Delight of Existence: The Problem
For who could live or breathe if there were not this delight of
existence as the ether in which we dwell?
From Delight all these beings are born, by Delight they exist
and grow, to Delight they return.
BUT EVEN if we accept this pure Existence, this Brahman,
this Sat as the absolute beginning, end and continent of things and in Brahman an inherent self-consciousness inseparable from its being and throwing itself out as a force of movement of consciousness which is creative of forces, forms
and worlds, we have yet no answer to the question "Why should Brahman, perfect, absolute, infinite, needing nothing, desiring
nothing, at all throw out force of consciousness to create in itself these worlds of forms?" For we have put aside the solution
that it is compelled by its own nature of Force to create, obliged by its own potentiality of movement and formation to move into
forms. It is true that it has this potentiality, but it is not limited, bound or compelled by it; it is free. If, then, being free to move
or remain eternally still, to throw itself into forms or retain the potentiality of form in itself, it indulges its power of movement
and formation, it can be only for one reason, for delight.
This primary, ultimate and eternal Existence, as seen by the Vedantins, is not merely bare existence, or a conscious existence whose consciousness is crude force or power; it is a conscious
existence the very term of whose being, the very term of whose consciousness is bliss. As in absolute existence there can be no
II. 7; III. 6.
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nothingness, no night of inconscience, no deficiency, that is to
say, no failure of Force, ―for if there were any of these things, it would not be absolute,
also there can be no suffering, no negation of delight. Absoluteness of
conscious existence is illimitable bliss of conscious existence; the two are
only different phrases for the same thing. All illimitableness, all infinity, all absoluteness is pure delight. Even our relative humanity has this
experience that all dissatisfaction means a limit, an obstacle,
―satisfaction comes by realisation of something withheld, by the
surpassing of the limit, the overcoming of the obstacle. This is because our original being is the absolute in full possession of
its infinite and illimitable self-consciousness and self-power; a self-possession whose other name is self-delight. And in proportion as the relative touches upon that self-possession, it moves towards satisfaction, touches delight.
The self-delight of Brahman is not limited, however, by the still and motionless possession of its absolute self-being. Just as
its force of consciousness is capable of throwing itself into forms infinitely and with an endless variation, so also its self-delight is
capable of movement, of variation, of revelling in that infinite flux and mutability of itself represented by numberless teeming
universes. To loose forth and enjoy this infinite movement and variation of its self-delight is the object of its extensive or creative
play of Force.
In other words, that which has thrown itself out into forms is
a triune Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, Sachchidananda, whose consciousness is in its nature a creative or rather a self-expressive
Force capable of infinite variation in phenomenon and form of its self-conscious being and endlessly enjoying the delight of that
variation. It follows that all things that exist are what they are as terms of that existence, terms of that conscious force, terms
of that delight of being. Just as we find all things to be mutable forms of one immutable being, finite results of one infinite force,
so we shall find that all things are variable self-expression of one invariable and all-embracing delight of self-existence. In
everything that is, dwells the conscious force and it exists and is what it is by virtue of that conscious force; so also in everything
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that is there is the delight of existence and it exists and is what
it is by virtue of that delight.
This ancient Vedantic theory of cosmic origin is immediately
confronted in the human mind by two powerful contradictions, the emotional and sensational consciousness of pain and the
ethical problem of evil. For if the world be an expression of Sachchidananda, not only of existence that is conscious-force,
―for that can easily be admitted,
―but of existence that is also infinite self-delight, how are we to account for the universal
presence of grief, of suffering, of pain? For this world appears to us rather as a world of suffering than as a world of the delight of
existence. Certainly, that view of the world is an exaggeration, an error of perspective. If we regard it dispassionately and with
a sole view to accurate and unemotional appreciation, we shall find that the sum of the pleasure of existence far exceeds the sum
of the pain of existence, ―appearances and individual cases to the contrary notwithstanding,
that the active or passive, surface or underlying pleasure of existence is the
normal state of nature, pain a contrary occurrence temporarily suspending or
overlaying that normal state. But for that very reason the lesser sum of pain
affects us more intensely and often looms larger than the greater sum of
pleasure; precisely because the latter is normal, we do not treasure it, hardly
even observe it unless it intensifies into some acuter form of itself, into a wave of happiness, a crest of joy or ecstasy. It is these things that we call delight and
seek and the normal satisfaction of existence which is always there regardless of event and particular cause or object, affects
us as something neutral which is neither pleasure nor pain. It is there, a great practical fact, for without it there would not
be the universal and overpowering instinct of self-preservation, but it is not what we seek and therefore we do not enter it
into our balance of emotional and sensational profit and loss. In that balance we enter only positive pleasures on one side and
discomfort and pain on the other; pain affects us more intensely because it is abnormal to our being, contrary to our natural
tendency and is experienced as an outrage on our existence, an offence and external attack on what we are and seek to be.
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Nevertheless the abnormality of pain or its greater or lesser
sum does not affect the philosophical issue; greater or less, its mere presence constitutes the whole problem. All being Sachchidananda, how can pain and suffering at all exist? This, the real problem, is often farther confused by a false issue starting
from the idea of a personal extra-cosmic God and a partial issue, the ethical difficulty.
Sachchidananda, it may be reasoned, is God, is a conscious Being who is the author of existence; how then can God have
created a world in which He inflicts suffering on His creatures, sanctions pain, permits evil? God being All-Good, who created
pain and evil? If we say that pain is a trial and an ordeal, we do not solve the moral problem, we arrive at an immoral or non-moral God,
―an excellent world-mechanist perhaps, a cunning psychologist, but not a God of Good and of Love whom we can
worship, only a God of Might to whose law we must submit or whose caprice we may hope to propitiate. For one who invents
torture as a means of test or ordeal, stands convicted either of deliberate cruelty or of moral insensibility and, if a moral being
at all, is inferior to the highest instinct of his own creatures. And if to escape this moral difficulty, we say that pain is an
inevitable result and natural punishment of moral evil,
―an explanation which will not even square with the facts of life
unless we admit the theory of Karma and rebirth by which the soul suffers now for antenatal sins in other bodies,
―we still do
not escape the very root of the ethical problem, ―who created or why or whence
was created that moral evil which entails the punishment of pain and suffering?
And seeing that moral evil is in reality a form of mental disease or ignorance,
who or what created this law or inevitable connection which punishes a mental disease or act of ignorance by a recoil so terrible, by tortures
often so extreme and monstrous? The inexorable law of Karma is irreconcilable with a supreme moral and personal Deity, and
therefore the clear logic of Buddha denied the existence of any free and all-governing personal God; all personality he declared
to be a creation of ignorance and subject to Karma.
In truth, the difficulty thus sharply presented arises only if
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we assume the existence of an extra-cosmic personal God, not
Himself the universe, one who has created good and evil, pain and suffering for His creatures, but Himself stands above and
unaffected by them, watching, ruling, doing His will with a suffering and struggling world or, if not doing His will, if allowing
the world to be driven by an inexorable law, unhelped by Him or inefficiently helped, then not God, not omnipotent, not all-good and all-loving. On no theory of an extra-cosmic moral God, can evil and suffering be explained,
―the creation of evil
and suffering, ―except by an unsatisfactory subterfuge which avoids the question at issue instead of answering it or a plain
or implied Manicheanism which practically annuls the Godhead in attempting to justify its ways or excuse its works. But such
a God is not the Vedantic Sachchidananda. Sachchidananda of the Vedanta is one existence without a second; all that is, is He.
If then evil and suffering exist, it is He that bears the evil and suffering in the creature in whom He has embodied Himself.
The problem then changes entirely. The question is no longer how came God to create for His creatures a suffering and evil
of which He is Himself incapable and therefore immune, but how came the sole and infinite Existence-Consciousness-Bliss to
admit into itself that which is not bliss, that which seems to be its positive negation.
Half of the moral difficulty
―that difficulty in its one unanswerable form disappears. It no longer arises, can no longer be
put. Cruelty to others, I remaining immune or even participating in their sufferings by subsequent repentance or belated pity, is
one thing; self-infliction of suffering, I being the sole existence, is quite another. Still the ethical difficulty may be brought back in
a modified form; All-Delight being necessarily all-good and all-love, how can evil and suffering exist in Sachchidananda, since
he is not mechanical existence, but free and conscious being, free to condemn and reject evil and suffering? We have to recognise
that the issue so stated is also a false issue because it applies the terms of a partial statement as if they were applicable to
the whole. For the ideas of good and of love which we thus bring into the concept of the All-Delight spring from a dualistic
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and divisional conception of things; they are based entirely on
the relations between creature and creature, yet we persist in applying them to a problem which starts, on the contrary, from
the assumption of One who is all. We have to see first how the problem appears or how it can be solved in its original purity,
on the basis of unity in difference; only then can we safely deal with its parts and its developments, such as the relations between
creature and creature on the basis of division and duality.
We have to recognise, if we thus view the whole, not limiting
ourselves to the human difficulty and the human standpoint, that we do not live in an ethical world. The attempt of human
thought to force an ethical meaning into the whole of Nature is one of those acts of wilful and obstinate self-confusion, one
of those pathetic attempts of the human being to read himself, his limited habitual human self into all things and judge them
from the standpoint he has personally evolved, which most effectively prevent him from arriving at real knowledge and complete
sight. Material Nature is not ethical; the law which governs it is a co-ordination of fixed habits which take no cognisance of
good and evil, but only of force that creates, force that arranges and preserves, force that disturbs and destroys impartially, non-ethically, according to the secret Will in it, according to the mute satisfaction of that Will in its own self-formations and
self-dissolutions. Animal or vital Nature is also non-ethical, although as it progresses it manifests the crude material out
of which the higher animal evolves the ethical impulse. We do not blame the tiger because it slays and devours its prey any
more than we blame the storm because it destroys or the fire because it tortures and kills; neither does the conscious-force in
the storm, the fire or the tiger blame or condemn itself. Blame and condemnation, or rather self-blame and self-condemnation,
are the beginning of true ethics. When we blame others without applying the same law to ourselves, we are not speaking with a
true ethical judgment, but only applying the language ethics has evolved for us to an emotional impulse of recoil from or dislike
of that which displeases or hurts us.
This recoil or dislike is the primary origin of ethics, but is
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not itself ethical. The fear of the deer for the tiger, the rage of
the strong creature against its assailant is a vital recoil of the individual delight of existence from that which threatens it. In
the progress of the mentality it refines itself into repugnance, dislike, disapproval. Disapproval of that which threatens and
hurts us, approval of that which flatters and satisfies refine into the conception of good and evil to oneself, to the community,
to others than ourselves, to other communities than ours, and finally into the general approval of good, the general disapproval
of evil. But, throughout, the fundamental nature of the thing remains the same. Man desires self-expression, self-development,
in other words, the progressing play in himself of the conscious-force of existence; that is his fundamental delight. Whatever
hurts that self-expression, self-development, satisfaction of his progressing self, is for him evil; whatever helps, confirms, raises, aggrandises, ennobles it is his good. Only, his conception of the self-development changes, becomes higher and wider, begins to
exceed his limited personality, to embrace others, to embrace all in its scope.
In other words, ethics is a stage in evolution. That which is common to all stages is the urge of Sachchidananda towards self-expression. This urge is at first non-ethical, then infra-ethical in the animal, then in the intelligent animal even anti-ethical for it
permits us to approve hurt done to others which we disapprove when done to ourselves. In this respect man even now is only
half-ethical. And just as all below us is infra-ethical, so there may be that above us whither we shall eventually arrive, which
is supra-ethical, has no need of ethics. The ethical impulse and attitude, so all-important to humanity, is a means by which it
struggles out of the lower harmony and universality based upon inconscience and broken up by Life into individual discords towards a higher harmony and universality based upon conscient oneness with all existences. Arriving at that goal, this means
will no longer be necessary or even possible, since the qualities and oppositions on which it depends will naturally dissolve and
disappear in the final reconciliation.
If, then, the ethical standpoint applies only to a temporary
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though all-important passage from one universality to another, we
cannot apply it to the total solution of the problem of the universe, but can
only admit it as one element in that solution. To do otherwise is to run into
the peril of falsifying all the facts of the universe, all the meaning of the
evolution behind and beyond us in order to suit a temporary outlook and a
half-evolved view of the utility of things. The world has three layers,
infra-ethical, ethical and supra-ethical. We have to find that which is common
to all; for only so can we resolve the problem.
That which is common to all is,
we have seen, the satisfaction of conscious-force of existence developing itself into
forms and seeking in that development its delight. From that satisfaction or delight of self-existence it evidently began; for it
is that which is normal to it, to which it clings, which it makes its base; but it seeks new forms of itself and in the passage
to higher forms there intervenes the phenomenon of pain and suffering which seems to contradict the fundamental nature of
its being. This and this alone is the root-problem.
How shall we solve it? Shall we say that Sachchidananda
is not the beginning and end of things, but the beginning and end is Nihil, an impartial void, itself nothing but containing
all potentialities of existence or non-existence, consciousness or non-consciousness, delight or undelight?
We may accept this answer if we choose; but although we seek thereby to explain
everything, we have really explained nothing, we have only included everything. A Nothing which is full of all potentialities is the most complete opposition of terms and things possible and
we have therefore only explained a minor contradiction by a major, by driving the self-contradiction of things to their maximum. Nihil is the void, where there can be no potentialities; an impartial indeterminate of all potentialities is Chaos, and all that
we have done is to put Chaos into the Void without explaining how it got there. Let us return, then, to our original conception of
Sachchidananda and see whether on that foundation a completer solution is not possible.
We must first make it clear to ourselves that just as when we speak of universal consciousness we mean something different
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from, more essential and wider than the waking mental consciousness of the human being, so also when we speak of universal delight of existence we mean something different
from, more essential and wider than the ordinary emotional and sensational pleasure of the individual human creature.
Pleasure, joy and delight, as man uses the words, are limited and occasional movements which depend on certain habitual
causes and emerge, like their opposites pain and grief which are equally limited and occasional movements, from a background
other than themselves. Delight of being is universal, illimitable and self-existent, not dependent on particular causes, the background of all backgrounds, from which pleasure, pain and other more neutral experiences emerge. When delight of being
seeks to realise itself as delight of becoming, it moves in the movement of force and itself takes different forms of movement
of which pleasure and pain are positive and negative currents. Subconscient in Matter, superconscient beyond Mind this delight
seeks in Mind and Life to realise itself by emergence in the becoming, in the increasing self-consciousness of the movement.
Its first phenomena are dual and impure, move between the poles of pleasure and pain, but it aims at its self-revelation in
the purity of a supreme delight of being which is self-existent and independent of objects and causes. Just as Sachchidananda
moves towards the realisation of the universal existence in the individual and of the form-exceeding consciousness in the
form of body and mind, so it moves towards the realisation of universal, self-existent and objectless delight in the flux of
particular experiences and objects. Those objects we now seek as stimulating causes of a transient pleasure and satisfaction;
free, possessed of self, we shall not seek but shall possess them as reflectors rather than causes of a delight which eternally exists.
In the egoistic human being, the mental person emergent out of the dim shell of matter, delight of existence is neutral, semi-latent,
still in the shadow of the subconscious, hardly more than a concealed soil of
plenty covered by desire with a luxuriant growth of poisonous weeds and hardly
less poisonous flowers, the pains and pleasures of our egoistic existence. When the
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divine conscious-force working secretly in us has devoured these
growths of desire, when in the image of the Rig Veda the fire of God has burnt up the shoots of earth, that which is concealed
at the roots of these pains and pleasures, their cause and secret being, the sap of delight in them, will emerge in new forms not of
desire, but of self-existent satisfaction which will replace mortal pleasure by the Immortal's ecstasy. And this transformation is
possible because these growths of sensation and emotion are in their essential being, the pains no less than the pleasures, that
delight of existence which they seek but fail to reveal,
―fail because of division, ignorance of self and egoism.
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