A Criticism on Dr. Hall’s Lecture.
(Delivered in Madras in December 1906)
In endorsing the views of Professor Deussen in his 4th lecture Dr. Hall seems to me to labor, along with the professor whom he quotes, under some misconception of the terms sin, ignorance, will and understanding. Here are the views expressed by the professor – “Why then do we need a release from this existence? Because it is the realm of sin, is the reply of the Bible. The Veda answers, because it is the realm of ignorance. The former sees depravity in the volitional, the latter in the intellectual side of human nature. The Bible demands a change of the will, the Veda a change of the understanding.” First there is a mistake in the assumption that the Hindu considers this world as a realm of darkness. Why if the world is a realm of ignorance and man needs a release from it, a simple process will secure this. A sharp knife is enough. But is that the eastern conception of ignorance and the world? Nor is the means for the removal of this ignorance suggested by the professor anywhere to be found in the Upanishads. Does the Hindu find depravity in the intellectual side of his nature and does he think that a change in the understanding will produce deliverance from the ignorant world? A more misunderstanding of the Upanishads, there can never be. Regarding the world, the very 1st mantra of the Isavasyopanishad is “Isavasyam idam Jagat.” This world is pervaded by the Lord. “Maya thatham Idam Sarvam Jagat Avyaktha Moorthina.” “By the Lord this world is filled.” “Padosya Visva Bhoothani. Tripadasya Amritam Divi.” This entire world is His 4th part and the other portion is the region of immortality “Vishtabyaham Idam Kritsnam Ekamsena Sthitho Jagat.” In one essence I fill this entire world. – (இந்த பூமி சிவனுய்யக் கொள்கின்றவாறு என்று நோக்கி) “observe this world as the place where the Lord bestows blessings on all.” What constitutes the world? Of course so far as we can understand, the mind, the eye, the ear, the sun, the moon, the stars, the entire universe etc., these I think constitute the world. These do not go to make up ignorance. All that the upanishads say about the world is that it is the realm of Bhoga, a place where the soul can gather experience, a region of probation, a scene of trial, an instrument of God (the Preritha) for the helping of the souls (Bhoktha) (Bhoktha Bhogyam Preritharamehamatva). Therefore, this world is not a realm of ignorance. Can this ignorance be removed by a change in the intellectual side? The Upanishads emphatically declare it may: - “Nayamatma Pravachanena Labhyo na Medhaya Bahuna Sruthona” “Not by the keen intellect can this Atma be attained.”
The Hindu is said to find depravity in the intellectual side or the understanding; while the Christian is said to see the same in the will or volition. If the learned Christian doctor means by volition the “Icha” of the Hindu, then the latter also may be said to find depravity in it, and when he may find it in the “Icha” it needs no special mentioning that he may see it also in the “Gnana” (“intellect”) for gnana is but a concrete form of “Icha.”
And what is sin? Sin, say the Christians, is the direct opposition to the Divine will carrying with it punishment of an eternal nature, as righteousness carries with it reward of an eternal joy, and his Gospel, a book of good news to humanity, a book of God-inspired men, thus describes the penalty for sin. “The Lord knoweth how to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” “Shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” It shall not be forgotten him neither in this world nor in the world to come.” “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of Hell? “But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” “cast the unprofitable servant into utter darkness.” “Then shall he say unto them on the left hand “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his Angels.” “He that believeth not is condemned.” “But the heavens and the earth which are now by the same word kept in store, are reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” “But they all might be damned.” “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith, for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” “Through their (jews) fall is come salvation unto the gentiles.” “Who is he that condemneth. It is Christ.” “But that beareth thorns and briers is rejected and is nigh unto cursing whose end is to be burned.” “Which drown men in destruction and perdition.” “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” “But the fearful and unbelieving and the abominable and murderers and whore-mongers and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” The most virulent denunciations, it need not be said, came from the mouth of Christ and is found in the gospel of the mystic John and in the book of Revelation. Sin thus, according to the gospels, carries with it eternal perdition. But not so the Hindu views it. To him sin means a blunder committed on the spiritual plane, because of the inability of the man to see things a right. Man, he says, commits mistakes often in the physical and intellectual planes – planes where he can command some understanding. And is he not, asks the Hindu, liable to commit similar blunders on the spiritual plane in an unknown plane. “For if a man knoweth not how to rule his own house, shall he take care of the church of God (I Timothy 5), for the kingdom of God is not before his eyes as are other lesser things but is within. The Hindu thinks consequently that these mistakes on the unknown spiritual plane are at least as much liable to be corrected as are the errors in the other planes. He cheerfully accepts chastisement if eventually it is directed with the idea of correcting him. If not, he questions, to what end does punishment serve? Man, he says, commits sin because he had not the full vision of what it would entail on him. Man therefore is ignorant. He exclaims with Christ “Father – forgive them for they know no what they do. Saul, who was to be one of the foremost champions of the church, persecuted the Christians before he became a Christian, i.e., before he was blessed with the vision of Christ. “At Damascus he heard a voice saying unto him “Saul why persecutest thou me? And he said who art thou Lord? And the Lord said “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” And he received sight and was baptized.” Does not this story illustrate that he was in darkness before he saw the light (Christ) and are not those in darkness liable to do mistakes? “He that hateth his brother is in darkness and walketh in darkness and knoweth not whither he goeth.” And when Jesus was about to be stoned for his preaching, he is said to have used “When I was daily with you in the temple ye stretched forth no hands against me but this is your hour and the power of darkness” and even at the time of the crucifixion when one of the malefactors taunted him, he said “Forgive, father, for they know not what they do.” “Are there not,” said Jesus, “12 hours in the day? If any man walketh in the day, he stumbleth not because he seeth the light of the world. But if a man walk in the night he stumbleth because there is no light in him.” Therefore, when there is no light in man, that is, when the soul is in darkness (ignorance) it stumbleth (sinneth). “And walk while ye have the light lest darkness come upon you” are the words written in the Bible. And the Hindu says that this want of light in him is the cause of man’s committing sin. And it is darkness in him that comprehendeth not the light. “God is a light and in Him there is no darkness.” But this Light, as is put by St. John, shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not. God is light no doubt. “In him we live and move and have our being.” But this light shining in darkness, the darkness comprehendeth it not. Soul is in God, and being also in ignorance, the soul comprehendeth not God. For both God and Ignorance soul is the place. “The kingdom of God is within you” said Jesus and the same gospel says that when Jesus “a light of them which are in darkness” walked on earth, men heeded him not, because that “light shone in darkness and darkness comprehended it not” “Yo Vignane tishtan Vignana dantharo yamvignanam na veda yasya Vignanagu sariram yo vignanam antharoo yamayathi Esha tha Atma Antharyamya mruthaha” “Yasyatma sariram yam Atma na vedayam Atnanam Antharo yamayathi Eshatha Atma Antharyami Amrthaha.” He who has the soul as his body, Him whom the soul does not know. He who directs the soul being immanent within it, is the Amrutha God. Soul, though it lives and moves and has its being in God, is not cognizant of God because it is also in “ignorance” and Sri Sankara instances the cases of certain animals whose eyes are blind even in midday sun. Vide his commentary on the “ya nisa sarva bhoothanam” sloka in the Bhagavad Gita. The eye is the place for both the Light and darkness. Similarly, the soul is the place for both God and “ignorance.”
Being therefore in ignorance, the soul commits sin. Thus it is clear that sin is only an effect of the cause “ignorance” and ignorance is the cause of the effect “sin.” Therefore, if this “ignorance” is removed there will be an end of “sin.” But if a sin is wiped of, still there will crop up other sins as the “ignorance” still survives. What the Hindu aims is to eradicate while the Christian wishes to chop off the branches. And what is Light and what is darkness which both hold away over the soul?
The Light is God’s “Chaitanyam” and ignorance or darkness is Avidya or Agnana or Mala. This Mala is in the soul even as is rust in copper. For the removal of this rust in the copper, tamarind is required and for the removal of this mala in the soul, he is equipped with the bodies, indriyas and karanas (organs). Think of that state of man in which he is deprived of the body etc. Think of the daily states of sushupthi, swapna and jagrat Avasthas. When the soul was not united to body, indriyas and karanas, what was its state? It was sunk in Avidya (Agnana) to its very core; it was not conscious of itself. Let mind be united to it, then it sees, dreams and let this external organs be united to it, then it sees, hears, speaks etc. What he was not once a wood-cutter or a king or a man or a woman – he is now in the waking state. Thus the Deha, Indriya, Karana etc., which constitute the world in the microcosm are the equipments of the soul for the removal of its Agnana. Here now it is clear that the world is not ignorance but rather an instrument with God for its removal. Avidya then is in the soul. Says the Upanishad.
“Avidyayam Anthare Varthamanah Swayam Dheersha Panditham manya manah Jamgamyamanah pariyanthi Moodhah Andheneiva Neeyamanah yathandhaha. The Upanishad likens the state in Avidya to blindness in the eye. Some likens this to a cloud hiding the sun. This is wrong. Says a great man “Drashta Varaka mala-mayakarma Vyathirekena Drisya Varaka Kalpanayam Pramana abhavena” “There is no authority to suppose that without the enshrouding by Mala, maya and karma of the soul (seer) there is enshrouding of things cognized (seen).
Sri Krishna says “Thasmath Agnana Sambootham Hridstham Gnanasinath mamanaha chitva.” Therefore, cut at the sin arising out of Agnana situated in the soul by the sword of Gnana.
And the poet sings,
“My son the world is dark with griefs and groans,
So dark that men cry out against the heavens,
Who knows but that the darkness is in man,
The doors of night may be the gates of light.”
This Avidya is in man and not in the world.
The question why man commits sin was asked thousands of years ago by a worthy disciple and the ever merciful Lord gives out that “desire to possess” or enjoy influences the man to do the same and that too has a substratum in Agnana which envelopes the soul even as the smoke envelops the fire, the dust envelopes the mirror, the bag envelops the embryo.”
“Atha kena prayukthoyam Papam charathi poorushaha. Anichan Api Varshneya baladiva niyojishaha.” The disciple here questions his Master “Impelled by what, oh descendant of Vrishni, does a man commit sin even if he does not like it, yet directed by a powerful agent. The far seeing disciple here used the words “even if he does not like” because no one in the world, no embodied creature on the face of the earth courts voluntarily misery. The wine-bibber seeks pleasure in the unintermittent swallowing of bottles. He thinks he can find pleasure in it. Thus from the vilest sinner to the highest saint, all seek pleasure. Some seek carnal pleasure, some pleasures of the senses, some of the intellect, others of imagination and some spiritual. The martyr seeks death for the pleasure of the soul. It is on account of this fact of the soul seeking pleasure in every sphere of life, that the Highest Brahmananda is vouchsafed for the soul and it is owing to this and this alone, that man is enjoined to seek Brahm (God) for in every other pleasure there is pain, but in Brahmananda there is no pain and no fear at any place or time. This is a test to show that the soul is heir to Brahmananda. Hence the far seeing disciple says “though not wishing it.” The Lord says “Kama Esha krodha Eshaha Rajoguna Samuthbahva – Mahasano Mahapapana Viddhi Enam iha Vyrinam Dhoomena Avriyathe Vannilu, yatha Darso Malenacha yatholbhena Avruthe garbhaha thatha thena idam Avrutham.” The desire to possess then is the cause of sin. The mother of nations, according to the Bible, committed sin out of this desire to possess. “And when the woman “saw that the tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruits thereof and did eat and gave also unto her husband and with her he did eat.” Where did this arise? “It arose out of man’s Agnana “Thasmat Agnana Sambhootham Hridstham gnanasina Atmanaha” Elsewhere the Lord clearly point out “Agnanena a Vritham Gnanam Thena Muhyanthi Janthavaha Gnanenathu thad Agnanam Esham Nasitham Atmanaha Thesham Adithyavath Gnanam Prakasayathi Nanyatha” “The soul’s Chaitanyam is enveloped in Agnana. Therefore, the souls are agitated. When by Gnana they destroy this Agnana, then the same chaitanya shines with the lustre of the sun.” When Agnana is removed, God, the glorious Light, who is ever present in the soul covers it with His light and the soul melts in that light and being immersed in that light shines there. (Niranjanaha Paramam Samyam upaithi) and here the soul more than realises the Mahavakya “That Twam Asi.” The consciousness or chaitanyam of the soul is the Dharma and the soul is Dharmi. This consciousness is bound by Agnana. This consciousness underline the souls will, thought and action. When the conscious soul is united with Prakrithi, then arises will (Icha) and this will acting on the mind becomes gnana and this gnana action on the senses (eye, ear, hand, feet etc.) becomes Kriya. As the underlying consciousness itself is bound by Agnana, man may will sin, think sin and act sin. But the fact is that these organs etc., are united to this soul not for plunging man into sin but to raise him up from that torpor, to lessen the power of darkness and thereby to enable him to work out salvation. Hence Kalidasa sings “Sariram Adyam Khala Dharma Sadanam.” This body is of a primary help for practicing virtue. When with the bodies he has gained experience and has grown wise, the bodies then become a burden to him then useless. Of what use is medicine (body, eyes etc.) when the disease (Mala or ignorance) is cured. (But certainly medicine is not disease and body is not ignorance.) Then he requires to leave it, not because it is darkness but because this body cannot contain that food of light, which seeks to burst forth from from the body, this ever increasing flood of light springing from God within him (Bhagne ghate yatha Deepo Sarvathra Samprakasathe).
The eyes of all are not opened alike to this Light. Some have not seen this. Some have had glimpses. A few have seen. To that Blessed Few belongs Krishna. This seer of all nations, of all aspirations and of all mental attitudes has a word of comfort for all. He condemns none. He gives hope to all. “Partha Naiveha namutra Vimasaha thasya Vidyathe. Nahi Kalyanakrith Kaschit Durgathim thatha gachathi.” His is a ministry of Love and Hope to all. This is not a mere sentiment as in the case of some other religions. It is an actual fact. To realise this Light may be a difficult thing. Indeed, as the Lord himself says, one in thousand tries to seek the Light; one of thousand such knows him really, and this man too reaches Him after many incarnations. The truth of this is also explicitly stated in the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Except Lot, one individual, none in that accursed city was found fit to be saved. If He had known 100, at least10 in that city He would have saved the same. (But whether the same requires destruction is another question.) God is said to have grieved at his heart for the creation of the world, when in the imagination of their hearts he found only evil. The quest after wealth is too well plain in the west. Christ has already fled from the west. But no one deserves eternal damnation on that account. For in the heart of man is darkness. This darkness (Mala) can be removed by methods described in the Agamas, books of Revelation, by a recourse to suitable Acharyas, the chosen vassals of God. Few have reached the God but all may strive towards it.