Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "It is a wise father that knows his own child."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    8: Realisation of the Infinite

    • Rate it:
    • Average Rating: 2.7 out of 5 based on 3 ratings
    • 3 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode
    Chapter 9
    Previous Chapter
    The Upanishads say: "Man becomes true if in this life he can
    apprehend God; if not, it is the greatest calamity for him."

    But what is the nature of this attainment of God? It is quite
    evident that the infinite is not like one object among many, to
    be definitely classified and kept among our possessions, to be
    used as an ally specially favouring us in our politics, warfare,
    money-making, or in social competitions. We cannot put our God
    in the same list with our summer-houses, motor-cars, or our
    credit at the bank, as so many people seem to want to do.

    We must try to understand the true character of the desire that a
    man has when his soul longs for his God. Does it consist of his
    wish to make an addition, however valuable, to his belongings?
    Emphatically no! It is an endlessly wearisome task, this
    continual adding to our stores. In fact, when the soul seeks God
    she seeks her final escape from this incessant gathering and
    heaping and never coming to an end. It is not an additional
    object the she seeks, but it is the _nityo 'nityanam_, the
    permanent in all that is impermanent, the _rasanam rasatamah_,
    the highest abiding joy unifying all enjoyments. Therefore when
    the Upanishads teach us to realise everything in Brahma, it is
    not to seek something extra, not to manufacture something new.

    _Know everything that there is in the universe as enveloped by
    God._ [Footnote: Ichavasyamdiam sarvam yat kincha
    jagatyanjagat.] _Enjoy whatever is given by him and harbour not
    in your mind the greed for wealth which is not your own._
    [Footnoe: Tena tyaktena bhunjitha ma gridhah kasyasviddhanam.]

    When you know that whatever there is is filled by him and
    whatever you have is his gift, then you realise the infinite in
    the finite, and the giver in the gifts. Then you know that all
    the facts of the reality have their only meaning in the
    manifestation of the one truth, and all your possessions have
    their only significance for you, not in themselves but in the
    relation they establish with the infinite.

    So it cannot be said that we can find Brahma as we find other
    objects; there is no question of searching from him in one thing
    in preference to another, in one place instead of somewhere else.
    We do not have to run to the grocer's shop for our morning light;
    we open our eyes and there it is; so we need only give ourselves
    up to find that Brahma is everywhere.

    This is the reason why Buddha admonished us to free ourselves
    from the confinement of the life of the self. If there were
    nothing else to take its place more positively perfect and
    satisfying, then such admonition would be absolutely unmeaning.
    No man can seriously consider the advice, much less have any
    enthusiasm for it, of surrendering everything one has for gaining
    nothing whatever.

    So our daily worship of God is not really the process of gradual
    acquisition of him, but the daily process of surrendering
    ourselves, removing all obstacles to union and extending our
    consciousness of him in devotion and service, in goodness and in

    The Upanishads say: _Be lost altogether in Brahma like an arrow
    that has completely penetrated its target._ Thus to be conscious
    of being absolutely enveloped by Brahma is not an act of mere
    concentration of mind. It must be the aim of the whole of our
    life. In all our thoughts and deeds we must be conscious of the
    infinite. Let the realisation of this truth become easier every
    day of our life, that _none could live or move if the energy of
    the all-pervading joy did not fill the sky._ [Footnote: Ko
    hyevanyat kah pranyat yadesha akacha anando na syat.] In all our
    actions let us feel that impetus of the infinite energy and be

    It may be said that the infinite is beyond our attainment, so it
    is for us as if it were naught. Yes, if the word attainment
    implies any idea of possession, then it must be admitted that the
    infinite is unattainable. But we must keep in mind that the
    highest enjoyment of man is not in the having but in a getting,
    which is at the same time not getting. Our physical pleasures
    leave no margin for the unrealised. They, like the dead
    satellite of the earth, have but little atmosphere around them.
    When we take food and satisfy our hunger it is a complete act of
    possession. So long as the hunger is not satisfied it is a
    pleasure to eat. For then our enjoyment of eating touches at
    every point the infinite. But, when it attains completion, or in
    other words, when our desire for eating reaches the end of the
    stage of its non-realisation, it reaches the end of its pleasure.
    In all our intellectual pleasures the margin is broader, the
    limit is far off. In all our deeper love getting and non-getting
    run ever parallel. In one of our Vaishnava lyrics the lover says
    to his beloved: "I feel as if I have gazed upon the beauty of thy
    face from my birth, yet my eyes are hungry still: as if I have
    kept thee pressed to my heart for millions of years, yet my heart
    is not satisfied."

    This makes it clear that it is really the infinite whom we seek
    in our pleasures. Our desire for being wealthy is not a desire
    for a particular sum of money but it is indefinite, and the most
    fleeting of our enjoyments are but the momentary touches of the
    eternal. The tragedy of human life consists in our vain attempts
    to stretch the limits of things which can never become
    unlimited,--to reach the infinite by absurdly adding to the rungs
    of the ladder of the finite.

    It is evident from this that the real desire of our soul is to
    get beyond all our possessions. Surrounded by things she can
    touch and feel, she cries, "I am weary of getting; ah, where is
    he who is never to be got?"

    We see everywhere in the history of man that the spirit of
    renunciation is the deepest reality of the human soul. When the
    soul says of anything, "I do not want it, for I am above it," she
    gives utterance to the highest truth that is in her. When a
    girl's life outgrows her doll, when she realises that in every
    respect she is more than her doll is, then she throws it away.
    By the very act of possession we know that we are greater than
    the things we possess. It is a perfect misery to be kept bound
    up with things lesser than ourselves. This it is that Maitreyi
    felt when her husband gave her his property on the eve of leaving
    home. She asked him, "Would these material things help one to
    attain the highest?"--or, in other words, "Are they more than my
    soul to me?" When her husband answered, "They will make you rich
    in worldly possessions," she said at once, "then what am I to do
    with these?" It is only when a man truly realises what his
    possessions are that he has no more illusions about them; then he
    knows his soul is far above these things and he becomes free from
    their bondage. Thus man truly realises his soul by outgrowing
    his possessions, and man's progress in the path of eternal life
    is through a series of renunciations.

    That we cannot absolutely possess the infinite being is not a
    mere intellectual proposition. It has to be experienced, and
    this experience is bliss. The bird, while taking its flight in
    the sky, experiences at every beat of its wings that the sky is
    boundless, that its wings can never carry it beyond. Therein
    lies its joy. In the cage the sky is limited; it may be quite
    enough for all the purposes of the bird's life, only it is not
    more than is necessary. The bird cannot rejoice within the
    limits of the necessary. It must feel that what it has is
    immeasurably more than it ever can want or comprehend, and then
    only can it be glad.

    Thus our soul must soar in the infinite, and she must feel every
    moment that in the sense of not being able to come to the end of
    her attainment is her supreme joy, her final freedom.

    Man's abiding happiness is not in getting anything but in giving
    himself up to what is greater than himself, to ideas which are
    larger than his individual life, the idea of his country, of
    humanity, of God. They make it easier for him to part with all
    that he has, not expecting his life. His existence is miserable
    and sordid till he finds some great idea which can truly claim
    his all, which can release him from all attachment to his
    belongings. Buddha and Jesus, and all our great prophets,
    represent such great ideas. They hold before us opportunities
    for surrendering our all. When they bring forth their divine
    alms-bowl we feel we cannot help giving, and we find that in
    giving is our truest joy and liberation, for it is uniting
    ourselves to that extent with the infinite.

    Man is not complete; he is yet to be. In what he _is_ he is
    small, and if we could conceive him stopping there for eternity
    we should have an idea of the most awful hell that man can
    imagine. In his _to be_ he is infinite, there is his heaven,
    his deliverance. His _is_ is occupied every moment with what it
    can get and have done with; his _to be_ is hungering for
    something which is more than can be got, which he never can lose
    because he never has possessed.

    The finite pole of our existence has its place in the world of
    necessity. There man goes about searching for food to live,
    clothing to get warmth. In this region--the region of nature--it
    is his function to get things. The natural man is occupied with
    enlarging his possessions.

    But this act of getting is partial. It is limited to man's
    necessities. We can have a thing only to the extent of our
    requirements, just as a vessel can contain water only to the
    extent of its emptiness. Our relation to food is only in
    feeding, our relation to a house is only in habitation. We call
    it a benefit when a thing is fitted only to some particular want
    of ours. Thus to get is always to get partially, and it never
    can be otherwise. So this craving for acquisition belongs to our
    finite self.

    But that side of our existence whose direction is towards the
    infinite seeks not wealth, but freedom and joy. There the reign
    of necessity ceases, and there our function is not to get but to
    be. To be what? To be one with Brahma. For the region of the
    infinite is the region of unity. Therefore the Upanishads say:
    _If man apprehends God he becomes true._ Here it is becoming,
    it is not having more. Words do no gather bulk when you know
    their meaning; they become true by being one with the idea.

    Though the West has accepted as its teacher him who boldly
    proclaimed his oneness with his Father, and who exhorted his
    followers to be perfect as God, it has never been reconciled to
    this idea of our unity with the infinite being. It condemns, as
    a piece of blasphemy, any implication of man's becoming God.
    This is certainly not the idea that Christ preached, nor perhaps
    the idea of the Christian mystics, but this seems to be the idea
    that has become popular in the Christian west.

    But the highest wisdom in the East holds that it is not the
    function of our soul to _gain_ God, to utilise him for any
    special material purpose. All that we can ever aspire to is to
    become more and more one with God. In the region of nature,
    which is the region of diversity, we grow by acquisition; in the
    spiritual world, which is the region of unity, we grow by losing
    ourselves, by uniting. Gaining a thing, as we have said, is by
    its nature partial, it is limited only to a particular want; but
    _being_ is complete, it belongs to our wholeness, it springs not
    from any necessity but from our affinity with the infinite, which
    is the principle of perfection that we have in our soul.

    Yes, we must become Brahma. We must not shrink to avow this.
    Our existence is meaningless if we never can expect to realise
    the highest perfection that there is. If we have an aim and yet
    can never reach it, then it is no aim at all.

    But can it then be said that there is no difference between
    Brahma and our individual soul? Of course the difference is
    obvious. Call it illusion or ignorance, or whatever name you may
    give it, it is there. You can offer explanations but you cannot
    explain it away. Even illusion is true an illusion.

    Brahma is Brahma, he is the infinite ideal of perfection. But we
    are not what we truly are; we are ever to become true, ever to
    become Brahma. There is the eternal play of love in the relation
    between this being and the becoming; and in the depth of this
    mystery is the source of all truth and beauty that sustains the
    endless march of creation.

    In the music of the rushing stream sounds the joyful assurance,
    "I shall become the sea." It is not a vain assumption; it is
    true humility, for it is the truth. The river has no other
    alternative. On both sides of its banks it has numerous fields
    and forests, villages and towns; it can serve them in various
    ways, cleanse them and feed them, carry their produce from place
    to place. But it can have only partial relations with these, and
    however long it may linger among them it remains separate; it
    never can become a town or a forest.

    But it can and does become the sea. The lesser moving water has
    its affinity with the great motionless water of the ocean. It
    moves through the thousand objects on its onward course, and its
    motion finds its finality when it reaches the sea.

    The river can become the sea, but she can never make the sea part
    and parcel of herself. If, by some chance, she has encircled
    some broad sheet of water and pretends that she has made the sea
    a part of herself, we at once know that it is not so, that her
    current is still seeking rest in the great ocean to which it can
    never set boundaries.

    In the same manner, our soul can only become Brahma as the river
    can become the sea. Everything else she touches at one of her
    points, then leaves and moves on, but she never can leave Brahma
    and move beyond him. Once our soul realises her ultimate object
    of repose in Brahma, all her movements acquire a purpose. It is
    this ocean of infinite rest which gives significance to endless
    activities. It is this perfectness of being that lends to the
    imperfection of becoming that quality of beauty which finds its
    expression in all poetry, drama and art.

    There must be a complete idea that animates a poem. Every
    sentence of the poem touches that idea. When the reader realises
    that pervading idea, as he reads on, then the reading of the poem
    is full of joy to him. Then every part of the poem becomes
    radiantly significant by the light of the whole. But if the poem
    goes on interminably, never expressing the idea of the whole,
    only throwing off disconnected images, however beautiful, it
    becomes wearisome and unprofitable in the extreme. The progress
    of our soul is like a perfect poem. It has an infinite idea
    which once realised makes all movements full of meaning and joy.
    But if we detach its movements from that ultimate idea, if we do
    not see the infinite rest and only see the infinite motion, then
    existence appears to us a monstrous evil, impetuously rushing
    towards an unending aimlessness.

    I remember in our childhood we had a teacher who used to make us
    learn by heart the whole book of Sanskrit grammer, which is
    written in symbols, without explaining their meaning to us. Day
    after day we went toiling on, but on towards what, we had not the
    least notion. So, as regards our lessons, we were in the
    position of the pessimist who only counts the breathless
    activities of the world, but cannot see the infinite repose of
    the perfection whence these activities are gaining their
    equilibrium every moment in absolute fitness and harmony. We
    lose all joy in thus contemplating existence, because we miss the
    truth. We see the gesticulations of the dancer, and we imagine
    these are directed by a ruthless tyranny of chance, while we are
    deaf to the eternal music which makes every one of these gestures
    inevitably spontaneous and beautiful. These motions are ever
    growing into that music of perfection, becoming one with it,
    dedicating to that melody at every step the multitudinous forms
    they go on creating.

    And this is the truth of our soul, and this is her joy, that she
    must ever be growing into Brahma, that all her movements should
    be modulated by this ultimate idea, and all her creations should
    be given as offerings to the supreme spirit of perfection.

    There is a remarkable saying in the Upanishads: _I think not that
    I know him well, or that I know him, or even that I know him not._
    [Footnote: Naham manye suvedeti no na vedeti vedacha.]

    By the process of knowledge we can never know the infinite being.
    But if he is altogether beyond our reach, then he is absolutely
    nothing to us. The truth is that we know him not, yet we know

    This has been explained in another saying of the Upanishads:
    _From Brahma words come back baffled, as well as the mind, but he
    who knows him by the joy of him is free from all fears._
    [Footnote: Yato vacho nivartante aprapya manasa saha anandam
    brahmano vidvan na vibheti kutacchana.]

    Knowledge is partial, because our intellect is an instrument, it
    is only a part of us, it can give us information about things
    which can be divided and analysed, and whose properties can be
    classified part by part. But Brahma is perfect, and knowledge
    which is partial can never be a knowledge of him.

    But he can be known by joy, by love. For joy is knowledge in its
    completeness, it is knowing by our whole being. Intellect sets
    us apart from the things to be known, but love knows its object
    by fusion. Such knowledge is immediate and admits no doubt. It
    is the same as knowing our own selves, only more so.

    Therefore, as the Upanishads say, mind can never know Brahma,
    words can never describe him; he can only be known by our soul,
    by her joy in him, by her love. Or, in other words, we can only
    come into relation with him by union--union of our whole being.
    We must be one with our Father, we must be perfect as he is.

    But how can that be? There can be no grade in infinite
    perfection. We cannot grow more and more into Brahma. He is the
    absolute one, and there can be no more or less in him.

    Indeed, the realisation of the _paramatman_, the supreme soul,
    within our _antaratman_, our inner individual soul, is in a
    state of absolute completion. We cannot think of it as non-
    existent and depending on our limited powers for its gradual
    construction. If our relation with the divine were all a thing
    of our own making, how should we rely on it as true, and how
    should it lend us support?

    Yes, we must know that within us we have that where space and
    time cease to rule and where the links of evolution are merged in
    unity. In that everlasting abode of the _ataman_, the soul, the
    revelation of the _paramatman_, the supreme soul, is already
    complete. Therefore the Upanishads say: _He who knows Brahman,
    the true, the all-conscious, and the infinite as hidden in the
    depths of the soul, which is the supreme sky (the inner sky of
    consciousness), enjoys all objects of desire in union with the
    all-knowing Brahman._ [Footnote: Satyam jnanam anantam brahma yo
    veda nihitam guhayam paramo vyoman so'cnute sarvan kaman saha
    brahmana vipaschite.]

    The union is already accomplished. The _paramatman_, the supreme
    soul, has himself chosen this soul of ours as his bride and the
    marriage has been completed. The solemn _mantram_ has been
    uttered: _Let thy heart be even as my heart is._ [Footnote:
    Yadetat hridayam mama tadastu hridayan tava.] There is no room
    in this marriage for evolution to act the part of the master of
    ceremonies. The _eshah_, who cannot otherwise be described than
    as _This_, the nameless immediate presence, is ever here in our
    innermost being. "This _eshah_, or _This_, is the supreme end of
    the other this"; [Footnote: Eshasya parama gatih] "this _This_ is
    the supreme treasure of the other this"; [Footnote: Eshasya parama
    sampat.] "this _This_ is the supreme dwelling of the other this";
    [Footnote: Eshasya paramo lokah] "this _This_ is the supreme joy
    of the other this." [Footnote: Eshasya parama anandah] Because
    the marriage of supreme love has been accomplished in timeless
    time. And now goes on the endless _lila_, the play of love. He
    who has been gained in eternity is now being pursued in time and
    space, in joys and sorrows, in this world and in the worlds beyond.
    When the soul-bride understands this well, her heart is blissful
    and at rest. She knows that she, like a river, has attained the
    ocean of her fulfilment at one end of her being, and at the other
    end she is ever attaining it; at one end it is eternal rest and
    completion, at the other it is incessant movement and change.
    When she knows both ends as inseparably connected, then she knows
    the world as her own household by the right of knowing the master
    of the world as her own lord. Then all her services becomes
    services of love, all the troubles and tribulations of life come
    to her as trials triumphantly borne to prove the strength of her
    love, smilingly to win the wager from her lover. But so long as
    she remains obstinately in the dark, lifts not her veil, does not
    recognise her lover, and only knows the world dissociated from
    him, she serves as a handmaid here, where by right she might
    reign as a queen; she sways in doubt, and weeps in sorrow and
    dejection. _She passes from starvation to starvation, from
    trouble to trouble, and from fear to fear._ [Footnote:
    Daurbhikshat yati daurbhiksham klecat klecam bhayat bhayam.]

    I can never forget that scrap of a song I once heard in the early
    dawn in the midst of the din of the crowd that had collected for
    a festival the night before: "Ferryman, take me across to the
    other shore!"

    In the bustle of all our work there comes out this cry, "Take me
    across." The carter in India sings while driving his cart, "Take
    me across." The itinerant grocer deals out his goods to his
    customers and sings, "Take me across".

    What is the meaning of this cry? We feel we have not reached our
    goal; and we know with all our striving and toiling we do not
    come to the end, we do not attain our object. Like a child
    dissatisfied with its dolls, our heart cries, "Not this, not
    this." But what is that other? Where is the further shore?

    Is it something else than what we have? Is it somewhere else
    than where we are? Is it to take rest from all our works, to be
    relieved from all the responsibilities of life?

    No, in the very heart of our activities we are seeking for our
    end. We are crying for the across, even where we stand. So,
    while our lips utter their prayer to be carried away, our busy
    hands are never idle.

    In truth, thou ocean of joy, this shore and the other shore are
    one and the same in thee. When I call this my own, the other
    lies estranged; and missing the sense of that completeness which
    is in me, my heart incessantly cries out for the other. All my
    this, and that other, are waiting to be completely reconciled in
    thy love.

    This "I" of mine toils hard, day and night, for a home which it
    knows as its own. Alas, there will be no end of its sufferings
    so long as it is not able to call this home thine. Till then it
    will struggle on, and its heart will ever cry, "Ferryman, lead me
    across." When this home of mine is made thine, that very moment
    is it taken across, even while its old walls enclose it. This
    "I" is restless. It is working for a gain which can never be
    assimilated with its spirit, which it never can hold and retain.
    In its efforts to clasp in its own arms that which is for all, it
    hurts others and is hurt in its turn, and cries, "Lead me across".
    But as soon as it is able to say, "All my work is thine," everything
    remains the same, only it is taken across.

    Where can I meet thee unless in this mine home made thine? Where
    can I join thee unless in this my work transformed into thy work?
    If I leave my home I shall not reach thy home; if I cease my work
    I can never join thee in thy work. For thou dwellest in me and I
    in thee. Thou without me or I without thee are nothing.

    Therefore, in the midst of our home and our work, the prayer
    rises, "Lead me across!" For here rolls the sea, and even here
    lies the other shore waiting to be reached--yes, here is this
    everlasting present, not distant, not anywhere else.
    Chapter 9
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Rabindranath Tagore essay and need some advice, post your Rabindranath Tagore essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?