(Excerpted from a talk delivered in San Francisco, March 1900. The format of this article has been slightly altered for convenience of reading — Ed.)
We find that man, as it were, is always surrounded by something greater than himself, and he is trying to grasp the meaning of this. Man will ever seek the highest ideal. He knows that it exists and that religion is the search after the highest ideal. At first all his searches were in the external plane — placed in heaven, in different places — according to his grasp of the total nature of man.
Then man began to look at himself a little closer and began to find out that the real “me” was not the “me” that he stands for ordinarily. As he appears to the senses is not the same as he really is. He began to search inside of himself, and found out that . . . the same ideal he had placed outside of himself is all the time within; what he was worshipping outside was his own real inner nature. The difference between dualism and monism is that when the ideal is put outside of oneself, it is dualism. When God is sought within, it is monism.
Many want pleasure as the goal. For that pleasure they seek only the senses. On the higher planes much pleasure is to be sought. Then on spiritual planes. Then in himself — God within him. The man whose pleasure is outside of himself becomes unhappy when that outside thing goes. You cannot depend for this pleasure upon anything in this universe. If all my pleasures are in myself, I must have pleasure there all the time because I can never lose my Self. . . . Mother, father, child, wife, body, wealth — everything I can lose except my Self, my bliss in the Self. All desire is contained in the Self. This is individuality which never changes, and this is perfect.
Who is born and who dies? You are having fun, playing with worlds and all that. You keep this body as long as you like. If you do not like it, do not have it. The Infinite is the real; the finite is the play. You are the infinite body and the finite body in one. Know it! But knowledge will not make any difference; the play will go on. . . . Two words — soul and body — have been joined. Partial knowledge is the cause. Know that you are always free. The fire of knowledge burns down all the impurities and limitations. I am that Infinite. . . .
God & Me
What becomes of God and worship and all that? They have their place. I have divided myself into God and me; I become the worshipped and I worship myself. Why not? God is I. Why not worship my Self? The universal God — He is also my Self. It is all fun. There is no other purpose.
What is the end and aim of life? None, because I know that I am the Infinite. If you are beggars, you can have aims. I have no aims, no want, no purpose. I come to your country, and lecture — just for fun. No other meaning. What meaning can be there? Only slaves do actions for somebody else. You do actions for nobody else. When it suits you, you worship. You can join the Christians, the Mohammedans, the Chinese, the Japanese. You can worship all the gods that ever were and are ever going to be. . . .
I am in the sun, the moon, and the stars. I am with God and I am in all the gods. I worship my Self.
There is another side to it. I have kept it in reserve. I am the man that is going to be hanged. I am all the wicked. I am getting punished in hells. That also is fun. This is the goal of philosophy — to know that I am the Infinite. Aims, motives, purposes, and duties live in the background.
I am One
I am One, alone, through all eternity. Whom shall I fear? It is all my Self. This is continuously to be meditated upon. Through that comes realisation. It is through realisation that you become a blessing to others.
“Thy face shines like that of one who has known God.” (Chhândogya Upanishad. IV. ix. 2.) That is the goal. This is not to be preached as I am doing.
“Under a tree I saw a teacher, a boy of sixteen; the disciple was an old man of eighty. The teacher was teaching in silence, and the doubts of the disciple vanished.” (Dakshinâmurtistotram, 12.)
And who speaks? Who lights a candle to see the sun? When the truth dawns, no witness is necessary. You know it. That is what you are going to do: realise it. First think of it. Reason it out. Satisfy your curiosity. Then think of nothing else. I wish we never read anything. Lord help us all! Just see what a learned man becomes.
“This is said, and that is said. . . .”
“What do you say, my friend?”
“I say nothing.” He quotes everybody else’s thought; but he thinks nothing. If this is education, what is lunacy? Look at all the men who wrote! These modern writers, not two sentences their own! All quotations.
There is not much value in books, and in second hand religion there is no value whatsoever. It is like eating. Your religion would not satisfy me. Jesus saw God and Buddha saw God. If you have not seen God, you are no better than the atheist. Only he is quiet, and you talk much and disturb the world with your talk. Books and bibles and scriptures are of no use. I met an old man when I was a boy; he did not study any scripture, but he transmitted the truth of God by a touch.
Silence ye teachers of the world. Silence ye books. Lord, Thou alone speak..
If there is this truth, if there is God, it must be within us. I must be able to say, “I have seen Him with my eyes,” otherwise I have no religion. Beliefs, doctrines, sermons do not make religion. It is realisation, perception of God which alone is religion. What is the glory of all these men whom the world worships? God was no more a doctrine for them. Did they believe because their grandfather believed it? No. It was the realisation of the Infinite, higher than their own bodies, minds, and everything. This world is real inasmuch as it contains a little bit of the reflection of that God. We love the good man because in his face shines the reflection a little more. We must catch it ourselves. There is no other way.
That is the goal. Struggle for it! Have your own Bible. Have your own Christ. Otherwise you are not religious. Do not talk religion. Men talk and talk. “Some of them, steeped in darkness, in the pride of their hearts think that they have the light. And not only that, they even offer to take others upon their shoulders, and both fall into the pit.” (Katha Upanishad, I. ii. 5.) . . .
No church ever saved by itself. It is good to be born in a temple, but woe unto the person who dies in a temple or church. Out of it! It was a good beginning, but leave it! It was the childhood place . . . but let it be! . . . Go to God directly. No theories, no doctrines. Then alone will all doubts vanish. Then alone will all crookedness be made straight.
In the midst of the manifold, he who sees that One; in the midst of this infinite death, he who sees that one life; in the midst of the manifold, he who sees that which never changes in his own soul — unto him belongs eternal peace.