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The Infinite in the Finite
Lecture delivered on January 10, 1903, in the
Great Golden Hall, San Francisco, U.S.A.
The Infinite One in the form of ladies and gentlemen,
Before beginning the subject, a few words ought to be spoken on the kind of audience that usually the world furnishes.
People usually do not hear with their own ears, but with the ears of others. They do not see with their own eyes, they see with eyes of their friends. They do not taste with their own taste, they taste with the taste of others. How unreasonable! Men of the world, use your own ears, use your own eyes on every occasion. Use your own understanding on every occasion; your own eyes and own ears are not for nothing; they are for use.
One day Rama was passing through the streets. A gentleman came up and said, "What do you mean by wearing this dress? Why do you wear this? Why do you attract our attention?" Rama always smiles and laughs. If you enjoy the dress of Indian monks, Rama enjoys your enjoyment. If this dress can make you filled with cheerfulness and make you smile, we derive happiness from your smiles. Your smiles are our smiles.
But be reasonable, please. If newspapers write a word in praise or against somebody, all the community begins to feel the same way. They say, the newspapers say that, the newspapers say that. What is at the root of newspapers? Usually boys and women are the reporters of newspapers. All the material comes not from the hands of the learned critics but from the hands of the fourth rate, sometimes tenth rate reporters. If one man, the mayor, begins to praise some body, if one man who is looked upon to be a great man, begins to honour a person, all the people begin to resound and re-echo the voice of that one man. This is not independence. Independence and freedom imply using your own ears on every occasion, using your own eyes on every occasion.
Rama said to the man who asked why he wore this dress, "Brother, brother, let Rama know the reason why this colour should not be worn and some other colour should be worn? Why should Rama wear the black colour, or say, the white colour, instead of this? The reason, pray! Find some fault, what fault do you find?" He could find no fault. He said, "This is just as comfortable as my colour. This cloth protects you from the cold and heat, just as much as mine does. This is just as good as any other colour, and any cloth that you wear must have some colour or the other. If it is black, it has a colour; if it is white, it has a colour; if it is pink, it has a colour; it must be some colour or the other. It cannot escape from being one colour or another."
Now think what fault you have got to find with this colour. He could find no fault. Then Rama asked him to be kind to himself, to be kind to his own eyes, to be kind to his own ears; to use his own eyes, to use his own ears, and then judge; judge not through the opinions of others. Be not hypnotized through the opinions of others, and the more a man stands above this weakness of being hypnotized by others, the more free he is.
Rama wishes you to attend to these lectures through your own ears and through your own intellects. Form your own judgments. If you attend to these lectures properly, Rama promises that you will reap the greatest benefit. You will place yourself above all anxiety and fear, above all troubles.
You know people say, it is riches that they want. But sir, what do you want riches for? You want riches for happiness and not for anything else, and riches do not bring happiness. Here is something which will bring you happiness. Some say, we want to listen to such lectures which will touch, which will run through our hearts, so to say, we want lectures of that kind which will produce a direct, instantaneous effect. Be not like children. Show a child a dollar and a piece of candy. The child will at once take the piece of candy, which produces the immediate sweet effect. He will not take that piece of silver or gold. Be not like children.
Sometimes the lectures and the orations will produce an instantaneous effect. They are like mere candy, nothing abiding in them, nothing lasting in them. Here is something which will produce the most abiding and the most lasting influence on you. In universities and colleges, people listen hour after hour to the lectures of the instructors and professors. In the universities, the professors do not manifest any oratorical ability or observance of any rhetorical rules. The professors usually lecture to their students slowly, calmly, hesitatingly, but the students have to take up every word that drops from their lips, whether the professor has the gift of producing an instantaneous effect or not, the students have to take up every word that drops from his lips.
So Rama says to the world today, the world must listen to his words, just in the same spirit in which the college students listen to the words of their professors. You may say, these words are presumptuous. But, yes, the time is coming when the ..... (Here Rama became perfectly silent and was lost in the thought that the whole world would of necessity one day drink deep from the fountain of life spiritual and that the goal he was pointing out would be the destination of man.)
The Infinite in the Finite is the proposition for tonights discussion. It is very hard to popularize philosophy, it is very hard indeed to popularize knowledge, but Socrates says and the words of Socrates are perfectly right, "Knowledge is virtue." It is this idea that will ultimately govern mankind. It is knowledge that governs mankind; it is knowledge that transforms itself into action. People want ready-made action, ready-made action will not abide. Rama is bringing to you knowledge which will convert yourself into infinite power of action. It is hard to popularize it. We will do our best to make this difficult and abstruse problem as easy as possible.
We will begin with the minutest thing that you can conceive of in this world, the minutest thing that you usually see in this world, say, a poppy seed; or you might take the mustard seed, or any other seed you please, some small seed. Very small it is. Hold it before you on the palm. What is the seed? Is it the seed that you see before you, or that you smell, or that you weigh, or that you touch? Is it the seed, that tiny something? Or is the seed something else? Let us examine.
Sow this seed in the earth, underground. In a very short time, the seed germinates into a beautiful plant, a sprouting plant, and out of this first original seed we get thousands of seeds again in due time. Sow these thousands of other seeds, and we obtain millions of seeds of the same sort. Sow these millions of seeds again, and we get quadrillions of seeds of the same sort. What does this phenomenon imply? The original seed, the first seed with which we began, where is that seed now?
That perished in the ground; that died in the ground; that is not to be seen anywhere, but out of that original seed, we have got today quadrillions and quintillions of seeds of the same sort. What an infinite potentiality, what an infinite power, what an infinite capability was concealed or hidden or latent in the primitive, original seed with which we began!
Now the question is again asked: What do you mean when you say, here is a seed, here is a small poppy seed or mustard seed, what do you mean by that expression? Do you mean that the word seed simply means the form, the size, the weight, the smell of the seed? Does the word seed really mean only the external centres of forms? No, no. We could make an artificial seed which had the same colour as the genuine seed, which had the same smell as the genuine seed, which had even the same taste as the genuine seed. But this artificial seed could not be really called a seed, this could not be called a genuine real seed; this would be simply a doll, a plaything for children and not a seed. Thus we see that the word seed has got an apparent meaning and also a real meaning. The apparent meaning of the word seed is the form, the size, the weight properties which we can sense with our senses; but the real meaning of the word seed is the infinite power, the infinite capability, the infinite potentiality which is latent in the seed form. There we see the Infinite in the Finite. The infinite potentiality, the infinite power is latent in the finite form or figure, and the real meaning of the word seed is the Infinite within and not its outside or outward form, not that.
Now, does this infinite capability die with the death of the form or figure? The seed form dies in the earth, but does the real seed, that is to say, the infinite within, does that also die? No, no, not at all. How can infinity die? That never dies. Today we take up the seed which is, say, the thousandth descendant of the primitive seed. This seed we take up. Sow this seed again, plant this seed again in earth, and you will see that this seed again has got the same infinite power of development as the primitive seed had. This millionth descendant of the original seed has got the same infinite capability and potentiality which the original seed had.
We see then that the real meaning of the word seed, which is the infinity within, was the same in the case of the original seed and is the same in respect of the thousandth descendant of the primitive seed. And this infinity will remain the same with reference to the quintillionth descendant of the primitive seed. We see then that the infinity within, the infinite capability or power is unchangeable, immutable. We see again that the real seed, the infinite power, the infinite capability, is not destroyed. The original seed-form perished, but the power did out perish. The power reappears in thousand descendant seeds unchanged, unaltered. The true infinity does not die with the death of the body of the seed, with the death of the seed form; the soul of the seed, as it were, Rama will say, the real infinity in the seed, so to say, does not perish; it does not change, it remains the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Again that infinite power of expansion or development is the same in the seeds that we take up today, as it was in the primitive seed. It does not change, it remains the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Again that infinite power of expansion or development is the same in the seeds that we take up today as it was in the primitive seed; it does not increase ever so little; it does not decrease in the least.
We see that the real meaning of the word seed, Rama will say, the spirit or the soul of the seed does not increase; it does not decrease. To sum up, the real seed is the same yesterday, today and for ever. It is infinite, it does not die when the seed form or the body of the seed dies, it is indestructible, it is unchangeable; there can be no increase and there can be no decrease in it.
You will excuse Rama if there is any repetition; Rama knows that sometimes repetition is necessary.
Microscopic insects, you might call them small monads, the primitive development of protoplasm, sometimes called protozoa. Do you know how they develop? They develop by bisection as it is called by naturalists. This bisection takes place naturally and we can bring it about. Take up one of these microscopic monads, small tiny insects. With a fine, most refined lance bisect or divide it into two equal halves. What will become of it? O, it is cruel to do so, because if we bisect a man, if we pierce a dagger through his body and bisect him into two, he will die. So if we bisect a monad, it should die. But bisect the monad and it does not die, it becomes two, as big as the other one. Take these two up and cut them; again bisect each of them and instead of their dying you will have four living monads of the same force and energy as the original one. You will get four. Cut each of these four into equal halves and instead of killing the four you will multiply them into eight. So on, you can multiply to any extent you wish. You can increase their number to any extent you like. How strange, how strange!
There you see before you the form of a monad, the body of a monad. Rama uses the apparent meaning of the word monad. The apparent meaning is simply the body, the form, the size, the weight, the colour, the figure. The apparent monad is that, but the real monad is the power within, the energy within, the life within, that is the real monad. Kill the apparent monad, destroy the form and the real monad or the soul, the spirit you might call it, does not die; that does not die, it remains the same. Go on cutting bodies, go on destroying bodies; the death of the body destroys not the real spirit; the death of the body destroys but the form.
Immortal is the true Divinity that you are. The original body of the monad could be multiplied millionfold, could be increased to billions, and here was the infinite power latent, hidden, concealed in the body of the original monad. Infinity in the finite!
Now the question comes when the bodies are multiplied, when the bodies of the monad go on increasing, multiplying, does that infinite power within also go on multiplying, does that also increase? Or does it decrease? No, it neither increases nor decreases. The real Infinity within the outward apparent finite form of the monad does not change, it multiplies not, it decreases not; it remains the same.
The Vedantic explanation of this phenomenon will be given by an illustration.
There was a small child that was never shown a looking glass. You know in Bharatvarsha, in Hindustan, small children are not shown looking glasses. This small baby once happened to crawl into the room of his father, and there was a looking glass lying on the floor, with one end of it lying against the wall and the other end resting upon the ground. This little baby crawled up to the looking glass, and lo! there he saw a baby, little child, dear little baby. You know children are always attracted by children. If you have a child and you go to your friends house with him, there while talking with your friend, the child will at once make friends with the other children of the house. So this child saw in the looking glass a child of his own size. He went up to him and when he was moving up to the child in the mirror, the child in the mirror moved up to him also. He was delighted. He found that the child in the mirror was on friendly terms, liked him just as much as he liked the child in the mirror. Their noses met. He put his nose against the mirror and the child in the mirror also drew his nose up to his nose: their noses touched each other. Their lips touched. He put his hands on the mirror and the child in the mirror also put his hands to him, as if he were going to shake hands with him, but when the hands of this baby were on those in the mirror, the mirror fell flat on the ground and broke into two pieces. Now the child saw that instead of one child there were two children in the mirror. His mother, in the other room, heard this noise and came running to the room of her husband, and there saw that the husband was not there, but the child was making havoc with the articles in the room and had broken the mirror, she came up to him menacingly, in a threatening manner, as if she was about to strike him. But you know, children know better. They know that the threats and frowns and brow-beatings of their mothers mean nothing. They know it through experience. The child, instead of being frightened at the words of the mother, which were, "What have you done, what have you done, what are you doing here," took these words not in the sense of threat or frown, but in good sense. He said, "O, I have created two, I have made two." The child created two children out of one child. There was originally one child only that was talking to him and now this child made two children. A small child became the father of two children even before he was of age. He said, "I have made two; I have made two." The mother smiled, took the child up in her arms and took him to her own room.
Take up these two pieces of looking glass, break them, spare them not, you will get more looking glasses; break these pieces into four pieces and you will get four children. Now the small child by breaking these four pieces of glass into eight pieces could create eight children. Any number of children might be created that way. But we ask, does that real Divinity, does that real child increase or decrease by the breakage of the mirrors? It neither increases nor decreases. The increase and decrease take place only with looking glasses. There is no increase in the child that sees in the looking glass, that remains the same. How can the Infinite be increased? If the infinity increases, it is not infinity. How can infinity decrease? If it decreases, it is not infinity.
Similarly the Vedantic explanation of the phenomenon of bisection of monad is that when you take up one insect, take up one small microscopic insect and bisect it, the body which is just like the mirror, just like the looking glass, that little body is divided into two, but the power, the real infinity within, the real monad, or the true spirit or energy, or any name you might give it, or the true God within it, is not bisected by the bisection of the bodies of the monad. When the bodies of the monad are multiplied, the power within the real monad, the true divinity inside does not multiply; that remains the same. That is like the real child and the bodies of the monad are like the pieces of the looking glass. When the bodies of the monad are divided and sub-divided and divided again, the Infinite power which is unchangeable, goes on reflecting itself, and showing itself, manifesting itself equally in all the thousandfold or millionfold bodies. That remains the same. That is only one, only one, only one, no duality, no plurality. O, what wonder of wonders!
What joy! Bisect this body, cut this body and I die not. The real Self, the real Me. the true I dies not. Burn this body alive do any thing you like, no harm is done to Me. Realize, realize that you are the Infinity within. Know that. The very moment that a person knows himself to be that, the very moment that a man realizes his true nature, he is free, above all danger, above all difficulty, above all suffering, above all tribulation and pain. Know that, be yourself!
Oh, what wonder of wonders that it is one Infinite power that shows itself in all bodies, in all the apparent personalities, in all the apparent figures. Oh, it is the I, the I, the Infinite One, that is manifesting itself in the bodies of the greatest orators, in the bodies of the greatest men, in the bodies of the most wretched creatures! Oh, what joy! I am the Infinite One and not this body. Realize that and you are free. These are not mere words; this is not mere imaginary talk, this is the truest reality. Realize the truest reality, the real power, that you are; Infinite you are, above all danger and difficulty, you rise instantaneously.
Here are, suppose, thousands of mirrors in the world. One mirror is black, another is white, another is red, another is yellow, another is green; one of the mirrors is convex, another is concave, another mirror is prismatic, another mirror has a lens, suppose. There are all sorts of mirrors. There is one person standing by the mirrors. He looks all around. He finds himself at one place red in the red glass, he finds himself white at another place, he finds himself yellow at another place, he finds himself black in another glass; in the concave mirror he finds himself disfigured in a most ludicrous manner, in the convex mirror he finds himself again distorted in a most ridiculous way. He finds himself in all these multiplied shapes and forms, but in all these apparently different manifestations there is one indivisible, unchangeable, eternal, constant reality. Know that and free yourself. Know that and shake off all sorrow. All this distortion and disfigurement has nothing to do with the real Infinity, Divinity, which manifests and reveals itself in all these different mirrors or glasses. The differences lie in your bodies. The bodies, the minds are like the different glasses; one body may be like a lens, another prismatic, another a white glass, another a red glass, another concave, another convex. The bodies are different, but you are not the bodies only, the apparent unreal self. Through ignorance you call yourself the body you are not. You are the infinite power, the divinity, the constant, immutable, unchangeable One. That you are; know that and you find yourself inhabiting the whole world, inhabiting the whole universe.
In India we have mirror houses. In mirror houses we have all the walls and the roof bedecked with mirrors and looking glasses of all kinds. The owner of the house comes into the room and finds himself on all sides.
Once there came into a mirror house of this kind a dog. The dog finds armies of dogs on his right coming up to him, and you know that dogs are very jealous, dogs do not wish any rival dogs to be present beside them. They are very jealous. When this dog saw thousands of dogs approaching him from the right, he turned to the left hand side, and again on that wall were fixed thousands of mirrors, and there he finds an army of dogs coming up to him about to devour him, tear him to pieces. He turned to the third wall and there he found again dogs of the same sort. He turned to the fourth wall and there the same thing. He turned his head upward to heaven and there from heaven he saw thousands of dogs coming down upon him to devour him and tear him to pieces. He was frightened. He jumped up, all the dogs jumped on all sides; he was barking and he found all the dogs barking and opening their mouths at him. The sound re-echoed from the four walls, and he was afraid. He jumped and ran this way and that way. The poor fellow died exhausted on the spot.
Exactly the same way, Vedanta tells you this world is like a mirror house, and all these bodies are like different mirrors, and your true Atman or real Self is reflected on all sides, just as the dog saw his figure reflected from the four wails. Just so does the One Infinite Atman, the One Infinite Divinity, the Infinite Power reflect itself in different mirrors. It is the One infinite Rama that is being reflected through all these bodies. Ignorant people come like dogs in this world and say; "That man will eat me up, that man will tear me to pieces, destroy me." O, how much of jealousy and fear in this world! To what are this jealousy and fear due? To the ignorance of the dog, to doglike ignorance is all this jealousy and fear of the world due. Please turn the table. Come into this world like the master of the house of looking glasses and mirror pieces. Come into the world not as d-o-g but as G-O-D, and you will be the master of the mirror house, you will be the owner of the whole universe; it will give you pleasure when you see your rivals and your brothers and your enemies advance; it will give you joy when you find any glory anywhere. You will make a heaven of this world.
We come now to man. You have seen the Infinite in the finite in the case of the seed. That was an illustration taken from the vegetable kingdom. The Infinite in the finite was shown to you in the monad; that was an instance taken from the animal kingdom. You have seen the Infinite in the finite in the case of the glass. This was an instance taken from the mineral kingdom. Now we come to man.
Just as the original seed dies and gives rise to thousands of seeds, but in reality the real seed does not multiply, does not decrease, remains the same, and just as the original monad dies and gives rise to thousands of monads, while the real monad remains the same, and just as the glass breaks, the mirror is broken, but the real child does not break; just in the same way when a man dies, there come up his sons, two or more, sometimes dozens. Some of the Englishmen, Anglo-Indians in Hindustan have scores of children. When the parents die, in their place come up dozens and scores; these again die in their turn and leave behind a fourfold progeny. They die and leave behind a larger number. Here is again the same thing. Just as the original monad died and two came up instead, and out of these two, four came up, and out of these eight came up; the original seed died and out of that thousands came up in time, similarly out of any pair of man and woman come scores, nay, thousands, millions of pairs of the same sort, the pair goes on multiplying.
There is no time to enter into detail; only an outline can be given in one lecture.
Vedanta tells you that just as the case was with the seed, monad or glass, so is the case with you. The primitive pair of man and woman died, and out of that, out of the Adam and Eve of the Christian Bible sprang up billions of inhabitants of the world.
Here again Vedanta tells you that this apparent multiplication, this apparent increase, implies no increase in the true, real man that you are. The real man does not increase. The real man in you is the Infinite All. Man is the infinite individual, you might call it. Let all the people die and any one pair remain. Out of this pair we can have millions of population in due time. The infinite capability, the infinite power, the infinite potentiality which was concealed or latent in the primitive pair is found in each pair today undiminished, unimpaired. This Infinity you are. This infinite power you are, and this infinite power is the same in all these bodies. These bodies may multiply like glass, but the man, the real Infinity is only one. You may multiply like glass, but the man, the real Infinity is only one. You may make much of these bodies, you may think of them whatever you please, but these you are not. You are the infinite power which is only One, One indivisible, the same you are yesterday, today, and for ever. It might be made more clear by a popular illustration.
Who are you sir? I am Mr. So and so. Yes. Are you not man? Oh, man I am, of course. Who are you? I am Mrs. so and so. Are you not man? Man (human species) I am, of course. Go to anybody, take an unphilosophical man, ask him and he will never tell you that he is man. He will always say, I am Mr. so and so, and I am Mrs. so and so. Oh, but man also you are. Then he may admit that he is man.
Now we ask, have you ever seen man, the unadulterated, unspecified, unparticularized man? Have you ever seen that? Wherever, we chance to meet, there appears Mr. or Mrs., there appears lord or lady, but the real man, the concrete man you cannot find anywhere, and still we know that this concrete man is in all of them, the highest thing. That species, a man in itself, you cannot lay your hands on, a man divested of his Smithness, Johnness, or divested of his misterness or mrs.-ness. Man per se divested of these properties we cannot see anywhere, and yet this man is present in all these bodies. Bring before you Mr. so and so. Take away the man-part of him, diminish man, the concrete man, and what remains? Nothing. All gone, all gone. Take away Mr.-, remove all the misterhood and the other things and we cannot find anything but the real Man is still there. The real man, Rama takes in the sense of the underlying power, or the infinity within you. Be not misled by the words of Berkeley. Weigh and examine his words thoroughly and you will see that there is indeed something, the infinity within, which cannot be seen, cannot be heard, cannot be tasted, and yet it is the fountainhead of all that you see, it is the cause of all sight, it is the cause of all sound, it is the reality in all your taste. It is the reality, the divinity, the one power in all that you sense, see, touch or hear. It is there and yet it is indescribable. Thus we see that the Infinite within the finite is incapable of being seen, incapable of being heard, incapable of being thought, of being imagined, and yet all that you see is through it, all that you hear is through it, all that you smell is through it. It is indescribable and yet the fountainhead, the essence of all that is described.
In conclusion, Rama simply asks you to do one favour, favour to yourself. Be man! All these bodies are like dewdrops and the real man is like the ray of Sun which passes through and threads all these beads of dew. All these bodies are like the beads on a rosary and the real man is like the string that passes through them all. If you once sit still for a second and feel, feel that you are the Universal Man, you are the Infinite Power, you will see that all this you are. Being man I am everything, being that indefinite man or species-man, I am everything. You are all one. Just rise above this misterness and mrs.-ness, rise above that and you become one with the All. What a grand idea! You become one with the All. Then you become one with the whole universe.
Here is a translation of one piece of an Upanishad verse, but it is not a perfect translation.
I am the Unseen Spirit which informs
All subtle essence! I flame in fire,
I shine in Sun and Moon, planets and stars!
I blow with the winds, roll with the waves!
I am the man and woman, youth and maid!
The babe newborn, the withered ancient, propped
Upon his staff! I am Whatever is
The black bee and the tiger and the fish,
The green birds with red eyes, the tree, the grass,
The cloud that hath the lightning in its womb,
The seasons and the seas! In Me they are,
In Me begin and end."
(Upanishad, Sir Edwin Arnolds translation)
Infinite you are, that Infinity you are, and as that Infinity, as it were, have created these imaginary, false illusory bodies; you have made this world like a mirror house for yourself. Take care of the One Infinite, Universal God and the same you are, that dwells and permeates this world.
Om! Om!! Om!!!
Last Updated: Thu Dec 2, 1999
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