I was witness to a very strange phenomenon, a very curious phenomenon. There was a great flood, a great inundation of the river Ganga, and the river went on rising. On the branches of a tree were sitting several monkeys; there was a female-monkey and some children of this female-monkey. All these children came up to the female monkey. The water rose up to the place where the female monkey was seated. Then the she-monkey jumped up to a higher branch; the water came up to that place.
The female monkey came to the highest top-branch, and the water rose up even to that place. All the children were clinging to the body of this female-monkey. The water reached her feet; then she just took hold of one child, one baby-monkey, and placed it underneath her feet. The water rose still higher, and then this female-monkey took hold of another child and placed it under her feet. The water still rose; and the third child was also taken up and mercilessly placed under her feet to save herself.
Just so it is. People and things are dear to us as long as they serve our interests, our purposes. The very moment that our interests are at stake, we sacrifice everything.
Thus the seat of happiness, the source of happiness is somewhere within the Self. But where is it? The hands are dearer than the feet, but they are not the home of happiness. Then, is happiness located in the nose or in the eye? The eyes are dearer than the hands or the nose, but happiness is not located in them.
Think of something that is dearer even than the eyes. You might say it is the life. Rama says take the whole body first. The whole body is not the home of happiness. We see that this whole body we are changing every moment. In several years, every particle of the body is replaced by a new particle. It may be in the intellect, in the brain, in the mind. It may be there. But let us see if there is not something even dearer than the intellect.
We say that life, or as the Hindus put it, prana may be the source of happiness, because oftentimes people want to live even at the sacrifice of their reasoning powers. Vedanta says, No! No! Even life is not the home of happiness, the Heaven within is higher up still; even beyond individual, personal life. Where is it then?
We have something higher even than life; something superior to “prana”, something which says, “My life,” something which says, “My prana,” something which possesses the “prana” and is above the “prana” or life, and that something is sweeter by far than the individual, personal life or “prana.”
Why is it that the intellect is sweeter than the eyes? Because the intellect is nearer to the real Self than the eyes. And why is it that the eyes are dearer than the feet? Because the eyes partake more of the real Self in you than the feet do. Why is it that everybody looks upon his child as being far more beautiful than the child of somebody else, of his neighbour? Vedanta says, “Because this particular child you call ‘mine’ you have gilded a little with the gold of your real Self.”
Excerpted from a lecture delivered on December 17, 1902, in the
Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, USA. The 146th birth anniversary of Swami Ramatirtha is being observed on October 22.