The present work is the development of a lecture on the "Problems of Life and Death and Moksha" delivered by the Author before a distinguished assembly at Benares, on Sunday, April 12, 1914.
In the original the whole problem was given in a nut-shell in the form of a continuous discourse.
A gentleman desired to bring it out in the form of a pamphlet; but a pamphlet having been found too small for the purpose; the project was abandoned.
A perusal of the manuscript and the ready and sure way in which doubts relating to questions dealt with in it were solved by the Author, revealed a world of truth to me to the immense benefit of my spiritual life, and encouraged me to put the whole in print in the hands of the public with the hope that they will derive equal benefit.
But to give a complete system of thought, necessitated a considerable development of the original, which, however, was made in the Author's own version, and a list of contents added later on to give a somewhat comprehensive and bird's eye view of the immense field of thought traversed in the book.
This note may fitly conclude with just a word about the great man whose thoughts are embodied in the book. He has been an ascetic and a seeker after divine truths and peace from the very early years of his life. He has read much, thought much, and travelled much; and the result of his manifold experiences has been to carry him up to a serene height of contemplation and truth rarely granted to poor mortals on this earth. He is now to be seen at Shivalaya-Ghat at Benares in the enjoyment of that divine bliss which his earnest, eager and zealous pursuit of Ideal has rightly earned for him.
This evening I shall speak to you on problems of Life and Death and Moksha. So far as my poor knowledge of English ranges, I shall try to explain to you the different ideas and theories of the different philosophies of different religions, which convinced my mind and gladdened my heart. I shall simply explain to you those fundamenral ideas and doctrines that I have realised practically. From my own personal and practical experience I may say that in order to compass the direction of our lives and to dispel the doubts of our mind, the studying of different philosophies is as essential as good food for the belly. When I read the philosophies, I do not try at all to command the style of language in which they are written; I simply try earnestly to realise the truths and fundamental ideas contained in them. So I do not hope that I shall be able to entertain you with the style of language or eloquence in which I am going to express my ideas, views and thoughts. I humbly request you to overlook the style of language but to reflect on the truths I shall express to you this evening.
Before I go on with these philosophical discussions, I should say something about the different nature of the different intellects of people. There are generally two classes of men—one of superior intellect and the other of inferior intellect. The one is called superior man and the other inferior. The one belongs to higher stage and the other to lower stage of the human evolution. The one is naturally inclined to find out the higher truths of the religion he follows, and the other is naturally disposed to observe the customs, rites and ceremonies of the religion he follows. The brains of superior men are capable of grasping the higher truths of the philosophy of their religion and the brains of the inferior men being incapable of grasping the higher truths of their religion are simply fit for being engaged in observing and performing the customs, rites and ceremonies of their religion. I should request the inferior men to strive for getting promotion to the higher stage of their religious evolution. How is it possible? What is the way of getting promotion? From my own experience, I should say that inferior men should constantly come in contact with superior men. The natural magnetism of the superior men will help the inferior men to grow a strong will in their minds, and that strong will, will help them to develop the power of brain with which the inferior men will, by and by, be able to realise the higher truths of their religion. Every religion is based upon its philosophy which is the trunk of the tree of religion; the customs, rites and ceremonies are the twigs of the tree of religion. So every intellectual man should aim at the trunk and not at the twigs alone. I should say here that the more an inferior man will try to look at the trunk of that tree, instead of at the twigs, the more his brain power will develop; and the more he will continue aiming at the twigs of that tree, the more his brain power will diminish.
As regards the problems of Life and Death, I shall draw your attention to the peculiarities of ideas and views I have found in the Taoesric philosophies of China. As regards the problems of Moksha, I shall bring to your notice the ideas and views of the Buddhistic philosophies. You may ask why I am going so far to the far east to recruit my materials to solve my problems, instead of trying to find them out in our vast stock of philosophies. I should reply, because the whole Taoesric philosophy, from beginning to end, dealt with the problems of Life and Death in a very remarkable way and the Buddhistic philosophy dealt with the problems of Moksha most satisfactorily and elaborately. According to my poor estimation I may say that the Buddhistic idea about Moksha is the highest one in the philosophical world; the Buddhistic philosophers attained the top-most height of knowledge and they reached the highest point of enlightenment beyond which no other philosopher could ever reach.
Again, before I am going to solve my two problems, I should say that there are three most important questions which constantly arise in the minds of the people of superior intellect.
The questions are,-
(1) About the Cause of the Universe.
(2) About the Existence of God.
(3) About the Existence of Man after Death.
I shall first discuss these three questions, one by one, with the help of the different philosophies of the different religions I have read.
The Cause of the Universe
The first question is about the Cause of the Universe. How does the universe come into existence? Strange enough, all the philosophies of all religions proclaim that this universe comes into existence from Absolute Nothingness. It is strange because Logic says that something cannot come out of nothing. So all those spiritual philosophies, in tracing out the original cause of the universe, try to prove illogically that the universe comes into existence from Absolute Nothingness. How it is possible, I am going to prove with the help of the Taoestic philosophy as well as the Hindu philosophy. The Taoesric philosophy declares the existence of the same Primordial cause from which this universe comes into existence, as the Hindu philosophy does. You know that every philosophy of every religion admits that there is one Primordial cause from which this universe comes into existence. The same very Primordial cause is called Tao, the great way, by the Taoestic philosophy of China and Nirguna Brahma by the Hindu philosophy and Grand Law by the Buddhistic philosophy, Unwritten Law by the Socratic philosophy of Greece and Grand Truth by the Zoroastrian philosophy of Iran, in Persia. Now Tao means the great way. The Taoestic philosophy says that Tao has no form, no name, no attributes, no magnitude, no desire, no will, etc. In the same way, the Hindu philosophy says that Brahma is Nirguna (without attributes), Nirnama (nameless); Nirupa (formless), Nirbikdra (without desire), Nirbikalpa (without any purpose), and Abastu (not a thing i.e. no-thing or nothing). So you see that it is also Absolute Nothingness. The Taoestic philosopher, Mahatma Kwangsy says that the state of being formless, nameless, etc. must be the Absolute Nothingness, because where there is nothing visible, perceptible and conceivable, it must be the Absolute Nothingness. So Nirguna Brahma of the Hindus is also Absolute Nothingness. Where there is no idea of anything which we call a thing, there prevails Absolute Nothingness only.
A man of ordinary brain cannot conceive such a high idea that this grand universe has really come into existence from Absolute Nothingness. The fundamental doctrine of the various philosophies of the world is that the creator and the creation cannot be of the same characteristics. So you see, gentlemen, when this universe is a thing, its creator must be ncessarily nothing (no-thing). The philosophical fundamental truth is this, that anything organised or brought into being or born requires a creator which is unborn and uncreated and it is called the Uncaused Cause by the Taoestic philosophers. The universe has a Primitive Cause which is called the Uncaused Cause, to maintain its existence, but that cause does not require any other cause to maintain its existence; it is self- existent because it is Absolute Nothingness. A thing cannot be self-existent, hence what is nothing must be self-existent. A thing requires a cause to create itself; so the cause, the creator of that thing, which is not of the same characteristics with the thing, does not require any other cause to create itself. So it is clearly shown and proved that when the creation and the creator are of contrary characteristics, if the creation-the universe, is a thing, then its creator must be nothing and its state is Absolute Nothingness. So the universe comes from Absolute Nothingness. Absolute Nothingness is Grand Vacuity. A thing is space-bound and time-tied, hence the creator is independent of time and space. So the universe comes into existence from Grand Vacuity, which is independent of time and space just as our Nirguna Brahma is (Desha-Kala-biborjita, Niralamba Gaganasadrisah) like the grand firmament which does not require any space or shelter to hold its existence in.
According to our Hindu theory of creation, all the gros elements as earth, water, fire and air are produced from that subtle element, sky, which is also called by the Europeans, ether. So you see, that the gross elements are coming from the subtle one. The subtle produces the gross, but the gross does not produce the subtle. Ether is the subtlest of elements and whence does it come? With much difficulty we may perceive its existence as a thing, but beyond that, human perception cannot go. A man cannot perceive any other existence as a thing from which ether comes. This real existence cannot be imagined as a thing; it is an Absolute Nothingness. It exists, no doubt, but not like a thing, but it exists like intellection. Intellection exists, but not like a thing. Do not think that what is not a thing cannot exist. The real existence is Absolute Nothingness.
Existence of God
Now comes the second question about the Existence of God. Every philosophy of every religion admits the existence of one Primitive Essence and that Essence is our Nirguna Brahma. You see, gentlemen, that the first and the second questions are analogous. The Cause of the universe and the existence of God who is nothing but that Primitive Essence, are one and the same. But difficulty arises in connection with the two different words Primitive Essence and God, because the very word God denotes and gives the idea of a personal embodiment; men of inferior intellect become puzzled in understanding how God can be an Essence only and not a personal embodiment. So discussions and disputes always arise amongst them whether God is really with or without form.
Every philosophy of every religion denies altogether the existence of such a God as denotes a personal embodiment. Both the Buddhistic philosophy and the Hindu philosophy (Upanishada) unanimously give verdict that there is no personal God as creator of this universe.
Now, the under-mentioned arguments are given in the atheistic philosophy against the existence of a personal God. If God is a personal one, He must have eyes and ears and must be all-powerful and merciful, He must be in a position to inflict punishment and award prize to people. Now the atheistic philosophy says it cannot be. If God has ears and eyes, why does He not listen to men's cry? Either He has no ears and eyes to hear and see men's agony; or He has got ears and eyes but has not he power to remove the agony of men; or if he has got power to remove the agony of men, He is cruel, because He easily overlooks the pain and agony men are suffering from; or if he is not cruel, He is indifferent to our calamities. So you see that an indifferent God should not be worshipped and the existence of such a God is quite futile; again if you say that He has got eyes and ears, power and mercy, but can do nothing against our law of Karma (i.e. He inflicts punishment and awards reward to us according to our own Karma), then the law of Karma predominates over God, and the law of Karma should be worshipped instead of God. So this remarkable theory of the Law of Karma is preached by Lord Buddha. If you say that the law of Karma works under God, the Law- giver, that too cannot be, because we see, in this world, king's law does not only inflict punishment to a wrong doer but tries its best to dissuade men from committing wrong when king's law can previously come to know that they will do wrong; but God being (Trikalajnah), the knower of the past, the present and the future, does not prevent men previously from doing wrong. If He has eyes to see the future why does He not prevent men from doing wrong when they go forward to do it? If He is the knower of the future, He being the creator of men must have known that men, so ill-made, must commit sin; so it is evident that He has created men knowing that men would commit sin, and He is simply ready to inflict punishment upon them but not willing or able to dissuade them from committing sin when they go forward to do it. The existence of such a God cannot be admitted by men of superior intellect. God cannot be admitted by men of superior intellect. God cannot be personal, He is impersonal, Primitive Essence and exists in the heart of every living creature and in every atom of the universe, and that impersonal, God, Primitive Essence, Nirguna Brahma, pervades all through the universe and this universe is the gross manifestation of His subtlest existence. This Primitive Essence or impersonal God does not inflict punishment or award prize to anybody else than to Himself. So the creatures of this universe cannot find fault with him. Every creature is His own embodiment and man, through ignorance, considers himself to be a separate embodiment from Him. Man can really perceive through discrimination and culture that there exists no "I" practically. His "I" is only illusive. This universe is His own manifestation (exhibition). He manifests Himself to some people in such a way that some, through ignorance, consider it to be His grace and to other people it appears to be His anger. A man without merit and beauty cannot complain why they are denied to him while another man is endowed with them. It is because God Himself is manifested to him in that way, while to others in another way. He Himself is denied these things i.e. merit and beauty, by Himself when manifested to some men, while He Himself is endowed with these things by Himself when manifested to some other men. A thorny tree cannot complain why it is deprived of the sweet fruits and sweet-scented flowers in the same way.
You may ask here, gentlemen, whence does the above- mentioned "ignorance" come. Ignorance means want of knowledge it is a negative idea. It has no real existence at all. It is a non-existent idea only or an idea of non-existence. It does not exist at all. Where knowledge does not exist, the idea of its (of ignorance) existence is assumed there in order to be imbued with the negative idea of its (of knowledge) existence. When a man is imbued with the positive idea of anything, he is naturally inclined to seek for its negative side; so the people imagine its existence only, but it does not exist at all. A man should try to trace out the cause of something which does really exist. But the cause of what does not really exist at all, should not be sought for. Knowledge is the collection of experiences gathered from books and philosophies and objects.
Where there is no such collection of experiences, ignorance seems to be prevalent there. It is like darkness which has no real existence at all. It is merely a state of being without light.
It is admitted by our Hindu Rhishis, while they discussed the process of creation that only darkness had prevailed before the creation of the sun, the moon, the stars and all other luminous bodies. The Rhishis, in trying to trace out the origin of creation, did not try to trace out the origin of darkness, because darkness has no positive existence at all. An idea of its (of light) negative existence is assumed only.
Now, people are very fond of loving themselves and worshipping themselves also, because to love and to worship are one and mean the same thing. An invisible thing cannot be loved or worshipped; or men of inferior intellect cannot be imbued with the idea of contemplating on a thing which has no shape. So for devotional purposes, impersonal God, that Primitive Essence, the Nirguna Brahm a, the formless, the nameless, has been assumed by men of inferior intellect as a personal God, i.e. God with ears, eyes, etc. That is, a man of ordinary brain is naturally disposed to love and worship a figure after his (man's) own image; but men of superior intellect having realised the highest truth declare that there exists and pervades all through the universe, one supreme, impersonal God, Primitive Essence, Nirguna Brahma without a second. No such personal God is required for them to be assumed. The atheistic philosopher does not say that there is no God; but he says, "I do not know what you call God".
I have read different philosophies of different religions and I have found everywhere, that so far as the fundamental truths and doctrines are concerned, every philosophy is mutually reconcilable with one another. The Primitive Essence which our Hindu Upanishadas declare to be the real cause of the universe is declared by the Chinese, the Greek, the Buddhistic and all other philosophers to be the same. None of these philosophers declare the existence of a personal God. The assumption of the existence of a personal God was introduced later on in order to give an idea of a God to those whose brains are incapable of grasping the higher truths of religion regarding the impersonal God or the Primitive Cause. Even Anandam, bliss, of (Sachchidananda Brahma) was denied by Yogabashista, the highest philosophy of the Hindus. On being asked by Rama, Bashista, the greatest philosopher in the world, could not assert Brahma's state of being Sachchidananda. Sat means permanency and Chit means consciousness. Both are asserted by every philosophy of every religion, but Anandam was not asserted by any philosophy. It was later on assumed for the devotional purposes. Only the lower philosophies of the Hindus assume that Brahma is Ananda. Rama argued with Bashista, if Brahma is Ananda, full of bliss, and when the same Brahma pervades all through the universe, and through every atom of the universe, then this world should have been full of bliss, instead of misery; how and whence did come this misery, with which the whole world is afflicted? Bashista failed to prove that there is bliss in Brahma. He kept silence and could not answer. It is truly said in the sacred books of the Hindus, for the convenience of devotees, imagination of form of the formless Brahma (impersonal God) was made; that Rupa, form, is a mere Kalpanad, imagination and name is mere assumption.
Existence of Man after Death
Now comes the third question about Man's Existence after Death The most important problem is here to be solved, as regards the existence of a man after death, in any shape, with or without form. The clearest question is this,-Whether there will remain after my death anything which can be called "I" or "Mine"? In search after the theories that tried to find out reasonable arguments as to man's existence after death, I strove much; but nowhere I found much reasonable arguments about it. Having gone through so many philosophies, I found in the Socratic philosophy of Greece somewhat satisfactory and reasonable arguments which convinced my mind and gladdened my heart to some extent. In the Hindu philosophies I found not a single argument about the existence of a man after death. The Hindu philosophies simply tried to convince men of the fact through blind faith, you must admit, that there is a stage after death. To satisfy your curiosity, gentlemen, I put before you the argument of Socrates, the wisest man of the world, as the Greeks called him to be. He argues in this way;- every thing has a pair of opposites; night is opposite to day, light to darkness, life to death and so on; and every opposite comes in rotation. When day is gone, night must follow; when light is gone, darkness must prevail. Again when night is over, day must necessarily come; and when darkness is gone, light must follow, So is life and death; when life is gone, death must come; again by turn life must come after death. When all the opposite things of this universe or nature rotate, life and death cannot be excepted as a rule. So you see, gentlemen, that life will exist after death. But this theory is contradicted by the Taoestic philosophers of China. Their argument is that life is nothing but inhaling and exhaling of breath, and continuation of breath is life and its cessation is death.
Socrates spoke about the soul only and not about life. He proved the immortality of the soul, of course of the individual soul. He did not speak about the Universal Soul, nor about salvation, i.e. amalgamatin of the individual soul with the Universal Soul.
Creation and Production
Gentlemen, the individual soul is a particle of that Primitive Cause that maintains the universe. I have said before that Creator and the creation cannot be of the same characteristics, that a thing cannot create another thing like itself. A thing can be produced from another thing but it cannot be created by that thing. To create and to produce are two different things. A son is produced of a father but not created by him. A plant is grown out of a tree but not created by it. To produce or to grow means to develop a certain thing from any other thing as a root but to create means to bring anything into existence from nothing (no-thing, not a thing) as a root. So you see that this universe being a creation cannot be a production of anything. So this universe must have come into existence form nothing. So Absolute Nothingness is the real cause of this universe. Absolute Nothingness is Grand Vacuity. So this universe comes from Grand Vacuity. A thing cannot create another thing, it can only produce or grow a certain thing. The Creator of a thing must be nothing. The thing itself being created cannot create another thing. The requires a Creator which is uncreated. Some people, if gathered together, can build a big dread-nought; but if the whole population of the world gather together, they cannot create a small ant, because an ant has got within itself consciousness which a man also possesses. So you see that man and the ant being of the same characteristics cannot be created by each other. A man himself being created cannot create an ant. Anything being itself created, cannot create another thing. So this creation is created by One Who is uncreated. Man has got art or skill of combining different materials into certain shapes; but he is not empowered with the skill or art of creating anything or any material. So you see that the creative power does not lie with the father or the tree; it lies imperceptibly, invisibly, inconceivably everywhere, all through the universe. Again, because the Creator and the creation are of contrary characteristics, and you see, gentlemen, that the universe is visible, changeable, perishable, dissoluble, created and organised, so its Creator, that Creative Power, that Primitive Cause, is invisible, unchangeable, imperishable, indissoluble, uncreated and inorganised. So you see, when the individual soul is a particle of this Primitive Cause, it also cannot be visible, changeable and so on. A particle cannot be of different characteristics from its whole. So it is proved that our soul will not perish with the body and it will exist after death. But according to the version of the Taoestic philosophers of China, I may say that although our soul will exist after death, there will remain nothing as "I" which will identify that existence as "my own". But I may say here that although the existence after death will not be identified with my present existence, or recognised by myself as "my own' yet the theory does not go against the law of Karma. Although my present physical existence will be transformed into another, yet my sufferings and enjoyments will accompany my future existence. Whether I should remember of forget my former existence. I shall be subjected to sufferings and enjoyments in the future existence, according to my own Karma, done in the present existence.
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