Some of the Obstacles in the Way of Realization- Informal talks – Golden Gate hall, San Francisco, January 18, 1903
Does the Self, the doer of actions, remain unaffected? Is the Self cognizant in any actions of persons?
No. The true Self, the real Atman, is neither the doer nor the enjoyer according to Vedanta. If it be the doer or enjoyer, then it could not remain unaffected. The doer and agent in you is the apparent self and not the Real Self, and this apparent self again derives all its energy, all its life, from the Real self.
This is a very knotty question, and if we begin to enter into the details of the question, it would take about three hours, so Rama will simply give an illustration and then stop.
Suppose in an illusion you see a snake in a corner. You seem to see a snake, but when you go to touch the snake, it is no more a snake but simply a rope; thus the snake is located in the rope, as it were, but in reality it is not. Apparently the rope was the supporter, the upholder of the snake, but in reality the rope did never support nor uphold the snake, the rope gave no quarters to the snake.
Thus from the stand-point of illusion, it is the rope, and the rope alone which is the supporter and upholder of the snake, but from the stand-point of reality, the rope was never a snake but always a rope and the snake did not exist. Similarly, from the stand-point of the Intellect and the reasoning self, which is in illusion yet, it is the true self, the Atman, God, which supports and upholds all your actions, all your life, all your energies and strength. From the stand-point of an ordinary thinker, from the stand-point of your conception or worldly illusion, it is the Atman only that supports and upholds everything, but from the standpoint of reality, and Truth itself, the Atman or the real self was never the supporter, the upholder, or the bearer of any acts, anybody, or anything. Suffice it to say that there are two different stand-points. From one stand-point the true Atman does everything, and from the other stand-point the Atman is entirely free and never does anything.
Now we may take up some of the obstacles in the way of Realization. We have been discussing this subject for some days, and today Rama will lay before you one of the most dangerous obstacles in the way of Self-Realization. It is criticism; criticism from within and criticism from without.
We will take up criticism from without. Somehow or other most people have an intense habit of criticizing others, and so long as you have this habit of judging others or finding fault with others, or. Looking on the dark side of others, you will find it very difficult to realize God.
Here is a child. It has no thief in him, and if in the presence of the child a thief enters, he can carry everything away, for the child has no thief in him, and for the child there is no thief outside; and so when you try to detect the thief outside, you put the thief within you.
When you try to discover faults or blemishes in others, you are inviting blame or faults to yourselves. When you fire a gun you shoot another body, but the gun will recoil and you will also get a shock, the gun will react against you. When you blame or find fault with others, you will also get some of the fault yourself, for this is the law. Not to find fault with others is not so much to spare others as to spare yourselves. You must rise above all this blaming, criticizing, fault-finding spirit.
It is very much easier to discover the mote in your neighbour’s eve than to detect the beam in your own.
Remember it always that when sending out thoughts of jealousy and envy, of criticism, of faultfinding, or thoughts smacking of jealousy and hatred, you are courting the very same thoughts yourself. Whenever you are discovering the mote in your brother’s eye, you are putting the beam in your own.
In order to have mercy on yourself you must give up this fault-finding and this denouncing of others. Remember that for that person such and such an act may be good and at the same time that same act may be very injurious to you. You may give up the act which you blame in him but you need not blame him for that act.
Do you know why the habit of fault-finding and criticism is universal? There is some good foundation for it.
Why do people criticize others and who are they who criticize the most? Weak persons, ignorant people i re the ones who criticize most; always. The reason of this is that through the spirit of criticism they want to protect themselves. It is the principle of self-defence and self-preservation, appearing in the form of criticizing others.
One man sees another party doing something which if done by himself would have harmed him; so he begins to hate that act; he must necessarily hate that act, for if he does not he cannot refrain from doing that same act, he cannot remain unpolluted or unscourged by that act. There was a possibility of contagion by that act, so the person liable to catch contagion from his neighbour begins to criticize others, and by that criticism he lies in safety, he thinks that so long as he criticizes his brother he will keep himself free; but then this shows only the bright side of criticism, and shows that criticism is indispensably necessary at certain stages of our spiritual progress.
The dark side of this spiritual progress is that those weak persons make a mistake of beginning to hate and despise the person on account of the vicious acts of that person. These mistakes you might blame and criticize, these deeds or sayings you might blame or criticize, that vicious attitude of mind of your neighbour you might criticize, but you have no right to begin to hate or despise the person. There is an old saying “Hate sin but not the sinner. “
Now, is it practical to hate the sin and love the sinner; is it practical? Yes, it is very practical. It may not be for the people who have not solved the problem in that way. A little knowledge is all that is wanted.
Just mark, the act you hate in another, the same act which if done by you would have marred your course and retarded your progress, may be right when done by another. You may say sin is sin always. Where comes the difference?
If you begin to call particular acts sinful and other particular acts virtuous, then you make a mistake. No act is sinful or virtuous by itself, just as the cipher or zero by itself has no value, but place the cipher to the right hand side of a decimal point and it decreases the value of the expression; place the cipher to the left hand side of a decimal point and it increases the value of the expression, but by itself the zero or cipher has no value. Similarly, no act by itself is virtuous or vicious.
The difficulty in hating sin and loving the sinner lies in your misunderstanding the nature of sin. Just as people begin to personify God when they begin to make much of the body, and of their property; just as people begin to have fetishes and personifications, this same ignorant tendency of the people leads them to fetishing and objectifying and magnifying particular acts, and they begin to stamp certain acts as heinous and other acts as virtuous. Remember, religion is a thing of the heart and virtue is a thing of the heart, so is sin. Sin and virtue have to do altogether with your position and frame of mind.
It is not the body but the soul that is to be reformed; it is the mind that is to be regenerated. You have to be born of the spirit. Just as u Dust thou art, and to dust thou must return “was not spoken of the soul, similarly, “You have to lie born again of the spirit, you have to be regenerated “is not to be spoken of the body.
If, for example, a baby in your house drinks milk from its mother’s breast, would it at this your advanced age be right and good for you to drink of that mother’s breast? No, a grown up, stalwart man should not live in the house on the mother’s milk; he cannot live on that, but the child does that. There you see it is right for the child to live on that milk, but not for you. For you it would be a sin to do that. At a mature age to live upon the milk of the mother is a sin, but for the child it is no sin; the child does that which is not right for you to do, but does that make you hate the child? It is a sin if you do this and consequently you hate the sin but not the sinner.
For the child it is not a sin, for you it is a sin, and then you hate what is a sin to you and love the child. That particular act is a sin from your standpoint but not from the stand-point of the child. So remember always with all sins in the world the same is the case. Regard all those deeds and acts which if performed by you would be harmful or sinful as worst sins, despise and loathe such acts of the world but hate not and despise not the doers of those acts or deeds. You have no right to misjudge them.
There was a great Persian author, Sadi, who was famous and whose works have been translated by Emerson in English. He writes that when a boy, he was going to Mecca, the holy land of Mohammad. It was the custom that all the people in that company were expected to get up at dead of night and pray. One night Sadi and his father got up and prayed but some of the company did not. They were sleeping, and Sadi pointed to them and said complainingly to his father, “See, how worthless and lazy they are, none of them woke up and prayed;”and the father replied sternly to the boy, “O Sadi, O dear boy, it were better for you to be asleep like them and offer no prayer than to be up and offer prayer and find fault with them and criticize them; this is a worse sin than not to say prayers and not to worship God.”
If you have done something very charitable and very great, and your fellows have not, if this great deed puffs you up and you find fault with and criticize your neighbours, have you gained in virtue, are you nearer to God? No, no, you have simply exchanged one vice for another kind of vice, your evil deeds and acts given up were like so many copper cent pieces which you exchanged for silver dollars, the silver dollar is criticism, this fault-finding spirit. There you are the fc.ime, you have one vice left. Originally you had perhaps one hundred vices, but now you have but one vice, but that one vice is equivalent to the other hundred, so it does not bring you any nearer to the true Renunciation.
If the world has not regarded this criticizing and this censuring spirit as n heinous sin, then the world is to blame; but experience proves that the man who does something wrong but who has a loving heart, the man whose deeds are not pious in the eyes of the world but whose soul is tender, whose mind is gentle, whose spirit is softened, and near to God, that man who is mild, that man is nearer the kingdom of Heaven than other philosophers.
In the Bible the Pharisees were very pious, their acts and deeds were very pious, but those Philistines lacked that tender, kind, and loving spirit; these people had this censuring, faultfinding spirit in them, which kept them farther away from Christ than Mary Magdalene, the woman who had to be stoned, a woman whose character was not the purest, a woman who was not immaculate. This Mary Magdalene had not in her, this fault-finding, this censuring, this blaming spirit, she had that spirit of love in her and she was nearer to Truth, she was nearer to the Kingdom of Heaven than the Pharisees.
In a poem written by Lee Hunt whose substance is as follows, this idea is brought out so clearly.
There was a certain Sheik. He saw in one of his visions an angel writing the names of people in a book. The Sheik asked, “What are you doing, Sir? “The angel replied, “I am writing out the names of those who are the nearest and dearest and greatest worshippers of God. “And then Sheik put down his head and was dejected and he said, “I wish I had been a worshipper of God as others have; I never pray, I never fast, I never attend church, I shall be debarred. I shall not be able to enter the kingdom of Heaven. The angel said “Can’t help.
“Then Sheik put another question to the angel and said, “Will you ever put down a list of those who love man and the whole world and not God? “The Sheik said, “Put down my name as a worshipper of man.”The angel disappeared. The Sheik had a second vision and in the second vision the angel reappeared with the same book, and when he was turning over the leaves of the book and had revised it all, the Sheik inquired what he was doing and the angel Slid he had revised it, he had written down the worshippers of God in order of merit, and the Sheik asked if the angel would allow him to look at the register, and lo! To his great surprise, the Sheik, who had given his name as a worshipper of man, found his name at the top of the list of worshippers or devotees of God.
Is not this strange? It is a fact.
If you worship man, or in other words, if you look upon man not as man but as the Divinity, if you approach Everything as God, as the Divinity, and then worship man, then you worship God.
This criticizing, censuring, blaming, fault-finding with men is not worshipping God, this giving away of presents is not worshipping God. In the Bible we are told that people told r Jesus about the mother and father who were waiting outside for him, Christ pointed out to the multitude and said, “Behold my mother and my father, look upon the faces of them as upon your own.”
You see your own faults and hate not yourself, and if you find faults in your friend, try and keep yourself away from those faults, but hate not. They are God, recognise the Godhead in them.
Here is a man who is in the service of the State, a man who does some official duties of the State. He conceives the idea of leaving all his state matters and goes to the President and devotes all his time to him and forgets his own duties. Will such a man be kept in office? No, never, he will be turned out. , To worship the President you must take care of your own duties, you must worship, as it were, those acts and deeds which are yours as a servant of the State. Similarly, if you make it a point to profess Religion in your Church and in your rosaries, it is like going to the President and beginning to rub his feet, and bowing down before him, but that alone will not do.
To worship God in the best way is to worship the Divinity and God in your friend. When you have reached the point where you begin to feel the Divinity in the friend, where their mistakes and errors do not keep you offended; their errors and mistakes do not blind you to their Divinity; when that Divinity is in no way clouded, then you will be in a position to realize the Divinity within yourself.
Here is the whole difficulty put in a nutshell. Why do we not find Divinity in the foe? It is because we find fault with him. People must cease to find fault, and see Divinity all around. Believe in the Divinity present in everybody, see the Infinity in everybody. Very often we find people like Nero, who are very religious, very moral in their youth, yet turn out to be very wicked. Henry V. of England was very wicked in his boyhood, but he turned out to be very good in his after-life. Thus, do not try to stereotype the character of anybody, for some people who are bad today may turn out to be very good to-morrow. Sir Walter Scott was a dunce when a boy, but he was a grand man in after years. Sir Isaac Newton got punished several times for not solving his sums in Arithmetic, but look what he became in after years. Mary Magdalene was very wicked in her early youth, but later on when she came in contact with Christ, she was a very pious lady. She became a disciple of Christ. The ordinary sinner of today may turn out to be a saint, to be the purest man after a while. Remember that if a man is doing wrong, you have no right to stand against him and hate him. See the Divinity in him, see God in Everything and everywhere. If anybody is thinking evil thoughts of you, if other people find fault with you, are you to retaliate? No, no. Never!
When Socrates was in prison and before he was given hemlock, the disciples gathered around him and wanted him to leave the prison and escape; they wanted to bribe the jailor and send him off. Socrates asked them whether bribery and breaking the laws of the State were lawful? They said, “Never.”Then he asked, “If this be not lawful, why ask me to escape, why ask me to do what is unlawful? “They said, “These people have done wrong, they have not exercised the law in the proper way, and so it will not be wrong to escape,” and he said, “Do you want me to retaliate, to break the law, to do that which is unlawful because others break the law? If I break the law, it can never correct the error, it can never be consistent with the statement made by you before that law breaking is never lawful. Two blacks never make a white. If others criticize and blame, why should we do so; if we do as others do, we simply add to the original wrong and matters are never mended.”
How do criticism and evil thoughts injure you? They injure you only when you receive them; if you do not receive them, they will not injure you. Just as if someone sends you a letter and you receive it, it will be either good or bad in its effect upon you. But if you do not open the letter, if you do not receive it, or if the letter is left in the Post Office, it is sent back to the sender. Similarly, if other people send evil thoughts and you do not receive them, then those evil thoughts are sent back; but by receiving and accepting these thoughts you pervert matters. Receive not their criticism. How? By asserting your Divinity, by keeping in your centre, by living in the Spirit, by realizing the Truth.
The following is a poem which was written when the mind was no mind. The substance of the poem is to feel the presence of God, to bring God close to you, when these walls, these veils, these masks of criticism are no more in your body, are removed in others, and God is felt.
“So close, so close, my darling, close to me.” By darling is meant God, the Infinite.
The same is it that makes the hair grow, the same is it that makes the blood flow in the veins, the same is it that gives you the power to see or to speak. In your speech is God, in your seeing is Divinity, in your act of hearing is Divinity present, and that Real self, that Divinity of which you are so full is this same Divinity appearing in your friend, your brother, your relations, and your enemy. There are no enemies when you feel Divinity, when you shut your eyes to Divinity, then foes come. Feel, feel that bliss which you seek; that Divinity is so close, so near to you.
Rejoice, rejoice! the objects of your desires, consciously or unconsciously, have God for their object. Have not all desires happiness for their object, and is not happiness God? O, realize.
“So close, so close, my darling, close to me! Above, below, behind, before, you be.
Around me, without me, within me, ‘O me’; How deeply, immensely and intensely you be. My baby, my lover.
AH ties broken, all other connections snapped, all ideas of meum and tuum left behind, all worldly connections put up in the background.
Divinity and reality so prominent; the Self realized to such a degree that all selfish ties are snapped; this was the realization. So long as those ties remain most pronounced for you, realization is not there. That is the law. There is wondrous truth in the words of Christ, “Sell all thou hast, give to the poor, and follow me,” but the people are afraid.
O modern civilization, you must recognize and realize the truth in the doings and sayings of Christ. Here is Vedanta telling you in strong language that you cannot simultaneously serve both God and Mammon. The moments of realization are those when all thoughts of worldly relations, worldly connections, worldly ties, worldly property, worldly desires, worldly needs are all melted into God, into Truth.
My baby, lover, father, sister, brother,
My husband, wife, my friend or foe; ray mother:
O sweet my Self, my breath, my day, my night,
My joy, my wrong, my right.
Gay garments of love, thou changest aright.
How charming are the colours at daybreak put on.
O Truth, O Divinity, O God, I have nothing else.
I have no ties and my relation is only with Thee.
I never waver. If I am careless, it is but teasing, teasing my loved one, for I have to tease only Thee.
“O home, sweet home, my bedstead, my support.”Please fill your souls with the idea that the Divinity is your bedstead to lie down upon.
Feel that you lie upon God.
“Hold on just a moment, I see what I bought,
O see the Almighty I am; I forgot.”
The thing purchased or bought, that I am, my self.
That which you purchased is what you have always been.
“The dazzling glory, my chariot of sun. Quintessence of Godhead, restorer of sight.”