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Sin—Its Relation To The Atman
Or Real Self

Lecture delivered on November 16, 1902, in the 
Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, U.S.A.

My own Self in the form of sisters and brothers,

Today’s subject is in continuation of the several lectures that have been delivered during the last week. Those who have heard the previous lectures will understand it most.

Rama is not going to enter in this lecture into the definition of sin, or how this sin is in this world, who brought it, whence it came, why it is that some people are more sinful than others, why it is that some people have more greed than others, and others have more anger than greed. These questions will be taken up in some other lecture, if time allows.

We use the word ‘sin’, tonight in its ordinary sense or in the sense in which all the Christian world takes it.

In India, in a certain temple, a man was seen distributing sweets. The way with Indians is that on occasions of great joy and prosperity, they distribute sweets or some such things among the poor. Somebody came and asked what the cause of this rejoicing was. The man said that he had lost his horse; that was the cause of his rejoicing. The people were astonished and surprised. They said, "Well, you have lost a horse and you are rejoicing?" He said, "Misunderstand me not. I have lost a horse but I have saved the rider. My horse was stolen by a band of robbers. I was not riding the horse at the time the horse was stolen. Had I been mounted on the horse, I might also have been stolen. I am thankful that I was not stolen with the horse, and that it was only the horse that was stolen."

The people laughed heartily. What a simple man!

Sisters and brothers, this story seems to be ridiculous. But everyone has to apply it to himself and examine whether he or she is not behaving worse than that man. He lost the horse, but saved himself, the rider. Oh, but thousands, nay millions of people—what are they doing? They are trying to save the horse and lose the rider. This is the worst of it. So he had high occasion to rejoice when he saved the rider and lost the horse. Everybody knows that the real Spirit, or the real Self, Soul, is related to the astral body as a rider or horseman is related to the horse. But let us go to anybody and ask about his whereabouts and his real nature. What is yourself, what does it do? The answer will be, "I am Mr. so and so. I work in such and such office." All these signs and all these answers relate to the gross body only. That is to say, these are answers which are not to the point. We ask, "Who are you—what are you?" and his answer does not let us know what he is in reality. It is wide of the mark, not to the point. We ask about his Self, and he is telling us about the horse. We want to know about the rider, and he evades the question and tells us things not asked at all. Is it not that we are taking the horse to be the rider? The horse is lost; it is high time to raise a ‘cry-lost, lost, lost!’ Let it be published in newspapers, lost, lost, lost, lost! What is lost? The horse? Nay, the horse is not lost. Everybody tells about the horse. The signs, the symbols, and whereabouts of the person, everybody is ready to tell. The thing lost is the rider; the thing lost is the soul, the spirit, the Atman, the true Self. Wonder of wonders!

How are we to discover and find out the true Self, the rider, the real Atman? The answers to this question were given almost everyday during the last week’s lectures. Today we shall see an answer to it from a different point of view-from the phenomenon of sin. What is the origin of sin? How did sin enter this world? The explanation which is to be given will appear to be preposterous, will appear to be something startling, something very strange. But be not surprised. Even this apparently surprising explanation can be proved to be exactly in accord with the teachings of your own Bible—the Bible which the European people cannot understand in the same way as the Indians, because Christ belongs to Asia, and it can be shown that he also belongs to India. All the similes, figures of speech in the Bible, have so often been repeated in the Hindu Scriptures. So the Hindus, the Asiatic people, being accustomed to that sort of speech, can understand it better than the Western people. And so the people who will look upon the explanation which will be given presently to be startling and diametrically against their cherished thoughts and highly revered feelings should bear up with it, because after all, this apparently strange explanation is not opposed to the teachings of your own Bible. Before entering upon the problem of sin, we shall discuss a few preliminary matters.

How is it that everybody who is born must die, and still the people can never think of death? The very thought of death causes a shudder in their bodies and sends a thrill into them from the tip of the toes to the top of the head. How is it, we say, that all the kings who existed in the past passed away, all the prophets—who raised the dead—their bodies also died away? They brought the dead to life but their bodies are also dead. We see that all the rich men in the past, all the strong men in the past have died; and from the intellectual point of view we are sure that our bodies must die sooner or later. You may live three score years and ten, nay, double that—four times that—but you must die; you cannot avoid death. It is so sure. Oh, but wonder of wonders, that in spite of all that, nobody can practically believe in this death. Everyone will shun the idea of death, he will not tolerate the thought of death. Everybody goes on expanding his relations with his fellowmen and developing his connections with his fellows, spreading the growth of his field of work, and goes on with his life as if death had never to take hold of him, as if no death were possible for him. How is it? What is the cause? A man mentions the name of death, and there is fever in the whole frame. Why is it? It is so certain on the one hand, and on the other hand, we cannot allow it to touch our thoughts even, just as a bird, after some water falls on its wings, will shed it off. How is it that we can never believe in death practically? You may sing songs which portray death, but can never believe in death in practice. What is the cause?

Vedanta gives an explanation and says that the real cause is that your real Self is incapable of death. Your real Self can never die. The body which is to die, which is dying every moment—by death let us understand here change—which is undergoing a change every second, and is dying out, is not your real Self. There is something in you which can never die. In conjunction with the body there is the Soul, the real Spirit which can never die. But you will say that in practical life, in everyday life, we do not believe that the spirit is not to die, but we believe that our bodies should not die—believe that our bodies should remain immortal. Now the Vedantic philosophy of Hindu religion says that it is true that, whereas it is the spirit that is not to die and the body that is to die, yet the attributes of the spirit, the glory of the real Self are, by mistake, attributed to the mortal body. There is ignorance at the root. This thought is universal. It is present everywhere, in all countries, and is present even in the animal kingdom. No other philosophy than Vedanta explains the universality of this belief. Now the universality of this belief is a fact, and this fact ought to be explained. Any philosophy which does not explain all the facts in nature is no philosophy. Vedanta does not leave this fact unexplained, as most of the philosophies do. The cause must be intrinsic. The days of referring to external causes are gone. A man falls down and the cause of his fall should be shown within himself. He may say the ground was slippery or something like that. The cause must be shown in the phenomenon and not outside it. And if the cause can be found within the phenomenon, we have no right to go to outside causes. How are you to explain a practical belief in immortality by a cause which may be internal and not external? In the body we find nothing which could give us that faith, which could give us that belief of immortality. In the mind we find nothing which could give us that idea. Go beyond the mind, go beyond the body, and Vedanta points out the true spirit, the true Atman which was described in a previous lecture. That is immortal, the witness light, the same yesterday, today and for ever. Therein we can find the cause of this universal faith in ‘no death.’ And in practical life the mistake made is the same as the mistake made by all mankind previous to the time of Galileo. The motion of the earth is attributed to the Sun. The same mistake lies in your attributing the divine immortality of the Spirit to the body.

Now the question comes—the immortal soul is there and the mortal body is there, and along with them there is ignorance, want of knowledge. Wherefrom did this want of knowledge come? Here we see that ignorance is in man, and that divine spirit is in man, and the body is also in man. These things are internal; none of them is external, none of them is outside your range. And by the action of these, the body, the mind and the immortal spirit and ignorance, there is explained the presence of the phenomenon of practical disbelief in the death of the body.

Again, how is it that nobody in this world can be free, and yet everybody regards himself as free, and thinks of freedom, and freedom is so much desired? You will say that man is free. Have you not so many passions, desires and temptations? How then can you call yourselves free? Sweet fruits or delicious food can make you a slave. Any attractive colour can at once captivate you, charm you and make you a slave. Any thought of worldly prosperity can make you a slave, and still you call yourselves free. Examine it minutely, whether you can do what you like with perfect freedom. It is not that something goes wrong with your affairs and you cannot control your temper? You are a slave of anger, you are a slave of passions. How it is that people cannot, as a matter of fact, be perfectly free, and still they are all the time thinking of freedom, talking of freedom, and freedom is so sweet, so desirable, so lovely!

In India, Sunday is the day of freedom, and children are taught the days of the week through the thought of freedom. Everyday they ask their mothers, what is the day? She tells them it is Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Then they begin to count on their fingers Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. Oh! when will Sunday come?

What is it that causes so much bloodshed on the face of the earth? The thought of liberty, freedom. What was the thought that made the Americans sever their connection with what they used to call their motherland? What was it? The thought of freedom. And what is the object of every religion? In Sanskrit we have the word moksha which means salvation, which means freedom, liberty. O liberty, liberty, liberty! Everybody hungers and thirsts after sweet liberty. And yet how many men are there who are really free? Very few.

In this world, Vedanta says, you are all the time confined in a prison, a prison with threefold walls—the wall of time, the wall of space, and the wall of causation. When every thought of yours, every deed of yours is determined by the chain of causation and by that chain you are bound, how can you be free while living in this world? And still freedom is the hobby of each and all. Is not that paradoxical and strange? Does it not appear to be a contradiction in terms? Explain that.

Vedanta says there is a cause for it, and the cause is within you, it is not without yourself. This thought of freedom in you, this universal thought tells us that there is something in you; and that something in you is your true Self, the real Me, because this freedom you want to have for Me, for the I, the real Self, and for nobody else. There is something in you which is really free, unlimited, unbound. The universality of this idea preaches in unmistakable language that the real Self, the real Atman, is something which is absolutely free. But owing to the same kind of mistake which the ignorant people make in attributing the motion of the earth to the Sun interchanging the attributes through ignorance—we want to have freedom realized for the body, for the mind, for the gross self.

We see in this world another very strange phenomenon. Everybody in this world from the point of view of his little self is a sinner. Everybody is somehow or other responsible for some defect or some deficiency or the other and yet nobody in his heart of hearts thinks that he is a sinner. Nobody on the face of the earth—in the wide world—not a single individual believes in his sinful nature. In his heart of hearts he regards himself pure. In practical life nobody thinks himself a sinner. What, if outwardly you call yourself a sinner? Even then the real object in view is to be looked upon by the people to be a holy man. By calling themselves sinners, people really intend to be regarded as holy. But in their heart of hearts they have no faith in their sinful nature. Everybody is pure to himself. The worst culprits and criminals brought before the tribunal when asked: "Did you commit the sin?" would seldom say that they committed a sin. If they are forced to say that they did commit a sin, there might be something else in the matter. Though they outwardly confess their sins, in their hearts they believe that their confession is wrong. They committed no sin. How is that? People who are in a temple confessing their sins before a priest, when they come out into the street and are called by some one by the name of a robber they at once turn round and impeach him, prosecute him, and get him convicted in the court. It was only before God, it was only in a temple that they wanted to throw dust in the eyes of God. It was only in the temple that they said they were sinners, confessing their sins.

Even this phenomenon shows what an anomaly there is in this world. How is that anomaly to be solved? Vedanta says that this incapability of suppression is a living proof; a living sign of the sinless nature of the idea that we are not sinners, that we are far beyond sin, and the universality of the practical belief in our sinless nature of the real Self, of the sinless, pure, holy character of the true Atman, of the real Spirit. The real Spirit, the real Atman, is sinless, pure, the Holy of holies. If you do not admit this explanation, explain this apparent anomaly in any other way.

How it is that everybody knows intellectually that he cannot accumulate all the wealth in this world, he cannot become rich to his own satisfaction? We see that everyday amongst us. Just go to people who are reputed to have millions and enquire whether they are contented and satisfied. Let them lay before you their true hearts and they will say that they are not satisfied, not contented. More, more, more they want. They are just as poor in heart as the people who possess four dollars. Four billion dollars and four dollars make no difference in bringing about peace of mind, rest and contentment; they are no resultant of riches. If in spite of their riches, they are really men of rest and men who have got peace, the cause of that peace is not their riches, but the cause of that peace must be something else, must be Vedanta unconsciously put into practice and nothing else. That alone can be the cause of their peace, because riches by themselves give no joy to their owners.

Now we are sure that the accumulation of wealth, material prosperity brings no calm, and yet everybody is hungering and hankering after lucre. Is not that a strange anomaly? Explain that. Now no system of philosophy or religion explains that reasonably or with any perfect argument. Vedanta says here is this hunger after prosperity, for possessing, accumulating everything. Why is it so? The body can never possess the whole world. Even if you possess the whole world, you will not be satisfied, you will be thinking of possessing the moonland. Think of the emperors who governed the whole earth, the emperors of Rome. Think of those Neros—does it not make you shudder? Think of their states of mind, of those Caesars and Neros. Were they happy? Were they contented? There is one of them who eats, who is fond of eating, and he has all the time the most delicious food cooked for him. He eats one dish and eats it to his fill, and there is no more room in his stomach and he has medicines which will make him vomit, and he vomits that food and other dishes are brought to him, and he eats them to his fill—and this is just to satisfy his taste. He goes on eating and vomiting and eating and vomiting all day long. Is he satisfied? Is he at peace? Not at all. We are sure of that. Nay, we cannot possess the whole world, and even if we possess that, what does that amount to? Gain the whole world and lose your own soul—what does that amount to? This earth of yours is simply a point in astronomical calculations when we deal with the fixed stars. This earth is dealt with as a mathematical point for a position, but no magnitude.

This earth of yours, what is it? How can it bring any real satisfaction, any real peace, to possess this earth? We know it from the intellectual side, and yet we cannot but rush after its wealth. Vedanta says it is because the Real Self in you, the real Me in you is, as a matter of fact, the master of the whole universe. That is the cause of your wanting to see yourself the master of the whole world.

There is a story in India about an emperor who was put into prison by his son. He was put into prison because his son wanted to see himself possessed of the whole kingdom. The son put his father into prison so that he might satisfy his hunger after lucre. At one time, the father wrote to his own son to send him some students so that he might amuse himself by teaching them something. Then the son said, "Will you hear this fellow, my father? He had been ruling over the kingdom for so many years, and even now he cannot give up his old habit of ruling. He still wants to rule over students; he wants somebody to rule over. He cannot give up his old habits."

So it is. How can we give up our old habits? The old habit clings to us. We cannot shake it off. The Real Self of yours, the emperor Shah-i-jahan (the literal meaning of the word is ‘ruler of whole world,’ and so the name of that emperor Shah-i-jahan means the emperor of the whole universe) is the emperor of the universe. Now you have put the emperor into a prison, into the blackhole of your body, into the quarantine of your little self. How can that real self, that emperor of the universe, forget his old habits? How can he give up his nature. Nobody is capable of shaking off his own nature. Nobody can jump out of his own nature. So the Atman, the true Self, the real Reality in you—how can that give up its nature? You have confined that in the prison, but even in the prison it wants to possess the whole world, because it has been possessing the whole; it cannot give up its old habits. If you wish this ambitious spirit, the avarice should be shaken off, if you desire that the people in this world should give up this ambitious nature, could you preach them to give it up? Impossible.

You will excuse Rama for making some strong statements, but the truth must be told. Rama respects truth more than persons. The truth must be told. In the Bible it is stated in the fifth chapter of Mathew, in the Sermon on the Mount, if somebody slaps you on one cheek, turn to him the other. When you have to preach the Holy Gospels, take with you no money, bare-footed, bare-headed you should go. If you are called to the courts of justice, before going to the courts think not of what you will have to say. Open your mouth and it will be filled. Look at the lilies of the field and the sparrows of the forest. They take no thought for tomorrow, and the lilies and the sparrows wear garments which even Solomon might grudge. Have you not a statement in the Bible that it may be possible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, but it is impossible for the rich to realize the kingdom of heaven? Have you not read in the Bible about the rich man who came to Christ and asked to be initiated and Christ said, "There is only one way with you, no other way; you should give up your riches; do this alone, and you can be in peace." This spirit of renunciation, this chapter which is so much kept in the background by at least the missionaries in India, and even all over the world, this chapter teaches Vedanta and the teachings which are lived by the Indian monks even at this time. In the name of that holy religion, in the name of that teaching of renunciation, just mark people going as priests and missionaries to India. You will kindly excuse Rama. If you regard Self as the body, nobody should feel offended. Nobody has a right to feel in the least offended if anything is said against his little body.

Is it not strange that even the people who go to India in the name of that renunciation, everyday rolling in their coaches, living in magnificent palaces and drawing large salaries of three or four hundred dollars a month and living in princely style, say that they are teaching and preaching the religion of renunciation? Is it not strange? Vedanta says that you cannot repress by any teaching or preaching from the pulpit, the idea of accumulating and getting everything into your possession. You cannot repress it because you cannot destroy the universal kingship of your real Self, the universal monarchy of your real Self. But is this disease incurable? Has this malady no antidote, no medicine? It has, it has. The cause of this enormity is ignorance, ignorance which makes you attribute to the body the glory of the Self and makes you, on the contrary, attribute to the real Self the misery of the body. Remove this ignorance, and you will see the man rich, rich with no money; and you will find the man, the monarch of the whole universe with no land or property. So long as the ignorance is present, you must be ambitious, you must be avaricious. There is no help for it, no other remedy. Possess this knowledge; possess this divine wisdom, and free the Atman, keep it no longer in prison. Free it, that is to say, realize your true, eternal, everlasting Atman, which is God, the Master, Ruler of the Universe. Realize that, and you are the holy of holies, the holiest of the holy. To you it would appear degrading and sinful to entertain any thought of worldly prosperity or worldly riches.

When Alexander, the Great visited India after conquering all the other countries in the world that were known to him, he wanted to see the strange Indians of whom he had been hearing so much. He was just led to a monk or priest on the bank of the Indus river. The monk lay there on the sands, bare-footed, naked, wearing no clothes and not knowing wherefrom his tomorrow’s food was to come, just lying there and basking in the Sun. Alexander, the Great, with his crown shining, dazzling with the brilliant diamonds and gems that he had got from Persia, stood beside him in all his glory. Beside him was the monk with no clothes on! What a contrast, what a contrast! The riches of the whole world represented by the body of Alexander on one side, and all the outward poverty represented by the saint on the other side! But you have simply to look at their faces to be convinced of the poverty or riches of their true souls.

Sisters and brothers, you hanker after riches in order to hide your wounds, put on linen bandages in order to conceal them. Here is the saint whose soul was rich; here is the saint who had realized the richness and glory of his Atman. Beside him stood Alexander, the Great who wanted to hide his inner poverty. Look at the beaming countenance of the saint, the happy, joyful face of the saint. Alexander, the Great, was struck by his appearance. He fell in love with him, and just asked the saint to come with him to Greece. The saint laughed, and his answer was: "The world is in Me. The world cannot contain Me. The universe is in Me. I cannot be confined in the universe. Greece and Rome are in Me. The suns and stars rise and set in Me."

Alexander, the Great, not being used to this kind of language, was surprised. He said, "I will give you riches. I will just flood you with worldly pleasures. All sorts of things that people desire, all sorts of things which captivate and charm people will be in wild profusion at your service. Please accompany me to Greece."

The saint laughed, laughed at his reply and said, "There is not a diamond, there is not a sun or star which shines, but to Me is due its lustre. To me is due the glory of all the heavenly bodies. To Me is due all the attractive nature, all the charms of the things desired. It would be beneath my dignity, it would be degrading on my part, first, to lend the glory and charm to these objects, and then go about seeking them, to go begging at the door of worldly riches, to go begging at the door of flesh and animal desires to receive pleasure, happiness. It is below my dignity. I can never stoop to that level. No, I can never go begging at theirs."

This astonished Alexander, the Great. He just drew his sword and was going to strike off the head of that saint. And again the saint laughed a hearty laugh and said, "O Alexander! never in your life did you speak such a falsehood, such an abominable lie. Kill Me, kill Me, kill Me! Where is the sword that can kill Me? Where is the weapon that can wound Me? Where is the calamity that can mar my cheerfulness? Where is the sorrow that can tamper with my happiness? Everlasting, the same yesterday, today and for ever, pure and holy of holies, the Master of the Universe, that I am, that I am. Even in your hands I am the power that makes them move, O Alexander! If this body dies, there I remain the power that makes your hands move. I am the power that makes your muscles move." The sword fell down from the hands of Alexander.

Here we see that there is only one way of making people realize the spirit of renunciation. From the worldly point of view we become ready to renounce everything only when we become rich from the other point of view. Have you not heard the unquestionable law of science—what is gained in poverty is lasting? The outward loss, the outward renunciation can be achieved when inward perfection, inward mastery or kinghood is attained. No other way, no other way.

How is it that in this world anger exists? We hear loud preachings everyday that we should never give way to weakness, should never lose our temper. We hear preachings to that effect everyday, and still when the time comes, we give way to weakness. Why is it? Why anger, why animosity, why the thought of self-aggrandizement and why other sins? Why these animal passions? All these sins are explained by Vedanta on the same line and the same principle. Perhaps there is hardly any time to enter into the details of these sins. If you want to know more about it, you had better come to Rama, and all these sins will be perfectly explained, their cause and their diagnosis. But there being little time now, Rama simply sums up all that; and your attention is drawn to the fact that all these sins are due to ignorance, which makes you confound the real Self with the apparent body and mind. Give up this ignorance and these sins are no more. If you were to remove these sins by any other ways, the attempts will end in failure because nothing positive like matter can be destroyed. Of course, ignorance can be destroyed. Ignorance we can remove. Children when they are born are ignorant of many things in this world, but we see that gradually their ignorance about many subjects goes on diminishing and diminishing. Ignorance can only be removed.

That being the case, there is the power which leads you to anger, which leads you to desires and sins, and leads you to the accumulation. This energy you cannot destroy by your teachings or preachings in any way. You cannot repress; you can never suppress it—the energy is there. Vedanta says we can spiritualise this energy. Let it not be misapplied. Let it be applied properly. This is the energy of the true spirit in you, the energy of the true Atman in you, which is the master of the whole world, which is rivalless.

Everybody wants to be free, and the idea of freedom—what is its essential character, the fundamental feature of the desire for freedom? It is rising to a height where we have no rival. The energy of the true Atman wants you to realize the state where you are perfectly free, that is to say, where you have no equal, where you have no rival. The Atman, the true spirit is rivalless. If you want to get rid of worldly selfishness or the thought of self-aggrandizement, you cannot push down and destroy the real energy. No energy can be destroyed; nor can the eternal Atman be destroyed. How can the eternal Atman be destroyed? The improper use you can make of everything and turn heaven into hell.

There is a story about a priest, a Christian priest in England. He read about the deaths of some great men, great scientists, Darwin and Huxley. He began to think in his mind whether they had gone to hell or heaven. He was thinking and thinking and thinking. He said to himself, "These people did not commit any crimes, and yet they did not believe in the Bible, they did not believe in Christ, they were no Christians in the proper sense of the word. They must have gone to hell." But he could not make up his own mind to think that way. He thought: "They were good men, they had done some good work in the world, they did not deserve hell. Where did they go?" He fell asleep and dreamt a most wonderful dream. He saw that he himself had died and was taken to the highest heaven. He found there all the people whom he had expected to find; he found all his Christian brothers who used to come to his Church. He found them all there. Then he asked about these scientists, Huxley and Darwin. The doorkeeper of heaven or some other steward told him that these people were in the lowest hell.

Now this priest asked if he could be allowed to go to the lowest hell on a flying visit simply to see them, and there to go and preach to them the Holy Bible and show them that they had perpetrated a most heinous crime in not believing in the letter of the Bible. After some fuss and trouble the steward yielded and consented to get for him a ticket to the lowest hell. You will be astonished that even in hell and heaven, you come and go in your railway cars, but so it was. The man had been bred in the midst of surroundings overflowing with railway traffic and telegraphs. So in his thoughts, in his dreams, it is no wonder if the railways got mixed up with hell and heaven.

Well, this priest got a first class ticket. The railway train went on and on and on. There were some intermediate stations, because he came from the highest heaven going to the lowest hell. He stopped at the intermediate stations and found that there was a change for the worse as he went on down and down. When he came to the lowest hell but one, he could not keep himself in senses. Such a stench was coming out that he had to put all his napkins and handkerchiefs before his nose, and yet he could not but be senseless; he had to fall into a swoon. There were so many crying voices, weeping and crying and gnashing of teeth down there, he could not bear it. He could not keep his eyes open because of those sights. He repented on his persistence to come to see the lowest hell.

In a few minutes the people on the railway platform were crying, "The lowest hell, the lowest hell" for the convenience of the passengers. There was engraved on the walls of the station, "The lowest hell." But the priest was astonished. He asked everybody. "This cannot be the lowest hell? It must be about the highest heaven. No, no, it cannot be. This is not the lowest, this is not the lowest hell; it must be heaven." The railway guard or conductor told him that this was the place, and there came a man who said, "Just get down, sir, this is your destination."

He got down—poor fellow, but was surprised. He expected the lowest hell to be worse than the lowest hell but one. But this well-nigh rivalled his highest heaven. He got out of the railway station and found there magnificent gardens, sweet-scented flowers, and fragrant breezes blowing into his face. He met one tall gentleman. He asked his name and he thought he saw in him something or somebody whom he had seen before. The man was walking before him, was going ahead of him and he followed after him; and when the man stopped, the priest was delighted. They shook hands, and the priest recognized him. Who was he? That was Huxley. He asked, "What is it, is it the lowest hell?" Huxley said, "Yes, doubtless it is." And he said, "I came to preach to you, but first of all, answer how is it that I find such a strange phenomenon before me?" Huxley said, "You were not wrong in your expectations for the worst. Indeed, when we came here, it was the worst possible hell in the universe. It was the most undesirable that could be conceived." And here he pointed out certain places—"There were dirty ditches." And he pointed out another spot "There was burning iron." And he pointed out another spot—"There was hot sand and there was steaming dung."

He said, "We were first of all placed in the most dirty ditches, but while there, with our hands we were throwing water to the next adjoining hot burning iron; and we went on with that work of throwing that dirty water out of the ditches on the hot burning iron that was on the banks. Then the stewards of the lowest hell had to take us to those places where there was burning liquid iron but by the time they took us to that place most of the iron had become wholly cooled, most of the iron could be handled, and still a great deal of iron was in its liquid burning condition, fiery condition. Then, with the aid of that iron which had cooled down, and holding it before the fire, we succeeded in making some machines and some other instruments. After that we were to be taken to the third place where there was the dung. We were taken to that place and with the help of our instruments, iron spades and machines, we began the digging work. After that we were taken to the other kind of soil, and there by means of machines and other instruments that we had got them ready, we threw some of those things into the soil to which we were taken; that served as manure, and thus we succeeded by and by in turning this hell into a veritable heaven."

Now the thing is that in that lowest hell, there were present all the materials which being simply placed in their right positions, might make the highest heaven. So it is. Vedanta says, in you is present the divine God, and in you is present the worthless body; but you have misplaced the things. You have done things upside down; in a topsy-turvy way you have put them. You have put the cart before the horse; and that is how you make this world a hell for you. You have simply not to destroy any thing, not to dig up anything. This ambitious spirit of yours, or this selfishness of yours, which is just like a hell you cannot destroy, but you can rearrange. No energy can be destroyed, but you can rearrange this hell and convert it into the highest heaven.

Vedanta says, the ‘only open sesame,’ the only way to really stamp out all misery from the world-long faces and gloomy, sad tempers, will not mend matters—the only way to escape from all sins, the only way to stand above all temptations is to realize the true Self. You will never be able to withstand animal passions unless you do away with all this splendour and glory that bewitches you, do away with all that attracts you. When you realize that, you stand above all the passions, and at the same time be perfectly free, be perfectly free, be perfectly full of bliss, and that is Heaven.*

Om! Om!! Om!!!

*Note—A similar lecture was delivered in the Academy of Sciences on December 20, 1902. Only its striking passages are given as the next lecture, which forms a sort of continuation of this lecture under the title "The Prognosis and Diagnosis of sin." 

Last Updated: Sat Mar 11, 2000
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