REALISATION IN ACTION

It is only those who have known that joy expresses itself through
law who have learnt to transcend the law. Not that the bonds of
law have ceased to exist for them–but that the bonds have become
to them as the form of freedom incarnate. The freed soul
delights in accepting bonds, and does not seek to evade any of
them, for in each does it feel the manifestation of an infinite
energy whose joy is in creation.

As a matter of fact, where there are no bonds, where there is the
madness of license, the soul ceases to be free. There is its
hurt; there is its separation from the infinite, its agony of
sin. Whenever at the call of temptation the soul falls away from
the bondage of law, then, like a child deprived of the support of
its mother’s arms, it cries out, _Smite me not!_ [Footnote: Ma ma
himsih.] “Bind me,” it prays, “oh, bind me in the bonds of thy
law; bind me within and without; hold me tight; let me in the clasp
of thy law be bound up together with thy joy; protect me by thy
firm hold from the deadly laxity of sin.”

As some, under the idea that law is the opposite of joy, mistake
intoxication for joy, so there are many in our country who
imagine action to be opposed to freedom. They think that
activity being in the material plane is a restriction of the free
spirit of the soul. But we must remember that as joy expresses
itself in law, so the soul finds its freedom in action. It is
because joy cannot find expression in itself alone that it
desires the law which is outside. Likewise it is because the
soul cannot find freedom within itself that it wants external
action. The soul of man is ever freeing itself from its own
folds by its activity; had it been otherwise it could not have
done any voluntary work.

The more man acts and makes actual what was latent in him, the
nearer does he bring the distant Yet-to-be. In that
actualisation man is ever making himself more and yet more
distinct, and seeing himself clearly under newer and newer
aspects in the midst of his varied activities, in the state, in
society. This vision makes for freedom.

Freedom is not in darkness, nor in vagueness. There is no
bondage so fearful as that of obscurity. It is to escape from
this obscurity that the seed struggles to sprout, the bud to
blossom. It is to rid itself of this envelope of vagueness that
the ideas in our mind are constantly seeking opportunities to
take on outward form. In the same way our soul, in order to
release itself from the mist of indistinctness and come out into
the open, is continually creating for itself fresh fields of
action, and is busy contriving new forms of activity, even such
as are not needful for the purposes of its earthly life. And
why? Because it wants freedom. It wants to see itself, to
realise itself.

When man cuts down the pestilential jungle and makes unto himself
a garden, the beauty that he thus sets free from within its
enclosure of ugliness is the beauty of his own soul: without
giving it this freedom outside, he cannot make it free within.
When he implants law and order in the midst of the waywardness of
society, the good which he sets free from the obstruction of the
bad is the goodness of his own soul: without being thus made free
outside it cannot find freedom within. Thus is man continually
engaged in setting free in action his powers, his beauty, his
goodness, his very soul. And the more he succeeds in so doing,
the greater does he see himself to be, the broader becomes the
field of his knowledge of self.

The Upanishad says: _In the midst of activity alone wilt thou
desire to live a hundred years._ [Footnote: Kurvanneveha
karmani jijivishet catam samah.] It is the saying of those who
had amply tasted of the joy of the soul. Those who have fully
realised the soul have never talked in mournful accents of the
sorrowfulness of life or of the bondage of action. They are not
like the weakling flower whose stem-hold is so light that it
drops away before attaining fruition. They hold on to life with
all their might and say, “never will we let go till the fruit is
ripe.” They desire in their joy to express themselves
strenuously in their life and in their work. Pain and sorrow
dismay them not, they are not bowed down to the dust by the
weight of their own heart. With the erect head of the victorious
hero they march through life seeing themselves and showing
themselves in increasing resplendence of soul through both joys
and sorrows. The joy of their life keeps step with the joy of
that energy which is playing at building and breaking throughout
the universe. The joy of the sunlight, the joy of the free air,
mingling with the joy of their lives, makes one sweet harmony
reign within and without. It is they who say, _In the midst of
activity alone wilt thou desire to live a hundred years._

This joy of life, this joy of work, in man is absolutely true.
It is no use saying that it is a delusion of ours; that unless we
cast it away we cannot enter upon the path of self-realisation.
It will never do the least good to attempt the realisation of the
infinite apart from the world of action.

It is not the truth that man is active on compulsion. If there
is compulsion on one side, on the other there is pleasure; on the
one hand action is spurred on by want, on the other it hies to
its natural fulfilment. That is why, as man’s civilisation
advances, he increases his obligations and the work that he
willingly creates for himself. One should have thought that
nature had given him quite enough to do to keep him busy, in fact
that it was working him to death with the lash of hunger and
thirst,–but no. Man does not think that sufficient; he cannot
rest content with only doing the work that nature prescribes for
him in common with the birds and beasts. He needs must surpass
all, even in activity. No creature has to work so hard as man;
he has been impelled to contrive for himself a vast field of
action in society; and in this field he is for every building up
and pulling down, making and unmaking laws, piling up heaps of
material, and incessantly thinking, seeking and suffering. In
this field he has fought his mightiest battles, gained continual
new life, made death glorious, and, far from evading troubles,
has willingly and continually taken up the burden of fresh
trouble. He has discovered the truth that he is not complete in
the cage of his immediate surroundings, that he is greater than
his present, and that while to stand still in one place may be
comforting, the arrest of life destroys his true function and the
real purpose of his existence.

This _mahati vinashtih–this great destruction_ he cannot bear,
and accordingly he toils and suffers in order that he may gain in
stature by transcending his present, in order to become that
which he yet is not. In this travail is man’s glory, and it is
because he knows it, that he has not sought to circumscribe his
field of action, but is constantly occupied in extending the
bounds. Sometimes he wanders so far that his work tends to lose
its meaning, and his rushings to and fro create fearful eddies
round different centres–eddies of self-interest, of pride of
power. Still, so long as the strength of the current is not lost,
there is no fear; the obstructions and the dead accumulations of
his activity are dissipated and carried away; the impetus corrects
its own mistakes. Only when the soul sleeps in stagnation do its
enemies gain overmastering strength, and these obstructions become
too clogging to be fought through. Hence have we been warned by
our teachers that to work we must live, to live we must work; that
life and activity are inseparably connected.

It is very characteristic of life that it is not complete within
itself; it must come out. Its truth is in the commerce of the
inside and the outside. In order to live, the body must maintain
its various relations with the outside light and air–not only to
gain life-force, but also to manifest it. Consider how fully
employed the body is with its own inside activities; its heart-
beat must not stop for a second, its stomach, its brain, must be
ceaselessly working. Yet this is not enough; the body is
outwardly restless all the while. Its life leads it to an
endless dance of work and play outside; it cannot be satisfied
with the circulations of its internal economy, and only finds the
fulfilment of joy in its outward excursions.

The same with the soul. It cannot live on its own internal
feelings and imaginings. It is ever in need of external objects;
not only to feed its inner consciousness but to apply itself in
action, not only to receive but also to give.

The real truth is, we cannot live if we divide him who is truth
itself into two parts. We must abide in him within as well as
without. In whichever aspect we deny him we deceive ourselves
and incur a loss. _Brahma has not left me, let me not leave
Brahma._ [Footnote: Maham brahma nirakuryyam ma ma brahma
nirakarot.] If we say that we would realise him in introspection
alone and leave him out of our external activity, that we would
enjoy him by the love in our heart, but not worship him by
outward ministrations; or if we say the opposite, and overweight
ourselves on one side in the journey of our life’s quest, we
shall alike totter to our downfall.

In the great western continent we see that the soul of man is
mainly concerned with extending itself outwards; the open field
of the exercise of power is its field. Its partiality is
entirely for the world of extension, and it would leave aside–
nay, hardly believe in–that field of inner consciousness which
is the field of fulfilment. It has gone so far in this that the
perfection of fulfilment seems to exist for it nowhere. Its
science has always talked of the never-ending evolution of the
world. Its metaphysic has now begun to talk of the evolution of
God himself. They will not admit that he _is_; they would have
it that he also is _becoming._

They fail to realise that while the infinite is always greater
than any assignable limit, it is also complete; that on the one
hand Brahma is evolving, on the other he is perfection; that in
the one aspect he is essence, in the other manifestation–both
together at the same time, as is the song and the act of singing.
This is like ignoring the consciousness of the singer and saying
that only the singing is in progress, that there is no song.
Doubtless we are directly aware only of the singing, and never at
any one time of the song as a whole; but do we not all the time
know that the complete song is in the soul of the singer?

It is because of this insistence on the doing and the becoming
that we perceive in the west the intoxication of power. These
men seem to have determined to despoil and grasp everything by
force. They would always obstinately be doing and never be done–
they would not allow to death its natural place in the scheme of
things–they know not the beauty of completion.

In our country the danger comes from the opposite side. Our
partiality is for the internal world. We would cast aside with
contumely the field of power and of extension. We would realise
Brahma in mediation only in his aspect of completeness, we have
determined not to see him in the commerce of the universe in his
aspect of evolution. That is why in our seekers we so often find
the intoxication of the spirit and its consequent degradation.
Their faith would acknowledge no bondage of law, their
imagination soars unrestricted, their conduct disdains to offer
any explanation to reason. Their intellect, in its vain attempts
to see Brahma inseparable from his creation, works itself stone-
dry, and their heart, seeking to confine him within its own
outpourings, swoons in a drunken ecstasy of emotion. They have
not even kept within reach any standard whereby they can measure
the loss of strength and character which manhood sustains by thus
ignoring the bonds of law and the claims of action in the
external universe.

But true spirituality, as taught in our sacred lore, is calmly
balanced in strength, in the correlation of the within and the
without. The truth has its law, it has its joy. On one side of
it is being chanted the _Bhayadasyagnistapati_ [Footnote: “For
fear of him the fire doth burn,” etc], on the other the
_Anandadhyeva khalvimani bhutani jayante._ [Footnote: “From Joy
are born all created things,” etc.] Freedom is impossible of
attainment without submission to law, for Brahma is in one aspect
bound by his truth, in the other free in his joy.

As for ourselves, it is only when we wholly submit to the bonds
of truth that we fully gain the joy of freedom. And how? As
does the string that is bound to the harp. When the harp is
truly strung, when there is not the slightest laxity in the
strength of the bond, then only does music result; and the string
transcending itself in its melody finds at every chord its true
freedom. It is because it is bound by such hard and fast rules
on the one side that it can find this range of freedom in music
on the other. While the string was not true, it was indeed
merely bound; but a loosening of its bondage would not have been
the way to freedom, which it can only fully achieve by being
bound tighter and tighter till it has attained the true pitch.

The bass and treble strings of our duty are only bonds so long as
we cannot maintain them steadfastly attuned according to the law
of truth; and we cannot call by the name of freedom the loosening
of them into the nothingness of inaction. That is why I would
say that the true striving in the quest of truth, of _dharma_,
consists not in the neglect of action but in the effort to attune
it closer and closer to the eternal harmony. The text of this
striving should be, _Whatever works thou doest, consecrate them
to Brahma._ [Footnote: Yadyat karma prakurvita tadbrahmani
samarpayet.] That is to say, the soul is to dedicate itself to
Brahma through all its activities. This dedication is the song
of the soul, in this is its freedom. Joy reigns when all work
becomes the path to the union with Brahma; when the soul ceases
to return constantly to its own desires; when in it our self-
offering grows more and more intense. Then there is completion,
then there is freedom, then, in this world, comes the kingdom of
God.

Who is there that, sitting in his corner, would deride this grand
self-expression of humanity in action, this incessant self-
consecration? Who is there that thinks the union of God and man
is to be found in some secluded enjoyment of his own imaginings,
away from the sky-towering temple of the greatness of humanity,
which the whole of mankind, in sunshine and storm, is toiling to
erect through the ages? Who is there that thinks this secluded
communion is the highest form of religion?

O thou distraught wanderer, thou _Sannyasin_, drunk in the wine of
self-intoxication, dost thou not already hear the progress of the
human soul along the highway traversing the wide fields of
humanity–the thunder of its progress in the car of its
achievements, which is destined to overpass the bounds that
prevent its expansion into the universe? The very mountains are
cleft asunder and give way before the march of its banners waving
triumphantly in the heavens; as the mist before the rising sun,
the tangled obscurities of material things vanish at its
irresistible approach. Pain, disease, and disorder are at every
step receding before its onset; the obstructions of ignorance are
being thrust aside; the darkness of blindness is being pierced
through; and behold, the promised land of wealth and health, of
poetry and art, of knowledge and righteousness is gradually being
revealed to view. Do you in your lethargy desire to say that
this car of humanity, which is shaking the very earth with the
triumph of its progress along the mighty vistas of history, has
no charioteer leading it on to its fulfilment? Who is there who
refuses to respond to his call to join in this triumphal progress?
Who so foolish as to run away from the gladsome throng and seek
him in the listlessness of inaction? Who so steeped in untruth as
to dare to call all this untrue–this great world of men, this
civilisation of expanding humanity, this eternal effort of man,
through depths of sorrow, through heights of gladness, through
innumerable impediments within and without, to win victory for his
powers? He who can think of this immensity of achievement as an
immense fraud, can he truly believe in God who is the truth? He
who thinks to reach God by running away from the world, when and
where does he expect to meet him? How far can he fly–can he fly
and fly, till he flies into nothingness itself? No, the coward
who would fly can nowhere find him. We must be brave enough to
be able to say: We are reaching him here in this very spot, now
at this very moment. We must be able to assure ourselves that as
in our actions we are realising ourselves, so in ourselves we are
realising him who is the self of self. We must earn the right to
say so unhesitatingly by clearing away with our own effort all
obstruction, all disorder, all discords from our path of activity;
we must be able to say, “In my work is my joy, and in that joy
does the joy of my joy abide.”

Whom does the Upanishad call _The chief among the knowers of
Brahma?_ [Footnote: Brahmavidamvaristhah.] He is defined as _He
whose joy is in Brahma, whose play is in Brahma, the active one._
[Footnote: Atmakrirha atmaratih kriyavan.] Joy without the play
of joy is no joy at all–play without activity is no play.
Activity is the play of joy. He whose joy is in Brahma, how can
he live in inaction? For must he not by his activity provide
that in which the joy of Brahma is to take form and manifest
itself? That is why he who knows Brahma, who has his joy in
Brahma, must also have all his activity in Brahma–his eating
and drinking, his earning of livelihood and his beneficence.
Just as the joy of the poet in his poem, of the artist in his
art, of the brave man in the output of his courage, of the wise
man in his discernment of truths, ever seeks expression in their
several activities, so the joy of the knower of Brahma, in the
whole of his everyday work, little and big, in truth, in beauty,
in orderliness and in beneficence, seeks to give expression to
the infinite.

Brahma himself gives expression to his joy in just the same way.
_By his many-sided activity, which radiates in all directions,
does he fulfil the inherent want of his different creatures._
[Footnote: Bahudha cakti yogat varnananekan nihitartho dadhati.]
That inherent want is he himself, and so he is in so many ways,
in so many forms, giving himself. He works, for without working
how could he give himself. His joy is ever dedicating itself in
the dedication which is his creation.

In this very thing does our own true meaning lie, in this is our
likeness to our father. We must also give up ourselves in many-
sided variously aimed activity. In the Vedas he is called _the
giver of himself, the giver of strength._ [Footnote: Atmada
balada.] He is not content with giving us himself, but he gives
us strength that we may likewise give ourselves. That is why the
seer of the Upanishad prays to him who is thus fulfilling our
wants, _May he grant us the beneficent mind_ [Footnote: Sa no
buddhya cubhaya samyunaktu.], may he fulfil that uttermost want
of ours by granting us the beneficent mind. That is to say, it
is not enough he should alone work to remove our want, but he
should give us the desire and the strength to work with him in
his activity and in the exercise of the goodness. Then, indeed,
will our union with him alone be accomplished. The beneficent
mind is that which shows us the want (_swartha_) of another self
to be the inherent want (_nihitartha_) of our own self; that
which shows that our joy consists in the varied aiming of our
many-sided powers in the work of humanity. When we work under
the guidance of this beneficent mind, then our activity is
regulated, but does not become mechanical; it is action not
goaded on by want, but stimulated by the satisfaction of the
soul. Such activity ceases to be a blind imitation of that of
the multitude, a cowardly following of the dictates of fashion.
Therein we begin to see that _He is in the beginning and in the
end of the universe_ [Footnote: Vichaiti chante vicvamadau.],
and likewise see that of our own work is he the fount and the
inspiration, and at the end thereof is he, and therefore that all
our activity is pervaded by peace and good and joy.

The Upanishad says: _Knowledge, power, and action are of his
nature._ [Footnote: Svabhavikijnana bala kriya cha.] It is
because this naturalness has not yet been born in us that we tend
to divide joy from work. Our day of work is not our day of joy–
for that we require a holiday; for, miserable that we are, we
cannot find our holiday in our work. The river finds its holiday
in its onward flow, the fire in its outburst of flame, the scent
of the flower in its permeation of the atmosphere; but in our
everyday work there is no such holiday for us. It is because we
do not let ourselves go, because we do not give ourselves
joyously and entirely up to it, that our work overpowers us.

O giver of thyself! at the vision of thee as joy let our souls
flame up to thee as the fire, flow on to thee as the river,
permeate thy being as the fragrance of the flower. Give us
strength to love, to love fully, our life in its joys and
sorrows, in its gains and losses, in its rise and fall. Let us
have strength enough fully to see and hear thy universe, and to
work with full vigour therein. Let us fully live the life thou
hast given us, let us bravely take and bravely give. This is our
prayer to thee. Let us once for all dislodge from our minds the
feeble fancy that would make out thy joy to be a thing apart from
action, thin, formless, and unsustained. Wherever the peasant
tills the hard earth, there does thy joy gush out in the green of
the corn, wherever man displaces the entangled forest, smooths
the stony ground, and clears for himself a homestead, there does
thy joy enfold it in orderliness and peace.

O worker of the universe! We would pray to thee to let the
irresistible current of thy universal energy come like the
impetuous south wind of spring, let it come rushing over the vast
field of the life of man, let it bring the scent of many flowers,
the murmurings of many woodlands, let it make sweet and vocal the
lifelessness of our dried-up soul-life. Let our newly awakened
powers cry out for unlimited fulfilment in leaf and flower and
fruit.

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