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    1: Relation of the Individual to the Universe

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    Chapter 2
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    (_underscores_ denote italics)


    The civilisation of ancient Greece was nurtured within city
    walls. In fact, all the modern civilisations have their cradles
    of brick and mortar.

    These walls leave their mark deep in the minds of men. They set
    up a principle of "divide and rule" in our mental outlook, which
    begets in us a habit of securing all our conquests by fortifying
    them and separating them from one another. We divide nation and
    nation, knowledge and knowledge, man and nature. It breeds in us
    a strong suspicion of whatever is beyond the barriers we have
    built, and everything has to fight hard for its entrance into our

    When the first Aryan invaders appeared in India it was a vast
    land of forests, and the new-comers rapidly took advantage of
    them. These forests afforded them shelter from the fierce heat
    of the sun and the ravages of tropical storms, pastures for
    cattle, fuel for sacrificial fire, and materials for building
    cottages. And the different Aryan clans with their patriarchal
    heads settled in the different forest tracts which had some
    special advantage of natural protection, and food and water in

    Thus in India it was in the forests that our civilisation had its
    birth, and it took a distinct character from this origin and
    environment. It was surrounded by the vast life of nature, was
    fed and clothed by her, and had the closest and most constant
    intercourse with her varying aspects.

    Such a life, it may be thought, tends to have the effect of
    dulling human intelligence and dwarfing the incentives to
    progress by lowering the standards of existence. But in ancient
    India we find that the circumstances of forest life did not
    overcome man's mind, and did not enfeeble the current of his
    energies, but only gave to it a particular direction. Having
    been in constant contact with the living growth of nature, his
    mind was free from the desire to extend his dominion by erecting
    boundary walls around his acquisitions. His aim was not to
    acquire but to realise, to enlarge his consciousness by growing
    with and growing into his surroundings. He felt that truth is
    all-comprehensive, that there is no such thing as absolute
    isolation in existence, and the only way of attaining truth is
    through the interpenetration of our being into all objects. To
    realise this great harmony between man's spirit and the spirit of
    the world was the endeavour of the forest-dwelling sages of
    ancient India.

    In later days there came a time when these primeval forests gave
    way to cultivated fields, and wealthy cities sprang up on all
    sides. Mighty kingdoms were established, which had
    communications with all the great powers of the world. But even
    in the heyday of its material prosperity the heart of India ever
    looked back with adoration upon the early ideal of strenuous
    self-realisation, and the dignity of the simple life of the
    forest hermitage, and drew its best inspiration from the wisdom
    stored there.

    The west seems to take a pride in thinking that it is subduing
    nature; as if we are living in a hostile world where we have to
    wrest everything we want from an unwilling and alien arrangement
    of things. This sentiment is the product of the city-wall habit
    and training of mind. For in the city life man naturally directs
    the concentrated light of his mental vision upon his own life and
    works, and this creates an artificial dissociation between
    himself and the Universal Nature within whose bosom he lies.

    But in India the point of view was different; it included the
    world with the man as one great truth. India put all her
    emphasis on the harmony that exists between the individual and
    the universal. She felt we could have no communication whatever
    with our surroundings if they were absolutely foreign to us.
    Man's complaint against nature is that he has to acquire most of
    his necessaries by his own efforts. Yes, but his efforts are not
    in vain; he is reaping success every day, and that shows there is
    a rational connection between him and nature, for we never can
    make anything our own except that which is truly related to us.

    We can look upon a road from two different points of view. One
    regards it as dividing us from the object of our desire; in that
    case we count every step of our journey over it as something
    attained by force in the face of obstruction. The other sees it
    as the road which leads us to our destination; and as such it is
    part of our goal. It is already the beginning of our attainment,
    and by journeying over it we can only gain that which in itself
    it offers to us. This last point of view is that of India with
    regard to nature. For her, the great fact is that we are in
    harmony with nature; that man can think because his thoughts are
    in harmony with things; that he can use the forces of nature for
    his own purpose only because his power is in harmony with the
    power which is universal, and that in the long run his purpose
    never can knock against the purpose which works through nature.

    In the west the prevalent feeling is that nature belongs
    exclusively to inanimate things and to beasts, that there is a
    sudden unaccountable break where human-nature begins. According
    to it, everything that is low in the scale of beings is merely
    nature, and whatever has the stamp of perfection on it,
    intellectual or moral, is human-nature. It is like dividing the
    bud and the blossom into two separate categories, and putting
    their grace to the credit of two different and antithetical
    principles. But the Indian mind never has any hesitation in
    acknowledging its kinship with nature, its unbroken relation with

    The fundamental unity of creation was not simply a philosophical
    speculation for India; it was her life-object to realise this
    great harmony in feeling and in action. With mediation and
    service, with a regulation of life, she cultivated her
    consciousness in such a way that everything had a spiritual
    meaning to her. The earth, water and light, fruits and flowers,
    to her were not merely physical phenomena to be turned to use and
    then left aside. They were necessary to her in the attainment of
    her ideal of perfection, as every note is necessary to the
    completeness of the symphony. India intuitively felt that the
    essential fact of this world has a vital meaning for us; we have
    to be fully alive to it and establish a conscious relation with
    it, not merely impelled by scientific curiosity or greed of
    material advantage, but realising it in the spirit of sympathy,
    with a large feeling of joy and peace.

    The man of science knows, in one aspect, that the world is not
    merely what it appears to be to our senses; he knows that earth
    and water are really the play of forces that manifest themselves
    to us as earth and water--how, we can but partially apprehend.
    Likewise the man who has his spiritual eyes open knows that the
    ultimate truth about earth and water lies in our apprehension of
    the eternal will which works in time and takes shape in the
    forces we realise under those aspects. This is not mere
    knowledge, as science is, but it is a preception of the soul by
    the soul. This does not lead us to power, as knowledge does, but
    it gives us joy, which is the product of the union of kindred
    things. The man whose acquaintance with the world does not lead
    him deeper than science leads him, will never understand what it
    is that the man with the spiritual vision finds in these natural
    phenomena. The water does not merely cleanse his limbs, but it
    purifies his heart; for it touches his soul. The earth does not
    merely hold his body, but it gladdens his mind; for its contact
    is more than a physical contact--it is a living presence. When a
    man does not realise his kinship with the world, he lives in a
    prison-house whose walls are alien to him. When he meets the
    eternal spirit in all objects, then is he emancipated, for then
    he discovers the fullest significance of the world into which he
    is born; then he finds himself in perfect truth, and his harmony
    with the all is established. In India men are enjoined to be
    fully awake to the fact that they are in the closest relation to
    things around them, body and soul, and that they are to hail the
    morning sun, the flowing water, the fruitful earth, as the
    manifestation of the same living truth which holds them in its
    embrace. Thus the text of our everyday meditation is the
    _Gayathri_, a verse which is considered to be the epitome of all
    the Vedas. By its help we try to realise the essential unity of
    the world with the conscious soul of man; we learn to perceive
    the unity held together by the one Eternal Spirit, whose power
    creates the earth, the sky, and the stars, and at the same time
    irradiates our minds with the light of a consciousness that moves
    and exists in unbroken continuity with the outer world.

    It is not true that India has tried to ignore differences of
    value in different things, for she knows that would make life
    impossible. The sense of the superiority of man in the scale of
    creation has not been absent from her mind. But she has had her
    own idea as to that in which his superiority really consists. It
    is not in the power of possession but in the power of union.
    Therefore India chose her places of pilgrimage wherever there was
    in nature some special grandeur or beauty, so that her mind could
    come out of its world of narrow necessities and realise its place
    in the infinite. This was the reason why in India a whole
    people who once were meat-eaters gave up taking animal food to
    cultivate the sentiment of universal sympathy for life, an event
    unique in the history of mankind.

    India knew that when by physical and mental barriers we violently
    detach ourselves from the inexhaustible life of nature; when we
    become merely man, but not man-in-the-universe, we create
    bewildering problems, and having shut off the source of their
    solution, we try all kinds of artificial methods each of which
    brings its own crop of interminable difficulties. When man
    leaves his resting-place in universal nature, when he walks on
    the single rope of humanity, it means either a dance or a fall
    for him, he has ceaselessly to strain every nerve and muscle to
    keep his balance at each step, and then, in the intervals of his
    weariness, he fulminates against Providence and feels a secret
    pride and satisfaction in thinking that he has been unfairly
    dealt with by the whole scheme of things.

    But this cannot go on for ever. Man must realise the wholeness
    of his existence, his place in the infinite; he must know that
    hard as he may strive he can never create his honey within the
    cells of his hive; for the perennial supply of his life food is
    outside their walls. He must know that when man shuts himself
    out from the vitalising and purifying touch of the infinite, and
    falls back upon himself for his sustenance and his healing, then
    he goads himself into madness, tears himself into shreds, and
    eats his own substance. Deprived of the background of the whole,
    his poverty loses its one great quality, which is simplicity, and
    becomes squalid and shamefaced. His wealth is no longer
    magnanimous; it grows merely extravagant. His appetites do not
    minister to his life, keeping to the limits of their purpose;
    they become an end in themselves and set fire to his life and
    play the fiddle in the lurid light of the conflagration. Then it
    is that in our self-expression we try to startle and not to
    attract; in art we strive for originality and lose sight of truth
    which is old and yet ever new; in literature we miss the complete
    view of man which is simple and yet great, but he appears as a
    psychological problem or the embodiment of a passion that is
    intense because abnormal and because exhibited in the glare of a
    fiercely emphatic light which is artificial. When man's
    consciousness is restricted only to the immediate vicinity of his
    human self, the deeper roots of his nature do not find their
    permanent soil, his spirit is ever on the brink of starvation,
    and in the place of healthful strength he substitutes rounds of
    stimulation. Then it is that man misses his inner perspective
    and measures his greatness by its bulk and not by its vital link
    with the infinite, judges his activity by its movement and not by
    the repose of perfection--the repose which is in the starry
    heavens, in the ever-flowing rhythmic dance of creation.

    The first invasion of India has its exact parallel in the
    invasion of America by the European settlers. They also were
    confronted with primeval forests and a fierce struggle with
    aboriginal races. But this struggle between man and man, and man
    and nature lasted till the very end; they never came to any
    terms. In India the forests which were the habitation of the
    barbarians became the sanctuary of sages, but in America these
    great living cathedrals of nature had no deeper significance to
    man. The brought wealth and power to him, and perhaps at times
    they ministered to his enjoyment of beauty, and inspired a
    solitary poet. They never acquired a sacred association in the
    hearts of men as the site of some great spiritual reconcilement
    where man's soul has its meeting-place with the soul of the

    I do not for a moment wish to suggest that these things should
    have been otherwise. It would be an utter waste of opportunities
    if history were to repeat itself exactly in the same manner in
    every place. It is best for the commerce of the spirit that
    people differently situated should bring their different products
    into the market of humanity, each of which is complementary and
    necessary to the others. All that I wish to say is that India at
    the outset of her career met with a special combination of
    circumstances which was not lost upon her. She had, according to
    her opportunities, thought and pondered, striven and suffered,
    dived into the depths of existence, and achieved something which
    surely cannot be without its value to people whose evolution in
    history took a different way altogether. Man for his perfect
    growth requires all the living elements that constitute his
    complex life; that is why his food has to be cultivated in
    different fields and brought from different sources.

    Civilisation is a kind of mould that each nation is busy making
    for itself to shape its men and women according to its best
    ideal. All its institutions, its legislature, its standard of
    approbation and condemnation, its conscious and unconscious
    teachings tend toward that object. The modern civilisation of
    the west, by all its organised efforts, is trying to turn out men
    perfect in physical, intellectual, and moral efficiency. There
    the vast energies of the nations are employed in extending man's
    power over his surroundings, and people are combining and
    straining every faculty to possess and to turn to account all
    that they can lay their hands upon, to overcome every obstacle on
    their path of conquest. They are ever disciplining themselves to
    fight nature and other races; their armaments are getting more
    and more stupendous every day; their machines, their appliances,
    their organisations go on multiplying at an amazing rate. This
    is a splendid achievement, no doubt, and a wonderful
    manifestation of man's masterfulness which knows no obstacle, and
    which has for its object the supremacy of himself over everything

    The ancient civilisation of India had its own ideal of perfection
    towards which its efforts were directed. Its aim was not
    attaining power, and it neglected to cultivate to the utmost its
    capacities, and to organise men for defensive and offensive
    purposes, for co-operation in the acquisition of wealth and for
    military and political ascendancy. The ideal that India tried to
    realise led her best men to the isolation of a contemplative
    life, and the treasures that she gained for mankind by
    penetrating into the mysteries of reality cost her dear in the
    sphere of worldly success. Yet, this also was a sublime
    achievement,--it was a supreme manifestation of that human
    aspiration which knows no limit, and which has for its object
    nothing less than the realisation of the Infinite.

    There were the virtuous, the wise, the courageous; there were the
    statesmen, kings and emperors of India; but whom amongst all
    these classes did she look up to and choose to be the
    representative of men?

    They were the rishis. What were the rishis? _They who having
    attained the supreme soul in knowledge were filled with wisdom,
    and having found him in union with the soul were in perfect
    harmony with the inner self; they having realised him in the
    heart were free from all selfish desires, and having experienced
    him in all the activities of the world, had attained calmness.
    The rishis were they who having reached the supreme God from all
    sides had found abiding peace, had become united with all, had
    entered into the life of the Universe._ [Footnote:

    Samprapyainam rishayo jnanatripatah
    Kritatmano vitaragah pracantah
    te sarvagam sarvatah prapya dhirah
    Yuktatmanah sarvamevavicanti.

    Thus the state of realising our relationship with all, of
    entering into everything through union with God, was considered
    in India to be the ultimate end and fulfilment of humanity.

    Man can destroy and plunder, earn and accumulate, invent and
    discover, but he is great because his soul comprehends all. It
    is dire destruction for him when he envelopes his soul in a dead
    shell of callous habits, and when a blind fury of works whirls
    round him like an eddying dust storm, shutting out the horizon.
    That indeed kills the very spirit of his being, which is the
    spirit of comprehension. Essentially man is not a slave either
    of himself or of the world; but he is a lover. His freedom and
    fulfilment is in love, which is another name for perfect
    comprehension. By this power of comprehension, this permeation
    of his being, he is united with the all-pervading Spirit, who is
    also the breath of his soul. Where a man tries to raise himself
    to eminence by pushing and jostling all others, to achieve a
    distinction by which he prides himself to be more than everybody
    else, there he is alienated from that Spirit. This is why the
    Upanishads describe those who have attained the goal of human
    life as "_peaceful_" [Footnote: Pracantah] and as "_at-one-with-
    God_," [Footnote: Yuktatmanah] meaning that they are in perfect
    harmony with man and nature, and therefore in undisturbed union
    with God.

    We have a glimpse of the same truth in the teachings of Jesus
    when he says, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye
    of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven"--
    which implies that whatever we treasure for ourselves separates
    us from others; our possessions are our limitations. He who is
    bent upon accumulating riches is unable, with his ego continually
    bulging, to pass through the gates of comprehension of the
    spiritual world, which is the world of perfect harmony; he is
    shut up within the narrow walls of his limited acquisitions.

    Hence the spirit of the teachings of Upanishad is: In order to
    find him you must embrace all. In the pursuit of wealth you
    really give up everything to gain a few things, and that is not
    the way to attain him who is completeness.

    Some modern philosophers of Europe, who are directly or
    indirectly indebted to the Upanishads, far from realising their
    debt, maintain that the Brahma of India is a mere abstraction, a
    negation of all that is in the world. In a word, that the
    Infinite Being is to be found nowhere except in metaphysics. It
    may be, that such a doctrine has been and still is prevalent with
    a section of our countrymen. But this is certainly not in accord
    with the pervading spirit of the Indian mind. Instead, it is the
    practice of realising and affirming the presence of the infinite
    in all things which has been its constant inspiration.

    We are enjoined to see _whatever there is in the world as being
    enveloped by God._
    [Footnote: Icavasyamidam sarvam yat kincha jagatyan jagat.]

    I bow to God over and over again who is in fire and in water, who
    permeates the whole world, who is in the annual crops as well as
    in the perennial trees.
    [Footnote: Yo devo'gnau y'opsu y'o
    vicvambhuvanamaviveca ya oshadhishu yo vanaspatishu tasmai devaya

    Can this be God abstracted from the world? Instead, it signifies
    not merely seeing him in all things, but saluting him in all the
    objects of the world. The attitude of the God-conscious man of
    the Upanishad towards the universe is one of a deep feeling of
    adoration. His object of worship is present everywhere. It is
    the one living truth that makes all realities true. This truth
    is not only of knowledge but of devotion. '_Namonamah_,'--we bow
    to him everywhere, and over and over again. It is recognised in
    the outburst of the Rishi, who addresses the whole world in a
    sudden ecstasy of joy: _Listen to me, ye sons of the immortal
    spirit, ye who live in the heavenly abode, I have known the
    Supreme Person whose light shines forth from beyond the darkness._
    [Footnote: Crinvantu vicve amritasya putra a ye divya dhamani
    tasthuh vedahametam purusham mahantam aditya varnam tamasah
    parastat.] Do we not find the overwhelming delight of a direct
    and positive experience where there is not the least trace of
    vagueness or passivity?

    Buddha who developed the practical side of the teaching of
    Upanishads, preached the same message when he said, _With
    everything, whether it is above or below, remote or near, visible
    or invisible, thou shalt preserve a relation of unlimited love
    without any animosity or without a desire to kill. To live in
    such a consciousness while standing or walking, sitting or lying
    down till you are asleep, is Brahma vihara, or, in other words,
    is living and moving and having your joy in the spirit of

    What is that spirit? The Upanishad says, _The being who is in
    his essence the light and life of all, who is world-conscious, is
    Brahma._ [Footnote: Yacchayamasminnakace tejomayo'mritamayah
    purushah sarvanubhuh.] To feel all, to be conscious of
    everything, is his spirit. We are immersed in his consciousness
    body and soul. It is through his consciousness that the sun
    attracts the earth; it is through his consciousness that the
    light-waves are being transmitted from planet to planet.

    Not only in space, but _this light and life, this all-feeling
    being is in our souls._ [Footnote: Yacchayamasminnatmani
    tejomayo'mritamayah purushah sarvanubhuh.] He is all-conscious
    in space, or the world of extension; and he is all-conscious in
    soul, or the world of intension.

    Thus to attain our world-consciousness, we have to unite our
    feeling with this all-pervasive infinite feeling. In fact, the
    only true human progress is coincident with this widening of the
    range of feeling. All our poetry, philosophy, science, art and
    religion are serving to extend the scope of our consciousness
    towards higher and larger spheres. Man does not acquire rights
    through occupation of larger space, nor through external conduct,
    but his rights extend only so far as he is real, and his reality
    is measured by the scope of his consciousness.

    We have, however, to pay a price for this attainment of the
    freedom of consciousness. What is the price? It is to give
    one's self away. Our soul can realise itself truly only by
    denying itself. The Upanishad says, _Thou shalt gain by giving
    away_ [Footnote: Tyaktena bhunjithah], _Thou shalt not covet._
    [Footnote: Ma gridhah]

    In Gita we are advised to work disinterestedly, abandoning all
    lust for the result. Many outsiders conclude from this teaching
    that the conception of the world as something unreal lies at the
    root of the so-called disinterestedness preached in India. But
    the reverse is true.

    The man who aims at his own aggrandisement underrates everything
    else. Compared to his ego the rest of the world is unreal. Thus
    in order to be fully conscious of the reality of all, one has to
    be free himself from the bonds of personal desires. This
    discipline we have to go through to prepare ourselves for our
    social duties--for sharing the burdens of our fellow-beings.
    Every endeavour to attain a larger life requires of man "to gain
    by giving away, and not to be greedy." And thus to expand
    gradually the consciousness of one's unity with all is the
    striving of humanity.

    The Infinite in India was not a thin nonentity, void of all
    content. The Rishis of India asserted emphatically, "To know him
    in this life is to be true; not to know him in this life is the
    desolation of death." [Footnote: Iha chet avedit atha
    satyamasti, nachet iha avedit mahati vinashtih.] How to know him
    then? "By realising him in each and all." [Footnote: Bhuteshu
    bhuteshu vichintva.] Not only in nature but in the family, in
    society, and in the state, the more we realise the World-
    conscious in all, the better for us. Failing to realise it, we
    turn our faces to destruction.

    It fills me with great joy and a high hope for the future of
    humanity when I realise that there was a time in the remote past
    when our poet-prophets stood under the lavish sunshine of an
    Indian sky and greeted the world with the glad recognition of
    kindred. It was not an anthropomorphic hallucination. It was
    not seeing man reflected everywhere in grotesquely exaggerated
    images, and witnessing the human drama acted on a gigantic scale
    in nature's arena of flitting lights and shadows. On the
    contrary, it meant crossing the limiting barriers of the
    individual, to become more than man, to become one with the All.
    It was not a mere play of the imagination, but it was the
    liberation of consciousness from all the mystifications and
    exaggerations of the self. These ancient seers felt in the
    serene depth of their mind that the same energy which vibrates
    and passes into the endless forms of the world manifests itself
    in our inner being as consciousness; and there is no break in
    unity. For these seers there was no gap in their luminous vision
    of perfection. They never acknowledged even death itself as
    creating a chasm in the field of reality. They said, _His
    reflection is death as well as immortality._ [Footnote: Yasya
    chhayamritam yasya mrityuh.] They did not recognise any
    essential opposition between life and death, and they said with
    absolute assurance, "It is life that is death." [Footnote: Prano
    mrityuh.] They saluted with the same serenity of gladness "life
    in its aspect of appearing and in its aspect of departure"--
    _That which is past is hidden in life, and that which is to come._
    [Footnote: Namo astu ayate namo astu parayate. Prane ha bhutam
    bhavyancha.] They knew that mere appearance and disappearance are
    on the surface like waves on the sea, but life which is permanent
    knows no decay or diminution.

    _Everything has sprung from immortal life and is vibrating with
    life_, [Footnote: Yadidan kincha prana ejati nihsritam.] _for life
    is immense._ [Footnote: Prano virat.]

    This is the noble heritage from our forefathers waiting to be
    claimed by us as our own, this ideal of the supreme freedom of
    consciousness. It is not merely intellectual or emotional, it
    has an ethical basis, and it must be translated into action. In
    the Upanishad it is said, _The supreme being is all-pervading,
    therefore he is the innate good in all._ [Footnote: Sarvavyapi
    sa bhagavan tasmat sarvagatah civah.] To be truly united in
    knowledge, love, and service with all beings, and thus to
    realise one's self in the all-pervading God is the essence of
    goodness, and this is the keynote of the teachings of the
    Upanishads: _Life is immense!_ [Footnote: Prano virat.]
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