Swami Abhedananda.

Vedânta philosophy; three lectures on spiritual unfoldment online

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will notice that the rhythm of respiration wiU
change, and that it will gradually become
slower and slower, perhaps it will almost
cease for the time being. A clever and experi^
enced French thinker, Dr. Lewes, said: "To
acquire the power of attention is to learn to
make our mental adjustments alternate with
the rhythmic movements of respiration."

The motion of the lungs has a very intimate

relation to the activity of the mind. If we

control the activity of mind we can also con-

trol the motion of the lungs; and conversely,.

if the motion of the lungs is controlled the

mind also comes more easily under control,.

Again, when the motion of the lungs is undei


perfect control, every organ, nay, every par-
ticle in the body, is brought under the control
of the Spirit, or Atman.

Thus, when the supreme control over atten-
tion is acquired by voluntary effort, one can
fix his attention on any part of the body and
experience strange sensations and wonderful
phenomena. It is a well-known fact that one
can easily feel pain in any part of the body
by strongly fixing his attention there. By an
analogous process one can get rid of pain in
the body. Mental healers of the present day
are familiar with such phenomena, although
many of them fail to understand the rationale
of their cures. One can cure diseases by fixing
attention on the diseased part and sending an
opposite current of thought. This method
has nowadays become a very common prac-
tice with the Christian Scientists and mental
healers under a variety of names. But one
thing should be remembered, and that is that
each individual is born with this kind of heal-
ing power. No one can give you that power.


It is one of the natural powers of the human
mind. It is better to heal one's self than to
be healed by some other mind. Do not let
your mind be controlled by any other mind.
People who go to mental healers or Christian
Scientists for help and who allow themselves
to be influenced by the minds of others, do not
realize that by allowing themselves to fall
under the hypnotic power of a stronger mind
they are walking in a path which leads to
mental degeneration. Many cases have been
known where minds have been degenerated
into slaves of other minds, losing all power
of self-control. How pitiable is the mental
condition of those self-deluded ones who go
about seeking help from other minds! Be-
cause a Yogi thoroughly comprehends this
danger, he never allows himself to be influ-
enced by another mind. By constant practice
he unfolds those higher powers which are
latent in his own soul. A true Yogi is master
of himself. He knows no other master. His

mind, senses, and body obey his commands.


A true Yogi understands all the finer forces
and the laws which govern them. This rigM
understanding and right knowledge of thf
true nature of soul, Atman or Spirit, are th<
results of the power acquired by perfect con

Concentration leads to meditation. Medi-
tation means the continuous or unbroken flow
of one current of thought towards a fixed ideal.
After gaining control over the mind through
the practice of concentration, if we can com-
pel the thought-current to flow in one direc-
tion for a certain length of time we have at-
tained to the power of meditation. In this
state the mind is not distracted by external
noise or by any disagreeable modification of
the Chitta. The objects of meditation will
vary with the individual ideals of the persons
who practise it. For spiritual unfoldment the
ideal of the unity of the Atman, or individual
spirit, with the Brahman, or universal Spirit,
will be one of the best subjects upon which to

meditate. Such ideas as "I am Spirit beyond


body and senses and above mind;" or "I am
one with the universal Spirit;" or "I and my
Father are one," will be of great help to those
who wish to quickly reach the highest goal of
all rehgions. First repeat it orally, then men-
tally. Concentrate your mind on the true
meaning and meditate upon it. Let the same
current of thought flow without any break or
distraction, then only will it be real medita-
tion. If your mind be distracted by any other
thought or idea or by external disturbance,
firmly bring your attention back again to the
chosen ideal. If any evil thought arise in the
mind, overcome it by arousing a good thought.
If envy or jealousy arise, the feeling of friend-
liness should be used to counteract it. The
feeling of love should be cultivated to conquer
hatred; and forgiveness should be practised
to overcome the feeling of revenge. In this
way you will conquer all evil and injurious
thoughts by their opposites. After regularly
practising meditation for half an hour each

day, you will notice, after a month, that your


whole nature has been changed, and that your
mind has become peaceful. Those who have
never tried meditation will find it very diffi-
cult at first, because the long-standing habit
of permitting irregular activity in the mind
will baffle all the attempts of the beginner.
Various thoughts and ideas which you have
never cherished consciously will spontane-
ously arise from the subconscious plane and
will show what tremendous strength they have.
The beginner has to slowly and cautiously
subdue these obstructive thoughts. He must
not pay any attention to them. He must labor
hard to prevent his mund from being distracted
from the train of thought he has decided to
follow. Various disturbing elements wall arise,
will play for a short while on the conscious
plane, and if not noticed will then disappear.
But if, on the contrary, he should pay a little
attention to them, they will becom.e stronger,
take the form of impulse, and force his
whole mind in some other direction. There-
fore, instead of following those unbidden


thoughts and ideas, he should hold to the

No sage, whether a Buddha or a Christ, no
saint, whether of the past or of the present,
has ever found peace without practising medi-
tation. It is the road which leads to the attain-
ment of perfect tranquillity of mind. We are
spending the whole of our valuable lives in
making money, in eating, drinking, and doing
such things as bring a Httle comfort to the body
or a little pleasure to the mind. But we do
not think for a moment what a valuable oppor-
cunity we are losing. We seek food for the
body, but we never seek the food for the soul.
Feed your souls with the eternal Truth that
manifests itself to the purified soul, with that
nectar and bliss which can be obtained only
through the practice of meditation. Make
meditation a part of the daily routine of your
life. Seek the company of some disinter-
ested lover of mankind, follow his instruc-
tions as closely as possible. Keeping this

ideal before your mind, march onward through


the path of meditation fighting the enemies

of wavering attention and unruly mind like a

brave soldier, like a true hero, and stop not

until the goal is reached; ultimately you will

be the conqueror of the universe, and the

kingdom of God will be yours. By gaining

the power of meditation you will enjoy supreme

happiness by entering into the state of Samddhi,

the state of God-consciousness.


Well has it been said by Ralph Waldo
Emerson, the greatest poet-philosopher America
has produced, that *'A man is the facade of a
temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide.
What we commonly call, the eating,
drinking, planting, counting man, does not,
as we know him, represent himself, but mis-
represents himself. Him we do not respect,
but the soul whose organ he is, would he let it
appear through his actions, would make our
knees bend." The eating, drinking, planting,
counting man is limited and imperfect, and is
what we call the "apparent" man, but the
real man is free and all-wise, divine, and
always happy. The soul in each individual
is a centre of that circle whose circumference
is nowhere but whose centre is everywhere.
That circle is called universal Spirit. It is



the source of infinite wisdom, of all knowledge,
all truth, all science, all philosophy, art, beauty,
and love. This unlimited circle of infinite
wisdom is the real background of each appar-
ent individual. Not knowing that the eternal
river of wisdom is constantly flowing within
him, the apparent man seeks here and there,
and struggles for a drop of knowledge to satisfy
his intellectual thirst, like the fool, who, stand-
ing on the banks of a mighty river, digs a well
for water to quench his thirst. We do not
know how wise and good we are in reality.
It takes a long time to discover that all wisdom
and all goodness dwell in each individual soul.
We are now seeking wisdom from outside,
because we are thinking by mistake that it
will come from outside. The great sages,
prophets, and wise men of the past were those
who knew the secret of unlocking that door
which prevents the outrush of that inexhausti-
ble river of wisdom which is constantly flowing
behind each individual ego. When the all-
wise Self begins to manifest its higher powers,


the apparent man is called an inspired seer of
Truth. Then he reahzes his divine nature,
ceases to live like an animal, and attains to the
state of God-consciousness, which is the high-
est goal of spiritual unfoldment. Then he is
truly religious, and reaches the goal of all
religions. All religions are like so many at-
tempts of the human mind to rise above the
animal plane, to go beyond the senses and to
knov^ the reahty in short, to reach the state
of God-consciousness.

In India, from the Vedic period down to the
present tim.e, this attainment of spiritual per-
fection or God-consciousness has been re-
garded as the highest aspiration, and the
loftiest aim of humanity. True religion be-
gins when the soul of man realizes this God-
consciousness, and not until then. The man
who reaches this state does not seek anything
from outside of himself. He finds all wisdom
within his own soul. Amongst the Hindus,
from the most ancient times, the attainment

of God-consciousness has been the theme of


rich and poor, of kings and beggars, of saints
and sinners. It was for this attainment that
many kings and princes renounced their
thrones and sacrificed their wealth, name,
fame, comforts, luxuries in short, everything
that was dearest to them. All the noble quali-
ties which adorn the character of sages and
make a man godly in this life are but the out-
come of the attempts for the attainment of
God-consciousness. Is there anything more
ennobhng, more subhme, more divine, than
the matchless purity of heart, serene child-Hke
simplicity, lofty self-abnegation, and disin-
terested love for all which are displayed in the
character of one who is conscious of his divine
nature ? No. Such characters are the beacon
lights that are ever shedding their guiding rays
on our toilsome path and beckoning us on-
ward to the haven of realization. They are
the great leaders of humanity, they rule over
milHons. They are manifestations of God
on earth. They are worshipped by the vast

majority of mankind as the incarnations of


God. They expressed in their lives the ulti-
mate goal of all religions. The ordinary or
apparent man is self-deluded and blind to
Truth, is imperfect and limited in every way,
and has no spiritual character, being ruled
only by self-interest. All of us know that we
are now living more or less selfish lives and
acting under limitations, that we are not
exactly what we wish to be. During the
calm moments of our lives, we sometimes
look at ourselves and feel that our souls, like
eagles, are free by nature and able to soar into
infinite space, but are now enchained by self-
ishness and confined in the cages of gross
human bodies. At such times we realize our
bondage and seek freedom. Longing to fly
into the infinite space of eternal bliss, we
struggle hard to break our chains, to throw
down the barriers which confine us, and to
conquer all environments which keep us in

Each individual soul is bom to combat

nature and her laws. Our lives consist in


the constant effort of the soul to overcome
the limitations imposed by them. The forces
of nature are trying to drag the soul in one
direction, while the inner forces impel the
soul to resist and rise superior to them. The
soul does not want to follow, like a slave. It
is struggling to subdue nature and to domi-
nate over her laws. This struggle is the
cause of the social as well as of the spiritual
progress of humanity. A man who does not
know how to fight against nature and how to
gain victory over her laws, but who on the
other hand follows her blindly, is an uncivilized
man, is a savage, and on a level with the lower
animals. True civihzation means the con-
quest of nature , by the human soul. The
whole history of humanity teaches this fact.
If we study external nature we find that nature
tells us : " Obey my laws and commands; '' but
we say: "No, why should we? We are thy
masters, thou must obey." Physical nature
tells us to go naked and live in caves or forests,

like the animals, without any cover over-


head, but we say: "No, we will have clothes
and proper shelter," and we obtain them.
Nature would destroy them, but we protect
them by our strength and preserve ourselves
from heat and cold and changes of weather
by which nature would make existence impos-
sible for us, and in the end we succeed. How
do we succeed? By studying nature and her
laws, and by utilizing her forces in such a
way as to make her obey our commands. We
know how tremendously powerful are the
forces of nature electricity, steam, etc.
but we handle all these gigantic forces of
nature and make them serve us. This vic-
tory of man over physical nature is due to
those higher powers which are latent in the
soul. The powers which overcome nature
are nothing but the inteUigence and will
possessed by man. That which conquers is
higher than that which is conquered. There-
fore physical nature is weaker than the powers
of inteUigence and will. Similarly, if we

study internal nature, we find there also a


constant struggle between the higher and the

lower mind, between the higher and the

lower intelligence, between the higher and

the lower will-power, between the spiritual,

real, or divine man and the apparent or animal

man. The lower mind, lower intelHgence,

lower will, the apparent or animal man is that

which obeys the physical and sensuous needs

of the body, as a slave obeys a master. The

higher mind, higher intelHgence, higher will,

the spiritual, the real, or the divine in man is

that which tries to conquer and subdue the

lower nature and dominate over it. Of

course we do not find this fight in the lower

animals, nor- in those who live like them.

When this struggle begins we are no longer

purely animal, but we are human or moral.

To be human or moral, however, is not to be

perfectly spiritual. We make a distinction

between the moral and spiritual planes. The

moral plane is the intermediate stage. The

moral man is partly animal and partly

spiritual. In a moral man there is a constant


struggle between the animal and the spiritual
nature. The moral man strives to overcome
the animal in him by fighting against it and
by constantly watching his mind to prevent
the lower or animal nature from spreading its
influence over him. A moral man must, as
far as possible, strive to avoid temptation,
because he is not yet strong enough to over-
come its influence. His effort must be to rise
to the higher plane, which is beyond tempta-
tion. This struggle will only cease when the
animal nature is completely conquered, and
the moral man has become truly spiritual, or
divine. When that stage shall have been
reached there will be no room for temptations.
As long as a man is struggling with the animal
nature, he is ethical; but when he has con-
quered it completely, he is spiritual. The
moral man can be tempted by animal attrac-
tions, but the truly spiritual man is far above
all temptations, he is beyond the reach of
the lower tendencies and animal propensities

that trouble the moral man.


In a truly spiritual man all struggle of this
sort has ceased forever. Then the true spirit,
or the divine nature in man, reigns in its own
glory and appears like the self-effulgent sun
above the clouds of selfishness and imperfec-
tions. The angels, or the personified higher
powers of the true Spirit, nay, the whole
world bows down before the victorious con-
queror and sovereign of nature. That is the
state which was attained by Buddha and by
Christ. The Prince Gautama, or Sakya
Muni, became the Buddha, and Jesus of
Nazareth became the Christ when each at-
tained this state of God-consciousness. Who-
soever reaches that realization becomes per-
fect and free from selfishness and all other
imperfections. Man alone can reach such a
state of God-consciousness. The lower ani-
mals and those who live like them must
evolve to the human or moral plane first,
before they can even attempt to attain the
state of God- consciousness. As the animal

nature evolves into the moral or human plane,


the power of reaching this state is gradually
developed, and the individual ego enters upon
the different stages of spiritual unfoldment.
When it reaches the ultimate point, it is con-
scious of its divine nature. That point is the
climax of the spiritual development of the
apparent ego. It is the state of eternal bliss
and perfection.

We cannot think of another state higher
than that of God-consciousness, because in
this state, the soul communes with Divinity
and is united with the Infinite Source of love,
wisdom, and intelligence. The individual
soul, or the "I," becomes one with the Father
in Heaven, or the Infinite Spirit. Can you
imagine any state higher than the state of the
union of the individual soul and the universal
Spirit? Thus we see that there are three
principal stages through which the apparent
ego passes before God-consciousness is at-
tained. First the animal nature, which must
be overcome by human or moral nature;

secondly the moral nature, which in its turn


must develop into spiritual nature. When a
man is on the animal plane, he is extremely
selfish, bound by desires, a slave of the passions
and sense-pleasures which have no restriction
of any kind; he has no purity, no moral
standard of life or of truthfulness. His highest
ideal is the comfort of his body, and he abhors
things spiritual, thinking it a, loss of time and
energy to even hear about his spiritual nature,
or to speak of it at all. But when such a man
wakes up from this deep sleep of ignorance
and self-delusion, either naturally or through
the help of a holy Guru or spiritual teacher,
he begins to seek the moral life. This is the
state of awakening of the soul. It is the stage
of a beginner in the path of God-conscious-
ness. Then he tries to live a moral and vir-
tuous life, and begins to examine his own
nature, tries to learn his own faults and weak-
nesses, and having discovered them strives
to correct them. This is the state of purifi-
cation of the soul, and is the second stage

of spiritual unfoldment. It is called in Sans-


krit Sddhakay or the neophyte state. A neo-
phyte should struggle hard to conquer his
nature, to subdue his passions, and to over-
come, by controlling all his habits, the tre-
mendous force which the animal nature
exerts. If he does not know how to do this,
he should follow the instructions of one who
knows, or of one who has realized the state
of God- consciousness. He must not forget
his ideal in his every-day life, and he must try
to be always on his guard against temptation.
Especially must he remember that one can-
not know the highest truth unless he is truth-
ful himself. Truth cannot be obtained by
falsehood. Truth must be gained by truth.
If we are not truthful we are not ready to reach
that state. So a neophyte should try to be
truthful in every word and action, because
just so far as he fails in this v/ill he fail to
reach eternal Truth.

Four things are absolutely necessary for
the purification of the heart and for conquer-
ing the animal nature. First, self-control,


which includes the control of senses and the
control of mind by the practice of concen-
tration; secondly, truthfulness; thirdly, dis-
interested love for all; fourthly, unselfish
works. In one of the Upanishads we read:
"He shall not attain to spiritual perfection
who has not ceased to follow wicked ways,
who has not subdued his senses, who has not
controlled his mind by concentration, and
who is not truthful and kind to all." These
lines contain the whole of ethics and the es-
sence of all the scriptures of the world. The
secret of spiritual progress lies in the practice
of these four.

Whether we believe in God or not, whether
we have faith in any prophet or not, if we
have self-control, concentration, truthfulness
and disinterested love for all, then we are on
the way to spiritual perfection. On the con-
trary, if one believes in God or in a creed and
does not possess these four, he is no more
spiritual than an ordinary man of the world.

In fact, his belief is only a verbal one. Wher-


ever these qualities are manifested we should

remember that there the spiritual unfoldment

of the soul-powers has commenced. During

the process of spiritual evolution the powers

of self-control, concentration, etc., which are

latent in each soul, begin to unfold from within

and manifest themselves in the works of

every-day life.

This world is a great school, as K 7/ere,

in which the individual egos are students,

and the various stages of spiritual evolution

in the soul-life are the different grades. When

one course is finished, the ego, or apparent

man, begins upon another. If he wants to

study one course or lesson over and over again,

there is nothing to prevent him from doing so.

He may continue in this one grade for years,

nay, for many incarnations, if his desire does

not change. But the moment he feels tired

of repeatedly studying the same course, no

longer finding pleasure in it, he naturally

seeks a higher class and takes up new lessons.

As long as one course continues to be attrac-


tive and absorbing, it satisfies us and we do
not feel the necessity of another; but the
time is sure to come when the lessons of to-
day will lose their charm and will appear
dull, insipid, and monotonous. Then we
shall seek something higher, something better
and more attractive. This search of the ego
for something higher and better than it has yet
possessed is the cause of its spiritual evolution.
The majority of mankind are so much cap-
tivated by sense-objects that they cannot
think of any higher ideal; they have weakened
themselves so much that they do not realize
the slave-like condition of their minds. There-
fore the Git4 says: "Few among thousands
of such slaves of passions and desires seek
freedom, while others take delight in slavery;
and few among thousands of such seekers
9-fter freedom persevere until the emancipa-
tion of the soul and spiritual perfection are
attained." No one can force another to be-
come spiritual by making him swallow, as it

were, the pill of spirituality.


Spiritual unfoldment is brought about by
the evolution of the inner nature of the appar-
ent man. The desire to know the spirit must
arise spontaneously in the human mind, and
when that desire shall have grown sufficiently
strong, it will force man to discriminate spirit
from matter, the eternal from the non-eternal,
tnith from untruth. This discrimination is
the third stage of spiritual unfoldment. True
discrimination leads to the fourth stage in
the path. It is dispassion, or non-attach-
ment to material and non-eternal things. In
this stage, wealth, property, and sense-enjoy-
ments will have no charm, no attraction for

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Online LibrarySwami AbhedanandaVedânta philosophy; three lectures on spiritual unfoldment → online text (page 3 of 5)