(This lecture is reproduced from the Vedanta and the West)
(Delivered in San Francisco area, April 12, 1900)
There was one Yogi, a great lover. He was dying of cancer of the throat. He [was] visited [by] another Yogi, who was a philosopher. [The latter] said, “Look here, my friend, why don’t you concentrate your mind on that sore of yours and get it cured?” The third time this question was asked [this great Yogi] said, “Do you think it possible that the [mind] which I have given entirely to the Lord [can be fixed upon this cage of flesh and blood]?” Christ refused to bring legions of angels to his aid. Is this little body so great that I should bring twenty thousand angels to keep it two or three days more?
[From the worldly standpoint,] my all is this body. My world is this body. My God is this body. I am the body. If you pinch me, I am pinched. I forget God the moment I have a headache. I am the body! God and everything must come down for this highest goal – the body. From this standpoint, when Christ died on the cross and did not bring angels [to his aid], he was a fool. He ought to have brought down angels and gotten himself off the cross! But from the standpoint of the lover, to whom this body is nothing, who cares for this nonsense? Why bother thinking about this body that comes and goes? There is no more to it than the piece of cloth the Roman soldiers cast lots for.
There is a whole gamut of difference between [the worldly standpoint] and the lover’s standpoint. Go on loving. If a man is angry, there is no reason why you should be angry; if he degrades himself, that is no reason why you should degrade yourself. . . . “Why should I become angry just because another man has made a fool of himself. Do thou resist not evil!” That is what the lovers of God say. Whatever the world does, wherever it goes, has no influence [on them].
One Yogi had attained supernatural powers. He said, “See my power! See the sky; I will cover it with clouds.” It began to rain. [Someone] said, “My lord, you are wonderful. But teach me that, knowing which, I shall not ask for anything else.” … To get rid even of power, to have nothing, not to want power! [What this means] cannot be understood simply by intellect. . . . You cannot understand by reading thousands of books. … When we begin to understand, the whole world opens before us. … The girl is playing with her dolls, getting new husbands all the time; but when her real husband comes, all the dolls will be put away [for ever]. … So [with] all these goings-on here. [When] the sun of love rises, all these play-suns of power and these [cravings] all pass [away]. What shall we do with power? Thank God if you can get rid of the power that you have. Begin to love. Power must go. Nothing must stand between me and God except love. God is only love and nothing else – love first, love in the middle, and love at the end.
[There is the] story of a queen preaching [the love of God] in the streets. Her enraged husband persecuted her, and she was hunted up and down the country. She used to sing songs describing her [love]. Her songs have been sung everywhere. “With tears in my eyes I [nourished the everlasting creeper] of love. …” This is the last, the great [goal]. What else is there? [People] want this and that. They all want to have and possess. That is why so few understand [love], so few come to it. Wake them and tell them! They will get a few more hints.
Love itself is the eternal, endless sacrifice. You will have to give up everything. You cannot take possession of anything. Finding love, you will never [want] anything [else]. … “Only be Thou my love for ever! ” That is what love wants. “My love, one kiss of those lips! [For him] who has been kissed by Thee, all sorrows vanish. Once kissed by Thee, man becomes happy and forgets love of everything else. He praises Thee alone and he sees Thee alone.” In the nature of human love even, [there lurk divine elements. In] the first moment of intense love the whole world seems in tune with your own heart. Every bird in the universe sings your love; the flowers bloom for you. It is infinite, eternal love itself that [human] love comes from.
Why should the lover of God fear anything – fear robbers, fear distress, fear even for his life? … The lover [may ]go to the utmost hell, but would it be hell? We all have to give up these ideas of heaven [and hell] and get greater [love]. … Hundreds there are seeking this madness of love before which everything [but God vanishes].
At last, love, lover, and beloved become one. That is the goal. … Why is there any separation between soul and man, between soul and God? . . . Just to have this enjoyment of love. He wanted to love Himself, so He split Himself into many . . . “This is the whole reason for creation”, says the lover. “We are all one. ‘I and my Father are one.’ Just now I am separate in order to love God. … Which is better – to become sugar or to eat sugar? To become sugar, what fun is that:? To eat sugar – that is infinite enjoyment of love.”
All the ideals of love – [God] as [our] father, mother, friend, child – [are conceived in order to strengthen devotion in us and make us feel nearer and dearer to God]. The intensest love is that between the sexes. God must be loved with that sort of love The woman loves her father; she loves her mothers she loves her child; she loves her friend. But she cannot express herself all to the father, nor to the mother, nor to the child, nor to the friend. There is only one person from whom she does not hide anything. So with the man. … The [husband-] wife relationship is the all-rounded relationship. The relationship of the sexes [has] all the other loves concentrated into one. In the husband, the woman has the father, the friend, the child. In the wife, the husband has mother, daughter, and something else. That tremendous complete love of the sexes must come [for God] – that same love with which a woman opens herself to a man without any bond of blood – perfectly, fearlessly, and shamelessly. No darkness! She would no more hide anything from her lover than she would from her own self. That very love must come [for God]. These things are hard and difficult to understand. You will begin to understand by and by, and all idea of sex will fall away. “Like the water drop on the sand of the river bank on a summer day, even so is this life and all its relations.”
All these ideas [like] “He is the creator”, are ideas fit for children. He is my love, my life itself – that must be the cry of my heart! …
“I have one hope. They call Thee the Lord of the world, and – good or evil, great or small – I am part of the world, and Thou art also my love. My body, my mind, and my soul are all at Thy altar. Love, refuse these gifts not!”