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PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
—Sardar Puran Singh
[Sardar Puran Singh, who went to Japan for higher studies, met Swami Rama in Tokyo in September 1902 and fell spontaneously in love with him. Such was the intense love and devotion of Puran to Rama that after a few months of departure of Rama from Japan to U.S.A., he took up ‘Sannyas’ to tread the path of Vedanta as shown by Rama.
Born on 16 January 1881 in a small village of the erstwhile Frontier Province (a part of Pakistan now), Puran studied Chemistry for three years in the Tokyo University and was also the secretary of the Indo-Japanese Club. On his return to India, Puran was pressurised by his parents to give up ‘Sannyas’ and enter into the marital bond. Sardar Puran Singh served as a Chemical Adviser in the Imperial Forest Institute, Dehradun, but he is better known for his facile pen. Besides being the editor of the ‘Thundering Dawn’ he wrote many books in English, including the Story of Swami Rama Tirtha, the Sister of Spinning Wheel, The Unstrung Buds, At his feet, An afternoon with Self. Much credit goes to Puran in the shaping of ‘In Woods of God-Realization’. He has carved out his place in the Hindi literature also by writing only five known articles ‘Nayanon Ki Bhasha’, ‘Pavitrata’, ‘Acharan Ki Sabhyata’, ‘Majdoori Aur Prem’, ‘Sachchi Virata’. He left the mortal body on 31 March 1931.]
These volumes are presented to the public in the name and memory of Swami Rama. In these volumes it is proposed to bring together all his writings and speeches. A short collection of his articles and essays published in his lifetime has already been reprinted and put before the public in nice form by Messrs. Ganesh and Co., Publishers, Madras. Besides these his other manuscripts, mostly the lecture-notes of his American speeches, taken down by some American friends, were found in his box when he left us for ever. Excepting the articles referred to above, that were published in his life-time and which also have been included in the present collection, all other lectures have not had the advantage of his revision.
So much that he might have eliminated is still there and so much more that he might have added is absent. He had intended to thoroughly recast, in fact to write anew all the valuable portions of the subject-matter of these manuscripts, with much more that was in his mind, into a systematic exposition of his teachings, a work that must have been a fresh and novel contribution on the philosophy of Vedanta advancing the latter systematically as the individual and social religion of the coming generations. But his work remained unfulfilled mainly for two reasons, first because about two years before his Samadhi, he seriously and earnestly undertook a thorough and complete study of the Vedas in original as preparation for his proposed work, and thus, I think the time which he could have perhaps more profitably devoted to the systematisation of his own writings was spent in the efforts of making his final work grand and monumental in every way; secondly, living in his beloved solitude of the Himalayas, out of touch with people whose hopes and aspirations might have stimulated his intellect to work for their fulfilment, his mind soared higher and higher till it lost its foot-hold by his daily increasing absorption in the Infinite. When the writer was for the last time with him, he kept silent for most of the time. He had ceased taking interest in reading and writing. When questioned, he would expound to us the secrets of his state of consciousness, this supreme silence he called then by the name of Death-in-Life. He would tell us, the more one dies in Life, the greater is the good that naturally and spontaneously comes out of such a man for the benefit of others. "Rama may not seem to finish the task in hand, but Rama knows it will sometime be done all the better when he is gone. The ideas that saturate Rama’s mind and have guided Rama’s life, will gradually in the fullness of time filter down to society and can work their destiny properly when Rama loses himself now in the Divine, foregoing all plans, wishes and aims."
He had taken to this idea so ardently that no entreaties could prevail upon him to commence writing his work.
Thus, though deprived of the systematic exposition of his teachings by himself, it is a matter of consolation that we still have with us some of the subject-matter of his thought, however scattered and fragmentary it may be. It has, therefore, been decided, not without some hesitation, that this subject-matter of his thought and the reflections of his consciousness in his extempore speeches, with his essays and note-books, should be put before the public in a printed form, almost in the same form as he left them. Those that have met Rama personally will recognize him in many and perhaps all of the speeches and will feel as if they were still listening to his wonderfully eloquent character. They will feel enchanted once again by the spell of his personality supplementing as they would all that may be lacking in the printed form by the affectionate and reverent associations of him in their minds. Those that have had no occasion to see him will be able to realize the state of that supremely blissful consciousness which is at the back of these utterances and gives them their charm and meaning, provided they may have the patience to read them through. They may not be able to follow him in some of his ideas at one place but at another place they will find those ideas expressed much more clearly and with greater force. Men of different shades of opinion and thought, on reading through these pages, will find ample food for their thought and spirit, and much that they will surely recognize to be their own.
In these volumes, he appears before us by no means as a literary man and has no desire to be judged as an author, but he comes before us with the majesty of a teacher of the spiritual laws of life. One great feature of his speeches is that he speaks to us directly from his heart and never endeavours to give us a lecture-room demonstration of Vedantic doctrines, not because he was unable to do so—for those who know him, know him to be the master of the subject he is handling but because he is trying to lay before us only those ideas which he practically carried into his own life and which, he thinks, would, if followed by others, guide, as they did in his case, the life of man to the pinnacle of glory, of happiness and success. He, therefore, does not lay before us the intellectual side of his mind, but tries to give us some of his own experiences and speaks out clearly with an inspired enthusiasm of the effects that certain thoughts produce on life when carried into actual practice. As such these speeches are only aids and suggestions to the realization of Truth that he believed in, rather than the philosophical and closely reasoned expositions of that Truth. Are we not already sick of works overloaded with intellect? It is indeed refreshing to see a masterly mind coming home to us in simpler and clearer and commoner accents of life. Instead of an argument, Swami Rama gives us a story, believing that the actual life of a man sympathises more with the life of another and weighs it more than all the abstract architecture of mental reasoning. There is that airiness and freedom in his expression which characterises the speech of a poet only. Poet-philosopher as he was, the suggestiveness of thought and speech is marvellous, pointing as it does to Infinity. He is the philosopher of that deep music of life which is audible to those only who go deep enough.
A few lines may be appropriately devoted here to give an idea of what Rama was in himself and to us. Born in an ordinary Brahman family in the Punjab, (now in Pakistan) he was the patient architect of himself from childhood to manhood. He built himself little by little, moment by moment, and day by day. It may be said that perhaps the whole career of his future life was sketched already before his mind’s eye, because even as a boy he was working so gravely, so silently and so consciously for a definite mission. There was the resolution of a riper mind in the steps of the poor Brahman boy who faltered not under any circumstances, and who was never daunted by any difficulties. Under that extremely humble and winsome appearance, touched with resignation and purity almost like that of a shy and modest maid, there was concealed in this thin frame of the Brahman boy an iron will which nothing could sake. He was a typical student who loved to study not with any hope of gaining worldly ends, but for satisfying the ever-growing thirst for knowledge which was firing his soul anew with every new Sun. His daily studies were sanctified oblations on the altar of this havan kund.
He would forego an extra suit to himself, and an extra loaf or even a day’s meal for the sake of oil for his midnight lamp to read his books. It was not unoften in his student life that he kept absorbed in his studies from sunset to sunrise. There was that love of knowledge which pulled strongly at his heart so much that the ordinary comforts and physical needs of a student life were entirely forgotten. Hunger and thirst, cold and heat, could not tell upon his supreme passion that he felt towards knowledge. There are witnesses of his student life still living at Gujranwala and Lahore, (Pakistan) who say that the pure-minded Goswami toiled unarmed and alone day and night, fighting with life without the sinews of war, and they remember the occasions when even in this country of boasted charity, the poor Brahman boy had for many a day little or nothing to eat, though every muscle of his face always exhibited an ineffable joy and satisfaction.
The knowledge, therefore, that Swami Rama brings to bear upon his teachings in after-life was gathered grain by grain with the greatest penance and hardest labour and is full of intense pathos for us, remembering as we do the extreme penury and thorny life in which he managed to bloom up as a poet, philosopher, scholar and mathematician. When the Principal of the Government College, Lahore, offered to send up his name for the Provincial Civil Service, Rama expressed himself with a bent head and a moist eye that he had not toiled so much for selling his harvest but for distributing it. He would, therefore, prefer being a teacher to being an executive official.
A student so absorbed and so amorously fond of knowledge naturally grows into a pure and sincere man.
Enjoying perfect intellectual isolation from his surroundings even as a student, Rama lived by himself keeping company only with the greatest of men through their books. He looked neither to the right nor to the left being wholly absorbed in his own high pursuits. He set his life early in tune with his ideals. All who knew him in his student days reverently acknowledged the transparent purity of his character and the high moral purpose of his life. In his student life Swami Rama was growing inwardly. He was melting and casting and melting and casting his life again and again into moulds of perfection. He went on chiselling day and night to shape out the curve lines of his model and to finish its beauty. From good to better, he stood daily self-surpassed. When he became a professor of Mathematics, the very first pamphlet he wrote was "How to study Mathematics." The lesson he teaches there is that overloading the stomach with greasy and rich stuffs makes even an intelligent student unfit and dull, while on the other hand light food always gives free and uncongested brain which forms the secret of a successful student life. He says purity of mind is another essential condition for securing proper attention to work, and devoid of this one element no method would be able to keep the mind in the proper mood of a student. Thus he condenses the experiences of his student life in such simple pieces of advice as we find in the said pamphlet.
He does not write for writing’s sake, nor speak for speaking’s sake, but he takes his pen or opens his lips only when he has something to give. "I try hard for gathering facts, but when they are mine, I stand on a rock proclaiming my message of Truth for all time." The pieces of advice referred to above are mentioned here to indicate his method of getting at a lesson and then of teaching it. He would observe the effects of things and thoughts on himself and then form his independent and unbiased opinions, which he would put to crucial tests for years in his own life before taking them to be true or otherwise for himself, and he would take still longer time for maturing them before working them out for others. As said above, he had made up his mind not to open his lips and pose as a teacher before he had mastered as a student and disciple for himself the lessons that he had to teach. This is one of the secret keys to his character. Swami Rama, whether as a student or as a professor, had always been secretly toiling for a higher knowledge than that of Literature and Science and patiently building up his convictions and thoughts on the higher laws of life exactly after the manner of Darwin, before he went out as a Swami to proclaim his Truth in the world. We always find him working with the solemn consciousness of a great moral responsibility of his life to mankind. This toiling for the higher knowledge of Self has, therefore, been all the more arduous and keener struggle, considering that he was fully weighing in his mind the responsibility of his mission of life to accomplish which he knew he had to leave the chair in the college for a platform from where his words would be addressed to the whole of humanity and to posterity. He slowly and resolutely began floating his life on the divine bosom, on the wings of Love and Faith, and daily winged higher and higher till he was lost in the Infinite, the Brahma, God, or as he called it, the Atmadeva. The history of the yearnings of his soul, spiritual privations, emotional difficulties and mental miseries is hidden from our eyes. But it is the harvest of the hard-earned experiences of this part of his life that we find in his teachings as a Swami. Many a night he wept and wept and his godly wife alone saw his bed-sheet literally drenched in his tears in the morning. What ailed him? What made him so sorrowful? Whatever it be, it is these tears of that intense spiritual yearning of his soul for the highest love which fertilizes his thoughts. On the banks of rivers, in the dark solitudes of forests, he passed many a sleepless night in watching the shifting scenes of nature and in contemplation of the Atman, sometimes chanting songs of his own composition in the dolorous tone of a love-lorn bird separated from his mate, and at others, fainting away in the intensity of his devotion divine, and reviving bathed in the holy waters of the Ganga of his eyes. His moods of love shall for ever remain private, for he has chosen to keep his own personal life hidden from us and none knows except himself the details of the development of his consciousness. But he was undoubtedly in the company of a galaxy of saints and prophets and poets before he came to be a poet and an apostle himself. He was a constant companion of the Sufis of Persia, notably of Hafiz, Attar, Maulana Room and Shamstabrez. The saints of India with centuries of their religious culture informed his spirit. Tulsi Das and Sur Das were undoubtedly his inspirers. The love-ecstasy of Chaitanya, the sweetness of Tuka Ram and Nanak, the meditations of Kabir and Farid, of Hasan and Boo Ali Kalandar, the faith of Prahlad and Dhruva, the intense spirituality of Mira Bai, Bullashah and Gopal Singh, the mystery of Krishna, the consciousness of Shiva and Shankar, the thoughts of Emerson, Kant, Goethe and Carlyle, the free chants of Walt Whitman and Thoreau of the West reacting on the Vedantic Maya of the East, the scientific candour and truthfulness of Clifford, Huxley and Tyndal, of Mill, Darwin and Spencer reacting upon the superstitious theologies and religious dogmas of both the East and the West, liberalising the human heart and emancipating the human mind from centuries of mental slavery, all these and many more influences individually and collectively went to idealise his mind. As a Swami, we see him always living in the divine, and we do not recognize in him the humble and shy student boy that he was. His voice has grown powerful, his character eloquent, his realization inspiring and his flesh magnetic over and over. His presence charmed the very atmosphere around him. In his company, the seasons of one’s mind shifted in a beautiful panoramic rotation. Now the spell of his sincerity moved the audience to tears and then to smiles of supreme satisfaction. He succeeded like a poet to exalt in our eyes the commonest things into the highest Avataras of Divinity. Some people by his touch got tastes of a poet, others of a painter, some of a mystic and some of a soldier. Many common minds felt inspired to such an extent that they felt a distinct increase in their mental power.
One of his American friends addressed the writer the following letter on his death. It describes him literally as he was to all of us, and may, therefore, be appropriately quoted here.
"Words fail me when I attempt to express what is so difficult to make apparent in the cold narrow words of language.
Rama’s language was that of the sweet innocent child, the birds, the flowers, the flowing streams, the waving tree branches, that of the Sun, Moon and stars: His was the language running under the outer shows of the world and of people.
Under the oceans, continents, under the fields and the roots of the grasses and trees, his life passed deep into nature, nay, was the very life of nature. His language penetrated far under the little thoughts and dreams of men. How few are the ears which hear that wondrous melody. He heard it, lived it, breathed it, taught it, and his whole soul was imbued with it. He was the messenger full of joy.
O freed soul! Soul that has completed its relation to the body! O soaring, happy beyond words, into other worlds passing, salutations to you, freed, redeemed Soul"
* * *
He was so gentle, unaffected, childlike, pure and noble, sincere, earnest and unassuming that all who came in contact with him, with a heart yearning for the truth, could not but receive inestimable benefit. After each lecture or class-lesson, questions were put which were always answered so clearly and concisely, sweetly and lovingly. He was ever filled with bliss and peace and was constantly humming OM, when not employed in talking, writing or reading. He saw Divinity in each and all, and everyone was addressed by him as ‘Blessed Divinity.’
* * *
Rama was a continual bubbling spring of happiness. In God he lived, moved and had his being—nay he was the very Self of God. He once wrote to me, "Those who have a mind to enjoy can enjoy the diamonds shining in the brilliant starlit skies, can derive abundance of pleasure from the smiling forest and dancing rivers, can reap inexhaustible joy from the cool breeze, warm sunshine and balmy moonlights, freely placed at the service of each and all by nature. Those who believe their happiness depends upon particular conditions will find the day of enjoyment ever recede from them and run away constantly like will-o’-the-wisp. The so-called health of the world instead of being a source of happiness only serves as an artificial screen to shut out the glory and aroma of all nature, heavens and free scenery."
* * *
Rama lived in a tent on the hill-side and took his meals at the Ranch house. It was a beautiful place, rugged wild scenery, high mountains on either side draped with evergreen trees and thick tangled underbush. The Sacramento river flowed turbulently down this valley and here it was that Rama read many, many books, wrote his sublime poetry, and meditated for hours at a time. He sat on a large boulder in the river where the current was very strong day after day and week after week, only coming to the house at meal times when he always gave us beautiful talks. Numerous visitors from Shasta Springs would come to see him and they were always welcomed gladly. His sublime thoughts left a deep and lasting impression on all. Those who came out of curiosity went away with their curiosity satisfied, and the seed of Truth planted for ever in their hearts, may be for time being unconsciously to them but bound to sprout and develop into a strong and sturdy tree whose branches will twine together from all parts of the earth in a bond of brotherhood and love divine. Seeds of Truth always grow.
He took long walks. Thus he lived while there in Shasta Springs a busy, simple, free and joyous life. He was so happy. His laughter came spontaneously and could be heard plainly at the house when he was at the riverside. Free, free was he like a child and a saint. He would remain in God-consciousness for days together. His unflattering devotion to India and his desire to raise her benighted people was indeed perfect self-abnegation.
* * *
After I left there, I received a letter from him which, I afterwards learnt, was written during a period of severe illness. "The degree of concentration and pure divine feeling is wonderfully high these days and God-consciousness is possessing with a marvellous sweep. As the body is subject to fickle whims and constant change, Rama will never, never, identify himself with this naughty will-o’-the-wisp. In sickness, concentration and inner peace is supremely intense. He or she must be a poor stingy miser whose close-fistedness grudges to accord due hospitality to passing guests of bodily ailment and the like."
Always he would tell us to "feel, feel all the time that the power supreme that manifests itself in the Sun and the stars, the same, the same I am, the same, the same is yourself. Take up this real Self, this glory of thine, contemplate this Life eternal, meditate on this your real beauty and forget clean all thoughts of the little body and its ties as if you never had anything to do with these false, seeming realities (nay, shadows). No death, no sickness, no sorrow. Be perfectly happy, thoroughly blissful, saturated with peace. Keep yourself thoroughly collected above the body or little self." Thus he taught each and all.
What a brave, true, loyal and God-intoxicated soul it is who ventures to a foreign country without money on behalf of his country.
* * *
To think that it has been my privilege to have met and conversed with and aided such a holy man as Rama is wonderful. He was a child of Aurora and emitted his music from sunrise still evening. It mattered not to him what the clocks said or the attitudes or labours of men. His elastic and vigorous thoughts kept pace with the Sun and so the day was the perpetual morning. "The millions are awake enough for physical labour, but only one in a hundred millions for a poetic and divine life," so says Thoreau. Rama was one of those rare souls who occasionally visit this earth.
"They say the Sun is but His photo,
They say that man is in His image.
They say He twinkles in the stars,
They say He smiles in fragrant flowers,
They say He sings in nightingales,
They say He breathes in cosmic air,
They say He weeps in raining clouds,
They say He sleeps in winter nights,
They say He runs in pratting streams,
They say He swings in rainbow arches,
In floods of light, they say, He marches."
So Rama told us and it is so.
He may be said, spiritually speaking, to be a man of only one idea. That great idea which runs as an under current in all his discourses is the renunciation of body-consciousness or ‘ahankar’ and the realization of Self to be the Self of the universe. It is the realization of that higher life where the local ‘I’ is forgotten and the universe grows to be the ‘I’ of man. "All that thou seest, that thou art." Man is divine. The false ego is the cause of all limitations. Eliminate it and the spirit of man is the universal spirit pervading everywhere and everything. This higher life is to be realized, and Rama sanctions all means by which it may be attained. The bed of thorns or the bed of roses whichever induces the state of realization in us is to be blessed. Total self-abnegation is the essential prelude to this realization, and it may be effected by different individuals in different ways. Rama does not at all insist upon the methods and peculiar private associations of thought and belief which may be requisite for the growth of an individual but tries to lay before us the general outlines of his main conclusions and sketches the methods which were most helpful to him. The intellect, when it questioned his ideal, was satisfied by him through a systematic study of the monistic philosophy of the East and the West, and was thus made to bow before his Truth. He similarly referred all those who came to discuss with him his philosophic position to a systematic study of philosophy and declined all controversy on the ground that not through controversy but through real, earnest, serious thought can Truth be discovered.
When the heart questioned his ideal, then he saturated the former with the highest love through different emotions and made it realize that all is one and love never knows any twos. The heart was made to emotionalise the intellect and the latter was made to intellectualise the former. Truth, however, stood supreme in his consciousness and above both. This process he not only adopted to agree with his own head and heart but with those of others as well. When any one differed from him intellectually, he gave up the discussion for the love of him and thus secured the agreement or oneness with him, an agreement which to him symbolised truth and which he would not sacrifice for anything. When the heart of any man disagreed with him, he would give up the regions of heart and meet the man in the intellect. He was one with whom none could disagree. If his thoughts did not appeal to you, then his Purity and his Love did. Even without talking to him you would feel that you could not help loving him. All controversies were thus hushed in his presence and I believe the writings of such a man are open to no lower criticism for he means essentially to agree with you and to be at one with you. Whoever you may be, he would readily concede what you may yourself be thinking or asking him to concede to you.
In conclusion, I wish to explain the meaning of the word "Vedanta" that so often occurs in his writings. With Swami Rama, the word Vedanta which he so lovingly uses is a comprehensive term. He does not restrict its sense by applying it to any particular system of philosophy or religion. He somehow fell in love with this word and was always willing to exchange the name but not the sense that he attached to it. The mere name of rose mattered not to this realist, only he would have the rose and its perfume. In order to understand and appreciate his teachings, we need not get into the labyrinthine mazes of metaphysical subtleties, for Swami Rama, as he walks along with us in the white, broad-day light on the paths of life, takes us by surprise and teaches us Vedanta in the aurora of the rising Sun, in the blushes of the rose and in the dimples of the pearly dew. As we walk along with him, the echoes of his teachings we catch in the warblings of the merry birds, in the liquid music of the falling rain, and the life throbs of ‘both man, bird and beast.’ In the morning bloom of flowers opens his Bible. In the evening sparkle of stars flashes his Veda. His Alkoran is writ large in the living characters of myriad-hued life.
Time and thought were my surveyors,
They laid their courses well,
They poured sea and baked the layers,
Of granite, marl and shell.
The lotus Petals of the human heart were the pages of his reference and he found that every man and woman embodied in their Self the meanings of Vedanta. Every rising race vindicated its truth and every dying one showed the lack of its realization. Every hero beaconed its light. Every saint did shed its lustre. Every poet tasted its glory. Every artist rolled it down from his eyes in his ecstatic tears. Never did a happy and satisfied face greet Rama without being entitled by him, a Vedanta face. Never did a victor come across him whom he did not call a Practical Vedantin. He observed the daily life of Japanese and called them the followers of his Vedanta. The daring adventures of the American people in their scalings of the Alps and the Rocky mountains and in their swimmings across the Niagara rapids, he spoke of as manifestations of the Vedantic spirit. When he read the news of some noble offers by some persons of their own bodies for the purpose of scientific research by vivisection, he saw the practical realization of his philosophy. On such occasions, his face glowed and his eyes became moist, and he said, "This is indeed the service of Truth." In modern ideals of true democracy and true socialism, Swami Rama saw the final triumph of the Oriental Vedanta.
Standing on the truth of the fundamental unity of the inner man and the inner nature, he says that those alone live who realize the universal harmony of love. Those alone have the real joys of life who recognise the blood in the veins of the lily and the violet to be their own. To see all things in one’s own Self, and to see one’s own Self in all things is to have a real eye, without which there can be no love nor beauty attracting it, and without love or attraction he asks what is life? In this spirit, whenever he sees in individual life rising into spheres above body and mind, he sees a rainbow in the sky and leaps with an infinite joy. Vedanta is to him by no means a mere intellectual assent but a most solemn and sacred offering of body and mind at the holy altar of love. Intellectual assent can feed upon philosophies and logics, books and quotations, learning and rhetoric, and thus grow big, but such are not the means by which one can realize Rama’s Vedanta. The body and mind can be actually and practically renounced only when the hearth fire of love is lit in the soul. Mental renunciation of the body and every muscle of it in love, and the dedication of mind in loving service opens the portals of the paradise within man. Rama’s Vedanta is the beautiful calm of the super consciousness which transcends the limits of body and mind, where all sound dies, where the Sun and Moon get dissolved, where the whole Cosmos ripples like a dream and is eddied into the Infinite. It is from here that he throws the ladder for us to reach him and see the sights of the world below. Perennial peace in diffused there and the man is entirely lost in God. All discussion ceases there. And those who are there simply look around and smile and say to every object, "Thou art good," "Thou art pure," "Thou art holy," "Thou art That."
Neither the Sun shines there, nor sparkles the Moon,
Pranas and sound are hushed into Silence.
All life reposes in Soul’s Sweet Slumber,
No God, no man, no cosmos there, no soul,
Naught but golden Calm and Peace and Splendour.
Last Updated: Thu Dec 2, 1999
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