Sunday, October 27, 2013


    Of a fine morning when the birds are warbling on the trees, when the glories of colored clouds and the bright sky are mirrored forth in a sparkling and gushing stream as it leaps down a hill, I stand in a valley, amidst shrubs and trees and as I view the beautiful panorama of life my being thrills with pleasure and my soul is filled with happiness ineffable. The sight bewitches the eyes, the music of the birds delights the ear and the scent of a thousand forest flowers and herbs pleases the sense of smell beyond measure. In this exercise of the sense arises an elevation of Being and man's Soul communes with the Soul of the flowers, the birds and the bright sky.

    The whole existence is one. The lovely flower that charms the eye; the trees with their leaves and the earth covered with grass-all fill the soul with a sense of expansiveness. Have you ever stood on a precipice and looked at the beautiful valleys below and the glories of the sky above? If you have, then verily, the soul has experienced the fact of its permeating all objects of its vision.

    The life of the bird that warbles its melody on the tree, the life of the green branch wafted by the breeze, that of the earth and that of the sky is from one reservoir. In each is a crest of the wave from the ever-surging waters of the Universal Life.

    Forms change, life puts on new shapes. There is no destruction of the shapes – the vehicles of life. Old forms are burnt up and mew ones are ushered into existence. In the grand facory of Nature, there is a constant mutation of the worn-out vehicles into new forms of beauty. The burning ground is but the gateway of life from one set of forms into another.






    The day was rather too hot for the season and it was 4 o'clock in the afternoon when I rose from my easy chair, on which I had divided my time between an inclination to sleep and a few Sanskrit books which I took up by turns in a drowsy mood and laid aside. There was a feeling of heaviness in the atmosphere of the room which made me sick of being shut up and I longed to go out into the open air.

    I walked along the dusty lanes, unmindful of the traffic, possessed of an absent-mindedness which made me oblivious to the noisy preparations that were being made for the celebration of Maha Sivaratri.

    In my town there is an old temple of Siva and on this night of the year, a grand feast is to be celebrated with great pomp in honor of the Deity. Thousands of people from the surrounding villages of the district go to this town and this festival is a stirring incident in their rather monotonous lives. In the noise and amidst the crowd, they for a night at least rise above themselves and forget the petty worries and strife's of their lives. A supreme joy seems to fill them on this night. This is an oasis in their life's desert and their parched lives drink to their heart's content of this bliss.

    I was not, however, in a mood to participate in the happiness of this kind. The sight of the crowd filled me with a spirit of world – weariness and I felt a strange impulse which would drive me away from the turmoil and uproar of life. My spirit was troubled and I was filled with a strange yearning to know the meaning and purpose of life. My heart burnt with a desire to unravel the mystery of suffering and of death. So I took myself away from the crowd. I walked straight along the high road, through an avenue of trees till I came to the bank of the river. I crossed the bridge and went into the adjoining grove of trees.

    This grove is a jungle in a miniature. There are trees of various sorts in it; as well as a few Bilva trees, sacred unto Siva, interspersed here and there. Almost in the center of the grove, near a Bilva tree is a spot of cleared ground. Under the tree is a crude temple-like erection about three feet in height. Within this is a linga, an emblem of Siva.

    There are wild and weird stories current about this temple and the image in it. The oldest inhabitants of the town have heard from their great grand-fathers that there was an Aghori who lived in the grove. He practiced the greatest renunciation and his one aim in life was to develop the utmost disrelish for it. He wrecked not what he ate. He fed upon even the carrion that he obtained from the adjoining burning-ground. His conduct was however in perfect contrast to his horrible life. He was as simple as a child and hurt not the meanest of living beings. Once a God took interest in him and brought him this formless linga to be worshipped by him.

    Others said that when this town came into existence and the place near the grove was set apart for the burning-ground, Yama, the God of death ordered his emissaries to establish the linga on the spot to serve as the object of worship for the spirits of darkness that inhabit the burning-ground.

    There were others who believed that Rudra himself had assumed the form of this linga. The God who wore skulls and roamed over burning-grounds, marshalling the forces of destruction appeared to eyes of flesh in the form of a stone.

    This was in every way a dreaded place, on account of the beliefs that were entertained about it, and on account also of actual facts known about it. The grove in which this temple-like structure was situated was on the out-skirts of the town and because of its vicinity to the burning-ground it was supposed to be the haunt of devils and no one would venture near it after it was dark. There was many an occasion past the midnight when people as they passed along the road in their carts heard the noise of the revelry and feasting of the devils. People of a skeptical turn of mind, however, who never had the benefit of the actual experience, supposed it to be the noise of a band of dacoits rejoicing and offering their worship to the God after a good night's work. This was one view, but it did not in the least, disturb the belief about the devils, though on several mornings subsequent to such an experience of the travelers there were reports of during robberies from the surrounding villages. In fact so profound was the belief that the place was haunted that not even the whole police force of the town would venture to invade the sanctity of the devil-haunt in response to the wishes of the skeptically minded-people. Such was the spot and such were the associations connected with it. But the absent-mindedness that possessed me and the sense of world-weariness that overcame my feelings were so strong that these thoughts about the place did not weigh with me. I was indifferent as to what became of me and I seated myself opposite to the linga reclining against a block of stone that lay near.

    The sun had set and the twilight was past. The grove was being shrouded in darkness all around me except for a bright star here and a bright star there that peeped at me through the spaces in the thick foliage of the trees. The night advanced and the veil of darkness became thicker. I did not think of going home; for it was my habit to fast and keep awake during the Sivaratri, both of which I could do here as well as at home. Further I had long thought that in darkness and amidst such surroundings, Nature conveyed to the mind very forcibly an idea of the fearful aspect of God. So, I resolved to remain here on this lovely spot during the night and meditate on Maha Kala.

    As I sat reclining on the stone several thoughts came crowding in upon my mind. I recollected the exquisite poetry of Kalidasa which I was reading in the afternoon. The wonderful scenery of the Himalaya seemed to pass before my mind's eye.

    Proud mountain – king! His diadem of snow

    Dims not the beauty of his gems below.

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    Oft, when the gleaming's of his mountain brass

    Flash through the clouds and tint as they pass,

        Those glories mock the hues of closing day,

        And heaven's bright wantons hail their hour of play;

        Try, ere the time, the magic of their glance,

        And deck their beauty for the twilight dance.

        *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    

        Far spread the wilds where eager hunters roam,

        Tracking the lion to his dreary home.

        *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

        List! Breathing from each cave, Himalaya leads

        The glorious hymn with all his whispering reeds,

        Till heavenly minstrels raise their voice in song,

        And swell his music as it floats along.

        *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

        Yet hath he caves within whose inmost cells

        In tranquil rest the meekly darkness dwells,

        And, like the night-bird, spreads the brooding wing

        Safe in the shelter of the mountain king."


        I reflected upon the beauty of the mountain-maiden Parvati, which inspired the poet to sing:-


        "Now beauty's prime, that craves no artful aid,

        Ripened the loveliness of that young maid

        That needs no wins to fire the captive heart,

        The bow of Love without his flowery dart,

        There was a glory beaming from her face,

        With Love's own light, and every youthful grace;

        Ne'er had the painter's skilful hand portrayed

        A lovelier picture than that gentle maid;

        Ne'er sun-kissed lily more divinely fair

        Unclosed her beauty to the morning air.

        *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

        When the Almighty Maker first began

        The marvelous beauty of that child to plan,

        In full fair symmetry each rounded limb

        Grew neatly fashioned and approved by him:

        The rest was faultless, for the Artist's care

        Formed each young charm excellently fair,

        As if his molding hand would fain express

        The visible type of perfect loveliness."†


    [† From Griffith's translation of Kumara Sambhava]


    From this exquisite description of beauty, the mind wandered away to the God of the burning-grounds "with his coat of hide with blood-drops streaming," on whose 'heart the funeral ashes rest'- the strange bride-groom who when he went to espouse Uma was followed by the dreadful Kali with


        "The skulls that decked her rattling in the wind,

        Like the dark that scuds across the sky

        With herald lightning and the crane's shrill cry."


Here apparently there was an anomaly. It must have been the strangest freak of fancy that had thrust the Austere God into a region of poetry. It appeared to be ab inconsistency to introduce the Great Lord into a love story even to suit the purpose of the gods. Thoughts of this nature troubled the mind sorely until I could no longer keep the nocturnal vigil. I was weighed down with thought and the intensity of it added to the weariness of the body, I felt a feeling of sleepiness creeping upon me and I was soon fast asleep. The sleep was not, however, quite undisturbed, for when I awoke I recollected that I had dreamt a wondrous dream.

As I lost consciousness of the things around me, I seemed to wake up into another world of realities. The silent grove transformed itself into a scene of activity and bustle. At a distance from me, I seemed to hear the blowing of conches and a confused noise which indicated that a number of corpses were being borne to the burning-ground. The noise grew louder as the procession came nearer. But, lo! when I looked at the biers, I found that there were not dead bodies stretched on them; but beings of an ethereal nature were sitting on them with joyful countenances and haloed of great effulgence around their heads. I enquired of the weird looking bearers as to the nature of the beings borne by them. Their answer rang in a strange voice that they were spirits who had obtained a release from the world and who were going to higher planes to learn the lessons which lives in those regions had to teach them. The vision passed away.

Then after an interval I heard a most pitiful sound as though a thousand throats were giving vent to their feelings of sorrow in moans. I wondered whence such a doleful noise could proceed and a chill ran through my frame. I cast a bewildered look around me and stood stupefied. But I had not to remain long in suspense for a Being as radiant as the day appeared before me and said that the noise was due to the pitiful cries of the spirits whose time had come to descend to the earth. They would fain remain in the higher regions and grieved deeply into bondage in obedience to the divine law. The jarring noise finally ceased.

Now my ears were treated to the most soul-bewitching music. It was heavenly and transcended in power, anything that can be produced on the earth. My whole frame thrilled with a new life. As the music penetrated into me, I felt that a new understanding was dawning upon me. I felt that I responded to this music, nay that I was a chord in a myriad chords that vibrated to produce this grand harmony. As this experience was about to cease, I heard a voice proclaim that Existence was this glorious music.

Hardly an instant passed after this when I beheld a Goddess of heavenly beauty. There was a bright halo around Her head and on Her countenance She wore a benign look. At the sight of Her I was overcome by a feeling of reverence and I fell prostrate at Her feet which scarcely seemed to touch the earth. I begged of Her to tell me who She was and wherefore I was favored with Her divine presence. She answered that She was Durga, the Mother of living beings. The thought 'How was it then that She was considered the Slayer of Her children' crossed my mind and I was about to give utterance to it, when She answered me saying "I slay not Souls, - but only break up the effete forms to help the evolving souls with in" and the vision vanished.

Next appeared the form of a Holy Ascetic from Whose countenance radiated a calm that stilled all perturbing emotions which welled up in the heart. Nature herself appeared to become tranquil at His appearance. The sight of this Divine Personage was most elevating and I felt uplifted above the senses. A serenity – a most exalted calm heralded His approach; and in the sanctity of His presence, I felt as though I stood on the highest summit and from there surveyed the hills and the valleys of life. I no longer looked through the gateways; but from the house-top. Now was everything clear, as I was filled with enlightenment. This was the God of the burning-grounds. The senses though they are the gateways of knowledge, still they are not broad enough for all the knowledge to pass through them. When these gateways are passed the soul stands at the threshold of knowledge. So one has to transcend the sense-world to visit the Realm of Wisdom. The plane of Maha Kala represents the stage where the senses cease to exist as such and their attractions are burnt up. But as nothing can really be destroyed, there is only a transformation, through the apparent gateway of destruction, of the senses into higher faculties wherewith the soul functions for the purpose of further development on the higher planes. And verily this great God appears at the termination of the soul's existence in every plane, to fill it with enlightenment and help its transit to the higher.

Such were the visions which the flashes of sleep's kaleidoscope presented. When I awoke before the morning twilight, I was resting before the small temple with the God in it and there were signs that I had not been there alone through the night. The robbers did not forget to pay their devotions to their God on the holy Sivaratri.



Sunday, October 20, 2013


            [Dash the dagger at the Sudra-saint, O right hand, in order that the dead child of the Brahman may be restored to life. Thou art a limb of that Rama who cunningly banished Sita, though she was advanced in pregnancy; how, then, could aught of compassion move thee?]

-          Bhavabhuti’s Uttararamacharita.

There are moments even in the obscure lives of individuals that are unknown to power and fame, when the mind is inextricably caught in the horns of a moral or religious dilemma. No perplexity, however, presents itself to the irresponsible wanderer in life’s desert, whose principles change with the changing hour, and to whom the dictates of conscience and the unwritten laws of duty and righteousness are, and have always been, a dead letter. Only those whose ideals are pure and sublime and whose aspirations point heavenward are in a position to feel the pang inflicted by many a thorn in the pathway of a well-regulated and godly life.

The verse quoted at the beginning of this article is one of the finest combinations of poetry and art that can be selected from the dramas of Bhavabhuti. We should transport ourselves to that period of Rama’s career when; fresh from his triumph over Ravana, he was wielding the sceptre as king of the Kosalas on the throne that had remained vacant ever since the demise of his venerable father, Dasaratha. Rama was an ideal king of old, who had his own notions of a model government, being, as he was, utterly ignorant of the latest politics of the twentieth century. He hit upon a plan of sending out spies into the very midst of his subjects, and learning through them the criticisms, if any, passed from time to time on his conduct both as sovereign and as citizen by every class of his people. Praises, real or formal, of his actions and of his valour, were of no avail to him. To one who occupies the first rank among men, commendation from all quarters is a matter of daily occurrence and must needs dwindle very soon into meaningless flattery. Rama was not lured by any such bauble. He wanted to know his defects, wherein he fell short of the standard to which kings are expected to conform, and what were the cures suggested as to how best the evil may be removed or counteracted. One day, - the unhappiest day in his life, perhaps, - one of his spies came to him with the news that the people expressed grave doubts as to Sita’s chastity while in Ravana’s custody and as to the advisability of retaining her in the royal palace. Sita, of no human origin, the darling daughter of mother earth, the foster-child of the foremost of royal sages, she, whose chastity, after the sore trial of a prolonged stay in the demon-chief’s realm, was tested and found to be in tact by the god of Fire himself, was now the object of censure at the hands of the ignorant mob. Was he to banish his long-lost partner in life but recently restored to him by fortune? Or was he pass by, with haughty disdain, the unpleasant opinions that his subjects thought fir to publish? It was only a minute ago that she went to sleep, reclining her head on his arm, after having wrung out from him a promise that he will revisit with her the forests of Dandaka where their happy life in exile was unexpectedly broken off by the carefully planned stratagem of Ravana. Here was a hard nut to crack. He thought, he wept, and finally came to a conclusion, in pursuance of which the chariot was ordered, and Lakshmana, under confidential instructions from his brother, had to take her to the forest and leave her there to herself. And this was done. But poor Sita knew not why Rama did not carry out his promise to accompany her, nor even that she was banished, nor the reason why such a treatment should be meted out to her. Rama’s conduct in this matter stands in need of no justification, for, none but the inconsiderate would think of blaming him for adopting such a course. He knew, far better than any of us, the relative importance of family affection and kingly duty. All considerations that were purely personal had to be forgotten when the imperial voice of duty called him forth to action. What other duty has a Kshatriya to discharge than to protect and please his subjects by all that lies in his power and to see that they are happy in every way? Let us not, therefore, mistake Rama to be a hard-hearted husband, cruel even to his lawfully wedded wife.

For a short time after this sad event, the wheel of kingdom rolled on smoothly till there was cause for another friction. This time it was the premature death of a Brahman infant. The corpse was laid at the palace door, and Rama’s misgovernment was hinted at as giving rise to such abnormal occurrence. Rama was again in a fix. He was confronted with a vague accusation whose particulars he could not ascertain. He was not conscious, to the very best of his recollection, of a single instance of voluntary misrule on his own part. If people are superstitious now, they were still more so in those by-gone days, and he too believed with others that failure of rain and frequency of pestilence and famine and premature deaths could result only from the misbehaviour of the king in the management of the state. An unknown voice in the air gave him the required clue. It declared that a Sudra whose name was Sambuka was performing a penance with as much sincerity and zeal as any Brahmin sage of ancient times was ever capable of, and that the dead child would come back to life if that Sudra-saint was discovered and slain. In this case, however, Rama was scarcely at a loss as to what he ought to do. He left his palace without any delay, with sword drawn, in search of Sambuka. And the irony of fate was such that Rama did not find him out until he came to the very forest of Dandaka, a joint visit to which was the subject of that last ill-fated and unfulfilled wish of Sita. But Rama knew not at first sight that he was in that forest. He was now face to face with the Sudra sage, ready to fling his sword at him. The poet gives us a glimpse into the complexity of feelings and emotions that, at that critical instant, bewildered the mind of that half-human, half-divine being. Rama apostrophises his right hand and commands it to deal the fatal blow. But why should it? Because the Brahmin infant should be revivified. But pity melts his heart, a stronger pity than that which overpowered Arjuna at the sight of his relations, dear and near, on the battle-field of Kurukshetra. Moreover, there was no Krishna here to rouse him to do his duty. But Rama was the Lord Himself and He was his own Teacher and guide. The human had to be merged in the divine, the purely personal in the universal good, and Rama the tender-hearted had to become the hard-hearted slayer of an innocent victim in the discharge of the stern duty incumbent on his caste. Why should compassion stop his right hand from fulfilling its mission now, thought it was unable to do so when the self-same hand signed the order of banishment of his beloved sweetheart in spite of the advanced state of her pregnancy? This bold thought gave him the necessary strength and inspiration, and the bloody deed was done. The Sudra suffered, however, no harm from it, but, on the other hand, received the benefit of freedom form a long-endured curse, and, in his heavenly form, now required, extolled Rama as his divine benefactor. The Brahmin child too opened its eyes and became, once more, the pride and joy of its parents.

But why should Rama kill a saint? Is not a Sudra as much entitled to final emancipation as any of the twice-born classes? Rapid progress in the evolution of the soul must be appreciated and rewarded, and not punished or impeded. It is true. But religion and society were not antagonistic to each other in those times. People did not then dream of a universal religion irrespective of the nationality, the caste, the family, and the thousand other circumstances that surround the life on earth of each individual. Education then did not lead men to aspire to become one with Brahman in a day or two after a cursory perusal of a ‘Sacred Book of the East.’ The stability of society was thought to depend on a proper division of labour, and none strove to occupy a place to which the rules of society did not appoint him. It was not that the twice-born was different in the least from the Sudra in the eye of God. For God was in every phase of social life and not confined, like the ‘Christian God’ to men of a particular persuasion. Religious principles might very well adorn the nature of the humblest menial, though they might be missed in the unbridled luxury of a kingly career. Cannot a petty trader, for instance, be honest in his profession and useful to his fellow-mortals, and count for a saint before the highest tribunal, while the so-called Brahmin, besmeared with ashes and muttering prayers with his mind full of the world, deserves no better fate than being condemned by God and by his own conscience as a downright impostor? What is the Kshatriya for; if not to protect his subjects against their enemies? Otherwise he would be indirectly oppressing his own people by withholding the exercise of his valour against their oppressors. It may be remembered that when Arjuna preferred the life of a mendicant to the slaughter of his elders and preceptors assembled in battle array (Gita, II.5), Krishna exerted his utmost to dissuade him from any such tendency. He also exclaims later on (Gita, III. 35), that ill-luck in the carrying out of one’s ordained duty is far better than success in the domain of a different profession in life; for, ignorant and unaccustomed, one will have to stumble on dangers and obstacles at every step.



            Your dear one is gone – a sense of loneliness comes upon you. You see Death before you. You find it all a chaos. You are lost in the gloom of pain. Heart-piercing agony rushes through you, dim and fast. The world smells a tomb. Death is deaf and loud. The sense of parting, of loss, of desolation, submerges you in its ebb and flow. Through darkness and despair, death thunders for its victim. You resign your dear one, and beat your breast and tear your hair. You have yielded one of the richest of your heart. World becomes dull; business a pain. The knife of pain is deep in your heart. Your love is made infinitely sweet by the thought of an irrevocable loss. Where Love is gone – where heart weeps tears of blood – there life bespeaks a grave of dead, dark despair. Love breaks away: lips tremble with broken sighs: and heart is riven with sorest pangs. But know you not that sweet meeting succeeds sad parting? Who can quench the words of an afflicted heart? And who can blow out into vapid air the sparks of truth? Where is your beloved one, - a seraph-winged soul? Know you not that soul sweeps through all eternities? From the storm of sense a life departs. You weep and bleed for being left behind. The beauty and the light, the characteristics and the deeds, of your beloved one, pass from a seeming chaos of death into the holiest of dreams. The splendors of your dear one rise and spread. Through the thunder and darkness of death, you fall to understand the light and music of your loved one. Gloom fill you – but light fills your love. Discordant is the note of your heart – but music is the life of your dear one. Sweet is the music of an ever advancing soul. Life is a pyre, the possibilities a music. No subtle devise this to beguile sorrow but a melodious and a marvelous truth. Life is full of possibilities and forever. Why are you heavy with sorrow, so selfish? And why not seek the joy divine?

            Death is the law of nature and the duty of life. To discharge an obligation is to be at peace with a fact of nature. Death is inevitable. As sure as there is a beginning, as sure there is an ending. As sure as there is becoming there is dissolution. Death does not put the extinguisher upon hope. Every fiber of the human heart thrills with the anticipation of a life of a better type. From the depth and void of death the light of hope peeps forth through a dark and gloomy future. In her providence Nature has made Death necessary. And in his prudence, man should make a choice of the necessity. A cheerful compliance with necessity is wisdom. A reasoned consonance with the Inevitable is an enduring peace.

            Be and do what you will, your elements will be scattered. Live when, where and how you will, death will mark you down. It may be now, or a century hence: it may be here, or sometimes else; it may be in this way or any other manner: but what is that to you? The fact of death is there. What should I stay for? To do good? Where is doing good without being good? Can you not become good and thus do good by paying your tribute to nature? It is blind talk to say that we do good to another. If we but refrain from doing an injury to another, it is doing good. There is no such thing as doing good, positive. The negation of evil is what you call good.

            Who can escape death? The loudest orators, the deepest philosophers, the bravest heroes, the most widely-read scholars, the most knowing ones, the best and loveliest of our race, have all dropped into oblivion, Men who were enormously swollen with conceit; men who merrily passed through every selfish crime, men who claimed and reserved to themselves all honor; men who have withered the heart and hushed the voice of their fellowmen – have all been dissipated into nothing. Men who with a heartless jealousy and with a miser’s greed, grudged any the least due to others, and coveted and sought to possess every good thing of the world, they are all gone. Their place knows them not. The most shining ones, the most beautiful ones, have all passed away. Even those conceited asses which played many a silly prank, which arrogated to themselves all wisdom, have all been kicked down. Such is the frailty of life. And such is the ridiculous foolery of an idle conceit.

            A molecule grows and dies; a continent grows and dies. Look at the rise and fall of nations. This is the law of nature. And who can break it? Nature begins, ends and renews the world. If the world lives and dies, and gives place to a new, then how can you, an infinitesimal part thereof, refuse obedience to the Government of Nature. We live to die: and we die to live. This is the fact of existence. Every atom, every being, is connected with every other in mutual harmony. Through an infinite succession of change, every part of every component being, lives and dies, to make something else in the universe.

            This whole universe will live and die, and change into some other universe. Nothing can ever be completely lost. This is the law of universe. When such is the fact, where is the reason in the grief for the dead? I will allow a tender tear for the memory of the dearly beloved one, but I will put down excessive grief and undue wailing to morbid sentimentalism. Nor do I see humanity in a heart dried of all emotion. Man is not all intellect, but he is largely emotional. Where intellect and emotion blend into one harmonious music, there is the blessing of a high, rational being. What though my prattling child sinks at last into a mass of pulseless? What though my charmer falls down thoughtless, speechless and motionless? I saw my charmers in my child and wife. But I see them no more. But what was the condition of my relationship with them? Was I not under the charms of my mortals? Did I make friends with the immortals? And why grieve, then, when they have flown away from my horizon? Talk not of a short life. A life of virtue is long enough even for a mortal’s time. Talk not of falling into annihilation. Nothing can produce nothing. Something must have come out of something.

            “Our deeds follow us from afar. And what we have been makes us what we are.” And after death we shall be what we have now been. We don’t know what life is. Science has not yet wrested from nature the secret of life. But this we know that life has not come out of nothing and will not go down into nothing. No force – no energy – shall be lost – is the decree of nature. Matter and force have all along been evolving improvements through many and various conditions. And yet the conservancy of energy is maintained. And yet matter remains just the same in the sum total. Such is the Providence of Nature. After all matter and force may not at all be different in kind but different shades of one and the same substance in varying conditions. Well, let this stand here. In the beneficence of Nature, something dies to put forth a new life. Death does not stop progress but leads mortals to new glories and fresh possibilities. Death lays aside the old form of a life and clothes it with a fresh and starts it on new lines with new conditions. Such is the Function of Death in the Economy of Nature. Why mark the presence of death with all that is hideous and gloomy? Drunk with sorrow, we miscall our bright and generous Mother a dark devil. Death – a Mother? Yes, I am born of something dead. Something else will be born of my dead self. It is death which had produced me and it is death which shall produce some new being out of the present me. If there is mystery in the birth of my I, there is mystery in the death of my I.

            Through a series of changes my I is born and if it comes to face death it is not that it has dissipated into nothing as it seems. How can it? What has come from afar will go far, far away the seeming close of its career today. Death charms us into a sleep, and life means our weary restless hours. And what is this I? A group of form, sensation, perception, discrimination and consciousness, touched by a peculiar tone of characteristics, which reveal themselves as an individual in a fleeting personality. And when this individual bound down by laws as certain and uttering at those which govern the whole cosmos, dies or rather pauses a while to begin his career fresh with the experiences that he or she gained, it is not that he or she is done up, but passes on from height to height, Matter or energy never dies but changes from one condition to another. Life never dies but changes and passes into a new life. Our past experiences reveal themselves in us as conscience. And our present ones will be the memory of the future. Death sums up the Past in the Present, and brings up the sum of good and evil tendencies (which is the soul) of the present to the fresh possibilities of the Future. So we see Death performing a noble function in the evolution of all that is.

            The whole universe stands decreed to the conditions of birth, growth, decline and death. In the death of one lies the birth of another. The “loss” here is a “gain” somewhere. In the death of an error lies the birth of a truth.

            Death is a powerful educationist. Death warns us against our cleaving to transitory things, breaks our morbid attachment to fleeting relations, educates us out of our silly conceit, of our stupid arrogance, and of our foolish pranks and selfish crimes. Death presents life in its true colors. Death stands above all human power, all human learning, all human beauty and all human glory. In the light of Death, life, however beauty and all human glory. In the light of Death, life, however pretentious, looks poor and pitiable. What though you cover a continent with your title-deeds – or an ocean with your commerce? What though you make a mint of money, or command the world’s market, or live in all the circumstances of a mighty potentate? Death will take you away. And who can obstruct it in its duty? You grow conceited and look down upon struggling ones, because you have made a set speech in the council, because you have read a lesson to the senate, because you have written a learned judgment from on the Bench, because you are a successful this or that. But death laughs at you all the while for all your petty pranks and shows you at last how small you have been though so pretentions.

            Death reveals the hollowness of self-seeking. Death shows self a fleeting phantom, and counts its seeking’s a mistake. We want money, but we would not allow another have any part of it. Nay, we would grow rich and powerful with the blood of others. We want to make a name; but we will not allow another to make one for himself. We could do all to kill him in his reputation. So on with all the coveted things of the world. No learning is a guarantee against self-seeking of a most savage type. Such is the strength and mischief of self-seeking. Cannibalism we protest against. But there is yet cannibalism amongst us in a different form, but worse and more subtle. Cannibalism you can see face to face in the race for wealth and woman, for food and drink, for shelter and conveyance, for name and fame, for power and glory. But even savage self-seeking comes at last within the reach and grasp of Death. The rich grow vain and heartless the poor mean and insolent the “learned” swell with conceit; intolerance, prejudice and barbaric selfishness. But life is fleeting. Death blanches the arrogance of power and the conceit of learning, into a puff of smoke or into a handful of dust.

            Even those Jugglers who live a devil and talk and write a bible, who to secure and further their own selfish ends, seek to hush even the voice of an angel, who in the name of a God of whose praise they are loud, would crucify that very God if he should appear just now in flesh and blood, - even these Jugglers who are having a good time of it by throwing dust into the eyes of the multitude, - even these Jugglers of so many forms and types, … even these cannot outwit death. No hypocrisy however subtle, no rascality however keen and successful, can evade death. Death masters everything in nature from the countless sands to the starry hosts. Why, even the loudest fame dwindles at last into a solemn silence of a oblivion; even the most extensive wealth spends itself into vapid air; even the most resplendent glory sinks at last into a void of gloom. Death stands at the end of each and all. We covet this, and hate that. We grow our pretensions; we stunt our sympathies. We seek a fleeting pleasure and spill blood from the heart of another. But when death knocks at our door, where is our boasted learning? Where is our vaunted power? Where is the strength of woman villainy? Where is that lovely form of flesh and muscle we have adored? No gold can bribe, no honor can charm Death into silence. But then. Because death is so stubborn death is not to be feared as an enemy. We must rise and go forward to bid Death welcome. Death, even when threatening, is extremely kind. Death robs us of all fear. The very thought of death transports me with joy. Standing by the side of Death I count every dreaded object a sham and every coveted one a trash. I care not for what the world gives me and what it takes away from me. I see in me no craven fear, no selfish sorrow. It is all joy where the thought of death is.

            Death is confounded with pain. But nothing can be farther from truth. Where death is not, pain is. Where pain is, death is not. This is the truth of it. Death is no sensation – but a suspension of sensation. Where unconsciousness sets in, pain beats a hasty retreat. Ignorant of nature’s laws, we are broken to pieces and ground to dust. Knowing them, we win an empire of joyous peace.

            Death is a joy! Why, you see before you a trouble, and you look to death for comfort. And death comforts you and gives you peace. Well, death tells you that even this large seeming trouble shall pass away. And then. You come to rate yourself very high by reason of some accidental advantage which you happen to possess over others. Then death comes to you and tells that this advantage or privilege of which you have grown unreasonably proud and by which you have grown foolishly contemptuous towards others, is not to endure forever, that this also shall pass away, and that you shall soon be the feast of worms. Death gives us enlightenment, if we only know how to learn lesson from it. Death tells us that we are all one, in as much as we are all bound to it. Thus death breaks our senses of separateness. The death of separateness heralds the birth of joy. Where there is no separateness, there is no ignorance and where there is no ignorance, there is no attachment, where there is no attachment, there is no hate and where there is no hate, there is joy. Death breaks our narrow separateness, - only to give us a larger vision of the united whole.

            All flesh is grass. No chancellor, no statesman, no millionaire, but is flesh. From a prince to a pauper, from a fool to a wise man, everyone passes away before our very eyes like a vanishing ghost. Death wraps our sense up in sweet oblivion of all our mortal concerns.

            Why break our hearts because we are to die, as though we are to grieve because we were not born ten centuries ago. We appear only to disappear. And we disappear only to re-appear. We rise to fall. And we fall only to rise again. We gain to lose. And we lose only to recover it. Beauty blooms only to wither. And who knows from withered fragments a fresh beauty may not bloom with an increased brilliancy?

            Talk and write what you will about “Annihilation.” But there is hope throbbing and pulsating in all. Nature wants a balance. And death works for it. The concerns of life are transient yet we are so restless. Self-conceit takes myriad shapes, bears a thousand names, and does countless mean things. If nothing else, death gives us peace. If life is a constant parting. Death, at worst, takes up to a place where there can be no parting. But death counts life a scaffold, and progress an edifice.

            Right or wrong, it is truth to us which is in accord with our hearts. And the hope of a better life is an instinct written deeply in the heart of man. Far down in our hearts we hear the gentle whisper of a beautiful hope that nothing on earth should go to naught.

            Behind and before you and me there is Necessity. And Necessity acts in certain sequence. No theory spun of barren words is this! But a fact! Fear Nature? No – Never. Nature shall take me as a mother to her arms, and awake me back with a life-and-death call! Pain of loss, of separation, may howl. But death sheds beauty and deep softness over life. Words are breath. Escape from illusive fancies unto truth. Death is death no more: but rich with the suggestions of beauty, of hope. Come what may I am safe in the hands of Nature. Nature has brought me up. I resign my future unto Her. Her will shall be done. She has given me being and when She through death demands it, I will deliver it up with a resignation that is sweet and with a piety that is true. Let Her set up my I in whatever form, in whatever condition she may choose. To those who trust to Her She vouchsafes joy.

            When death, the confidant of nature comes to us, let pain and despair go. Whatever shape death may assume, let us stand straight in her presence and lift her veil, and we will behold higher forms and grander ends.

            In the embrace of Hope let the dead sleep. Hope puts a star of thought in the night of grief. Let us swear obedience to the Will of the Inevitable. Let us do the Bidding of the Environment. Only then, and not till then, can you understand the Function of Death in the Economy of Nature. Only then, and not till then, can dark despair cease eating us up. Only then, and not till then, will Hope sing in all silence her hearts’ melody on the air’s soft stream. Away Despair! Thy wild dance maddens me! Let Hope be my stay, my minister. Let naught ruffle my peace!

            Think of the eternity of Time! Think of the immensity of Space! Which record will tell our story, aye, the story of even this planet? What fraction of space, what part of time, goes to the formation and duration of a mortal? How many planets could not Time and Space survive! How little and short is man! What shadows we are – and what shadows our relations and concerns are! He who is at peace with Death is a King of Kings, a Lord of Lords. No fear, no want, no pain, can assail such a Soul of Beauty and Joy. With the hopes of Death I count a world’s word an empty sound and a world’s little passing pomps an idle show. Imbued with the dauntlessness of Death I defy every storm of Care, of Pain, of Hate. In the light of Death how small the victories, how tame the terrors of life look! Looking to Death, I am content to live a quiet and peaceful life – content to fashion a beauteous character out of every circumstance – content to let my life remain unknown, unrecognized and untold.

            Under the reign of Law, not evil but good shall fall at last – far off – at last, to all. All action all suffering, shall bear at last, their fruit and flower. Hope touches the world with living flame and emits rays of Happiness. Death and Peace shall meet at last. By a series of operation death works out undying peace. Paradox as this may appear, this nevertheless contains large truth. We creep along the labyrinths just to climb the rocks we pass through death to immortality. In truth, our aspirations bear us on so far as to place within our grasp the highest joy that we are capable of enduring. In truth, we laugh at sorrow and mock pain with smiles, when Hope demands from Nature her fairest star.


            If you would be a man, speak what you thing today in words as hard as cannon balls, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today.

            R. W. Emerson.

            Carve the face from within, not dress it from without. For whoever would be fairer, illumination must begin in the soul; the face catches the glow only from that side.

W. C. Gannett.

            It is what you are, not where you are. If a young man has the right stuff in him, he need not fear where he lives or does his business. Many a large man has expanded in a small place.

            Edward Bok.