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The Nature of Inspiration
Lecture delivered on February 21, 1903,
in the Golden Gate Hall, San Francisco, U.S.A.
My own Self in the form of ladies and gentlemen,
At a certain meeting in India wise men were there, very wise men were present and sacred texts from the Hindu Scriptures were being recited and explained by the savants. One of the audience—at the time when the meeting was about to dissolve—spoke about a certain sage who had come to the town, and was living on the banks of the river and he praised this saint very highly. The people then became naturally anxious to know more about this saint. There was a parrot who was listening to the talk, or you might say, a slave hearing this conversation about the sage that had come to the town. This parrot that was confined in the cage, or this slave asked the gentleman who was talking about the sage, to go to the sage on behalf of this imprisoned parrot or enslaved person, and ask him to tell certain means of escape for this confined bird or enslaved person. Well, the gentleman who had first interviewed the great saint went to him at the time when he was bathing in the river, and put to him this question, "How could that bird-parrot confined in the cage or say, that particular enslaved person, be released? How could he be released?" Just when the question was put, the sage was seen to be carried off by the torrent; he was observed by the people of the town as dead. The people who were witnessing this state of the sage were astonished and they rebuked the person who put this question or who conveyed this message from the parrot or from the slave. The people thought that the saint was fainting or was swooning through pity for the imprisoned parrot or through sympathy for the bond slave. The saint did not recover that day, so it appeared.
Well, next day when the meeting was held again at the place where the encaged bird was, or where the confined slave was, the parrot or you might say the slave asked the gentleman who had interviewed the saint, whether the parrot’s message had been conveyed to him. The gentleman said that the message had been conveyed but added that he was sorry to convey the message from such a wretched fellow as the encaged bird, or from such a sorry person as the bond slave. The parrot or the slave enquired why he was sorry. Then the gentleman said that just when the message was conveyed to the sage, he fainted away. And all the people were wondering, were astonished what all this meant.
But the parrot or the slave understood through and through the whole secret. The parrot or the slave you might say, was not so intelligent, but immediately after hearing that the saint fainted, he also fainted and was dead to all intents and purposes. There the by-standers were surprised; lo, this must be a strange message which had caused death of the two. When the message was conveyed to the saint, he died, and when the message was repeated to the parrot or the slave, the slave died. Do you know what happened next? When the by-standers saw that the parrot was dead, they thought it no longer worthwhile to keep the parrot imprisoned. They opened the cage, and immediately the parrot flew out and said, "O audience, O people, who gather here everyday to hear the sacred scriptures, you do not know how realization, salvation, inspiration is to be achieved. I have learnt it today from the answer to my message that I received from that saint. The saint did not faint; the saint, as it were, answered my message; the saint by fainting, by falling in a swoon told me the way to realization, told me the path of realization. The path of salvation, the way to realization is apparent death, that and nothing else, crucifixion and nothing less, there is no other way to inspiration. The way to realization is getting above the body, rising to that state spiritually, rising to the state of inner salvation, where the body is, as it were, dead, where the small personality is unconscious, is altogether lost, is entirely left behind, that is the way to life.
In Sanskrit we have got two words most significant, one is bhoga and the other is yoga. Most of you are familiar with the word Yoga, perhaps you have read the opposite of yoga is bhoga. Bhoga literally means enjoyment, and yoga means renunciation. People in this world talk about enjoyment. What is enjoyment? If you examine, analyse enjoyment, you will find it to be nothing else but yoga, renunciation. There is no real enjoyment except in renunciation, there is no inspiration except in renunciation, there is no prayer except in renunciation. You cannot, cannot keep your little personality, enjoying self at the same time with joy. The very moment when joy is there, the enjoying self is not there. The very moment inspiration is there, the idea of "I know" and "I do it" is absent, it cannot be there. This is what the great masters have said on the subject. ‘The man who is his own master knocks in vain at the doors of poetry.’ You cannot be in a state to write poetry, and at the same time be an enjoyer of poetry. No. You cannot be your own master and at the same time write poetry. Nobody can write and be conscious of the fact that he is writing. When he becomes the consciousness itself, then is the point of inspiration reached. The artist must be sacrificed to his art. When you are playing the part of the greatest artist, there in the eyes of others you are a great artist, but from your own standpoint you are not. No thought of "I am doing" is present, you have become one with the All. You are no artist from your own standpoint; there the interpreter, the interpretation, the writer, the writing—all have become one. There all the difference has been annihilated. This is the nature, the secret of inspiration.
People say, "He is a spiritual man," but when he is inspired he is not inspired from his own standpoint. Others call him inspired. Other people look at the rainbow and admire the colours, the beautiful magnificent tints. They like them, they admire them, but go there where you see the rainbow. Examine, see carefully and you will find no rainbow; you will find no rainbow there. The rainbow is present in the eyes of others; but from the standpoint of the exact place or from the standpoint of the person who is seated at the place where others see the rainbow, there is no rainbow. Similarly from the standpoint of others a person is called inspired, a great man, a writer, a thinker, a philosopher, but from his own standpoint at that time there is no delusion of this kind present—that "I am writing" or "I am inspired." The artist must be sacrificed to his art. Like the bees the artists must put their lives into the sting they give. There is the whole secret of inspiration. The bee, when it stings you, dies after it. So he is inspired who gives his whole life into the sting he gives. There is the whole secret. You cannot be inspired and at the same time enjoyer; try to enjoy a thing and you are no longer inspired; others will enjoy you, the world will enjoy you, when you are inspired, but you yourself will not be an enjoyer and an inspired man at the same time. You will be no enjoyer, but you will be better still, joy itself.
The moth flies into the flame of the lamp and then the moth proves its love. In order that the moth may be distinguished from a common fly, we shall see the moth singed by the lamp in order that it may prove that it is a moth. Similarly in order that a man of inspiration may be seen to be a man of inspiration, in order that his power of inspiration may be evinced and revealed, he must be a man of Yoga. Away, away above desire he goes, dead to all intents and purposes for the world.
No great genius could ever draw real inspiration except from living Nature. This will be illustrated by an example from Nature. Water gives life to this earth; it is the cause of all growth in this world along with light. Your crops are ripened by water, water is a great blessing of God. In this country people do not like rain, but in India and in all countries in the East, rain is quite the highest blessing of the world. The greatest philosophers and the greatest poets, the great people who wish inspiration always avail themselves of the opportunity when clouds are roaring in the skies, when it is raining heavily outside. These are the occasions that are most earnestly sought by all poets and by all seekers after inspiration; and from personal experience Rama can say, always when it is raining outside, it is much easier for Rama to write poetry than on other occasions. When it is about to rain or when it is drizzling, of itself the mind becomes elevated and the brain is thrown into a poetic mood, and everything becomes so inspiring, and no apparent cause can be assigned for this extraordinary exultation, except the union of heaven and earth through rain. Through rain earth and heaven unite. Usually marriage festivals in India take place on such occasions. People think the earth and heaven unite. Hence let man and woman also unite in marriage bond. Here let us see how it is that the atmosphere gives inspiration and gives us rain, gives us dew, gives us beautiful breezes. What is it that inspires the whole heaven?
Science tells us that the cause of the inspiration of the heaven is what is called saturation. Now this is a word which ought to be explained. Take a cup of milk and add sugar to it. The sugar will be dissolved. Add a little more sugar, this also may get dissolved. But there will come ultimately a point where sugar will be no longer dissolved. You may add sugar ever so little or ever so much, it will no longer be dissolved. This is the point where a certain amount of sugar is dissolved and no more can be imbibed by the milk, no more is accepted by the milk. This point is called the point of saturation. We see that water will dissolve salt to a certain point, to a certain degree, but beyond that degree no more salt will by accepted by the water. If more salt is added, it will lie, it will settle down at the bottom, it will not be dissolved. There the water is saturated with salt. Water may be saturated with earth, we may add a certain quantity of earth, it will get dissolved, but add a little more, it will not get dissolved, there is water saturated with earth. Here is the atmosphere of ours, which consists of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, organic matter, material particles, and also aqueous vapour. The particles of water are suspended in the air. There comes a time when the atmosphere is saturated with aqueous vapour. There are times when the atmosphere is not saturated with aqueous vapour. But when the atmosphere is highly saturated with aqueous vapour and a little more quantity of it makes its presence, there the air can no longer hold its water. The superfluous water—the water that is there and above the quantity of vapour which will saturate the atmosphere, that water falls down in the form of rain. Thus when the atmosphere is more than saturated with water, we have rain in this world; we have dew-fall; we have storms, we have drizzling, we have such phenomena after the point of saturation. We shall consider afterwards how this saturation is effected, but at present suffice it to say that in order that the atmosphere may be inspired, in order that we may have any rain, the point of saturation must be reached, nay, it must be more than reached; the vapour must be saturated, and more than that, then we have beneficent results, great consequences in this world.
Similarly here is your mind, it might be compared to the atmosphere of the air. When the mind gets saturated with an idea, it fills the mind, conquers your mind, permeates and pervades your mind, fills your whole soul, saturates you. Now mark, whenever your mind is saturated with any idea, you find your mind in a very strange stage, you call it the state of unrest. It is a state of mind which remarkably resembles what we call calm, what we call on this earth a state of closeness, and you know when it is very close, people expect rain. When you find it is very close, the atmosphere is saturated and after that we expect rain, beyond the point of saturation. Thus when your mind gets entirely filled with an idea, it is in a state which remarkably resembles what we call a state of closeness, calm, close. When your mind is saturated with the thought or your loved object, you may have observed that there comes a time when the mind is in a state of closeness, calm or restlessness; it is indescribable, people call it marvellous restlessness. Now when that state is exceeded, when you go beyond that state, you become a poet, there poetry begins to fall from you, begins to rain down melodious verses, splendid songs. That is the state. When your mind exceeds or goes beyond the point of saturation, the ideas drop down in a condensed form in black and white, there is inspiration.
Here is a man. He takes into his mind a certain thought, the thought to solve a problem. He begins to work it out, he works and works, but cannot arrive at the solution. Those of you who have tried to work out deep problems, philosophical or mathematical, can bear out Rama from their personal experience. We begin to work at a deep problem; originally, in the beginning when we are trying to solve the problem, our mind is not saturated, our mind has got some other desires also permeating it. The desire to possess this object or attachment for this object or that, is predominant in your mind and also the desire to work out the problem is present in the mind. The deep problem is not solved. When you see that by such efforts the problem is not solved, you become a little restless and throw aside your attachment to other objects, you become more free, in other words that particular idea before you becomes more prominent, fills your mind more and more, and drives out other thoughts. The problem is not solved yet. Most of the feelings and attachments are dispensed with, yet there remains in your mind the idea of ahamkara as we call it in Sanskrit, "I am doing it" and "I get the credit for it." What happens? The problem is not solved. After a while when you persist in working at it and you go on hammering on it, all thought of meum et teum is lost, the idea remains supreme in your mind; and when that point is reached, all thought of meum et teum, all thought of mine and thine, or time and space is entirely got rid of. The one idea fills the whole space in your mind, leaves no vacancy in your heart, leaves no vacuum in your heart, and the soul is saturated so to say with the idea, and you become one with the idea. There the moth is singed, there the bee has given up its life, there mastery over the little self is lost, there the idea of enjoyment is gone, there is crucifixion; when that point is reached, all of a sudden you are inspired, and there flashes within yourself the solution. Do not people make use of this expression—"It strikes me," "It struck me?" Without this death-in-life, you cannot succeed and cannot be inspired.
Artist, teachers, philosophers and thinkers in their own lines get inspiration, but this inspiration comes only through crucifixion. People in this world want to keep themselves as enjoyers, keep themselves as agents, but Vedanta shows it is not in accordance with the laws of Nature that you should enjoy anything. It is not for man to enjoy anything. This enjoyer is the false self, it is not the real Self, it is not you. All thinkers, philosophers will have to see their body, their mind, their whole being enjoyed by the whole world. There is the road. If you want to be an enjoyer, the way to salvation, the way to happiness, the way to enjoyment is barred for you, is marred for you. You cannot, cannot enjoy this world, for you there is only one way, and that one way is to see the body, the mind and everything of yours enjoyed by Divinity, eaten up by Divinity. As Christ says, "Here, eat my flesh, eat it." "Here, you will have to drink my blood!" at the Lord’s Supper! Very happy is he and blessed is he whose life is a continuous sacrifice.
Whenever we reach that point of saturation, when the mind is filled with the idea, when the whole being is lost and merged in the thought, the machine, the organ, the musical instrument is taken up by the great musician, by God, by Divinity, and through this organ are produced beautiful, magnificent, sublime tunes. Great notes, splendid music come out of the organ, but so long as the child wants to keep the organ to itself, and does not want the great organist or musician to handle the organ, only notes of discord will be emanated by the organ; so long as this self, this false ego, this unreal self which is the "enjoying self", is present and wants to keep hold of the body and does not let go this body, through this body or musical instrument notes of discord will come out. Make over this instrument or this body to Divinity, get yourself rid of this false ego, away with this little self, sacrifice it, and rise above it. Then, when the point of saturation is exceeded, God himself takes up this instrument, the great musician handles this instrument himself and through this instrument, music comes out, magnificent notes spring forth. There you are inspired. Inspiration is God-doing. When the little self gives up possession of the body, the person is inspired.
We find that before Christ began his mission, Satan tried to tempt him in everyway to become an enjoyer. Here were the seven worlds, here were beautiful, delicious dishes, here was sovereignty, here was an occasion of getting a great name by working a miracle, here were the temptations, here was enjoyment laid before Christ. What did Christ say? "Get behind me, Satan, I will have nothing at thy hands." Splendid, splendid. O people of America or Europe, keep this teaching of Christ before you. "Get behind me, Satan, I shall have nothing at thine hands." Despite all this outside ravage of materiality, keep this teaching of Christ in your mind. "Get behind me, Satan, I shall have nothing at thine hands." There was Christ putting away all worldly enjoyment, he takes up renunciation and cross, gives up all that. Here is the emblem laid before you, the secret of inspiration. So long as the enjoyer or agent-idea is retained in your mind, you cannot, cannot be inspired. It is only when the enjoyer or agent-idea—"I am working, I am doing, I must take the credit"—is entirely renounced, then are you inspired.
Rama will finish it with a story. In the Hindu Scriptures there is a magnificent story told about three persons called Asuras. These three persons had wonderful powers. They were warriors, nobody could get the better of them, they were wonderful, wonderful people. People came, fought with them, and were defeated immediately; hosts of enemies came and were defeated. The men who fought with them came in thousands but were defeated by these three persons. The enemies being defeated so frequently went to a great saint and asked how they could win these three fellows; and the saint told them they must enquire into the cause of their invincibility, how these three Asuras were invincible. With great effort and trouble it was found that the secret of their invincibility lay in the fact that these persons, never, never did entertain the thought that they were workers or enjoyers. When the victory was gained, they thought nothing of it. They did not stoop down to enjoy the victory. When they were fighting, the idea that "I as this body am fighting" was entirely absent. Such are the heroes in this world. You know every hero in war, while engaged in action, as people say "I am all ears," so the hero is all action. There is no room left for the idea "I am doing." There his body gets mechanical, so to say. He is all action, there head and feet are saturated with the Divinity. So these people whenever they fought, became all action, they never for a moment allowed the idea, "I am acting." Just as a machine worked, their bodies worked; like machines of God, machines of Divinity, their bodies worked. This was the secret of their success, nobody could win them.
Now the secret of their invincibility being found out, the great sage told the enemies of these three warriors the means of conquering them. He told those enemies to engage in action with them and then run away from them. Go to them and call them out into action, and just when they begin to attack you, leave those warriors as conquerors. Just draw them out and flee away from them. The enemies of those warriors drew them out and fled from them. Thus a few times more were the enemies of those warriors defeated. By and by those three invincible warriors were drawn out of their true position, were drawn out of their real invincibility and were brought down into their bodies, they were made to believe that they were conquerors. They were made to believe that they were great, that they were victorious. Those continued victories engendered in them the idea that they were victorious, they were conquerors. Here were the three men brought down into the cage of the body; here the three men put into the prison house of the body. The idea of "I am doing" or the thought of "I am great" got hold of them and held them in prison. There the God in them was replaced by the small ego; and then it was no hard task to win them and catch them and imprison them. It was not a hard task, they were defeated immediately, immediately were they caught.
Now mark the application of this story. So long as you are doing a work, your body being a machine in the hands of God, as it were, your personality being merged in Divinity, so long as you are in that position, you are invincible, you are like those three Asuras above the idea of "I am enjoying or I am doing." You are invincible; but when people come to you and begin to praise you, to puff you up, flatter you, favourably review you from all sides, you are made to believe that you are a conqueror, you are a hero, you are victorious, others are defeated, your rivals are downtrodden. You are like those three Asuras. The idea of "I am doing it", "I must enjoy the deed", and "I am the enjoyer"—that very thought imprisons you, brings you down into the cage of the body. You are undone, the power is lost.
Do you not see even in the Bible, when Christ came fresh from the mountains, he was possessed of the great power. He lived in the midst of his friends; he talked a great deal, and Christ had to say, "Who is it that touched me? I find my power going out of me." We see that in the Bible. There you see the same thing. When you are above this "I am doing, I am enjoying," God is working through you and you are inspired; but as soon as you do a thing and accept peoples reviews and favourable criticisms, people’s applause, and people’s flattery, the power goes out immediately. Immediately it goes out; you are brought into the cage again. Go out of the cage and you are inspired, go into the cage again and you are no more.
Here is a beautiful watch, suppose. It is in working order and running day and night. It gets magnetized, it comes close to a strong magnet, the iron springs are magnetized. The watch cannot run, it is useless now, it gives us no time. What shall we do with it? Let the watch be buried underground, keep it away from the magnetic influences, keep it away from those influences, it will be de-magnetized, it will regain its original working power, and you can use it again. Beneath your minds, your inner Self is heavenly, is godly. Every child is by nature an inspired child; every child is by nature a poet, and if you live, live in accordance with divine laws, if you live in harmony with Divinity, you are always inspired. If you live in unison with your true Atman or Spirit, if you always keep yourself in touch with God in you, with your own Self or Atman, you are inspired all the time. What is wrong with you is that your mind comes in contact with earthly magnets on all sides, worldly attachments which magnetize you and put you out of order, you are no longer in running order, deranged. If you are not inspired today, the sole reason is that you do not keep yourself isolated, or insulated enough. You allow worldly objects to magnetize, to hypnotize you, you allow them to play foul and fast with you. If you want to regain your original powers and inspiration, keep yourself insulated, isolated for a while. Bury yourself in the Reality, in Divinity, in God, in the true Atman. Keep yourself buried in the Spirit, in the Truth. Live alone for a time, set apart sometime of your day for keeping in touch with the Reality; merge yourself, bury yourself in God. Do that and the spoiling magnetism and wrong hypnotism that you have got from these worldly objects will leave you, your mind will be running in order again. You will be again inspired.
Ships when they keep sailing in the sea for sometime, become a little deranged, are put out of order. They require to be placed in the dock for sometime to be repaired. Similarly by keeping yourself too long in worldly affairs, in worldly matters, in the company of hypnotizing circumstances, in the midst of spoiling and wearing and tearing surroundings, you are put out of order, you are fallen, you get your inner natural powers of inspiration lost. Just as you do with your ships, so should you do with your bodies. Keep your bodies, for sometime at least, in the docks, away from those influences; keep your bodies, for sometime at least, in Spirit. Read books which will inspire you, live in the company of people who will inspire you, live alone by yourself. Devote sometime to meditation and you will regain your power of inspiration. Does not your body require to be washed everyday, does not your house require to be rubbed and scrubbed everyday? Similarly does your mind require to be cleansed and purified, washed and bathed everyday. So long as worldly ideas, worldly attachments or thoughts of worldly enjoyment, or the idea of "I am doing this" etc., is present, so long as you are not entirely crucified, there is no hope for you. The way to inspiration is nothing less than crucifixion.
Om! Om!! Om!!!
Last Updated: Fri Apr 21, 2000
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