligence in the midst

of insentient matter. He makes that one

substance appear as many and fulfills all

desires dwelling within the hearts of all

creatures. Whosoever realizes Him in his

soul attains to eternal bliss even in this life."
31



/ c - z^



"The infinite and eternal truth, Brah-
man, PERVADES THE WHOLE UNIVERSE, THE VIS-
IBLE AND INVISIBLE. If THE VISIBLE BE TAKEN
AWAY, (if the PERCEPTIBLE PHENOMENA BE
destroyed) THAT WHICH WILL BE LEFT IS THE

Infinite." May we realize the Infinite in
THIS life; may we attain to that truth and

ENJOY peace F0RE\^ER.

"Peace, peace, peace to all iiving crea-
tures."

Ishi Upanishad.
33



KNOWLEDGE OF THE SELF.

The knowledge of God is not so commonly
spoken of in India as the knowledge of the
true Self. Self-knowledge reveals the knowl-
edge of the real nature of the Absolute and
of the Supreme Deity. Ordinarily we use
the word "self" in the sense of ego, but the
term "Self-knowledge" does not mean mere
knowledge of the ego. The ego in us is the
actor, thinker and perceiver. That which
performs all the functions of the body and
mind, is generally known as "I" or ego;
but it is only the reflection of the Absolute
Brahman, which is the source of all intelli-
gence. The ego is the image of that divine
spark within us which gives it vitality and
makes it do all works mental and physical.

So when we speak of Self-knowledge, we
35



VEDANTA rHILOSOPIIY.

do not mean simply the knowledge of the
lower animal self or ego, but also of the
higher Self.

The higher Self is the same as the Absolute
which lies at the feundation of the phenom-
enal universe. The Absolute Substance or
Brahman is beyond space and time, con-
sequently it is formless and unchangeable.
When it manifests itself as an individuahzed,
self-conscious entity, it is known as the ego.


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