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Expansion of Self

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

My own Self in the form of ladies and gentlemen,

Tonight we are going to hear something on the Expansion of Self; you might say on the degrees of life, the grades of spiritual advancement, or you might call the subject, degrees in the refinement of selfishness. Perhaps the conclusion arrived at will be startling.


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The diagram that you see before you consists of a straight line and circles. You will say, "What is the use of these? What have circles to do with the unfoldment of the Self?"

Some are saying in their hearts—these are not circles, they are very crooked, they are rather ellipses. But these circles are to denote classes of life, which are not exactly circular, which are crooked and elliptical, so to say, and that justifies the imperfection of the circles; they exactly represent in their deviation and in their imperfection what they have to indicate.

Before beginning with what life is, and the degrees of life, we shall have to say a few words about these circles.

Here is the minutest circle, a very small speck. It ought to have been made even smaller than that, but fearing that if it were smaller it could not be seen, it is drawn large enough to be visible. There we have beyond this a second circle, larger than the minute baby-circle, and outside that a third one and then there is the fourth one. One peculiarity of these circles is that as the circle goes on expanding, enlarging, the centre of the circle goes on receding from the starting point A, on the straight line which is a common tangent to all the circles. The centre recedes, the radius increases and the circle enlarges. If the centre of the circle is very near the starting point A and if it is made nearer and nearer still until it coincides with the starting point, the circle becomes a point. Thus a point is the limiting position of a circle, of which the centre has come extremely near to the starting point, and when the centre goes on receding from the starting point, the radius goes on increasing and increasing until it becomes infinite or the centre moves up to infinity, then the circle becomes a straight line. Thus a straight line is the limiting position of a circle, of which the centre moves up to infinity, or of which the radius is infinite.

Another peculiarity we notice is that the greater the circle, the nearer it becomes to the tangent, straight line and its curvature goes on decreasing as the circle goes on increasing. Thus we mark that the larger circle with centre D is at the point A, very much more like a straight line than the internal circle with centre C is, and then this internal circle is more like a straight line than the circle with centre B, which falls within it. This is why the earth, although really spherical, appears flat when you look at any part of it, the sectional circles of the earth being infinitely large for the naked eye. This will do for the circles.


Life! What is the characteristic feature of life? What is it that distinguishes life from inanimation or want of life? It is motion, energy or activity. This is the popular way of looking at the question. The definitions of life given by Science can also be summed up in this definition. A living man can move forth, walk about, do all sorts of things. A dead mummy cannot manifest these forms of energy or this or that motion, or these movements which the living man displays; a dead animal cannot move about; the living animal walks, runs, does all sorts of things. The dead plant cannot grow; it is devoid of motion, devoid of activity entirely. A living plant grows, exhibits motion.

Grade of life

We see again that generally four distinctions are made in the degrees of Life, or this world is divided into four principal kingdoms: the mineral, the vegetable, the animal and the man. In this world we see that man exhibits more energy, more motion, a higher kind of movement than animals do. Animals can simply walk about, run or ascend mountains, but man does all these things and much more. He does many other things. He displays or shows motion and energy to a higher degree. By means of telescopes he can reach the stars. Animals cannot do that. Man can control the animals. He annihilates time and space by means of steam and electricity. He acquires rapidity unknown to animals. He can send messages instantaneously to any part of the world. He can navigate in the air. This is man’s motion, man’s energy, manifestation of power in the world. Animals fall short of man in manifesting or exhibiting energy and we see that animals are lower down in the scale of life than man.

Again compare the vegetable kingdom with the animal kingdom. Vegetables also grow. They move, but their motion is only in one dimension, they can move up in one line, they cannot move from this place to that, they are fixed to one spot. They send forth their branches in all directions and strike their roots very deep; but the manifestation or display of energy in the case of vegetables is far inferior to what it is in the animal kingdom, and there we see vegetables are lower down in the scale of life than animals. Minerals have no life in them. Indeed, if we define Life in the same way as biologists do, then they have no life. But if we mark the grades of life by the revelation and manifestation of energy, we might say that minerals also do manifest a kind of motion; they also do undergo a change; change is indispensable for them, too.

Thus, they also have very small traces of life in them, but their life is very insignificant, being at the bottom of the scale, because the activity, the motion, the energy betrayed by them is insignificant, infinitesimal. Thus, it is clear that life which is characterized by motion is graded in accordance with the degrees of motion or energy.

Nature Repeats Itself

Now, in Nature, the plan is that there should be nothing new under the Sun. We mark that despite this apparent variety, in spite of all this outward multiformity, Nature or the Universe is very poor. The same Law which governs the trickling down of a tear from the lover’s eye also governs the revolutions of suns and stars. From the minutest atom to the remotest star, we find the same simple laws which might be counted on the fingers controlling and governing everything. Nature repeats itself over and over again. This Universe might be compared to a screw or spiral, of which every thread is of the same fashion, or it might be compared to an onion. Take one sheath out and we have another sheath of the same kind; then take that out and we find another of the same kind; peel that off and you have another sheath of the same pattern. In just the same way, what we have in the whole year, we have on a miniature scale during every twenty-four hours. The morning time might be compared to the spring season. The noon might be compared to the summer season. The afternoon and the evening might well compare with the autumn, and the night might be compared to the winter. Here we have in twenty-four hours the whole year reproduced on a miniature scale. Man in embryo repeats with marvellous rapidity all the past experiences of life-forms which it inhabited before assuming the human form. The shapes of fish, dog, monkey, etc., are all, one after the other, assumed by the foetus in the ovum, before reaching the form of man-child. Thus, in accordance with the usual plan of evolution, according to the general law which governs the whole world, we want to find out if in the body or form of man there be practically the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms reproduced.

In the form of man, are there not people who are, as it were, minerals? In the form of man, are there not persons who are in the state of the vegetable kingdom, and are there not people in the shape of man who are in the state of the animal kingdom?

In the shape of man, let us see if there be men who are really men, and in the form of man, let us see if there be men who are gods.

Mineral Men

First, we shall take up the moral and spiritual minerals. The mineral kingdom manifests no motion apparently; it exhibits no energy outwardly, but nevertheless it has some kind of energy, some kind of activity, some kind of motion, because we see minerals undergo change, there is disintegration and development even in the minerals. They crystallize and grow. This earth which we look upon as stable, when compared with the sea, this solid-seeming earth rises, falls, undergoes undulations and changes. Thus minerals also have some kind of motion in them, though exceedingly unnoticeable.

Now, who are those in the shape of man that have only the same kind of motion as minerals? In other words, who have the same kind of motion as a child’s spindle or top has? A spindle or top turns, goes round and round, it moves, and when it is revolving vehemently the children come up and clap their hands and rejoice saying: "It is stationary! It does not move! It does not move!" This is self-centred motion. Motion they have, revolving motion, but the centre of revolution lies within the body, and even when the motion is most violent, seemingly there is no motion at all. We might compare the life-motion of the minerals to the motion of a spindle or top, and represent it on the black-board by the smallest circle, the point circle.

You know, all motion in this world is in circles, no motion in a straight line; all science proves that. For this reason we will make use of circles to represent the manifestation of motion. In Mathematics motion is represented by lines; in the present case circular lines will best serve the purpose.

So we have mineral life possessed of a motion comparable to spindle-motion. It may be best represented in the figure before you by this minutest circle which might be called a point. Who are those among men whose motion is like the motion of a top, whose circle or orbit of movements is simply a point, whose life is the life of minerals? Just reflect. Evidently these are men, all of whose actions are centred around a little point, a false self, the little quarantine of a body, three and a-half-cubits long. They are selfish in the lowest sense of the word. These are people whose all actions are directed towards sensuous enjoyment. These people work in different lines, do all sorts of labour, but the object is simply to seek debasing pleasures. These are people who care not if their wife and children starve; they care not whether their neighbours perish or live; at all costs they must drink, they must make merry, they must obey the dictates of the lower nature. Their demoralizing needs must be satisfied, even if it be at the sacrifice of the interests of their family and community. Let the wife and children starve, they care not, if only their cravings of the flesh are gratified. The centre of all their movements, the focus round which they turn, the sun round which they revolve, the centre of their orbit is simply the little body. Their activity or motion is dead motion. This is the mineral life in man. We have had in the history of the world very beautiful and precious minerals in the shape of man. You know, diamonds also belong to the mineral kingdom; rubies, pearls, jewels and all sorts of precious stones also belong to the same kingdom.

There was a time in the history of Rome, when we had Nero, Tiberius and other Caesars, to mention whose names is to contaminate your ears. We have had mighty rulers, emperors, very precious minerals but minerals only, not men. What would you think of these emperors, emperors of the whole world that was known to them, and yet caring not a straw for the interests of their state, who took no thought about their relatives and friends, but who must satisfy their animal passions, no matter what happens to their queens, subjects and friends. You have heard about them, about the crimes they committed. There was one of them who fell a victim to the passion of eating delicious things the whole day long. When he partook of a most delicious dish, he ate and ate till nature rebelled. With the help of medicines everything was vomited, and when the stomach was relieved, he would return to the table again. This process was repeated over and over in a single day. One of them burned the capital of the world to gratify his desire of seeing a big conflagration. What do you think of them? These were precious jewels, diamonds, no doubt, but not men. These are minerals in the kingdom of man.

Vegetable Men

We come now to the state of vegetables in the form of man. Their circle is larger than the grossly selfish little circle of the mineral man. Their circle is larger and these people are much higher than the mineral man. Their activity might be compared to the motion of a race horse. The race horse describes a larger circle than the spindle or top does. Their circle is represented in the diagram by the second circle of which the centre is B. Who are these people? These people do not pursue their work simply to satisfy the taste of the flesh at the expense of everybody else’s interest. They take into consideration the good of some other associates. These are people who turn round their wife and children, the domestic circle. They are far superior to the selfish mineral men, because these people not only advance the good of their own body, but they advance also the cause of their wife and children. The second circle includes many smaller circles, so do these people advance the good of many little selves besides their own little self, but should they be called unselfish? No, no; in the case of these people the self is expanded only a little. In the case of the mineral men, the self was limited to this little body; and in the case of these people the self is practically identified with the domestic circle, their wife and children. That is also selfishness but selfishness refined a little. They are very good people so far as they go, but just look at this second circle which represents them. It is concave towards all inside it. What is concavity? Concavity is folding and clasping in the arms of love. Let us with our stretched arms form a circle. This is concavity. This circle is concave for the members of family, it is turned towards all the points that it embraces, but it turns its back to the whole universe outside it.

These people are very good so far as they go, so far as their concavity or extended arms go; but they turn their back to the whole universe. The selfishness of these people moving in the second circle of the vegetable man becomes evident when the interests of one family clash with the interests of any other family, and then there is strife and discord wrought by them between all the members of one family and all the members of another family.

Animal Men

Next we come to the third circle. These are animal men, animals in the form of man. This third circle, represented in the figure with the centre C, is larger than the preceding two. It might be compared to the circle described by monsoons or trade winds. It represents people who have identified their self with something higher than this little body or the domestic circle. These people identify their self with their class or sect or their state. They are sectarians, people who identify their self with a caste or craft. They are very good, very useful indeed, far more useful than the vegetable men are. Their centre is beyond the little body. It is at a much higher, wider expanse than the centre of the vegetable man. The radius of revolution in their case is longer. Blessed are these people. You see their usefulness extends to many families and individuals. They are useful to the people they embrace within the arms of love. They are useful to the people to whom their attitude is that of concavity. These people advance the good not only of their little body, not only of one house or family, but they advance the good of the whole class or sect with which they have identified their self; they are very useful. Are they also selfish? Why, yes; selfish they also are. They seek to benefit their own self which is identified with their sect, at the cost of other sects or castes. If you want to see the shortcomings in them, you will have simply to mark their attitude towards all the points outside their circle. They turn their back to all that is outside. When they crystallize and stereotype their sectarianism, woe unto them that do not accept their version of truth. Here is one class, and there is another class, another circle of the same kind. These being turned against each other, all the individuals belonging to the first class are at war and at dagger’s drawn with all the individuals represented by the second class. Look here, if they do good to some, they do as much mischief, if not more, by declaring war upon all other communities and rival sects. One whole sect quarrelling and fighting with another whole sect on the other side. How much discontent is engendered by that! Still these people are far more preferable to those who are only vegetable men.

The Law of Nature is that you should not stand still in any position: you should go on: march on and on. Be not subject to inertia or averse to change and progress. When the people are in the state of the mineral man, the next higher state will be that of the vegetable man and for the people who are in the vegetable kingdom, so to say, the next higher state will be that of the animal man. If a person, while advancing upwards and making onward progress, passes through the state of the animal man, it is well and good. There is nothing harmful or detrimental for a man in passing through the state of the animal kingdom; it is all right. Things go wrong, everything becomes confused and all produces mischief, when we want to stand still and stop at one place and refuse to make further progress by selling our liberty to this or that dogma or creed. It is natural for everybody to pass through that stage at one time or another; but it becomes wrong for him to stick to it and endeavour to perpetuate it. It becomes wrong and a cause of mischief when he becomes a slave of that particular name and gives rigidity to his position. When the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were being destroyed, Lot’s wife turned back. She was leaving the city, but turned her face back. She wanted to remain in the city; her heart was there and she wanted to go back. And there on the spot she was converted into a pillar of salt. Just so with the people who keep making upward progress and who keep moving away from their previous situation and who refuse not to make advancement, it is well and good for them; but the very moment that they want to turn back and refuse to make onward progress and sell themselves to names and forms, that very moment they change themselves into pillars of salt. Stagnation or fanaticism becomes the cause of misery. These may be good men, animal men, but they must make progress, must go on.

Moon Men

We come now to the fourth circle, the circle represented on the board with the centre D. Here is man in man. Here is a normal man. His circle might be compared to the circle of the moon. The moon describes a circle around the earth, it is more elliptical than circular. The moon man, who is he? A very large orbit he describes: happy is he, perhaps? He is a man who identifies his self with the whole nation or the whole race; you might call him the patriot. A very large circle is his. He cares not whether those for whom he works belong to this creed or that. Irrespective of denomination, caste, colour or creed, he makes it a point to advance the cause of all those who live in the same land with him. Very welcome is he, he is very good, a man he is, but that is all. You see, the moon brings about revolutions also in the sea, brings about tides, ebb-tides and flood-tides. Besides, lunatics, you know, are also said to be moon-stricken. This is a good circle, no doubt, the moon circle, but just see when moon men stereotype their position, when these people become selfish, and their selfishness is crystallized, the selfishness in their case meaning patriotism, when it is given rigidity, when it is crystallized, what results? It brings revolutions and lunacy. It sets one nation against another, and there we have bloodshed and warfare, thousands—nay, sometimes millions upon millions—of beings shedding, spilling and drinking blood and making the fairy face of this beautiful earth blush with slaughter, blush red with blood. They are very good for those whom they embrace, to whom they are concaved, but just mark their attitude towards those against whom they are convex. Washington is all right for Americans, but ask the opinion of Englishmen about him. The English patriots are very good as far as, what they call, their own country is concerned, but just look at them with reference to those people whose life-blood is being sucked by their patriotism.

Free Men

Last of all, we come to the fifth circle. Here the centre moves up to Infinity, say: the radius becomes infinite, and what about the circle? When the radius moves up to infinity, the circle must become a straight line; all the crookedness is gone. The straight line passes through the whole space equally, fairly; it is concave to none, it is convex to none. The circle becomes a right line, a straight line it becomes. All crookedness is gone; all curvature vanished. These are God men; their circle might be compared to the circle which the Sun is describing. You know that the sun moves in a straight line; the radius of the circle is infinite. The Sun is all glory. Here is a circle of which the centre is everywhere but the circumference nowhere. This is God circle; these are free-men; these are free—free from all sorrow, free from all fear, free from all bodily desires, free from all selfishness. Are they selfish? No, up to this, we had selfishness. Have we no selfishness in this straight line? The straight line is a straight line—no enslaving point can we see anywhere. It passes through the space, no selfish little centre round which it may turn, nothing to turn it round. Here is selfishness destroyed; or, you might say, here is the real Self gained.

You see, we began with the point circle, gross selfishness, and here is that little point enlarged, increased and expanded till it has become a straight line. These are God men. These are people to whom the wide world is home, irrespective of caste, colour, creed, community or country. Be you an Englishman, be you an American, be you a Mohammedan, a Buddhist or a Hindu, or whatever you may be, you are Rama’s Self. You are the Self to him. Here is selfishness marvellously increased, here is a strange kind of selfishness. The wide world is my Self: the universe is the Self of this man: the wide world, the lowest creature, minerals, vegetable, the Self of all these becomes the Self of this man.

To a man who had reached this state of perfect freedom, there came a disciple who sat at his feet for a year or so. When the disciple was going to leave the master, he began to bow down at his feet, to kneel down before him, to prostrate himself before him, as the custom in India is. The master, smiling, raised him and said, "Dear, you have not yet learnt all that you could learn. You lack a great many things yet; stay for some while more." A few days more he stayed in the holy presence of the master, and got more and more of inspiration. His heart was converted into God-consciousness. He was full of the Holy Ghost. He left the presence of the master, knowing not whether he was the disciple or the master himself. He went away looking upon the whole universe, the wide world, as his real Self, and the whole universe being his real Self, where could he, the Self, go? When the Self fills and permeates every atom, every molecule, where can it go? The idea of going and coming becomes meaningless to him. You can go from one place to another, if you are not already at the place where you want to go. Here he found himself, he found his true Self, God within, God everywhere, and how could he think of going and coming? The idea of going and coming became absent for him. He was in the state of Self-realization. The going of body was a sort of reflex action. He was in himself; no going or coming for him. Then was the master satisfied. Thus did the master test him and prove him of sterling worth. The disciple paid no respects or thanks to the master, and rested in unity to such a degree that he rose above all idea of gratitude. Then did the master know that he had really understood his teachings. Here is the master-state, where if you honour the man, he says you are belittling him. "I am not confined in this body; I am not this little body only—I am the wide world, I am you, and honour me in you." Here is the state of a man who sells not anything to you. Here is the state of a man to whom honour and disgrace for the body have become meaningless, both shame and fame are nothing.

There came a man, a prince, to a monk in India, and he prostrated himself before him. The monk asked him as to the cause of homage that the prince was paying him. The prince said, "O sir, O holy sir, you are a monk, and you have adopted this order by giving up your kingdom which you ruled at one time. You are a man of great renunciation, and so I look upon you as God, I worship you." You know, in India, people are not honoured so much for the riches they possess. In India they are honoured for the degree of renunciation they display, and the chief principle of honour is essentially different there from what it is here. More trust is placed in God than in the almighty Dollar. The prince was offering homage to the man of renunciation. The monk replied to the prince, "If that is the reason why you honour me, I must wash your feet, I must kneel down before you, because, O king, you are a man of greater renunciation than all the monks in this world put together." That is very strange. How could that be? Then the monk began to explain, "Suppose, here is a man who possesses a magnificent palace, and this man casts out the dust and dirt of the house; he throws out or renounces only the dust or dirt of the house. Is that man a man of renunciation?" The prince said, "No, no; he is not." Then the monk continued, "Here is a man who treasures up the dirt and the dust of the house and gives away the whole house, the magnificent palace. What do you think of this man?" The prince said, "This man who keeps only the dirt and dust, and resigns the palace, is a man of renunciation." Then the monk said, "Brother prince, you are then the man of renunciation, because the real Self, God, the real Atman, that which is the magnificent palace, the real home, the paradise, the Heaven of heavens, you have renounced, and only the dust and dirt of that palace, which is this body, this little selfishness, you have retained. I have renounced nothing. I am myself the God of gods—the Lord of the Universe."

Sometimes these people, the people who have reached the highest state of advancement, the free souls, are looked down upon by some and are called crazy; but ask them if they would, for one moment, exchange the divine bliss, the supreme happiness which they derive from divine intoxication, for all the wealth and riches of this world. Not at all, not at all. These people look down upon and pity the begging spirit of the so-called wealthy, who go abegging at the door of the flesh, at the door of carnal pleasures. Pleasure is within you. There you can get it. The whole treasure is within you. Then why play the part of the beggar and go about in a miserable plight, in a sad state, and behave like a pitiable atom? Come, realize your true Self, Almighty God, and let this song burst forth from you in fullness of joy—

"I am the mote in the sunbeam,
    and I am the burning Sun,
Rest here? I whisper the atom,
    I call to the orb, "Roll on!"
I am the blush of the morning,
    and I am the evening breeze;
I am the leaf’s low murmur,
    the swell of the terrible seas.
The lover’s passionate pleading,
    the maiden’s whispered fears;
The warrior, the blade that strikes him,
    his mother’s heart wrung fear.
The rose, her poet nightingale,
    the songs from the throat that rise,
The flint, the sparks, the taper,
    the moth that about it flies.
I am intoxication, grapes,
    winepress and musk, and wine,
The guest, the host, the traveller,
    the goblet of crystal fine.

Oh! The splendour and glory of your Self makes the pomp of emperors ridiculous.

Such a wondrous Heaven you are, Existence, Knowledge and Bliss you are.

Om! Om!! Om!!!

Last Updated: Thu Dec 16, 1999
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