next stride of the Upanishad brings us to one of the greatest and most resounding
controversies in Indian metaphysics, the quarrel between pragmatism and quietism,
action and inaction, as the goal of man's existence or the condition of his highest
self. Here, as always, the Seer solves the problem by a reconciliation of the
two opposites. The substance of his teaching may be summed up in three mutually
complementary and indispensable forrnulae, the one fulfilling utterly the pragmatic
instinct in man, the other fulfilling utterly his quietistic instinct, and the
third reconciling these ancient enemies.
In enjoyment continuance of action, in renunciation continuation of action; for continuance of action is the continuance of God's will in the universe.
The secret Spirit in man is always infinitely calm and free from the touches of its actions; the sphere of disturbance is always on the surface only of tbe ocean of being in the waking consciousness. We should attain in waking mind, too, to that stillness; for without it there can be no freedom in our outward living. We should be perfectly and consciously still in the soul even though a whirlwind of action outwardly.
Since we are in the spirit inalienably free and untouched by action, but in the mind seemingly bound and subject to its stains, our true and only way is not to renounce action but to, vindicate that secret spiritual freedom hidden within us as a possession for our outward and active mental consciousness. So shall a man be free, calm and joyous and yet through action accomplish God's purpose in him in the motional universe.
The strife between quietism and pragmatism in philosophy and religion is the intellectual symbol of an unaccomplished harmony in man. The universe and all things in it are the manifest Brahman and in the manifest Brahman there are always two eternal aspects, the aspect of incessant and all-pervading action and energy and the aspect of sempiternal and inalienable stillness and peace. The world of matter in which the mental being called man finds himself dwelling is a sensible manifestation of the principle of energy supported by the secret and non-manifest presence of the principle of rest and stability. This world is a manifestation of Force which is never at rest and even the apparent stabilities of Nature prove when analysed to be whorls of motion. All here is jagatyäih jagat, motion in her that moves. Yet invisibly filling all her motion, supporting her activities and inspiring them, imposing an essential stability on the apparent flux and reflux of her infinite movement we perceive, not discoverable by the analysing reason, but real enough to the synthetic vision and the perceiving mind, the Sthanu, the eternal, imminuable, immutable, on which and from which all this motion works and in which all its actions result. Because this Eternal and Immutable is there, the parts and constituents of Nature vary, but its sum is unalterable; its appearances are a whirl of mutable forms, its essence is stable and immutable. Nature herself, manifest to the senses and the material reason only as motion and knowable only in the terms of motion, is equally manifest to the poised and considering soul, dhira, samahita, as an infinite power of peace and stillness. On a basis of eternal stability the world exists, to the expression of the stable Eternal it feels itself to be proceeding. Imperfection is its apparent starting-point and medium, and the essential term of imperfection is mobility; perfection is its aspiration and goal and the essential term of perfection is acquired status. Through imperfection therefore Nature moves, in perfection it rests. But the perfections which are attainable in the movements of Nature are only perfections of the part and therefore their stability is temporary, illusory and precedent to a fresh motion. Only in an infinite perfection can there be an eternal stability. This perfection is a concealed completeness in us which we have to manifest; we are already an infinite perfection in our being, we have to manifest that hidden thing in our becoming. It is towards this infinite perfection that all things in Nature are, consciously or unconsciously, by her inborn tendency and movement, irresistibly impelled. The whole problem of existence therefore resolves itself into some harmony or at least some settlement between these two terms. Whatever ignores either term, be it victorious Science or be it supreme Buddhistic Nihilism, has not understood the terms of the problem and cannot find its solution.
dwelling in Nature is compelled towards action and demands rest, lives in imperfection
and progresses towards his ungrasped perfection; for action and motion are convertible
terms. Action is the motion of man, motion is the action of Nature. All mobility,
all change, all play of cause and effect, whether in the mind or the body, whether
in animate or inanimate Nature, is therefore karma, action or work, -work is the
essential characteristic of jagati, universal Nature, infinite Force in its universal
play. But where then in Nature shall man find rest? Lassitude is not the rest
he seeks, sleep is not the rest he seeks; all lassitude, all inertia is still
movement but movement of disintegration; sleep is a mass of dreams, sometimes
half lit by fugitive and incoherent perceptions, sometimes shut up in a dark shell
of bodily unconsciousness. Neither in his bodily nor in his subjective being is
a man ever at rest while he lives in this body; what he calls rest is only a change
of occupation or a shifting of the action from the waking to the subliminal sleep-consciousness
which is always at work behind the waking self. Neither is death the rest he seeks;
for death, like sleep, is only a shifting of the habitation, a transference of
activity to another field. It is no more rest than the passing of a labourer reaping
in a field of corn to work in a field of barley. His temporary and partial realisations
of what he seeks are also not man's rest, for from these halting places he moves
forwards towards a new activity and a continued journey. Like everything else
in Nature man's motion, known to him or unknown, moves towards rest in a perfection
which shall be eternal and really stable, not partial and apparently stable. To
seek this higher perfection he is eternally moved and if he ever tries at all
to rest in the material and temporary, he is soon driven forward again by the
inexorable law of his nature to the old imperative endeavour. The frequent attempt
of man to escape from his own soul by plunging his head into the running waters
of Matter, is one of the recurrent jests, one of the constantly laughable mysteries
of the universe. He cannot keep his head down in that alien medium; after some
moments he must come up gasping for the necessary breath of his natural existence.
Since we cannot find a real and ultimate peace in material world, that great flux and whirl of movement, we are driven to look within for a principle of eternal stability. To look within is to look behind the veil of our material life. The very movement supposes that material existence is not everything, that our waking consciousness is not the whole field of our consciousness, but only one outward movement of our being and there is something more in us that is curtained and can be unveiled. This attempt necessitates in practice our acceptance of all subjective experiences as realities, not hallucinations,-as much realities as our experience, which is after all itself subjective, of life and death, of hunger and thirst, of wind and sun and rain. All experience, called by us subjective or called by us objective, corresponds in this view to some reality whether of this world or of another or of something beyond world, to some fact which it represents or misrepresents, and the truth of which has, in either case, to be discovered. Now in this inward looking, as we proceed from experience to yet deeper experience, we do come across a principle of eternal stability, a principle of eternal peace within ourselves which we perceive also to be omnipresent and pervasive of all time and space and to exceed and go beyond all time and all space, a principle we can not only perceive, feel and possess but in which we can live. Hallucination or no hallucination, this is a thing which can be seen, can be grasped, can be sensed by the mind, can be entered into, can be lived. Fact of material existence or no, it is an indubitable fact of spiritual experience and seems for a time to be the only wholly blissful fact, the one thing of which we can say Anandam Brahma, Delight is the eternal Reality, Bliss is Brahman. It is as described in the Upanishad, sukram akayam avranam asnaviraik suddham apipaviddham, luminous, bodiless, invulnerable, without sinews of force and action, pure, unpenetrated by evil,-whether evil of sin or evil of suffering. The soul in this state has for the world, at first and inalienably, either a peaceful or a joyous indifference, -not a repugnance, but an equal-souled acceptance or an equal-souled rejection of all things in the world which it regards not as binding fact but as vision of form and name in itself. What has happened when the soul enters into this stable peace and quiet bliss. It has risen out of action into that principle of Brahman manifest in us which is essentially the principle of transcendent self-stability, stbinu, anejat, fixed and unmoving, in which and by which this world of apparent motion exists. Passing into that inexpressible peace and stillness we are liberated from the world; we have entered out of the whirling universe of Nature into Brahman, eternal calm.
The whole of our later Hindu philosophy
is full of this mighty realisation of the still, self-luminous and inactive Brahman.
In those pre-Buddhistic ascetics, naked of the world and utterly calm whom the
unresting Macedonian found in the Asiatic Ultima Thule of his insatiable march,
in the all-conquering soul of Buddha, in the victorious intellect of Shankara,
in the aspiration and self-fulfilment of a million saints and hermits before and
afterwards, our race has aspired with an ultimate and limitless sacrifice, with
a sovran self-giving, to the boundless Master of peace. Even the latest of the
mighty Ones, the great Vivekananda, who was in outward seeming a storm of speech
and thought and force and action, was yet reaching always to the rare, remote
and sky-pure linga of Amarnath, the still and silent Mahadeva, as his inmost self
and goal; in him too the millennial endeavour, the irresistible yearning endured.
But is then this sacrifice really the ultimate sacrifice, this yearning the supreme
human tendency, this goal the final and unsurpassable resting-place? lf so, the
gospel of the Isha Upanishad is either a vain message or a halting-place for inferior
souls. But the Seer will not have it so. "Thou shalt act," he says,
"for thus has God made thee and not otherwise; other is the fruit of vidya
and atmaand not the supreme gain, the param sreyah." (This last sentence
is somewhat unclear in the manuscript, where it is squeezed inbetween two lines.)
Not is he in this insistence departing from the highest teaching of Vedanta. For
this sacrifice is not really the ultimate sacrifice; the ultimate sacrifice is
the renunciation even of mumuksutva, the giving up to God even of the desire for
stillness and peace and of the attachment to inaction and the acceptance in its
place, no longer with desire, attachment and passion, but with a free soul, of
the Lila as well as the Silence, the great eternal play of the Ishwara as well
as his vast eternal peace, the complex and progressively self-fulfilling movement
of the jagati no less than the single and ever-fulfilled immutability of the Ish,
the joy of the ejat as well as the calm of the anejad brahman. That, say the sages,
is the final perception of the Vedantin and the supreme consummation of his knowledge
when he discovers that there is none bound, none freed, none desiring freedom,
but only Brahman variously manifesting, only God in the infinite rest and play
of His own Being and becomings,- God and Brahman whom none can bind and who, therefore,
even when figured to Himself as man in this apparent cage of a mind and body is
still in Himself free-infinitely and for ever. The yearning towards stillness
and peace is not then man's supreme tendency; not peace is the goal but divine
Ananda of which peace is only the flooring and the threshold. lf our ordinary
world-existence is that of the Kshara Brahman, which seems to move and change,
to be born and grow and perish, and our ordinary soul-state that of the Kshara
Purusha, who seems to lose himself in the world and to move and change with it,
to be born and grow and pass with the mind and body; if the higher existence beyond
the mutability of the world is that of the Akshara Brahman, calm, still, unmoving,
indifferent, at peace, and the soul-state through which we move subjectively to
freedom is that of the Akshara Purusha who sits above all this flux and reflux
of world-energy at its work, careless of it and untouched by it, udasinavad asinah,
yet is not that the last goal nor the unsurpassable resting-place. Beyond and
containing the Kshara and the Akshara Brahman we perceive the supreme existence
of the Param Brahma which, transcendent, realises in Itself the harmony of stillness
and the movement; beyond and containing the Kshara and the Akshara Purusha we
arrive at and inhabit the supreme soul-state of the Purushottama, the Para Purusha,
Ishwara and Bhagavan, who, transcendent, is the possessor, user and sovran reality
of the movement and the eternal self of the stillness. In Him we find our rest
and in Him simultaneously we find our active self-fulfilment; for He alone is
our complete and utter being. Buddha and Shankara and our immense ascetic impulse
of three thousand years are not the last word of our race nor of humanity; they
are the expression of a salutary and violent necessity seizing on man and driving
him to abandon utterly the world in its false appearances, by renunciation of
all that here we perceive only as motion of Nature, sarvam idaik yat kinca jagatyam
jagat; they are a divine Inspiration and a compelling Impulse which will have
us by any means and at any cost open our eyes to the truth that not in besotted
attachment to the name and form of things, not in the blind, unillumined or falsely
illumined movements of the jagati, not in that ignorant state of the soul in which
it seems to the mind to be anis and not Ish and acts as anis, not Ish, subject
and not Lord of the jagati, is the ultimate fulfillment God intends for us, but
there is a stillness beyond the movement which we have to reach, a self-luminousness
of the soul in its true peace, freedom and wideness to which we have to aspire.
Anyad ahur avidyaya. But when we have obeyed the Impulse, it should, normally,
lead us beyond itself; for when we have conquered and transcended the movement,
we have yet to surpass and transcend the stillness. Beyond the Kshara and Akshara
we rise into the comprehensive infinity of the uttama; lifted above Buddha and
Shankara stand Janaka and Krishna, the supreme Yogin and the entire Avatar; they
in full action are in entire possession of peace and, conquerors of desire and
ego or eternally superior to them, keep their hold on the real and divine bliss
of God's triple self-manifestation; they know and exercise the simultaneous and
harmonious enjoyment of His transcendent being, His universal Self and His individual
play of becoming.
This then is the fundamental position assumed by the Seer, not denying the realisations of the quietistic sages, but exceeding the goal of quietism, not preaching attachment to the world, but fulfilling desireless and happily, as eternal inhabitant and possessor, God in the world, it asks [us] to live in God's peace while embracing God's action. Kurvanneveha karmani. Thou shalt verily do actions in the world and not abstain from them; thou shalt not renounce thy human activity among these many kinds of races of thy fellow beings, for God's will in thee is towards action, kurvanneva, not inaction. Evam tvayi nanyatha'sti. Therefore, jijiviset satam samah, doing all human actions one should accept the full term of human life, not seek to flee untimely from the sambhuti, the birth and becoming in this world or in the human body, not, like the Nihilist, mistake freedom for a silent nothingness, not blindly and impatiently cut short by physical or spiritual means one's full term of life or full measure of human activity. For those who do these things are, inasmuch as they maim the fullness of God's intended self-fulfilment in man, atmabano janah, self-slaying births,- not less, but in a way even more so, bhuya iva, than the more numerous herd of beings who by an ignorant attachment to bodily life and outward objects maim that self-fulfilment on its other necessary side. To renounce the condition of self-fulfilment is no less a blind darkness, andham tamas, than to be bewildered by the condition and by attaching oneself to the path, sacrifice the goal. All exclusive knowledge is a form and manner of ignorance; all narrow seeking is a mutilation of our secret and ultimate vastness and infinity.
emphasis with which the Seer enounces the necessity of life and action, kurvanneva,
ninyatheto'sti, is demanded from him by the truth of things as a necessary counterpoise
to the emphasis with which he has declared the necessity of renunciation and the
abandonment of desire in the immediately precedent phrases. For the first natural
result of renunciation and the abandonment of desire is a tendency to pure peace
and stillness, a disinclination to action as the source of all grief and disturbance
and an attachment to inaction as the condition of peace, the sahgo akarmayi of
the Gita. Desire, in the ordinary machinery of our nature, is the motive-spring
to action; by the touch on this spring the whole machine is set and kept working.
Nor does God slacken or destroy that human spring till the machine has written
out for Him in dual letters of pleasure and pain, joy and grief, sin and virtue,
success and failure, upward evolution and backward sliding, the harmony of His
inferior rhythms and His lila as the Ego in the kingdoms of Ignorance. But if
the spring is destroyed or if the divine finger no longer falls upon it, then
the machine no longer works. Egoistic action, the only activity to which mortal
mind is habituated or which it understands, is impossible without desire or at
least without its essential feature, liking and disliking, emotional, sensational
and intellectual preference and rejection. Hence, the first result of unsparing
inner renunciation, is not only peace and calm, but inaction. lf, departing from
that calm of inaction, we seek again to act, the force of habit in past Nature
associates with that rhythm of action its old triple gamut, ego, desire and suffering.
It is the old keys that again are struck, the old painful music that again quivers
through our being. This force of habit in past Nature mistaken for ineluctable
law of eternal nature, this obstinately persistent experience mistaken for ultimate
and imperative experience is the root and basis of the quietistic gospel which
declares action incompatible with peace and joy in Brahman, the false music of
an original Illusion, the morbid throb of a great cosmic disease or, in its law,
the ordering link of an incoherent series of sensations and to an unreal soul
in its whirl of births a rigorous double chain. It is these phantasms that the
Seer of the Isha Upanishad has to conjure, -phantasms of an overhasty metaphysical
generalisation, imperfect conclusions of the soul escaping from its fever and
mistaking the inactive repose of convalescence for its ultimate state of health.
Not inaction and inert repose, but a healthful activity is our final state and
release. We escape from this fever and struggle in which we live not by the drastic
remedy of extinction but by emergence into right form of action and our true life
in God. The Seer justifies God in the world to man by declaring His whole purpose
in it, His complete action behind and beyond material appearances and our true
infinite and cosmic being. The whole error arises from mistaking the root of our
suffering and bondage; the doctors of metaphysics have deluded themselves and
us with a false diagnosis. This error the Seer sets right in one of [his] brief,
mighty and ample phrases, na karma lipyate nare, Action cleaveth not to a man.
Action is not the cause of our bondage; attachment is the cause of our bondage. Inaction binds as much as action, if it is stained with attachment; action binds no more than inaction, if we are free from attachment to our works.
The constant association of ego and desire with action is due to the relapse of the mind back into its egoistic working, sähaükära, sakäma. It is this (...) relapse whicb the seeker after perfection has entirely to overcome. We have not either to descend back from non-ego. into ego or to take refuge in world-oblivion, but to ascend into God's infinity whose action is eternally unegoistic, cosmic and purely self-fulfilling, nirahafikära and niskäma. There we shall find and repeat in our own lives at once the utter reality of His self-collected call and the perfection of His divine force at work, sama and tapas united in an action which is the fulfilment of a mighty Silence expressing itself in waves of power and bliss. That harmony and oneness of divine calm and divine work is man's ultimate experience and the true nature of God active in the world.
This high teaching of the Seer, na karma lipyate nare, seems to contradict violently the great current doctrine of the bondage of Karma which Buddha found as an important but subordinate tenet of our early Vedantic philosophy and brought forward from the second to the first plane of our current metaphysical ideas, impressing it in the process so forcibly on the general Indian mind that it has left a dominant and indelible mark on all our subsequent thinking. In order, therefore, to recover the early thought of Vedanta, it is necessary to understand precisely the intellectual basis of the great Buddhistic doctrine and the point at which it separated from the lesser idea of Karma we find indicated in the Brahmanas and Upanishads. In the world as we see it, there are two fundamental aspects or faces in which its existence presents itself to our ultimate mental perceptions, first, self-conscious, self-governing existence, secondly, mechanical Force. According to our view of the mutual relation of these two grand entities will be the nature of our philosophy and our outlook on life. lf we hold the self-conscious, self-governing existence to be subordinate to mechanical Force, contained in it and one of its appearances and results, then we are naturally and inevitably driven towards the conception of a tyrannous self-existent Necessity as the true nature and governing force of existence; the self-conscious, self-governing entity dwindles into a side play of that Necessity, governed by it and not really self-governing; conscious only of its movement by that movement itself and not inherently, it yet mistakenly erects one nodus or one stream of mechanical Nature into the false idea of a self. This is the attitude towards life and existence of Buddhism, of materialistic Rationalism and, with one all-important modification, of Mayavada. On the other hand, if we hold the mechanical Force to be subordinate to the self-conscious, self-governing existence, contained in it and one of its appearances and conscious creations, then we are naturally and inevitably guided towards the conception of an all-constituting Self-Conscious Existence-and Power,-Brahman, Ish, popularly conceived as Bhagavan, as God, which is the true being and governing force of existence, -then the apparent mechanical Force reveals itself as no blind or mechanical movement of dead life, that insoluble riddle, that ultra-Eleusinian mystery of modern Rationalism, but the conscious Will of the Sole Existence, its Tapas, its Atmashakti or Chit-Shakti which formulates itself freely into laws and processes- the daivya adabdba vrata of the Rigveda-for the ordering of the universe. This is the attitude towards life and existence of the Veda and Upanishads. All other philosophies are halting-places or compromises between these two master-conceptions of existence. The wide divergence between the Vedic and the Buddhistic conceptions of Karma arises as the inevitable result of this direct opposition between their fundamental conceptions of existence itself. Both admit that all active existence is of the nature of energy or work. Vedanta uses the terms Shakti, Force, Power, or Prakriti, Processive Working, for the energy, karma, apas, work, or the plural karmani, works, for the activities and effects of the energy; Buddha ignores Shakti and Prakriti, because he denies the existence of God and soul or of any essential unity, but he sums up the work done in the general singular word Karma and elevates this ever indeterminate, ever increasing sum of work, into a determining conception which governs and constitutes our phenomenal existence. He is bound to this position by his idea of the world as void of unity and existence as consisting of a successive continuity of habitual subjective sensations, -samskaras,- not an inherent continuity of self-existent Being, -whether that being be a self-conscious existence or unconscious Force. For Buddha therefore all phenomenal existence is determined by Karma, the sum of previous works; for the Vedanta all phenomenal existence is determined by the working of Shakti or Prakriti, Force of Nature, under the will and choice of Soul, Self or Spirit. This Spirit, variously termed Deva, self-luminous conscious Being behind the Force of Nature, or Purusha, informing Male inhabitant and possessor of this female executive Energy, or Ishwara, omnipresent Lord of this Will Power, this Shakti formulated in Force of Nature, is the beginning and end, the Continent and inhabitant, the source and material of all objects and existences; for this Shakti, Prakriti or Nature produces all its works, objects and happenings only in the Ishwara's self-extended conscious existence. So, the Shwetashwatara Upanishad defines Prakriti as devatmasaktim svagunair nigudham, Self-Power of the Divinity concealed by its own modes of working. The Self in Vedanta is not only svayambhü, self-existent; it is svarat and samrat, self-governing and world-governing. The Ishwara is master and user of his works, not Himself their slave, creature or instrument. Therefore, while Vedanta accepts the law of works as a subordinate and external instrument of rebirth and prolonged phenomenal existence, a bond unreal in itself and even in its action many-sided, elastic and flexible, Buddhism imposes it as the one cause of rebirth and a mechanical and in its action an ineluctable Necessity and rigid chain; while Vedanta becomes by its fundamental conception the gospel of a recovery by self-realisation in outward consciousness of an always existing freedom and mastery, in a world which is secretly anandamaya, all-blissful, Buddhism becomes by its fundamental conception a gospel of escape by self-extinction from a sorrowful, intolerable and otherwise ineffugable bondage.
we go behind metaphysical conceptions and look at the concrete facts of existence
on which they stand, we shall find that the law of Karma is nothing else than
a statement of the soul's entire subjection to the law of cause and effect. The
idea belongs both to ancient Buddhism and modern Rationalism, but is stated in
either philosophy on different grounds. Buddhism denies the real existence of
soul, Rationalism denies its existence altogether, trenchantly and simply. To
the modern Rationalist the whole world is simply a working out of material Force
and mind itself is a particular working of matter. Mind, in this conception, is
a sort of automatical electrical apparatus which receives so many various kinds
and degrees of shock, beats out mechanical responses and converts them, also mechanically,
into so many forms of sound and idea. Ideas themselves must then be entirely material
phenomena, although because they do not assume any of the ordinary visible objectual
forms of matter, they falsely appear non-material to our consciousness. That consciousness
itself is, indeed, only a subjective and quite subordinate activity of matter.
Since the machine is automatic, there is no need to suppose the existence of an
intelligent operator. Ego is a fiction of the mind, the soul an ignorant theory
invented by the uninformed intellect to explain to itself its own existence. What
then is the cause of these thinkings, doings, happenings? Obviously, they must
be the workings of material of which the chief process is Force, a mechanical
causality. Previous workings produce as causes by an unchanging, inherent law
of action other workings of Force which stand to them as effects; they in their
turn join the general sum of causation and help to produce new effects. The sum
of past workings of Force yet in operation,-so far at least as they are concentrated
round the object,-are figured for man as heredity, environment, education, past
actions and produce a patent state of things or predisposing condition, its present
workings, acting as immediate cause, or the sum of immediate causes, produce out
of that condition all new states, actions and events, not intentionally but mechanically,
by the joint force or interplay of cumulative and special causes. This is the
modern materialistic theory of Karma to which, I presume, the majority of modern
thinkers would give some kind of assent. Denying the survival of personality after
death, it perceives no need to fathom deeper complexities or enter into more subtle
problems. The bondage of Law is inexorable but need not greatly trouble us, since
death after a short span of activity acts automatically as a release. To ego in
the mind, to our falsely self-imagined soul, even if that ego be so foolish as
to chafe and resent the bondage and limitation which is the law of all being,
there is always this consolation of a speedy self-extinction in the sum of Matter.
But any such resentment is a morbid folly of our intellect. To accept our chains,
manipulate, rearrange and use them for our own welfare and that of the race is
the gospel of scientific rationalism.
Buddhism views the same set of facts from the other end of thought. Not self-working material force, but a mass of subjective sensations is its reading of the universe. Material existence and action only exist in sensational consciousness and as terms of sensational consciousness and sensational consciousness only exists as a phenomenon in the void. But behind this sensation-troubled void, there is another state, entity or what you will, Nirvana, in which there is neither this continual birth in phenomena, nor the sensational activity of which continual birth is the nodus. Later Buddhistic schools have supposed Nirvana itself to be void or Nihil, but it does not appear that this was the actual teaching of the Buddha. He left the ultimate metaphysical question aside and fastened only on the practical fact of this bound and troubled sensational existence and that ineffable bliss of release and escape. To escape, that is the goal and end of man. But who escapes? Buddhism denies God, denies the existence of the Atman. There is no one who escapes, only the escape itself. Buddha avoided always the logical difficulty and seized on the practical fact. There is here, undeniably, the phenomenal existence of something which feels, desires, sins and suffers, and the great principle of divine Compassion in him which far more than reason and logic was the master key of his thinking, compelled him only to take hold of this great sufferer, this tormented self -deluder and turn it into that path by which alone it could escape from its own false existence. The path of escape is that moral and intellectual discipline which leads it out of the dread stream of good and bad Karma. To Buddha also the sum of past workings still operative on us is the great preexisting condition which is causal of continued state, action and happenings, past working as cause produces fresh working as effect which again constitutes itself into fresh cause. From this chain there is no escape in Nature except by perceiving existence as a streaming activity of successive sensational associations or samskäras and climbing out of the stream by a supreme act of knowledge. For, unlike the modern Rationalists, Buddha's problem was complicated by the belief inherited from Vedic Hinduism that death is not a release; personality survives and in other states, other births, continues to suffer and enjoy, enjoy and suffer through unending Time unless and until the knot is cut, the renunciation of the self -idea envisaged and effected. Then we escape from these running figments of heaven and earth and hell, pleasure and pain, life and death, self and not-self into the shoreless and streamless peace of Nirvana. Shankara, one of the mightiest of metaphysical intellects, a far greater intellect than the Buddha, though a less mighty soul, built up by his intuitions and reasonings a third position which reconciles Vedic Brahmavada and the Karmavada of Buddhistic rationalism and Rationalistic materialism. Shankara asserts the real existence of the Atman, self or soul which alone exists and is indeed the essential substratum and Continent of this phenomenal universe. But he admits with Buddha the absolute rule of Karma, of the law of works, the law of cause and effect over the conscious soul immersed in the phenomenal universe. Is then the soul eternally coerced by its own phenomena, eternally bound to the revolving wheel of its own phenomenal manifestations? No, for freedom is the ultimate spiritual experience. Where then is the point of escape, the door, the egress? The point of escape is for Shankara, as for Buddha, in an ultimate act of knowledge which denies the real existence of the phenomenal world. He erects a rigid antagonism between essential truth and practical truth, paramrtha and vyavahära, the one alone we must admit to be true truth, the other we must reject as only apparent truth. This world is a world of action, of karma, and in a world of action the governing practical truth is the law of karma which drives the soul through the endless chain of birth and death and rebirth, whirling for ever betwixt heaven and earth and hell, tossed from good to evil and evil to good, pain to joy and joy to pain, like a tennis ball kept continually at play between two equally skilful players. But all action depends upon and is only rendered possible by relation, and all relation depends upon and is only rendered possible by self-division, by bheda, by dvaita, by the false conception in the soul of itself as not one, but many, by Avidya therefore, by Maya, a great original sin of Ignorance, a mighty cosmic self -deception. Where there are many, relation and action are possible; where there is one, there can be no relation and therefore no action. Atman or Soul is one, therefore relationless and actionless, santam avyavabäryam, therefore free from Karma, from rebirth, from Maya. The rest is a phenomenon of creation produced by the play of active consciousness, jagati, and cast by it like a shadow or reflected image on the surface of the still, actionless and relationless soul. This play, this jagati, is Maya which is and is not, -is in itself, for its works are there, but is not, for those works are unrealities; they are a mass of self-deceptions starting from an original self-deception rooted in the principle of mind. What the mind sees is a reality, it is Atman, Brahman, but the ideas, the terms in which mind sees it are falsehoods. (*see below) All practice therefore, however true for practical purposes in world, is really the plausible and well-arranged play of a falsehood; practical truth and action are only so far useful that out of them, properly handled, emerges the impulse which leads to cessation from action and the knowledge which denies practical existence. In that cessation, in that denial is man's only escape from his false mental self into the calm essential reality, objectless bliss and relationless self-knowledge of the Atman. We see then that Shankara has practically transmuted or replaced Buddha's vague and undefined Nirvana by this actionless and peaceful Atman, the sinta akrya saccidänada, substituted for Buddha's false world of subjective sensations, a false world of erroneous ideas starting from the original self-deception of duality, and, accepting Buddha's law of Karma as applicable only to this false world and Buddhas means of escape by an ultimate act of knowledge, substituted knowledge of real self for Buddha's knowledge of non-self as the essence of that act and the true culmination of inner(*see below) experience and meditative reason. Shankara, like Buddha, refuses to explain or discuss how active consciousness came at all to exist on the surface of a sole Self-existence which is in its very being sänta and inactive; he drives, like Buddha, straight at the actual fact of our bondage, the practical cause of bondage and the most direct path of escape from the bondage. These he states for us as he holds them to be established by Scripture, experience and reason and then, the fact once thus triply established, our business is not to account for its existence, which, moreover, must in the nature of things be inexplicable to the mind, since Maya is an original mystery and therefore incapable of solution, but to grasp at the one means of escape, of release, of the great and final liberation. The intellectual difference between the two systems is immense, their temperamental kinship is close. Yet we have this curious result, due to Buddha's stress on the means of self-denial provided by life and its ethical and altruistic possibilities as a preliminary training, that Shankara's system, less intellectually Nihilistic than Buddha's, has been practically more fatal to the activities of the divine power and joy in life in the nation which has so largely accepted his teachings.
(*The explanation given by modern Adwaitins of Shankara's views, their interpretations in modern thought of his philosophical formulae, are so various and mutually contradictory, that it is becoming as difficult to know the real truth of his views as to know the real and original teaching of Buddha. I give what seems to me to be his teaching and at any rate it is the only logical basis for Mayavada.)
denying God in life, by withdrawing the best souls from life, by discouraging
through their thought and example,- the thought and example of the best, yad yad
äcarati resthah -the sraddhä of life, the full confident self-acting
of Matariswan even in those who have practical accepted and cling to the burden
of worldly existence, he has enlarged the original Vedantic seed of ascetic tendency
into a gigantic growth of stillness and world-disgust which has over-shadowed
for centuries the lives and souls of hundreds of millions of human beings. On
one side the race and the world have gained immensely, on the other it has suffered
an immense impoverishment. The world-fleeing saint and the hermit have multiplied,
the world-helping saint and the divine warrior of life come rarely and fail for
want of the right atmosphere and environment. The Avatars of moral purity and
devotional love abound, the Avatars of life, Krishna and Balarama, manifest themselves
no more. Gone are Janaka and Ajatashatru, Aruna and Vyasa, the great scientists,
the great law-givers. The cry of OM Tapas with which God creates has grown faint
in the soul of India, the cry of OM Shanti with which He withdraws from life alone
arouses and directs the best energies of a national consciousness to whose thought
all life is sorrow, self-delusion and an undivine thunder. Chilled is that marvellous
and mighty vigour which flowed out from the Veda and Upanishads on the Indian
consciousness and produced the grand and colossal forms of life eternally portrayed
for us in the fragments of our ancient art and history and in the ideal descriptions
of the Epics.
In Buddhism and modern Rationalism we have the denial of God, the grand negation, remedied for the purposes of life by a subordinate or substitutory conception which encourages the active impulses in humanity; in Rationalism, the negation is corrected by a covert reaffirmation of Him in the disguise of a blindly purposeful Nature full of a supreme mechanical intelligence and working out an evolutionary intention in humanity, in Buddhism, by the strong and fruitful affirmation of Karma and of Dharma or ethical religion as the indispensable first condition of escape from Karma; in Mayavada we get back to the affirmation of God, but an ill-balanced affirmation ending for the purposes of life in a practical negation, since God in the world is presented to us as a dream of Maya and God aloof from the world as the only real reality. To get back to the full affirmation we have to return to the ancient Veda. There, we find stated or indicated in every Upanishad, but most succinctly and practically in the Isha Upanishad, Ish, Purusha, the Deva as the supreme good; we recover there the perfect affirmation of God and return to the grand, original and eternal negation of all these succeeding negations. There can be no more direct contradiction to the negative element in Shankara's teaching than the uncompromising phrases of the Isha Upanishad kurvanneveha karmani, nanyatheto'sti, na karma lipyate nare. Both Shankara and the Seer of the Upanishad start from the same premises, the universality of Brahman, the bondage of desire and ignorance, the necessity of escape through the dissolution of the dividing ego-sense in our mentality; but the practical conclusions they draw from these premises reveal somewhere an abyss of divergence. Abstain from actions, cries Shankara, except, for a time, from those that are indispensable and Shastra-enjoined, and even these do with a view to their early cessation; for action is the master-key of the chain of Maya and only by ceasing from action can a man escape from the grand Illusion of things; only by cessation in relationless knowledge and the eternal stillness of the actionless Brahman can there come the great release from good and evil, from joy and pain, from birth and death, from living and non-living. Verily do actions, cries the ancient Seer, accept thy full term of human life and endeavour; for action is not in itself a chain nor a result of ignorance, but rather a manifestation of the Most High. Action cleaveth not to a man. The difference arises from a divergence in the fundamental conception of God in the world. To the Mayavadin Ishwara, God in relation to the world, is a supreme term of Maya and therefore like all things in Maya existent yet not existent; to the Seer God is an eternal reality standing behind Chit-Shakti in its works, embracing it, possessing it, fulfilling Himself in it through the world rhythm. Action to the Mayavadin can only be motived by individual ignorance and must always be a knot of that ignorance; action to the Seer can even in our outward consciousness be motived and in the secret consciousness of God always is motived by the divine and universal Force and Bliss at free play in the divine and universal Being. The world is to the Mayavadin a freak of knowledge, an error on the surface of Self, a misconception of mind about Brahman; the world to the Seer is a running symbol of God and a means for His phenomenal self-manifestation in His own active being and to His own active knowledge. God, being unbound by His own activity and its free lord and disposer, man also, being one in self with God, is unbound by his works and, in God, their free master and disposer. Na karma lipyate nare.
in this divergence of views the dominant sense of our later Indian spirituality
has been with the conclusion of Shankara and against the conclusion of the early,
the inspired, the supra-national Vedanta. To the modern Indian mind unaffected
by European pragmatism it has been untrue that action cleaveth not to a man,-
na kauna lipyate nare-; and it has been true that all action results imperatively
in bondage, yah karoti sa lipyate, whoever acts is entangled in his action. The
reason for this preference is obvious. Bondage and sorrow in the world are a fact
of our daily experience, withdrawal from life an obvious and logical escape; freedom
and bliss in the world are only a statement of scripture, an experience abnormal
to ordinary humanity and if eternally existent, then existent in our subliminal
self and not in our waking consciousness. Therefore India failing in the crucial
(doubtful reading) power of Vedic tapasya has inertly accepted and combined the
Buddhist Law of Karma and Rebirth and Shankara's gospel of cosmic Illusion and
We have seen that the statement of the law of Karma is, at bottom, an assertion of the supremacy, complete and effectual in all forms of activity, of the grand cosmic principle of cause and effect. It formalises the subjection of the human life or even the human soul, at least in all its active parts, to the ineluctable dominion of an unending causality. lf it can be shown that the dominion is not ineluctable or man himself is or may be above causality, its master and not under its control, then the whole elaborate chain forged for us by outward world-appearances crumbles in a moment to pieces. For Indian philosophy the main practical application for man of the chain of causality was the Law of Rebirth, -a law of the Soul in Nature; for modern Science, which denies the soul and knows nothing about rebirth, its practical application for man as for plant and stone and animal is, simply, the invariable working of material Force or, using a more popular language, mechanical Law of Nature. Even if the soul exists and rebirth be proved a fact, the Law of Rebirth can be to modern conceptions nothing but a particular working of Force, one, therefore, of the many subordinate Laws of Nature. As locomotion is the effect, electricity or steam the cause or motive force, so rebirth, continuity of personality in a material form, is the effect, past action is the cause; it is a law of Nature, on a par in the psychological, field with the law of gravitation in physical Nature, that the soul which acts shall be subjected to rebirth as the ineluctable result of its actions.
So stated, and given the necessary premise that individual personality is itself no eternal mystery but only a result and a nodus of natural energies working through the mind, the Buddhist's ineffugable law of Karma becomes a luminous, simple, rational, rigidly logical solution of the problem of personal existence, and like all hat is simple and trenchantly logical, it attracts sovereignly at the first glance and tempts the thought to find rest in its symmetry and security. But to a mind on the alert for the infinite surprises of our complex world-existence this simplicity, this rigid logic is itself a danger signal, a warning of error. The more largely and patiently we consider existence, the more we perceive its extraordinary complexity, the multitude of its strands and the variability of its formulae, the more we begin to distrust all simple and one-sided conclusions. Even though the world be one in substance and unitarian in principle, it is always infinitely manifold in manifestation and infinitely complex in working. When therefore we have arrived at a conclusion which, attracting by its simplicity, convincing by its force of logical dogmatism, coerces all these complexities to fit a single formula, yet we shall do wisely if we survey our position once again, if we ask ourselves what side of the truth we have omitted from our review of things and whether there are not somewhere incompatible facts which we have too forcefully dismissed or too dexterously got rid of in our haste to reach some goal. As Buddhism by too great dexterity got rid of the human perception of self-existence or Mayavada of the human perception of world-existence or Rationalism of the human perception of a psychic life in us and outside us that overtops our material and bodily activities, our thought can only arrive at the whole truth of things when it learns to ignore and evade nothing, to leave out nothing that God has included but rather to give patiently, justly, dispassionately every fact and every aspect of existence its right value and full place in His scheme of things. lf we do not perform the necessary work of self-criticism for ourselves, mankind will eventually do it for us and cast away as falsehoods those exclusive religions or those one-sided philosophies which on their too narrow pedestals we have erected with so much and so immature a fervour of self-satisfaction. For Truth in the end is invincible and, gets the better of all mankind's temporarily triumphant violences upon her. There are already signs that the mind of the race in India is beginning to react against the exaggeration of the Buddhistic generalisation of Karma to which modern Hinduism has been so long subjected both in life and in thought. The weakness of the Karma theory lies in its absolutist and exclusive generalisation of a great, a fundamental, but still a partial truth,-its overstress on outward human action as a determining factor of the soul's experiences, its insufficient stress on those vaster and more subtle workings of God in man of which outward action is only the partial symbol and the external machinery. It is here that the Upanishads recall us to a wider and sounder view of God in the world and His purpose in action and birth.
Not action but our past soul-states are the womb of our future; not action but desire, attachment and self-immersion of the individualized Soul in mind in a limited stream of tbe workings of its own executive Nature form the knot in the bondage of rebirth; action, whetber of the thought, the speech or tbe body, is only by an outward mechanical process by which the soul-state shadows out or symbolizes itself in material life. It has no essential value of its own, but only the value of what it expresses; it can therefore have no binding power upon tbe soul which originates and determines it. What it does and can help to alter, are merely the mental and emotional values and terms in which soul-state expresses itself and even this function it performs as a partial agent and not as the real determining factor.
lf that be true, then we have been grossly exaggerating the power of our actions over our souls, grossly and wilfully accepting in our mental and outward life the tyranny claimed over us by our individual nature, when our hidden relation to it and God's open ultimate intention in us is the very opposite of such a submission to the despotic control of Matter. The relation of the Swarat to his being, of the Samrat to his environment is our secret and true [illegible word]. To conquer one's own nature and fulfil God in world-nature, standing back from her in the soul, free and desireless, but not turning utterly away from her, is the true divine impulse of God in humanity. Life of Nature is intended to be to the soul of man as the Indian wife to her husband, not all in all, for it is to God that he should turn supremely and live in God perpetually, but yet always the half of himself through whose help alone as his sahadharmini, his comrade in works, he can fulfil the divine purpose of his living. The soul to Prakriti is intended to be as the Indian husband to his wife, the image of God in life, for whom she lives and through whom she arrives at the Divinity. We should seek first and live always in God beyond Nature, but God as Nature we should also cherish and enjoy as His symbol of that which is beyond and the appointed means of His active self-manifestation.
[In] Vedanta, therefore, the true and early Vedanta, the practical freedom of the soul is not to be gained as in Buddhism by self-abolition, -for the ego alone can be abolished, the soul is eternal, began not and cannot end, -nor, as in Mayavada, only by extinction of its activities in actionless self-knowledge, -for God expresses Himself in action no less than in rest; -but rather the soul is eternally free in its nature and its freedom has only to be entirely realised by the mind in all its parts in order to be possessed, whether in action or in inaction, in withdrawal from life or possession and mastery of life, by this outer consciousness which we call our waking self as it is eternally possessed in our wide and true effulgent spiritual being, which lives concealed behind the clouded or twilit shiftings of our mental nature and our bodily existence.
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