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Letter XXXIII[1]

Mulji's story, much shorten by me, but overfilled with details in his mouth, was so interesting that we did not notice it was already lunchtime, that is, five o’clock in the afternoon.

Unbearable heat was all around us. The day we spent in Deeg was so hot that one could suspect Surya of wanting to bake alive all the Jats worshiping him, and along with them us, sinners, who so often cursed his hot endearments...

Scorching rays poured like melted gold on the marble walls and domes of the kiosques, lay in blinding spots on the sleepy waters of the ponds, shot deadly arrows at all living and dead. They even made flocks of parrots and peacocks, with which the gardens of India abound, like our Russian gardens with sparrows, hide in the thicket of bushes. The silence around us was deep ... Everything was asleep everything was melting and burning...

But even before the story of Mr. Peters began, we got into the central pavilion of marble, high and almost hidden in the thicket of the garden, wherein, not risking leaving the blessed shelter we found, we enjoyed the relative coolness. Surrounded on all sides by the water of a small pond, in the midst of which it rises, vast and darkened by aquatic creepers, the pavilion gave us shelter, where we did not feel any great heat or fatigue. We were in the center of several sazhens[2] circle of shade and coolness; beyond the line of the mirror-like, miniature pond, hell was blazing, and the earth cracked and burst from the fiery kissing of the terrible spring sun, whose rays licked with their fiery tongues the still luxurious, but already fading vegetation of the garden. Roses shrank and shed; even lotuses and water lilies twisted the edges of their thick, hardy petals into a tube, as if avoiding the burning touch with disgust. Only orchids, “flowers of passions,”[3] raised their variegated insect-like cups high, reveling in this fiery stream, like other flowers reveling in cool dew...

What a special, lovely garden! Laid out on a bare rock, in an area of some a hundred and twenty sazhens [256 m, 840 ft] in length and fifty [106.68 m, 350 ft] in width, it has more than two hundred large and small water cannons and fountains. The manager, a sugary old man who looked like a eunuch, assured us that “not all the water cannons were put in action”; many are clogged and spoiled; but that on the day of the reception of the Prince of Wales in Deeg, if I am not mistaken, there were six hundred of them. But we were quite satisfied with two hundred. For a few rupees, the gardeners gave us the opportunity to feel in the midst of delightful coolness all day long and to walk on a moonlit night in an alley lined with two continuous rows of high-spouting fountains instead of trees. Nothing could be compared with the effect of these two walls of water dust, sparkling in the moonlight with diamonds and shimmering with all the iridescent shadows of mother of pearl. A wonderful nook, and yet left by everyone, not visited by anyone except by chance passing Anglo-Indian officials, always ready to enjoy the treats of the native princes, and in gratitude to vilify them at all crossroads.

Maharaja of Bhurtpore himself does not drop in on Deeg. The Jats potentate, an alumnus of the government, prefers the hissing of champagne to the murmur of all the fountains of his charming palace, and for him there is no melody sweeter than the sound of a bottle of cognac being opened...

Thus, the age-old shady garden grows wild in its beauty, abandoned by people, but at the full disposal of a whole army of magnificent, albeit also wild, peahens. The favorite birds of Juno (who in India is called Saraswati) walk importantly hundreds along the paths, sweeping away the litter accumulated over the years with their long tails. They occupy the trees from top to bottom, and thanks to their presence, the old garden often takes the form of an enchanted grove in a fairy tale from a distance: bathed in bright sunlight, shaggy trees seem to breathe, stirring and agitating, and from behind their dense foliage thousands of sparkling curious eyes look out, casting sapphires and gold... These are the eyes scattered along the tails of peacocks moving in the branches.

Going out onto the terrace in the garden, I could not realize for a long time this strange phantasmagoria and went down the steps to take a closer look at the wonderful phenomenon. My curiosity was immediately punished by “abuse by action.” The heavy flight of a peacock that fell from a tree and was frightened by my sudden appearance interrupted my reflections on the wonders of India, knocking the topi off my head, and myself – off my feet. I consoled myself with the exploration of the garden, and the Babu avenged for my fall by snatching half a dozen feathers from the tail of another, innocent peacock, “in memory of Deeg!..”

The garden is divided in all directions by narrow paths, which are cleaned and freed from the manure accumulating on them only before the arrival of “distinguished guests,” as the gardener explained to us; from which, with the sagacity that distinguishes us, we concluded that we do not belong to this happy category. In all nooks, and even in the depths of the garden, the still waters are peacefully dozing in their marble nests under a blanket of thick mud. Fountain pools, ponds and miniature lakes have turned into a green mess, and only the waters of the ponds closest to the palace have been cleaned and contribute a lot to the overall beauty of this nook. Despite the obvious neglect, the octagonal pool in the middle of the garden is especially beautiful, with a cool kiosque that sheltered us from the heat. Surrounded by smaller pools with tall water jets flying out of baskets of luxurious tropical flowers, we blissfully enjoyed the whole day, sitting in it as if in an underwater kingdom. Four water cannon alleys led to it and four laced marble bridges led to the kiosque...

Tired of conversation, we were keeping silence; each of us indulged in our own thoughts and occupations. I was reading, thinking more about the Thakur than about the content of the book; the Colonel was dozing. Our esteemed Head, Colonel O. was slightly snoring sitting on a bench against the wall and throwing his head back into the thicket of creeping greenery, from behind which protruded his long, gray beard. Narayan and Mulji were squatting on the floor, while the Babu was sitting like a caryatid[4] on the pedestal of some broken and missing idol, and also was dozing.

So we have been sitting still, sleepy and silent, for a long time. Finally, at about five and a half, the dormant garden began to gradually wake up; the heat was cooling down, peacocks were getting out of their nooks, flocks of green-golden parrots were calling one another from the tops of trees ... A few more minutes – and the sun would disappear beyond the salt lakes; nature exhausted by the day will rest until the next morning, cool down to a new fiery temptation.

I dropped the book and watched as everything around us began to breathe and move. The garden turned from Daniel's oven into a grove of classical idyll: it lacked only playful, splashing nymphs and Pan's merry pipe. The transparent moisture of the pond now reflected only the blue sky, and vain peacocks which began to occupy the carved railings of the bridge for the night. Preparing for the coming sleep, they played with their tails like Spanish women who fan themselves: loosening and closing them again and again admiring their reflection in the water ... Finally, splashing with the last golden sparks, the sun disappeared, and a light breeze blew at us. It was so good in the kiosque, so cool, that we resolutely refused to go to dine in the stuffy rooms of the palace and decided to order khana (dinner) in the kiosque, sending the Babu for this.

The restless Bengali, under the pretext of fear of revenge from the peacock he plucked, recognized by him, as he assured us, in one of those sitting on the railing, instead of going across the bridge chose the shortest path, swiftly diving from the pedestal where he was sitting, right into the pond. An unexpected splash of water frightened and waked up the dozing Colonel, who immediately asked with care if there was a danger for the Babu to drown?..

“Better to drown than risk the turnskin's vengeance!” shouted a mocking skeptic, choking on water and snorting.

“Which turnskin?” asked our President curiously, reassured by the fact that the water barely reached the Babu's chest.

“Well, the damned peacock! After all, this is the same turnskin that flew down to us last night in Bhurtpore on the veranda!” the Bengali was bawling, with an effort stepping on the viscous bottom of the pond. “I myself saw how he winked at Mulji seeing me.”

“He's making digs at me,” the “General” remarked, frowning. “Has this nastika ever believed in anything? He is always laughing at anyone and anything...”

“Well, now you can laugh at him too ... just look at this figure!” I said, laughing out loud.

Indeed, the Babu was a curious sight. He forced himself out of the mud and, climbing onto the high parapet of the pond, left behind him streams of greenish mud on the white marble. Covered with marsh grasses and mud, he lost all human likeness.

“You look like a drowned man, my poor Babu,” I laughed at him. “Well, how can you feel such an attraction to water! After all, this is your second time today. Look, do not become a water pishacha after death, and do not drown someday.”

“What I was, I am and so I will be,” I received in response a quote from the aphorisms of his all-denying sect. “I am dust and I will be dust,” and they say that drowning is the most pleasant and easy death, ma’am-sahib...

“What you are, everyone can see; what you will be, I do not know; but that you were certainly a Newfoundland puppy in your previous existence is true, Mulji took revenge on him.”

But the Babu did not hear the remark made through clenched teeth about him. A little embarrassed by his appearance, he rushed headlong towards the house.

Had I, as Narayan imagined, the gift of foresight, I would have rather swallow my tongue before daring to make the last remark I made. Poor, cheerful, carefree boy! Did he then think that an early and so painful death awaits him in the dull yellow waves of the Ganges? To this day, I can not indifferently recall the poor Babu and the merry weeks we spent travelling together, although five years have passed since then and almost two years since the fatal incident. How often, too often, since that time I have dreamed of this half-childish, slender figure, all covered with the black-green mud of Deeg pond, in a disturbing dream! It seems to me then that his once bright eyes, full of good-natured gaiety, now glassy and extinct, are looking at me point-blank; and I hear again clearly, as in reality, a familiar, laughing voice to my unconscious prophetic warning: “Do not drown someday,” with the same prophetic answer: “what I was, I am ... dust I am, dust I will be” – and I wake up with a shiver of horror at the recollection!..[5]

“Has he really remained... dust?” I often ask myself the question, reflecting on the past. And immediately I recall the dispute between Narayan and the Babu and the answers of the Thakur to our questions, closely connected with this unanswered mystery of death, which has not yet been resolved by our European thinkers. They had this dispute only a few days after that memorable day in Deeg.

I will cite this wonderful conversation in extenso[6], hoping that for a serious reader it will be interesting. Of course, I will do it not because it has solved the questions that have long tormented me personally, but because it explains the peculiar Vedantists view of the afterlife, its secrets and generally of a human soul.

For the sake of clarity, I allow myself to say a few preliminary words and thus make the subsequent conversation more understandable for the reader. Otherwise, someone unfamiliar with the philosophy of the Vedantists (of the secret school), and especially with their complex theory of the soul and its significance in eternity, it would be very difficult to keep track of all these so diverse names of the “spiritual man.” They are innumerable, as are the names of their masks-gods, because each aspect of the soul (or rather of that total spiritual aggregate, which the Vedantists call a real person, or the “spiritual personality,” while his mortal body or earthly personality is considered an illusion), each qualitative modification of the soul has its own special, characteristic name. For example, they divide the “earthly personality” into three main groups: spirit, soul and body, and then subdivide these groups into seven component forces or principles, of which the first two, spirit and “divine soul” (seat of the spirit), impersonal and without any qualities per se[7], while the other five are called kosha, that is, the “sheath” or shell of various spiritual and earthly qualities of a person, therefore, personal and qualitative. So manomaya kosha in a literal translation would mean: “the sheath of the illusive concept,” that is, the seat or receptacle of purely earthly, and therefore the most illusive concepts of man. This kosha is the sheath of the concepts of his earthly mind, combined with the actions of five sense organs, which, obscuring the divine, pure mind with their coarse earthly concepts, thus turn all truth into a mirage.

This theory is especially difficult for those who, recognizing the creation of a separate soul for each person and rejecting the theory of his numerous reincarnations, thereby reject emanations, that is, the very essence of the pantheistic teaching of India. Reading, for example, about the sevenfold constitution of man, one might think that seven different personalities (“seven demons,” in the words of one Russian theosophist) dwell in us, and they are getting in their numerical order as if onion shells more ethereal and subjective as they move away from the outer and grossest shell, that is, the body. But the philosophy of Vedanta preaches nothing of the kind. All these koshas were invented for the sake of clarifying its dogma about the absolute unity of Parabrahm – the foundation and substance of the entire manifested universe; if this dogma of the origin of a qualitative universe from a qualityless spirit is not explained by emanations, then this dogma would remain completely incomprehensible to the pantheists themselves.

The spirit is one and indivisible; and the souls of humanity represent an uncountable number of individual units. These souls are emanations, “spirits from the spirit.” But since impersonal and qualityless unconditionality cannot be personally manifested, the other side of Parabrahm, Mulaprakriti,[8] its co-power or energy, the root of all that exists, manifests. Inseparable from Parabrahm, it together with Parabrahm constitutes the invisible universe. That which is separated is not Mulaprakriti, but only light or radiance from the “light of the universe,” which is an emanation that turns into the visible universe. But here again the difficulty arises: where is the place for the visible universe? How to place something where everything is already occupied even in an infinite space, if in fact this space is the most Omnipresent, Sat? How, finally, can we extract qualitative matter from qualityless spirit, that is, from what is nothing in our minds?

The Vedantists solve this difficulty as follows: the visible universe is nothing more than a phantom of our senses, a temporary illusion of temporary and deceptive concepts of an earthly person, which himself is an illusion and just a kosha or sheath of the spiritual and therefore the only real person. Neither the visible world nor the objective man actually exist; for all that is visible and referring to consciousness through the testimony of our five senses is self-deception, because there is only one that exists and is – Sat.

But before turning from a real “nothing” into at least an illusory “something,” such a transformation must occur gradually. “Radiance from the light” is still a qualityless Parabrahm, and therefore incapable of action. And now the shadow – of course, also “illusory,” for there is no shadow without a body, and Parabrahm is incorporeal, – begins in the gradual differentiation of its unconscious action (nota bene – unconscious only in our conventional concept of self-consciousness) to transform from the qualityless and impersonal into the qualitative and personal, that is, first into the visible worlds, and then into man. But man, like the worlds, could not be created at once, even in that gross shell in which we imagine him to be seen. It was created and formed in the following order:

Group I

1. Brahma or Atman, ray of Parabrahm, or spirit.

2. Buddhi is its vahana or carrier, the vehicle of the spirit; supreme or divine soul.

(This dual unit is the root of man, although in our concept this impersonal and qualityless unit is a pure abstraction. Its individuality begins to be formed and outlined only after many incarnations, since buddhi, in order to acquire even spiritual qualities, must, taking them away after the death of the earthly personality, get them from the first principle of the II group – manas).

Group II

3. Manas is the seat of mind. Together with kamarupa (see below), this is the real earthly personality, the ego of a person or the body inhabited by it, and is called the human or earthly soul when it is considered in its separation from buddhi, or “divine soul.” In unity with buddhi, it is called sutratma (soul thread), since it is the only one of this threefold group, changing only its personal qualities, follow the first group in all its earthly incarnations.

4. Kamarupa is the “seat of desires”. This principle survives a person, but together with

5. Mayavirupa, the “illusory body” or double of the personality, eventually disappears. These 4th and 5th principles are transformed after the death of a person into pishachas, or those materialized “spirits” in which the spiritualists see the souls of their dead, and the brahmins – demons.

Group III

6. Jiva, or life; “life principle.”

7. Sthula-sharira, or the human body, the mask of the soul.

This group is the most short-lived of all “illusions,” which disappears without a trace after its destruction.

Thus, we see that the three groups, with their seven divisions, are summed up by the “divine soul.” An impersonal and qualityless unit must acquire personality and spiritual qualities from each new manas, that is, from the rational ego, and not in one, but in the countless series of its incarnations. Before it can manage to become a godlike person, worthy to unite even temporarily with Sat[9] and cease to be an “illusion,” it must go through all stages of human suffering, personally experience everything experienced by helpless humanity, make personal efforts to cleanse itself of earthly dirt, extracting from the personalities inhabited by it only the highest, spiritual qualities, if any, and burn out like gold in the fire. Every new incarnation is a new step towards purification and perfection. All this is so that at the end of centuries all past humanity could also truly live in God, as God will live in the future (humanity), “in the seventh,” teach the vedantists of the secret school, calling present humanity only the fifth.

And now the following conversation with the Thakur will become clearer to the reader.

“Teacher,” Narayan asked the Thakur, amid a heated argument with the poor Babu, “what is he saying and is it possible to listen to it!? So that after death will there be absolutely nothing left of a person? Can there be that the body, as he assures, simply decomposes into its constituent elements, and what do we call the soul, and he calls “temporary self-awareness,” evaporates, disappearing like steam over boiling water?”

“What is strange about this? The Babu is a charvaka[10] and therefore he says only what every other charvaka will tell you.”

“But the charvakas are lying! There are others who believe that a real person is not his physical shell, but lies in his mind, in the seat of his self-consciousness ... But can self-consciousness leave the soul even after our death?”

“In his case, it can,” the Thakur answered in the same cool manner, “because he sincerely and firmly believes in what he is now preaching.”

Narayan threw a surprised, confused look at the Thakur, and the Babu, who was afraid of the latter, gave us a triumphant smile.

“But how so? After all, the Vedanta teaches that the “spirit of the Spirit” is immortal and the human soul does not die in Parabrahm ... Are there any exceptions?”

“There can be no exceptions in the basic rules of the spiritual world, but there are rules for the sighted and rules for the blind.”

“I understand it; but in this case, as I told him, his “complete and final disappearance of self-consciousness” is nothing more than an aberration of a blind man who, not seeing the sun, denies it ... but he will see it with spiritual eyes after death...”

“He won't see anything. Denying it during his lifetime, he will not see it beyond the grave.”

Noticing that Narayan was terribly worried and that even the Colonel and I were staring at him waiting for a more definite answer, the Thakur seemed reluctantly continued:

“You speak of the “spirit of the Spirit,” of the atman, and you confuse the spirit with the soul of a mortal, that is, with manas. The spirit is undoubtedly immortal, for it is without beginning and therefore without end. But now the case in question is not the spirit, but the human, self-conscious soul; you confuse it with the first, and the Babu denies both spirit and soul. Both of you don't understand each other.

“I understand him, but...”

“Don’t understand me?.. I will try to express myself more clearly. The whole point of your question is reduced to the following: you want to know if it is possible, even in the case of an inveterate materialist, a complete loss of his self-consciousness and self-awareness after his death, don’t you? Am I right?”

“Yes, because he completely denies everything that for us constitutes an undoubted truth ... in which we all sacredly believe...”

“All right. To this I, believing as sacredly as you, in our teaching, which calls the posthumous period, that is, the intermediate time between two lives, only a temporary state, answer in the affirmative and say: whether this interval between two acts of life illusion can last one year or a million years, the afterlife state can, without any violation of the rules, turn out to be exactly the state of a person being in a dead faint. The Babu, therefore, is right in his case.”

“But why ... and how ... since the rule of immortality does not have, as you tell us, any exceptions?” inquired the colonel.

“It does not, of course: for everything that really exists. The one who has studied the Mundaka Upanishad and Vedantasara should not even ask...”

“But the Mundaka Upanishad teaches,” Narayan said timidly, “that between buddhi[11] and manas[12], as between Ishvara and Prajna,[13] in fact, there is no more difference than between the forest and its trees, between lake and its waters...”

“Quite rightly: because one or even a hundred trees that have dried up from the loss of life sap or torn up by their roots cannot prevent a forest from remaining the same forest...”

“So ... but in this comparison buddhi represents a forest, and Manas Taijasi[14] represents trees. And if the first is immortal, then how, being the same as buddhi, can manas-taijasi[15] completely lose consciousness before its new incarnation? This is what embarrasses me...”

“It’s in vain if you only take the trouble not to confuse the abstract representation of the whole with its incidental modifications. Remember that if we can say, when speaking of buddhi, “it is absolutely immortal,” then the same cannot be said about manas or taijasi. Neither one nor the other exists separately from the divine soul, because the first is a qualitative attribute of the earthly personality, and the second is the same as the first, only with a reflection of buddhi in itself. In turn, buddhi would remain only an impersonal spirit without this element in itself, borrowed by it from the human soul and which conditions and makes of it something, as it were, separate from the Universal Soul for the entire duration of the cycle of human incarnations. If you say therefore that buddhi-manas can neither die nor lose consciousness either in eternity or during transition periods, and then, according to our teaching, you would be right. But to apply this axiom to its qualities, it's the same as if you would insist that since the soul of colonel O*** is immortal, then the blush on his cheeks must also be immortal. It turns out that you have obviously confused essence with phenomenon in your concepts and forgot that in unity with manas or “human” soul only, the radiance of taijasi itself becomes a matter of time; since both immortality and the consciousness beyond the grave become for the earthly human personality completely conditional qualities, depending on the conditions and beliefs created by personality itself, during the life of its body. Karma (the law of retribution) operates continuously: and we reap in the afterlife the fruits only of what we ourselves have sown in this life.”

“But if my Ego can find itself after the destruction of my body in a state of complete unconsciousness, then what can be the punishment for me in this for the sins of my life?” asked the colonel, stroking his beard thoughtfully.

“Our philosophy teaches that punishment befall the Ego only in the future incarnation, but immediately behind the grave only rewards await us for the suffered and undeserved suffering in earthly life. All punishment, as you can see, consists in the absence of a reward, in the complete loss of consciousness of one's happiness and peace. Karma is a child of the earthly Ego, the fruit of actions of its visible personality, even of thoughts and intentions of the spiritual self; but it is also a gentle mother who heals the wounds it inflicted in the previous life before it castigates this Ego again, inflicting new ones on it. If there is no such grief or misfortune in the life of a mortal that would not be the fruit and direct consequence of sin in his previous existence, then, without retaining the slightest memory of this in his present life and feeling himself not deserving such punishment and therefore suffering guiltlessly, as a result for this alone, the human soul is worthy of consolation and complete rest and peace in the afterlife. For your spiritual self, death is always a deliverer and a friend: the serene sleep of a baby, or a dream full of blissful visions and dreams.”

“But, as far as I remember, the periodic incarnations of the sutratma[16] are likened in the Upanishad of earthly life, alternating between sleep and wakefulness... Is that so?” I asked, wanting to resume Narayan's first question.

“It is right; this comparison is very true.”

“No doubt; only I do not understand it well.[17] After sleep, another day begins for a person, and his soul as well as his body are the same as the day before; while with each new incarnation, not only his outer shell, gender and personality change, but, apparently, all his spiritual qualities ... And how can this comparison be true in view of the fact that people, having got up from sleep, remember well not only what they did yesterday, but also many days, months and even years ago, and yet in their present life they do not retain the slightest recollection of any past life... After all, the awake person can forget what he saw in his dream, but he nevertheless knows that he was asleep and that during his sleep he was alive ... as for the past life we do not know even this. How is so?”

“There are those, perhaps, who know,” the Thakur said somehow mysteriously, without answering a direct question.

“I suspect ... but not us, sinners. Therefore, how can we, who have not reached sammā-sambuddha yet,[18] understand this comparison?”

“By studying and understanding more correctly the characteristic and three types of what we call sleep.”

“Well, it's pretty difficult. Even our greatest physiologists have only got confused with this subject, and by failing to explain themselves, have confused us even more,” the colonel laughed.

“Because they are wrong persons for the job, it is psychologists’ job, but there are none of them in Europe, at least among scientists. Western psychiatrists are the same physiologists, only under a different name, and act on the basis of even more materialistic principles. You can read, say, Maudsley, and you will see that they cure mental illness, not believing in the existence of the soul itself.”

“But we are again moving away from the subject of our inquiries, which you do not seem any desire to explain to us, Thakur-sahib ... Looks like you confirm and approve the Babu’s theories, and he wants to prove precisely on the grounds that we know nothing about our past earthly life, nor about life after death, that there is no consciousness behind the coffin and cannot be...”

“I say again: the Babu is a charvaka who repeats what he was taught. I confirm and approve not the materialist system itself, but only the correctness of the views of the Babu himself as regards his personal afterlife state.”

“So does it turn out that people like the Babu should be an exception to the general rule?”

“Not at all. Sleep is a general and unchangeable rule both for man and for every earthly creature. But there are different types of sleep and even more different dreams ...”

“But he denies more than just a consciousness in the afterlife and in its dreams, speaking in the language of Vedantasara. He rejects immortal life in general, as well as the immortality of his own spirit.”

“In the first case, he acts completely according to the canons of modern European science, based on the evidence of our five senses. In this he is sinful only in front of those who do not share his opinions. In the second case, he is no less right: without a preliminary inner consciousness and belief in the immortality of the soul, it cannot become buddhi-taijasi,[19] it will remain manas; but manas alone cannot be immortal. In order to live a conscious life in the afterlife, one must first believe in it in earthly life. On these two aphorisms of the secret science, our entire philosophy about posthumous consciousness, as well as about the immortality of the soul, is built. Sutratma always gets what it deserves. After the destruction of the body, it has either a period of complete vigilance, or a chaotic dream, or a deep sleep without visions and dreams. If your physiologists have found the cause of visions and dreams in the unconscious preparation of them during period of wakefulness, why not admit the same in relation to posthumous dreams? I repeat what Vedantasara teaches: death is sleep. After death, before the spiritual eyes of the soul, a performance begins according to the program we memorized during our life, and often made by ourselves: the practical fulfillment of our correct beliefs, or the illusions created by us ourselves. These are the posthumous fruits of the tree of life. It is clear that belief or unbelief in the fact of conscious immortality cannot affect the unconditional reality of the fact itself, as long as it exists. But both the faith and the lack of faith in it of individuals cannot but condition the actions of this fact in its application to each in particular. Now I hope you understand, don’t you?”

“I'm starting to understand. Materialists, not believing in anything that is not tested by their five senses and the so-called scientific intelligence, and rejecting any spiritual manifestation, point to earthly life as the only conscious existence; therefore, they will be later recompensed by belief or in their case by unbelief. They will lose their personal “self,” fall asleep in an unconscious sleep until a new awakening. Is not it?”

“Almost so. You may add that the Vedantists, while recognizing two kinds of conscious existences, earthly and spiritual, point only to the latter as an irrefutable reality; earthly life, due to its variability and short duration, is only an illusion of deceptive feelings. Our life in the spiritual spheres, for one thing, must be recognized as reality, that our never-changing infinite and immortal “self,” the sutratma, lives in them, while with each new incarnation it dresses in a temporal personality completely different from the previous, temporary one, in which everything except its spiritual prototype is doomed to traceless destruction.”

“But excuse me Thakur, is it possible that a person, my earthly, conscious self, can perish not only temporarily, as in the case of the materialists, but even without a trace?”

“According to our teaching, it even should perish in such a way and in all its fullness, except that part of it that, uniting with the buddhi, became purely spiritual, making up with the latter henceforth and forever one indestructible whole. But in the case of an inveterate materialist, it may happen that, since neither consciously nor unconsciously, exactly nothing of his personal “self” has ever been reflected in buddhi, then the latter does not have to carry away a single atom of this earthly personality into eternity. Your spiritual self is immortal; but of your real personality it will take with it only that which deserves immortality, that is, only the aroma of a flower cut by death.”

“Well, what about the flower itself or the earthly self?”

“The flower itself, like all past and future flowers that bloomed and will bloom afterwards on the native branch, sutratma, the children of one buddhi root, will turn to dust. Your real self is not, as you must know yourself, your body sitting in front of me,[20] nor your manas-sutratma, but sutratma-buddhi.”

“But this does not explain to me why you call the afterlife immortal, endless, real, and earthly life an illusion? After all, according to your teaching, it turns out that the afterlife has its limits, that it, although longer than the earthly one, it should still have its end.”

“Without a doubt. The spiritual Ego of a person moves in eternity, like a pendulum, between the hours of life and death. But if these hours, periods of earthly life and life beyond the grave, are limited in their continuation and even the very number of such stages in eternity, between sleep and vigilance, illusion and reality, has its beginning as well as end, then the spiritual pilgrim himself is eternal. Therefore, the hours of his afterlife, when being unveiled he stands face to face with the truth, and not with the mirages of his temporary earthly existence, during the period of his wanderings, which we call the “cycle of births,” constitute the only reality in our views. Such intervals, regardless of their finiteness, do not only interfere with sutratma, constantly improving, to follow steadily all the time, although gradually and slowly along the path to its final transformation, when it, having achieved the goal, becomes a “divine” being; they not only contribute to the attainment of this goal, but without such finite intervals sutratma-buddhi would never have achieved it. Sutratma is an actor, and numerous and diverse incarnations are its roles. Can't you call, I suppose, these roles, much less their costumes, the personality of the actor himself? Like him, the soul is made to play different roles during the cycle of births, before reaching the very threshold of paranirvana,[21] there are many often unpleasant roles for it; but as a bee collects honey from each flower, leaving the rest as food for earthworms, so our spiritual individuality, sutratma, collecting only nectar of spiritual qualities and self-knowledge of each earthly personality, into which karma makes her incarnate, finally merges all these qualities together, being then a perfect being, Dhyan Chohan.[22] So much the worse for earthly personalities, from whom it did not manage to collect anything. Such personalities, of course, do not consciously live after their earthly life.”[23]

“Looks like the immortality of an earthly personality is still a relative question, and so the immortality itself is not unconditioned?”

“No, not at all; it only does not extend to non-existence. For everything that exists as Sat or emanates from Sat, immortality, like infinity, is absolute. Mulaprakriti is the other side of Parabrahm, but both are the same. The essence of all this, that is, spirit, force, and matter, is infinite, as well as beginningless, but the form acquired by this triple unity during incarnations, the appearance, is, of course, only one illusion of personal concepts. Therefore, afterlife alone, we called real, and the earthly one, including the earthly personality itself, we call illusionary.”

“But why, then, should we call reality sleep and illusion wakefulness?”

“The comparison is made to facilitate our presentation; from the point of view of earthly concepts, it is very true.”

“Then, if the afterlife is based on justice, on a well-deserved recompense for all earthly sorrows, and sutratma uses the slightest glimpse of spiritual qualities in each of its incarnations, then how we can allow the spiritual personality in our Babu – he left, and we can talk about him without hesitation – so that the personality in this boy, so perfectly honest, noble, infinitely kind, in spite of all his unbelief, so that this personality, I say, does not pass into immortality, but perishes like “manure from a flower!”

“Who, besides himself, doomed him to such a fate? I have known the Babu since his early age, and I am quite sure that the harvest from him by sutratma will be abundant; although his lack of faith and materialism are far from being feigned, nevertheless, he cannot die forever and in the fullness of his personality.”

“But Thakur, have not you just now confirmed the correctness of his views on his personal state in the next world? And he thinks that after death all consciousness will disappear in him...”

“Yes, I have confirmed and still do. Sleeping you can miss several stations on the railroad and still, without retaining the slightest memory about them, you wake up at the next one and reach the destination already in a conscious state. Are you attacking the comparison between sleep and death? So remember that even a human being knows three kinds of sleep: deep, without the slightest dream; sleep with chaotic, vague dreams; finally, the one with dreams so vivid and clear that for the sleeper they become for a while a complete reality... Why, then, can you not admit that this happens with the soul freed from the body? After parting with it, for the soul, depending on its merits, and most importantly, on its faith, life is either completely conscious or semi-conscious, or the soul falls into a deep sleep without dreams, as well as without consciousness, which is equal to a state of non-existence. This is the fulfillment of the “program” of which I spoke, composed and prepared in advance for themselves by materialists. But there are no two materialists alike. An evil person or even just a great egoist who adds indifference to the whole world to his complete lack of faith must certainly leave his personality on the threshold of death forever. It has nothing to cling to its sutratma with, and with its last breath, any connection between them is cut off. But people like the Babu will only miss one “station” in their sleep. The time will come when he too will realize himself again in eternity and will repent that he had lost even one day[24] from eternal life.”

“But is it more accurate to say that death is a birth to a new life, or, even better, a return to eternity?”

“In fact, it is so, and I have nothing against rephrasing. But only with our conventional notions of material life, the words “live” and “exist” are inapplicable to the purely subjective state of posthumous being, and if they were used in our philosophy without a deep knowledge of all its explanations, then the Vedantists would very soon come to strange ideas, which prevail in our time among American spiritualists who preach about “spirits” marrying, both “spirits” and mortals ... As with true, not nominal Christians, the afterlife of the Vedantists is that country where there are no tears, neither sighs, where they neither marry nor are given in marriage... Therefore, due to the fact that the life of the unveiled soul, possessing all the vitality of reality, as in other dreams, does not have any of the crudely objective forms of earthly life, suitable only for bodily feelings, compared by our philosophers to dreaming during sleep. And now I seem to have explained everything...”

We parted, but this conversation imprinted itself on my soul, and I never forgot it. On that day, I almost quarreled with the Babu for his charvaka antics; but in this Bengali, despite all his good qualities, some kind of string was lacking ... and I decided to leave him to his own fate. However, often – how often! – after his early death, I regretted my indifference ...

We had barely finished lunch in the kiosque when we were informed that some young man in yogi clothes, sent by the “Thakur-sahib,” was asking permission to see us. At the name of the Thakur, the colonel, who had inquired several times about his guru (teacher), but had not received any satisfactory answer from Narayan, hurriedly jumped up from the table.

“Let, let him come in!” fussed he in delight. “I am sure that this is his chela, whom he promised to send upon his arrival home, in fact for my special training in pranayama...”[25]

“Well, are you thinking of taking your first lesson right after lunch?” I asked.

“Of course, if only the chela will agree ... Why shall we waste precious time?”

“I am afraid you’re going to have a stroke with a full stomach… You’re just going crazy with your passion for yogism. Remember what I told you ... warning you, at the station, near Bhurtpore...”

“I remember, remember,” said our president offendedly. “I understand well and have long realized that for some reason you do not want me to study the mysteries of ancient India...”

“But what do you call mysteries? They are just tricks, and for you they are completely unnecessary and even dangerous...”

“I hope that the Thakur does not harbour any harmful designs against my life or even against ... my health,” I received a dry reply.

I gave up on him.

“Colonel,” Mulji called softly. “Ma’am-sahib is right ... Pranayama is learned from early youth and...”

But he did not have time to finish, and the colonel's frowning face brightened with a smile of bliss: in front of him stood the Thakur messenger, silently coming up barefoot across the bridge in the darkness...

He suddenly rose in front of us, as if he had sprung out from under the marble floor of the kiosque; all bathed in the trembling due to the breeze light of wax candles, he stood at the entrance, motionless, his eyes lowered and his hands folded on his chest. Long fantastic shadows glided over his white clothes and face, giving his small, thin, almost transparent figure some strange and unearthly silhouette.

Sarva bhishta mundaha!.. (May all your wishes come true!)” sounded his quiet, gentle voice, like a girl's, in Tamil.

We all answered his greeting, each according his knowledge and ability. Mulji and Narayan muttered something in Sanskrit (must be a formula), covering their ears with their palms and both bowing low; the Babu showed his teeth and folded his palms together; I mumbled an ordinary greeting in English through my teeth.

But the colonel made an exhibition of himself, surprising those present in general, and moreover making me have a good laugh at him.

He bent in two and, covering his ears with his palms, following the example of two Hindus, suddenly prostrated in front of the young man humbly standing there and almost burying his nose in the young man’s bare feet...

We all rushed to him, thinking that he slipped, bowing too low, and fell. But he jumped to his feet very quickly and, greeting the messenger once more, saying “salam” and touching his forehead with his right hand, invited him with his left one to a bench by the table with all sorts of obsequious respect, as if he were dealing with a prince of blood.

“What are you doing, colonel?” I asked him quietly in French. “He will think that you are laughing at him.”

“For God's sake, not a word! I recognized him ... although the Thakur only hinted to me about him ... He is not a common chela, not a disciple, but an adept of the “Brotherhood of the Grove...”[26] Have you heard his greeting in Tamil?..” whispered the colonel in reply, also in French.

“So what does this prove? Is he...”

“Excuse me, madame et monsieur ... for interrupting you ... But I speak French, I am from Pondicherry,” we were taken aback by the newcomer speaking in the language of Victor Hugo in the same quiet, gentle voice, in which there was not the slightest note of mockery, so understandable in his case.

I broke down and laughed very loudly; but for some reason the colonel got angry, although he concealed rather cleverly an unpleasant embarrassment.

“Ah ... are you from Pondicherry? I’m very, very glad. This means that it will be easier for us to understand each other... And I was already afraid that we could not do it...”

“I speak English too,” said he in the same voice.

“Excellent!” exclaimed the colonel, and immediately, and just as suddenly, he apparently lost something of his reverence due to such an extensive secular education to the detriment of, as he believed, mystical sciences. “Excellent! Will you sit down here at the table that we can get acquainted? Is it the Thakur-sahib who sent you to us?”

“Yes, it is him, who sent me to you...”

“Are you his chela?.. Oh yes, excuse me, by the way, that I took you for one of the Brotherhood of the Grove ... I thought...”

And without expressing what he thought, the colonel laughed cheerfully, though a little forcedly.

“You don't have to apologize because you guessed right ... I really belong to this brotherhood.”

I felt positively sorry for the colonel, to such an extent he was confused by this new defeat. Opening his pupils wide under his glasses, not taking his eyes off the young man's face, the poor president looked at him with such a confused look, as if he saw before him a native of the other world. I also looked at him with the greatest curiosity, and also two Hindus: Mulji and the Babu. Narayan alone sat with his head bowed sadly and seemed to be looking only into himself, not noticing anyone or anything.

“You ... you are one of these amazing adepts ... are you a sadhu? I knew it ... I had a presentiment about it!..”

“Oh my prophetic soul!” the Babu quietly recited from Hamlet.

“So far, only a candidate for these: a modest shishiya[27] at your service, colonel-sahib, whom the Thakur-sahib entrusted your preliminary education, if you will.”

The stranger spoke softly, seriously and with great dignity. Not the slightest smile on his youthful, almost childish face, without the slightest trace of a beard and with a barely noticeable fluff on his upper lip. He appeared to be no more than sixteen years old. Only by looking more closely into his remarkable face, undoubtedly of the Dravidian type, could one notice signs of maturity on it. He was sitting at the table, and now the bright light of the lamp fell on him, allowing me to see more clearly his features. He was even shorter and in general even smaller than our little Babu. His tiny, ten-year-old hands lay on the table, reminding me, with their satiny skin and colour, of beautiful bronze hands on a paperweight. An oval face, striking in its thinness and tenderness, with a small straight nose, a small mouth with thin lips and unnaturally huge eyes and eyebrows, black, as if he had smeared them with tar, all this was shaded by a lion's mane, the curly waves of which fell in disarray on his ears, forehead and shoulders. His costume consisted, like our Babu's on hot days, of several arhshins[28] of the finest white muslin, from under which the angular outlines of his emaciated frame were visible. Two deep wrinkles between his eyebrows, the same at the corners of the mouth and eyes, eloquently refuted the first impression of youth. Later we learned that he was well over thirty years old.

He was sitting without moving, as if respectfully awaiting questions and looking at the colonel with a calm, expressionless gaze. If it were not for the slight flapping of his necklace of rudraksha seeds,[29] he could be mistaken for a stone statue, so deathly and motionless was his face.

A very awkward silence followed. The colonel, embarrassed three times in a row, adjusted his glasses, took them off, wiped them and sat back on his nose, without uttering a word and forgetting at the news not only to express joy, but even to thank the newcomer for the duties of “preliminary education” he had assumed.

“And what will this education consist of?” I thought, “He will only make everybody laugh!”

“I have for you a letter from the Thakur Rajah and a small gift,” the messenger broke the silence.

Putting his hand under the muslin, he took out first the sealed envelope and then the box from its wide folds, and laid both items in front of the colonel. At the sight of them, our president finally roused himself and immediately returned to his rut.

“Ah.. I am very grateful to you ... my guru!” answered the colonel with a cheerful smile. “Do you allow me?..” he pointed to the letter.

The guru (teacher) made a slight bow and a gesture of approval that would bring honour to any Marquis of a Parisian drawing room, as both were made with dignity and grace.

The letter was unsealed, and he read it first to himself, then to all of us aloud. It was short, but it contained interesting news for all of us.

“I am sending you, my dear colonel,” wrote the Thakur, “the promised mentor in the sciences you are interested in. Subrahmanya-Murga-Anandam-Swami – call him Ananda-Swami for short – is young, but he has already reached the penultimate step leading to the inner temple of the guptavidya. He is a member of the Brotherhood of the Grove, so he is quite familiar with all the techniques of various systems, how they are practiced by one or another sect. Not being a Hindu, you cannot, of course, follow any of the special methods learned by the sects, but you will be given choices from teachings of the best schools and thus you will be able to learn a lot ... I am sincerely sorry that even in the event of your complete victory over the arts, you still cannot belong to our ashram[30]: you were married, being a father of a family and a socialite – three insurmountable obstacles to raja yogism...”

At this phrase, the colonel hesitated slightly, and for a second his voice broke off and trembled. As an echo a barely audible, but full of heartache a deep sigh, rather a moan, was heard in a distant corner ... Quickly glancing in that direction, I saw a tall figure disappearing into the darkness on the bridge...

“Poor Narayan!” I sighed to myself, asking the colonel to continue reading. Nobody paid attention to this sound caused by suffering; no one – except, it seemed to me, a newcomer. Heavy eyelids lifted slowly, and from under the thick fringe of eyelashes his eyes flashed watching the bridge. The mysterious expression of those deep eyes, dark as night, struck me so that, mentally reflecting on its meaning, I did not hear the end of the Thakur letter and had to ask the colonel to hand it over to me to read it.

“... However,” I read further, “if you are victorious, this will not prevent me from considering you as my chela in some respect. But do not hope to ever become a raja yogi. This is positively impossible.

“Tomorrow, at dawn, all of you will follow Ananda-Swami, who will lead you by a little-known and shortest path to me. Due to the known reasons, you will go by the landau of maharaja only to the nearest village, from where it will be sent back. Do not worry about the luggage: it has already been sent to its destination from Bhurtpore. In the village you will be met by another carriage and taken to Mathura, the birthplace of Krishna. Then you will have to go by boat, horseback and even walk through the forests. There will be a palanquin for the upasika, but of course she will have to walk about fifteen kess[31], tell her so that she does not despair in advance: our roads will be less difficult for her than the Anglo-Indian or European routes of communication; I'll take care of that. I advise you all to keep your visit to our Rajput dens a secret; it is not the bar-sahibs’ affair.”

This was followed by a few more lines of instructions, and it was said about sending the colonel a shaligram.

While our president was, with the Hindus eagerly rushing to the box, reverently examining the treasure, I will describe this talisman and everything that we learned about its properties that evening from Ananda-Swami.

The shaligram is as famous in India as the rudraksha; it is a round stone, and sometimes an oval-shaped one, black as pitch and just as shiny, ranging in size from a peach pit to a goose egg, but rarely reaching the size of a melon, when it becomes literally priceless. However, its value depends more on the possession of different properties than on the size and shape. There are tiny shaligrams, like a grain of pepper, worth a fortune. As always happens there are forged stones, bad imitations among them, like among the Egyptian scarabs; but no counterfeit deceives the initiated Brahmin. This stone is really not a stone at all though, but a fossilized shell.

The real and most valuable shaligrams are found only in one place, in the depths of the Gandaki River, in Nepal, one of the main tributaries of the sacred Ganges. This place is protected from shaligram seekers by the soldiers of the Nepalese king who live on the shores all year round in barracks, and every shaligram found is sent to the royal treasury. They cannot be bought from the maharaja for any money, but he occasionally gives them to those of the learned Brahmins, to whose hands the stone will stick like a leech, stretched out to them at a distance of several arshins. This kind of test is very rare; but the English resident, Godson, was present at such event and according to stories, saw the phenomenon with his own eyes. Perfectly smooth shaligrams, unless they have any other recognized qualities, are of little value. Some are bored along their axis by nature; others have on the surface, as it were, hollowed out by a chisel, the imprint of various figures, such as the sudarshana or chakra, the disk of Vishnu and his weapon. There are shaligrams with or without a hole, but when they are carefully cut in two, inside the smooth walls you can find images of Matsya (fish) and Kurma (turtle), or any other avatars (incarnations) of the god Vishnu. If, in addition, such a shaligram, thrown into a vessel with milk, instead of going to the bottom – the property of every honest stone in nature – begins to float around the vessel like a fish or a turtle, then it is declared undoubtedly genuine; honours are given to it as if it were Vishnu himself.

There are such shaligrams – among these is the sample presented by the Thakur to the president – in which figures represent Krishna (Vishnu's avatar) under the guise of Gopala (shepherd) with his herd of cows. On it, the play of nature reached its extreme art: the picture seemed as if hollowed out by the artist's finest chisel, although the imagination had to play a certain role in contemplating the cows.[32]

The formation of such stones is attributed by naturalists to some kind of fish. The fish selects a pebble, and then, clinging onto it, begins to build a nest or shell for itself, the materials for which it produces, like a spider, from its own body. After being walled up in a shell for a while and feeling all the boredom of solitude, the fish breaks the shell and swims away; and the stone with the shell turns into shaligram. This I read, however, in the native natural history of the Dravidians. To what extent the explanation is compatible with truth and Western science, I cannot say.

The colonel was overjoyed at such a rare gift. He examined the shaligram from all sides, admired and nursed it. Having learned from Ananda-Swami that he must wear it, for the reality of its hidden qualities, on the body, he began to pester me to sew it immediately into a leather bag with ribbons for tying around the belt. He brought a needle, thread, scissors. It was only after cutting a pair of new kid gloves that I managed to have peace for the rest of the evening at this price.

Leaving, well after midnight, to rest for two hours before departure, I saw two figures on the steps of the terrace. One of them was sitting with his head in the palms; the other stood before him with arms crossed on his chest. I recognized Narayan and Ananda-Swami ...



  1. Russian Herald, February 1886, vol 181, pp. 792-822.
  2. 1 Russian sazhen = 2.13 m = 7 ft. – Ed.
  3. It is called the passion flower because this species of orchids fully bloom only in the midday heat, but not at all because its petals looked like a cross, nails and a crown of thorns, as many claim.
  4. A caryatid is a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar. – Ed.
  5. The poor fellow drowned in 1883 in the most horrible and stupid way. Between Dera Doon and Hardwar, the Ganges is not yet a river, but a stream, shallow, but extremely rapid. There they cross in one place along the bridge, and whoever has horses they lead it by rein, near the bridge, in water that does not reach horse’s knee. But the Babu wanted, in spite of the warning, to cross the river on horseback. The horse stumbled and fell, and he got entangled in the stirrups and could not free himself. The stream is said to have rolled both for over a mile [1.61 km], to the pool of the waterfall, where the rider and horse both disappeared. His death was, of course, attributed to the “wrath of the gods!”
  6. Completely, without abbreviations (Latin). – Ed.
  7. As they are (Latin). – Ed.
  8. Mulaprakriti is literally “the root of matter,” that is, the primeval essence of matter. But since Parabrahm is All, then this root is the same Parabrahm.
  9. Sat is a word that is almost untranslatable into European languages. Here Sat means consubstantial reality, except for which everything is illusion alone, self-deception. Sat is the eternal, limitless essence of all, in the eternal and limitless space, where apart from Sat there is no place for anything else. In a word, Sat is consubstance of qualityless and unconditional spirit – the unmanifested deity.
  10. Charvaka is a sect of Bengali materialists.
  11. “Divine soul” of a person.
  12. Manas, as the seat of the earthly reason, gives a worldview based on the evidence of the reason, and not spiritual insight.
  13. Ishvara is “collective consciousness” of the manifested deity, Brahma; and Prajna is his individual wisdom.
  14. Taijasi means “radiant” due to its connection with the buddhi; manas is illuminated by the light of the “divine soul.”
  15. Manas-taijasi is “luminous mind,” the human mind, illuminated by the light of the spirit; and buddhi-manas is “divine revelation plus human mind and self-consciousness.”
  16. In Vedanta, buddhi, in its union with the spiritual qualities, consciousness and the concept of those persons in which it incarnated, is called sutratma, which literally means “the soul thread”; because like pearls on a string, so a whole long series of human lives are strung on this thread. Manas must become taijasi (radiant), so that in conjunction with sutratma, so to speak, hanging on it like a pearl on a string, reach and see itself in eternity. But often, due to sin and association with a purely earthly mind, that very radiance disappears.
  17. The further dialogue up to the words "We parted, but this conversation imprinted itself on my soul..." (p. ) is almost unchanged included in chapter 9 of The Key to Theosophy under the heading "What is really meant by Annihilation". – Ed.
  18. Cognition of your past incarnations. Yogis and adherents of secret sciences alone achieve through the greatest ascetic labours such a complete insight into their entire past.
  19. That is, without complete assimilation with the divine soul, earthly soul or manas cannot live a conscious life in eternity. Soul becomes buddhi-taijasi (or buddi-manas) when its aspirations draw it from the earthly to the spiritual world in life-time. Then, nourished with essence and imbued with the light of its divine soul, manas disappears into buddhi, becomes buddhi itself, retaining only spiritual consciousness about its earthly personality. Otherwise, as manas, human mind based on the evidence of physical feelings alone, that is our earthly or personal soul falls, so to speak, into a deep sleep, without dreams or consciousness, until a new incarnation.
  20. The Vedantists feel such complete contempt for the physical shell that, speaking of purely mechanical actions of the body, they do not use the pronoun I, and say: “This body walked,” “These hands did it,” etc. Only when speaking about mental actions, they declare themselves: “I thought,” “I wished,” etc.
  21. There is a great difference between nirvana and paranirvana. Nirvana is the spiritual life of every personal soul of sutratma (except for the souls of materialists, as you can see), that is, the life of the soul of A., or the soul of B., after each of soul disembodiment and which is awarded to it by the law of retribution (karma) for its personal earthly sufferings... Paranirvana is the blissful state that awaits sutratma in its entirety, that is, in the aggregate of all personal souls strung on this thread. “Soul” is an incorrect expression, but I use it for you lack a more appropriate term: one should say not “personal souls,” but “some aromas of personal souls,” according to the Thakur. For, after the “destruction of the world” (pralaya), all these “aromas,” merging into one whole, form a single “divine man” who lives in Parabrahm forever; while each soul of a single person lives only in the ray of the deity, in atma-buddhi, temporarily. There is a similar difference between nirvana and paranirvana as between the state of mind before and after the day of the Last Judgment.
  22. Dhyan Chohan, esprit planetaire [planetary spirit (fr.)], “emanating from Parabrahm and again returning to Parabrahm” after the life cycle.
  23. The philosophy of the secret Vedanta does not believe in hell and does not admit punishment for earthly sins in the spiritual world. They say, a person is born helpless, a plaything of external circumstances beyond his control, although he is gifted with free will. He suffers so much innocently in this world that infinite mercy will give him complete rest in the world of shadows; and only then, in the next earthly life and in a new incarnation, will he bear the due punishment for sins in his previous role. The choice of any such subsequent life and punishment are determined and enforced by karma, the “law of retribution.” This is proved, they say, by the fact that on our Earth, apparently innocent people are constantly suffering.
  24. In response to the remark often received by the Vedantists that hundreds and thousands of such earthly lives of sutratma or personal Ego nevertheless equal, as it were, the complete disappearance of each personality, instead of immortality, they usually answer: “For comparison with eternity take the life of a person on the Earth – life, made up of certain number of days, weeks, months and years. If this personality retained a good memory in old age, then it can easily remember all the outstanding days and years in its past life. But, forgetting some of them, does not it remain one and the same personality? It is so with the divine Ego at the end of the incarnation cycle. For it, every single life will be the same as every single day in a person's life.”
  25. The first method of teaching yoga candidates. The process is to gradually train oneself not to breathe reciting the well-known mantras.
  26. Brotherhood of the Grove is a famous though secret society of mystics in the Madras Presidency.
  27. A disciple of the highest class, a student of the “secret sciences” who has passed all the trials, except for the last one, that makes him a sadhu.
  28. 1 arshin = 71.12 cm = 21⁄3 ft. – Ed.
  29. The rudraksha is a seed of a fruit tree that grows only in the Himalayas and Nilgiri, mainly in Nepal. A necklace or a rosary made of it is the most appreciated, as well as the most difficult thing to acquire in India. The natives regard the rudraksha as something sacred, and only yogis have the right to wear them around their necks or even touch this seed, due to the extraordinary magical properties attributed to it. Rudraksha is a double word, which means: “the eye of Rudra” (Rudra is one of the names of Shiva), and only three-eyed adepts of secret science, those who have trained through ascetics in themselves the “third eye” of Shiva (in other words, clairvoyance and the gift of divination, the symbol of which is the rudraksha) are familiar with all these properties. Entire volumes in Sanskrit and Tamil are devoted to descriptions of this talisman, instructions on how to recognize good seeds from bad ones, etc. The magical properties of the rudraksha depend on the age of the tree, on the soil, on the forest surrounding this tree, and even on the personal qualities of the one who picks the fruits. “To a wicked person the rudraksha will bring harm, not benefit.” Very few trees of this species bear fruit, and of those that bear more than 90% are not suitable for proper use: either the fruits fall off before ripening, or they overripe, the most suitable are those that, being pounded on a touchstone, leave gold dust on it: Indian princes and rajas pay crazy money for them, from 1000 to 5000 rupees for each seed; and those who are considered the best, with one mukham (notch) or indentation on the seed, cannot be bought even for 10,000 rupees. Such rudrakshas can be found on only a few trees in Nepal, and then one or two per tree in several years. Unripe – red, brown, gray and yellow – seeds are worthless; only black ones are precious. The Nepalese maharaja paid 10 lakks (1 million rupees) for half a dozen of such real seeds. They are about the size of a small nut and rough like a peach stone.
  30. The secret temple, where only initiates may enter. Such existed before in all pagodas, but now there are few of them.
  31. Kess is 1.25 English miles [2.01 km].
  32. We saw one maharaja’s shaligrams, on which we found images of several avatars, such as: Ugraha Narasingha – that is, Vishnu, as a lion tearing apart Hiranyakashipu, the tyrant of the rakshasas; Kalyana Narasingha – Vishnu smiling at the rescued Prahlada, etc. “This cannot be nature; this is the work of a devil,” said one missionary.