CHRISTIAN SCIENCE AND HINDU PHILOSOPHY
By Swami Yogananda
It may be a matter of much interest to many Christian Scientists to learn that the great founder of their faith, Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy, was a student of the Hindu Scriptures. This fact is shown by her quotations from them in her "Science and Health," up to the 33rd edition. We find in this edition the following excerpt from Sir Edwin Arnold's translation of "Bhagavad-Gita":
"Never the Spirit was born;
The Spirit shall cease to be —never;
Never was time it was not:
End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless, deathless and changeless
Remaineth the Spirit forever;
Death hath not touched It at all,
Dead though the house of It seems!
Again, Mrs. Eddy makes reference in the same chapter to another translation of the Bhagavad-Gita. On page 259 of the 33rd edition, she says:
"The ancient Hindu philosophers understood something of this Principle, when they said in their Celestial Song, according to an old prose translation:
'The wise ...neither grieve for the dead
Nor for the living.
I myself never was not, nor thou,
Nor all the princes of the earth;
Nor shall we ever hereafter cease to be.
As the Soul, in this mortal frame,
Findeth infancy, youth, and old age,
So in some future frame
Will it find the like.
One who is confirmed in this belief
Is not disturbed by anything
That may come to pass.
The sensibility of the faculties
Giveth heat and cold, pleasure and pain,
Which come and go
And are transient and inconstant.
Bear them with patience;
For the wise man,
Whom these disturb not,
And to whom pain and pleasure are the same,
Is formed for immortality.'"
Both these quotations from the Bhagavad-Gita or Song Celestial, which contains the essence of the Vedas, or the Hindu Bible, are to be found in Mrs. Eddy's 7th chapter on "Imposition and Demonstration." This whole chapter has been omitted from later editions of "Science and Health"; that is why many Christian Scientists are not aware that their great leader, Mrs. Eddy, was familiar with Hindu thought, and in her bigness did not hesitate to acknowledge it in print.
Impartial investigation will show all the world's great religions to be based on the same universal truths, that do not conflict ...but reinforce one another. The great religious teachers of history would be in perfect accord if they met face to face today. It is only some of their followers that are at war with one another, thru ignorance of their own true religion.
The great triumphant power of Christian Science over disease and distress is due to the imperishable principle of truth —upon which it is founded—the truth of God's love and man's immortal nature. Hence it is not strange to know that the Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism bears out the conclusions of Christian Science. "The Truth is one; men call it by various names."
The similarity or mutual influence of the Hindu Vedanta and Christian Science and other religions should bring fresh hope to mankind by suggesting to it that religious principles have an inner scientific unity ...and can, like the discoveries of physical science, be universally used with benefit by all mankind in practical life. The material scientist uses the forces of the body and of nature to make the environment of man better and more comfortable, and the spiritual scientist, who uses mind-power to enlighten the soul of man, can be of even greater service.
In this article my purpose is to show not only that the doctrine of "mind over matter" had been worked out by the Hindus prior to the birth of Christian Science, and that the similarity of the message of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy and the principles of Hindu Vedanta is quite evident, but that the Hindus and Christian Scientists will find mutual benefit and will add to their knowledge of the power of mind by a combined study of the Bhagavad-Gita and the Vedanta of the Hindus, and Mary Baker Eddy's "Science and Health."
No matter what great similarity may exist between Christian Science and certain Hindu spiritual doctrines, still, both being different presentations of the principles of a specific truth, and laying emphasis on its certain points differently, are both differently serviceable to the different mental needs of the people in general. Christian Science is no doubt a new presentation of the truth which the Hindus preached long ago, and as such is really needed in this age. Christian Science, by its sole emphasis on mind-power and complete denial of matter and medicine, has greatly helped to free many matter-bound, materially-minded people. A strong, quick jump from one extremity of faith in matter and in the regular use of drugs, to the other extremity of believing in mind alone, and a complete abandonment of medicine, if successfully accomplished by strong-minded people, will certainly bring results in healing the body. Christian Science in the West has succeeded in turning the thoughts of people from matter to mind.
The Hindu Scriptures point out that the belief in the non-existence of matter and the disuse of medicine, in order to fit in with practical human necessity, must not be abrupt, dogmatic, illogical, unintelligible, or inexplicable, but must be scientifically founded, proved and understood.
The Hindu philosopher does not deny the miraculous healings wrought by Christian Science practitioners, but humbly asks them," Do you know exactly what law operates in order to effect a physical healing by mind-power, and the exact causes which prevent the operation of the power of mental healing in certain cases?" Then, again, while the Hindu savant thoroughly believes in the power of the mind for healing physical sickness, he does not disbelieve the miraculous healings also wrought by certain doctors. Only he says, "The mind-power is superior to drug-power. Mental cure, if scientifically applied, is more powerful than drug cure." The Hindu healer says, however, that great mental preparation is necessary to understand the relation of mind and matter, or to change the material habits of thinking into spiritual habits of thinking —in an individual wholly living on the material plane.
When a man thinks he cannot exist a day without munching a big piece of beef steak, and at the same time talks about the non-existence of matter and the uselessness of medicine, he contradicts himself. If one believes in food, one believes in medicine also, for food is nothing but certain chemicals taken to heal the decaying tissues, which purpose medicine also serves. The Hindu healer says that when your consciousness is on the material plane, you have to obey material laws no matter how much you mentally deny them. Material and mental laws both come from the Divine source, and as such —both are true differently. But in order to see the work of the Divine Mind one must know how to lift the consciousness from the physical to the superphysical plane. That requires training and concentration. The aspiring Christian Scientist who wants to live by mind-power alone will do well to go thru the following preparation:
First, one ought to practice fasting under expert advice, not to reduce or for any other material benefit, but for the sole object of getting the soul accustomed to living without being conditioned by food. Hindu saints who have preached about the non-existence of matter have demonstrated their statements by indefinitely living without food (without losing weight or strength). I knew of a lady in 1920 in India, who lived a few miles from my school at Ranchi, who remained forty years without eating. Her case had been several times tested by authorities and found to be genuine. She had been locked up several times for months, in a room in the palaces of certain princes, without food and drink, and at the end of the period, she showed no sign of physical deterioration or loss of weight.
Shankara, one of the greatest of Hindu saints, who lived in the 6th century AD., and was the foremost exponent of the Vedanta philosophy in India, taught the illusion of matter and the eternal reality of man's true nature.
A story is told of a conversation between Shankara and a certain black magician. The latter used to acquire magical powers thru human sacrifice. While Shankara was preaching the non-existence of matter, the black magician approached him and said, "If matter is illusion, then what is this I see before me?" pointing to Shankara's body. "That is illusion." Shankara replied. The magician was quick to seize this opportunity and said, "If then your body is non-existent to you, let me use this illusion to some practical purpose and acquire some more powers for myself."
"Take it," the great Shankara replied and was ready to ignore his body as if it were an image in a forgotten dream.
Thus Shankara, the "Swami of Swamis," founder of the Swami order, and full of practical realization of his own inner imperishable nature, agreed to accompany the black magician, who led him to a forest, bathed him as though he were a goat for sacrifice, and began to sharpen his long knife for the slaughter in accordance with the rites of black magic. Even then Shankara did not lose his knowledge that the body was illusion. He was not a fanatic —but knew exactly what he was doing.
Just then one of Shankara's disciples happened to sit in deep meditation—and on opening his spiritual eye he saw to his great horror a vision of his master Shankara about to be sacrificed at the hands of the wicked magician. Thru his great devotion and psychical power —the disciple quickly dematerialized his own body and appeared at once at the scene in the forest. There he saw the knife about to fall on his master's neck and he looked at the magician with his eyes burning with spiritual electricity. The necromancer's whole body was electrocuted and he gave up the ghost with a loud voice.
"Why did you kill the man?" Lord Shankara asked his disciple.
"Sir, he was going to kill you." answered the disciple.
To which the teacher replied, "Foolish one! Didn't I teach you —all is illusion? How could he kill me, who have no body?"
The disciple smilingly replied, "Dear Master, if the attempt to kill you was illusion, then the act of Divine Law killing the magician thru me, was illusion too."
In this connection, it is interesting to recall the biblical story of how Peter rebuked Ananias and his wife for greed, and the immediate subsequent death of the two, in answer to their transgression against Divine Law.
The above illustrations of the lady fasting forty years, and Lord Shankara's great mental composure when threatened with immediate death, go to show how the Hindus are practical in their knowledge of the superiority of mind-power over the material consciousness. Man's body is like a wet battery. It depends partially on carbohydrates, liquids, oxygen, and certain chemicals taken into the body, and internally it depends on the vibratory cosmic life-current which flows thru the medulla into the body of man." Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that falleth out of the mouth of God."
So man's life is not dependent on bread alone, (solids, liquids or gaseous material food substances), but on every word (unit of vibratory energy) of God (cosmic energy).
Being mentally identified with food and body, man forgets that if the inner life-energy fails him, no amount of dieting or oxygenating the body can enable him to live. If the stomach of a dead man is stuffed with good food and his lungs are inflated with oxygen, he does not revive. Outwardly, food helps to keep life in the body, but life-force is maintained from within, and when the Cosmic Current fails to supply from within, no outward aid is of any avail.
Those who never fast—do not know that man can live by the word of God, or energy flowing from God. Jesus fasted forty days in order to convince himself that his soul had risen above the bodily conditions. That's why he uttered—when he was tempted by the material hunger-consciousness "Man shall not live by bread alone," etc.
Hence the earlier stages of a weeks' fasting are marked by hunger, but as the days of fasting multiply, less hunger and more freedom from food are distinctly felt. Why? Because the soul is unconsciously made to depend on the inner source of supply by a forced denial of the external source of supply of food. But this method of fasting is only one of the physical methods of rising above the consciousness of matter. No spiritual aspirant should indiscriminately indulge in long fasts without expert advice. Partial fasting, by omitting one or two meals a day, or by a day's fasting every week, done with the sole purpose of forgetting food, and followed by deep meditation, is helpful in spiritual realization.
The Christian Scientist generally employs strong imagination, developed by study of "Science and Health," in order to heal his physical diseases and convince himself of the non-existence of matter. But there is a more powerful element in man, says the Hindu teacher—the Will—by development of which, man can convert his body into a dry battery, charging his body with life-current from within by the Cosmic Source, and living without food, chemicals, or medicine. This requires long practice, and is difficult, but the easiest way is to learn to treat the body like a wet battery and live more by the Vital Force charged by the Will from within, and less by material food.
The Will is the great inner generator of energy into the body. When one is unwilling to do his daily work —one feels a lack of energy in the system. Whereas when one works incessantly but willingly, he feels full of energy within the body. Imagine if a man lying down quietly on a sofa, does not will to move his limbs or muscles or does not will to imagine or think or feel, and goes on remaining in that passive state, can he live? No.
Hence the body movements and physical processes are initiated by Will, consciously or unconsciously. Therefore, when one learns the higher metaphysical method, living by Conscious Energy and Will, he can then know that mind-power is self-contained and may live without being conditioned by the requirements of the body.
Then comes the method of learning the art of concentration by which one can transfer the attention —at will— from the body —to the soul in order to destroy the gross identification of the soul with the body—for this identification is the sole cause of the soul's ascribing to itself all the frailties and diseases of the body.
In order to fix a broken bone, the doctor, a child of God, with the help of God's material laws, has developed an almost perfect method of bone fixture. Then why ask a suffering layman to wait for a mental method of bone fixture, which only the highly developed ones, acquainted with the law of materialization and dematerialization of atomic vibration and body tissue, can perform. Until belief in mind-power is converted into exact knowledge, the layman is in danger of disillusionment. Merely ignoring a disease by belief in health would not prevent the progress of a disease, for the operation of God's physical laws are just as true as His mental laws. That's why many have died of disease —though they believed in mental healing. In order to be absolutely sure of mental healing, one must regularly develop his powers. Jesus was always sure of His healing because He had studied and knew what He was doing.
The inspired Hindu teachers are thoroughly in accord with the basic principles of Christian Science. But they express themselves differently. Instead of saying, as the Christian Scientist does, that matter does not exist, they say —matter is materialized mind-force, and scientifically prove this statement by their power of materialization and dematerialization of matter.
Science has demonstrated that all matter is composed of vibration. The ninety-two elements of matter, which enter into the composition of all the universe, from stars to human beings, are nothing but different forms of electronic vibration. For example, in ice —we find coldness, weight, form; it is visible. Melt the ice; it becomes water. Pass electricity thru it; it becomes invisible H2O, which, analyzed further, is a form of electronic vibration. Hence, one may scientifically say that ice does not exist, even though it is perceptible to our senses of sight, taste, feeling and so forth. In reality its essence is invisible electrons or forms of energy. In other words, that which can be dissolved into invisibility cannot be said to have valid existence. In this sense, matter can be said not to exist, but only in this sense, because matter does have relative existence, i.e., matter exists in relation to our mind and as an expression of the invisible electronic forces which do exist, because they are unchangeable and immortal. Just as the child could not be born without the parents, so matter is dependent on mind for its existence. It is born out of Divine Mind, and is perceptible to mortal mind; in itself and of itself, it has no reality and no existence. Hinduism supplies the missing link between Matter and Mind as being energy, just as the missing link between invisible H2O gas and ice —is water. Water and ice are both manifestations of invisible H2O, with only formal existence ...transitory appearance. Similarly, conscious mortal mind and matter are the formal manifestations of Divine Consciousness, with formal existence; but essentially, only Divine Mind exists.
In a very interesting booklet by Swami Abhedananda on "Christian Science and Vedanta," the following observations are made: "Christian Science, by denying the existence of matter and mortal mind, denies the existence of the phenomenal world and reduces it to nothingness. This difficulty does not arise in Vedanta philosophy, because it does not deny the existence of matter, mind, and everything that is on the phenomenal plane. Altho it tells us that the world is unreal, that matter is unreal, mind unreal; still it recognizes their existence, but adds that that existence cannot be separated from the absolute existence. If Brahman, or the absolute existence, be all in all, then everything that exists on the phenomenal plane is in reality Brahman, or the absolute Truth. The reality of the chair, the table, the earth, the sun, moon, and stars, is the absolute existence, is divinity itself. The reality in you, in me, and in all living creatures is the same as the absolute reality of the universe; only, on account of names and forms, the One Reality appears to be many. As, for instance, the one substance clay, appears thru diverse names and forms in numberless varieties, such as pots, jars, bricks, etc., so the One Absolute Reality, when clothed with varying names and forms, appears to be sun, moon, stars, animals, vegetables, etc. . . .
"The names and forms have of course no Absolute Reality, but they have Conditional Reality; or, in other words, they exist in relation to our minds. The world is real, according to Vedanta, but at the same time it is not as it seems to be; it is not that which appears to us at the present moment. This is what is meant by 'illusion' in Vedanta. For example, here is a chair; the substance of this chair is the Absolute Reality, because the Absolute Reality is All-Pervading and One. It is in you, in me, in the table, and in everything, and that which gives reality to the chair ...is one with the Absolute Reality. But the chair appears as chair only so long as it is clothed with the name and form of chair. If we can mentally separate the name and form from the substance of the chair, that which will be left —will be common wood; take away the name and form of wood —atoms and molecules will remain; take away the name and form of atoms and molecules —there will be nothing but Eternal Energy, and that is inseparable from the Absolute Substance. In this way, if we can mentally separate the names and forms from the substance, all phenomenal objects can be reduced to one substance which is the Absolute Reality of the universe. . . .
"In this age of agnosticism and materialism, Christian Science has done an admirable work, in making people realize that this phenomenal world of ours is like a dreamland, and that all objects of sense are nothing more than objects seen in a dream. This is no small gain for Western minds; because the more we realize that this world is like a dream —the nearer we approach to Absolute Truth. In this respect, what Christian Science is at present trying to do in this country, has been done by Vedanta in India for centuries. Furthermore, Christian Science has rendered a great service to humanity by demonstrating the power of the mind over the body, the power of Spirit over matter. Altho this fact was in no way new to the spiritual teachers, sages and best thinkers of every country, still in no other country and at no other time had there ever been so well organized a movement as that started recently by Mrs. Eddy under the name of Christian Science. Like Vedanta, it has brought health to many diseased bodies and rest to may diseased minds.
"The power of healing is the property of every individual soul. There have been many remarkable healers in every country—among the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Mohammedans, and those of other religious creeds. It is a great mistake to think that the power of healing comes from any outside source or from belief in this or that. It is developed by living a right life in accordance with the moral and spiritual laws of nature. . . . If we read the religious history of the world carefully, we find that long before the birth of Christ, the same healing Power of the Mind or Spirit was practiced by the followers of Buddha —with marvellous success. Wherever Buddhist missionaries travelled, they healed the sick without using drugs. The yogis in India also use no drugs in curing disease, but rely entirely upon the spiritual power which they acquire thru right living and the practice of Yoga. . . . The power of healing is universal and cannot be confined within the boundaries of any one creed, sect, religion or book."
Resuming our discussion of mind and matter: We find that the blind or non-intelligent electronic forces of creation, in order to be Creative Teleological Agents, contain within themselves the vibrations of the Universal Conscious Life-Force, which in its turn —came from the vibrations of God's Divine Cosmic Consciousness. God said, "Let there be light," i.e., the Creator vibrated in His consciousness and It produced light or energy, and flowing conscious light of life-current and electrons, which further vibrated more grossly and became the diverse subtle forces of Nature, which in their turn became the gross ninety-two elements of matter that constitute the material universe.
To the human consciousness —matter is both real and perceptible. But man has discovered thru theoretical investigation, thru logic and thru certain experiments (such as being able to convert a visible piece of ice into an invisible force) that there is a permanent and unalterable creative force behind all the transitory and illusive forms of material creation. This truth may be grasped just as we grasp the fact that the ocean exists ....though its waves have no permanent existence, being just the passing formal manifestations of one great substance. The waves cannot exist without the ocean, but the ocean can exist without the waves. So matter cannot exist without Divine Mind-Power, but Divine Mind-Power can exist without matter. These concepts can be intellectually grasped, but they cannot be realized until one has learned the conscious method of converting matter into conscious energy and conscious energy into Cosmic Consciousness, as Jesus could and as many Hindu Saints have been able to do. To such Enlightened Ones, mater does not exist because They can see the whole unchangeable ocean of Spirit beneath the slight rippling waves of creation.
The Universe has been spoken of in Vedanta and Yoga philosophies as God's dream. Matter and mind, with the universe, planets, and the human powers of feeling, will and consciousness, the states of life and death, disease and health, the gross surface waves and the subtle under-currents of material creation, are realities according to the Law of Relativity governing this dream of God's. All the dualities perceived thru the Law of Relativity are real to the dreamer, to the ordinary man in the world who plays his little part in the great dream of God. To escape from these dualities, one must awaken from this dream into eternal God-wakefulness. We cannot change God's dream just by imagination or denying matter, or by accepting life but rejecting death, or by seeking health and fleeing sickness. One state is as much a part of its opposite state as the two sides of the same cloth. The dualities are part and parcel of each other. The man who sees his body different from mind, who cannot dematerialize his body into Electronic Energy, who cannot see the inconsistency of rejecting medicine but accepting food, or denying sickness but affirming health, is a man still under the delusion of the dream-world. Just as the ordinary man has dreams which seem real for a time, but lose their reality when the man emerges into the ordinary waking state, so it is possible for every one to awaken some day from the seeming reality of the present world-dream, and live in the eternal Cosmic Consciousness of God.
The super-man, He who has consciously awakened in God by transferring and expanding His consciousness into the world of unchangeable reality, He alone can realize this creation as a dream of God; He alone can say matter has no existence. Thru a long series of self-disciplinary steps, thru the different paths of Yoga, or thru any method of spiritual perfection, thru service, love, wisdom and self-effacement, the Aspirant climbs beyond the clutch of dualities and the impermanence of all created things, into the incomprehensible grandeur of His true Being.
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