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THE REAL NATURE OF MAN - PART 1

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WEEKLY MESSAGES

In this new feature of our website, we present every week a new selection of the teachings of Vedanta, taken from a variety of sources – lectures and writings of Swami Adiswarananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, and other spiritual texts.

 

 

 

 

THE REAL NATURE OF MAN – Part I

(Delivered at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolors, London, June 21, 1896)

People are frightened when they are told that they are Universal Being, everywhere present. “Through everything you work, through every foot you move, through every lip you talk, through every heart you feel.” People are frightened when they are told this. They will again and again ask you if they are not going to keep their individuality. What is individuality? I should like to see it. A baby has no moustache; when he grows to be a man, perhaps he has a moustache and beard. His individuality would be lost if it were in the body. If I lose one eye or if I lose one of my hands, my individuality would be lost if it were in the body. Then a drunkard should not give up drinking, because he would lose his individuality. A thief should not be a good man, because he would thereby lose his individuality. Indeed, no man ought to change his habits, for fear of this. Nor can individuality be in memory. Suppose, on account of a blow on the head, I forget all about my past; then I have lost all individuality, I am gone. I do not remember two or three years of my childhood, and if memory and existence are one, then whatever I forget is gone. That part of my life which I do not remember, I did not live. That is a very narrow idea of individuality.

            There is no individuality except in the infinite. That is the only condition which does not change. Everything else is in a state of flux. We are not individuals yet. We are struggling towards individuality; and that is the infinite. That is the real nature of man. He alone lives whose life is in the whole universe; the more we concentrate our lives on limited things, the faster we go towards death. Those moments alone we live when our lives are in the universe, in others; and living this little life is death, simply death, and that is why the fear of death comes. The fear of death can be conquered only when man realizes that so long as there is one life in this universe, he is living. When he can say, “I am in everything, in everybody; I am in all lives; I am the universe,” then alone comes the state of fearlessness. To talk of immortality in constantly changing things is absurd. Says an old Sanskrit philosopher: “It is only the spirit that is the individual, because it is infinite.” Infinity cannot be divided; infinity cannot be broken into pieces. It is the same one undivided unit forever; and this is the individual man, the real man. The apparent man is merely a struggle to express, to manifest, this individuality which is beyond. Evolution is not in the spirit.

            These changes which are going on – the wicked becoming good, the animal becoming man; take them in whatever way you like – are not in the spirit. They are evolution of nature and the manifestation of the spirit. Suppose there is a screen hiding you from me, in which there is a small hole through which I can see some of the faces before me, just a few faces. Now suppose the hole begins to grow larger and larger, and as it does so, more and more of the scene before me reveals itself; when at last the whole screen has disappeared, I stand face to face with you all. You did not change at all; it was the hole that was evolving, and you were gradually manifesting yourselves. So it is with the spirit. No perfection is going to be attained. You are already free and perfect.

            What are these ideas of religion and God and searching for the hereafter? Why does man look for a God? Why does man, in every nation, in every state of society, want a perfect ideal somewhere, either in man, in God, or elsewhere? Because that idea is within you. It was your own heart beating and you did not know; you were mistaking it for something external. It is the God within your own self that is impelling you to seek him, to realize him. After long searches here and there, in temples and in churches, on earth and in heaven, at last you come back to your own soul, completing the circle from where you started, and find that he whom you have been seeking all over the world, for whom you have been weeping and praying in churches and temples, on whom you were looking as the mystery of all mysteries, shrouded in the clouds, is nearest of the near, is your own Self, the reality of your life, body, and soul.

            That Self is your own nature. Assert it, manifest it. You are not to become pure; you are pure already. You are not to become perfect; you are that already. Nature is like a screen which is hiding the reality beyond. Every good thought that you think or act upon simply tears the veil, as it were, and the purity, the infinity, the God behind, is manifested more and more. This is the whole history of man. Finer and finer becomes the veil, more and more of the light behind shines forth; for it is its nature to shine.

            The Self cannot be known; in vain we try to know it. Were it knowable, it would not be what it is; for it is the eternal subject. Knowledge is a limitation; knowledge is an objectification. It is the eternal subject of everything, the eternal witness of this universe – your own Self. Knowledge is, as it were, a lower step, a degeneration. We are that eternal subject already; how can we know it?

            The infinite Self is the real nature of every man, and he is struggling to express it in various ways. Otherwise, why are there so many ethical codes? Where is the explanation of all ethics? One idea stands out as the center of all ethical systems, expressed in various forms – namely, doing good to others. The guiding motive of mankind should be charity towards men, charity towards all animals. But these are all various expressions of that eternal truth that “I am the universe; this universe is one.” Or else, where is the explanation? Why should I do good to my fellow men? Why should I do good to others? What compels me? It is sympathy, the feeling of sameness everywhere. The hardest hearts sometimes feel sympathy for other beings. Even the man who gets frightened if he is told that this assumed individuality is really a delusion, that it is ignoble to try to cling to this apparent individuality – that very man will tell you that extreme self-abnegation is the center of all morality. And what is perfect self-abnegation? It means the abnegation of this apparent self, the abnegation of all selfishness.

(To be continued)

From “The Real Nature of Man” by Swami Vivekananda, quoted from “VIVEKANANDA, WORLD TEACHER: His Teachings on the Spiritual Unity of Humankind”, Edited and with an Introduction by Swami Adiswarananda.

 

 

 

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