July 15, 1900 (New York): This morning the lesson on the Gita was grand. It began with a long talk on the fact that the highest ideals are not for all. Non-resistance is not for the man who thinks the replacing of the maggot in the wound, by the leprous saint, with "Eat, Brother!" disgusting and horrible. Non-resistance is practised by a mother's love towards an angry child. It is a travesty in the mouth of a coward, or in the face of a lion.
Let us be true. Nine-tenths of our life's energy is spent in trying to make people think us that which we are not. That energy would be more rightly spent in becoming that which we would like to be. And so it went — beginning with the salutation to an incarnation:
Whose footstool is worshipped by the gods.
Thou one unbroken Soul,
Physician of the world's diseases.
Guru of even the gods,
To thee our salutation.
Thee we salute. Thee we salute. Thee we salute.
There was an implication throughout the talk that Christ and Buddha were inferior to Krishna — in the grasp of problems — inasmuch as they preached the highest ethics as a world-path, whereas Krishna saw the right of the whole, in all its parts — to its own differing ideals. But perhaps no one not familiar with his thought would have realized that this lay behind his exclamation, "The Sermon on the Mount has only become another bondage for the soul of man!"
All through his lectures now, he shows this desire to understand life as it is, and to sympathize with it. He takes less of the "Not this, not this" attitude and more of the "Here comes and now follows" sort of tone. But I fear that people find him even more out of touch at a first hearing than ever used to be the case.
He talked after lunch about Bengali poetry, then about astronomy. He confessed to a whimsical doubt as to whether the stars were not merely an optical delusion, since amongst the million of man-bearing earths that must apparently exist, no beings of higher development than ours yet seemed to have attempted signalling to us.
And he suggested that Hindu painting and sculpture had been rendered grotesque by the national tendency to refuse psychic into physical conceptions. He said that he himself knew of his own experience that most physical or material things had psychic symbols, which were often to the material eye grotesquely unlike their physical counterparts. Yesterday he told me how, as a child, he hardly ever was conscious of going to sleep. A ball of coloured light came towards him and he seemed to play with it all night. Sometimes it touched him and burst into a blaze of light, and he passed off. One of the first questions Shri Ramakrishna put to him was about this, "Do you see a light when you sleep?" "Yes," he replied, "does not everyone sleep so?"
One of the Swamis says this was a psychic something which showed that concentration was a gift with which he started this life, not to be earned during its course. One thing I am sure of, that gift of Swami's, of never forgetting any step of his experience, is one of the signs of great souls. It must have been a part of that last vision of Buddha.
When we get to the end. we shall not want to know our past incarnations. Maria Theresa and Petrarch and Laura will have no meaning for us, but the steps of our realization will. This is what he shows. I sit and listen to him now, and all appears to the intellect so obvious, to the will so unattainable; and I say to myself. "What were the clouds of darkness that covered me in the old days? Surely no one was ever so blind or so ignorant!" You must have been right when you thought me hard and cold. I must have been so, and it must have been the result of the long effort to see things by the mind alone, without the feelings.
Swami is all against bhakti and emotion now — determined to banish it, he says. But how tremendous is that unity of mind and heart, from which he starts. He can afford to dispense with either — since both are fully developed, and the rest is merely discipline. I fancy most of us will do well to feel all we can.
In Malabar, although of course polyandry does not obtain there, the women lead in everything. Exceptional cleanliness is apparent everywhere and there is the greatest impetus to learning. When I myself was in that country, I met many women who spoke good Sanskrit, while in the rest of India not one woman in a million can speak it. Mastery elevates, and servitude debases. Malabar has never been conquered either by the Portuguese or by the Mussulmans.