A Collection of Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row/The Swami of Almora to his Opponents

THE SWAMI OF ALMORA TO HIS OPPONENTS.

"we do not wage war of words, but simply speak and seek truth."

We are sorry to see that we have been the cause of something like irritation to you by our last letter, which perhaps was not suitable to the modesty of a hermit. Therefore, we beg your pardon, if there was in it anything oftensive to you, and, at the same time, beg liberty to speak the truth. We are always friendly to every one, but particularly to the foreigners, who have come to India for knowledge. We are friendly in the spiritual sense of the word, therefore, we must be taken as a real friend and not a flatterer, even if we say iomething disagreeable now and then....Those who seek to find fault with us and become hostile to us are, we think, prejudiced and stubborn, and we desire tbem to acquire simplicity of heart and an unbiassed mind to enable them to understand us thoroughly.*[1] We hermits are a nomadic class of people and generally pass our time in places far away from habitation, and do not much cultivate the language and idioms of the world, nor do we care much for these. To attack us about modes of our expressing our ideas is, therefore, only childish. Our readers are to take our idea only and not our style. Because,—we are neither an M.A., nor a B.A.; neither an Addison, nor a Johnson, nor a Macaulay, but simply a hermit of the jungle.

Let us now see what was the purport of our letter. Our words were, "you should bear in mind that, we are speaking of matter and spirit beyond the present developed form or in the state of perfect laya, according to Patanjali's 2nd and 3rd Sutras, or from the stand-point of the Esoteric Theosophy." How can this mean that we are asking you to answer the questions according to Patanjali's 2nd and 3rd Sutras, we fail to understand. By the above sentences, we simply meant to show our own stand-point whence our enquiry commences. We referred to Patanjali's Sutras, because we intended to show that our starting point was in perfect accord with the true yoga state, nirvikalpa, ecstasy, i. e., the Turya state, and not with ordinary Jagrata, Swapna and Sushupta (for the former, i. e., Turya, state of man is of real awaking and the latter illusory), while you have been pleased to understand us as speaking of ordinary human states. Moreover, by laya, we never meant annihilation, as is assumed by you. It is your own version that the word laya means "a state of absolute dissolution, annihilation of all substance, differentiated, &c." In some of the former numbers of the Theosophist the word laya was explained by you as merging, and in this number you give another meaning of it.*[2] Why, merely because you require a handle to ridicule us. However, we forget all this, and beg to say, that according to Aryan adepts, by laya is meant and understood "absorption or transformation of one thing into another," such as the river is absorbed or transformed, when it loses itself, in the sea. It is a process among the Aryan occultists, by which they can (like the modern scientific Realists and Chemists as yon understand them), analyse the different component parts of a compound body, and reduce them to their primary or original condition—and by which they are not only able to ascertain what the substance really is, but they can also penetrate into the mystery of its past and future, to make themselves certain about the cause of the origin and termination of the phenomenon, known as creation or dwaita in its present manifested form. It is odd that our phrase "present developed form" has cost you more than a column to comment on it.†[3] We might here explain our meaning. By this we simply meant soul in its Viswa, Taijasha, and Pragna, states, or, the spirit in its impure condition by contact with matter and force, i. e., in a state of duality. But, perhaps, nominal yogees, who are disturbed in head and heart, cannot tranquillize and compose themselves for Nirvikalpa*[4] ecstasy, will not be able to comprehend us, nor also those who confound Prakriti with Purusha, or matter with spirit.†[5] If by "scientifically" be meant curiosity, then not only we, but the whole class of philosophers from Thales to Auguste Comte are only hunters of curiosity, and our respected friends more so, as for this purpose only they have come from the other part of the world and pledged their lives and fortune on this. But to come to the point, we are not attracted by curiosity. Our motives are not shallow. Whatever we ask, we ask for scientific purposes, and for that only we entreated you to kindly ascertain the extent of mesmeric force, whether it influences the outer man only, or the inner one too—you said " ***that a mortal wound may be inflicted upon the inner man, &c., &c." Now, according to our knowledge the inner man means the double, i. e., the Taijasha, prágna being the original or first, and the Anna-maya or the Viswa, the third.‡[6] To this third, we applied the term treble, and we are justified in doing so, in the same way as you apply double to the Taijasha,—and we do not see any harm in taking the gross one as third; but those who are fond of absurdities will not understand our ideas.*[7] Why, because their own absurdity will be exposed. We beg your pardon for this outspokenness.†[8] How can you, being a practical theosophist, say carelessly that a mortal wound may be inflicted upon the inner man, &c., &c., when in reality the outer one was the victim. You evade our question in an off-hand manner by saying that the question is not whether the double murdered the double treble. Now we particularly begged you to remove our doubts by establishing this fact scientifically.‡[9] Instead of complying with our request, you have been gracious enough to make that a matter of humorous jokes, and try to make us ashamed of our question. When we say " ***the double murdered, the treble, not the double, and in no case the spiritual one," then in the sense, by treble you should have understood the Anna-maya, but instead of so doing you are disgusted with the sentence, not only this sentence but also another one, in regard to which you say, "why should he then use against his own argument the term laya?" How can we erase the word out of Kosha (dictionary)? It would be better to understand us by our own idea and not through your own interpretations.

"There are two methods of investigation," says Spinoza, "the vulgar and the scientific. The one starts from principles which have been accepted without examination, which are not, therefore, clearly understood. The other starts from principles clearly defined and accurately known. It is the latter only which can lead to true knovfledge." We fear, our venerable friends have followed the first method, which we shall try to prove by and by. ***

Before doing this, however, may we be permitted to ask an answer to our question—Is spirit and matter the same thing? Or whether Prakriti, Shakti, and Spirit are the same things? Unless Prakriti be the same with spirit, how can the former be eternal, since two eternals cannot exist at the same time, and the belief in two eternals is against the fundamental truths of the Adwaita Philosophy,*[10] as embodied in the aphorism ek meva dwitiyam. And matter has attributes, such as color, form, sound, touch, sight, taste and smell; but the spirit has none. Matter is dead (jad), Spirit is living (chaitanya); matter is temporary and subject to change, and spirit is eternal; matter is partial, and spirit is universal.†[11] But what is temporary? That which appears and exists for a certain period of time, or that which has beginning and end. And what is eternal? Eternal means that which exists thronghont present, past, and future, and also in Jagrita, Swapna, and Sushupta. Owing to these and various other causes matter cannot he sipirit nor vice versa. If you say like Vashishtha that the sleeping particles of Chid (spirit) are ignorantly called matter, then we agree with yon to a certain extent; but still how can they, for that reason, be called by the erroneous and misleading term matter which is inert and spiritually non-exitent. Why do you not call a piece of wood or stone spirit?*[12] Can you prove the existence of matter in sound sleep?†[13] Perhaps you will reply like the Nayayiks that matter exists with Karana in sleep, if so, where does it exist in Turya? You cannot prove that either matter or Prakriti exists in Turya. How then can matter or Prakriti be called eternal? If matter is merely a manifestation of spirit, why call it by the false name of matter instead of its own name spirit?‡[14] Now having done with the effect, matter, we come to its cause, the Mula-Prakriti, which is also called Avidya or ignorance, the mother of Karma and the cause of Bundha. So long as this Prakriti is not layed into spirit by dissolving it into Satvaguna, there is no emancipation, Mukti with Prakriti is no Mukti at all. Beyond Prakriti is emancipation. This is the conclusion of the whole of our Aryan Occultism. Let us now see what the Mimansa says. We make a few quotations from the "Saddarshana-Chintanika, or Studies in Indian Philosophy," Vol. V. of 1881. No. 11, page 347§[15] edited at Bombay. ***

It is not our object, even if we could, to cite all the Aryan books, but we would desire you and your readers to read in continuation of our quotations all the numbers of the sixth Volume of 1882 of the "Saddarshana Chintanika" which will shew that not only Shankaracharya, but also almost all the commentators and reformers and other great Rishis, not to speak of the Upanishads, have rejected the theory of the matter being as eternal as spirit, by which you are misled.*[16] We will now see what other schools of philosophy say about the Prakriti. By other schools we mean the systems of Patanjali. Buddha and Jaina. Let our readers remember that we are speaking of the first class Boudhas, who agreed with Aryans in many essential points, and, particularly, as regards Nirvana, though they disagree in regard to Kriya-kanda. The esteemed Editor of the Theosophist seems to follow the doctrine of Madhyamica, i. e., middle class Buddhists, or those who are followers of Sugata's doctrines of whom we shall speak afterwards.†[17] We call our reader's attention to the summary, Vol. VI (1882), No. 2, page 106, of the Studies in Indian Philosophy‡[18]*** We cite a few lines from Sutras 24 and 25.***The Jainas do not believe in the independent power known as delusion to the Vedantists. The spirit is naturally knowing. It is omniscient. Its knowledge is covered over and obscured by an activity or karma. The perception of the spirit is also obscured by karma, &c., &c. The Boudhas believe that pure Nirvana alone exists. Nirvana is a transcendental condition. It is infinitude. It is not subject to being acted upon. Nothing excels it. The great Rishis who are free from all desire, describe it to be so. Besides the Nirvana, karma or activity is also eternal.*[19] Aided by ignorance, activity produces five elements and developes worldliness. These five elements are form or Rupa, sensation or Vedana, perception or Sangna, discrimination or Samascar, and consciousness or Vijnana. Virtue and contemplation destroy the power of ignorauce. Activity thus becomes impotent and Nirvana is next attained to.†[20] All these schools are described together in this place, because they represent Indian pessimism, and that the reader may know their points of resemblance and difference.

We now come to your foot-note. "Asat or Prakriti existed first, &c." A brief reply to this is given somewhere in the History of Philosophy. "The pagans said ex-nihilo nihil. The Christian father altered it to ex-nihilo-omnia." Still let us see what our Aryan Rishis say. We call your attention to the verses from the second book called Panch Mahabhuta Viveka of Panchadasi, which speaks in accordance with Upanishads‡[21] ***You will please understand the verses according to their commentary, now very ably translated into Hindi.

Mandukya Upanishad says, Prakritis are of two kinds, Apara and Para; the former produces Karma and the latter Mukti. The one is Jad, the other Chaitanya. This is also the opinion of Bhagvat Gita, seventh chapter. Mandnkya Karika, third chapter, and Prasna Upanishad also speak of Maya and Prakriti—please see the Upanishads with Sankara's commentary. Vasishta, Vyasa, Ashtavakra and all great sages recommend the divorcement of this illusive Prakriti, and nowhere in their works do we find any sentence which says that this illusive Prakriti is to be known with God. If Brahma can, in your opinion, be knwon through Prakriti, then why not with all others but Tamasa only? According to Indian philosophy and the practical experience of hermits, this Mula-Sakti or Avidya, as you understand it, is not to be known in Brahman. Because it is illusive and false, moreover, it can be dissolved and made inactive. It loses itself in Turya when layaed, as the river into the ocean. But as long as you will be ignorant of this process, so long you have liberty to call it a protest of religion; but the thinking class, who understand this mysterious process, will laugh at your weakness of understanding. As you have purposely come to India for true esoteric knowledge, we always pray for your success, and entreat you to understand us a little hermitically.*[22] We explained to you Pranava according to the interpretation of Rama Gita, a chapter of esoteric Ramayana, but as you are not well acquainted with the laya theory, you could not accept it. It does not, however, matter much; practical Vedantists have accepted it before. We very gladly and without any apology quote a few lines from Max Muller's very able preface to "The Sacred Books of the East," as it bears on our subject. "This concentration of thought, Chagrata or one pointedness as the Hindus called it, is something to us almost unknown,—our minds are like kaleidoscopes of thoughts in constant motion: and to shut our mental eyes to everything else, while dwelling on one thought only, has become to most of us almost as impossible as to apprehend one musical note without harmonies. With the life we are leading now, with telegrams, letters, newspapers, reviews, pamphlets and books even breaking in upon us, it has become impossible, or almost impossible, ever to arrive at that intensity of thought which the Hindus meant by Chagrata, and the attainment of which was to them the indispensable condition of all philosophical and religious speculation. The loss may not be altogether on our side, yet our loss it is, and if we see the Hindus, even in their comparatively monotonous life, adopting all kinds of contrivances in order to assist them in drawing away their thoughts from all disturbing impressions and to fix them on one subject only, we must not be satisfied with smiling at their simplicity, but try to appreciate the object they had in view.

Below are the few verses on Laya Prakarana from Siva Sanhita, which it is hoped will show you how you mistake our meaning.*[23]...

Nowhere throughout Yoga Vasisht and Bhagvat do we find any statement which recommends this Prakriti to be known. On the contrary, every Aryan occultist, particularly Kapila in his lectures to Devhutee speaks against it. Will you be so kind as to point out to us the places where Vasishta, Vyasa, Suka and Shankaracharya have given expression to their views which agree with your doctrines of the Arhat philosophy, otherwise, we might or might not, believe in your explanation.

Purusha, according to Upanishads, is Swayam Prakasha, i. e., self-manifesting; therefore cannot be dependant on Prakriti only, for its manifestation. No Adwaitee will take Brahmam with Prakriti or gun or duality. Their Brahmam is Purusha beyond the Prakriti, or in other words, Akshara. Latent spirit is never referred to as Maha Iswara. Please read the verse quoted below, which distinctly states that Maha Iswara is the spirit beyond Prakriti when the latter is layed.*[24]

Void is a fictitious name to the Aryan Rishis, who knew the omnipresence of the soul, and that void they destroyed by filling it up. Moreover, there is no void in nature, vide the maxim "Nature hates vacuum." At present we desist to answer your other points, till we have your reply to this. As the subject is very serious and important, we entreat you to discuss the points calmly and dispassionately; without this mood of mind, one cannot penetrate into the esoteric philosophy of India. Your present opinions are not esoteric, they are rather exoteric.

SWAMI OF ALMORA.

Almora, 22nd April 1883.

Editor's Note.—We sincerely regret that such should be the opinion of the Swami of Almora. But since we know neither himself, nor the religion or school of philosophy he belongs to, we may perhaps repeat with him, "It does not, however, matter much" whether he agrees with us or not, for practical (esoteric and initiated) Vedantists have found our opinions correct and in perfect harmony with their own. There are nearly as many interpretations of the esoteric meaning of certain words we have to use as there are yogees and sannyasis of various sects in India. A Visishtadwaita yogi will contend the correctness of the meaning as given by an Adwaitee-ascetic, and a devotee of Chaitanya or a Bhakti-yogee will never accept the interpretation of the Vedas or Bhagavadgita made by a Brahmo or an Arya. Thus truth is everywhere and may be said to be nowhere. For us it is absolutely and solely in the Arhat esoteric doctrines; and we remain firm in our convictions, all our opponents being quite as free as ourselves to adhere by their own views. We have met in the N. W. P. with an erudite Pundit, a renowned Sanskritist, the most learned authority with, and at the head of the Vaishnavas, and recognized as such by many others; and he wanted us to believe that the culmination of "Raj-yoga" was the practical and absolute powers it conferred upon the Raj-yogee over all the female sex in creation!! Shall we believe every exponent of the Vedas, the Shastree of every sect, only because he may be an authority to those who belong to the same denomination with him, or shall we make a judicious selection, following out the dictates of our reason, which tells us that he is most right and nearer to truth, who diverges the less from logic and—Science? The occult philosophy we study, uses precisely that method of investigation which is termed by Spinoza the "scientific method." It starts from, and proceeds only on "principles clearly defined and accurately known," and is therefore "the only one" which can lead to true knowledge. Therefore, be this philosophy, and no other shall we abide. And now we must leave the venerable Swami and his views to the dissecting knife of Mr. T. Subba Row.


  1. * Quite so; and therefore, this kind desire is fully reciprocated.—Ed.
  2. * No "merging" or absorption can take place without dissolution, and an absolute annihilation of the previous form. The lump of sugar thrown into a cup of liquid must be dissolved and its form annihilated before it can be said to have been absorbed by, and in, the liquid. It is a correlation like any other in chemistry. Yet indestructible matter can as in the case of sugar, or any other chemical element, be recalled to life and even to its previous form. The molecule that cannot be divided by any physical means is divided by the universal solvent and resolved into something else. Hence—it is, for the time being, at least, annihilated in its form. This is simply a war on words.—Ed.
  3. † It is still older that a few foot-notes should have cost the venerable Paramahansa over 15 columns of ill disguised abuse, out of which number three or four columns are given. That which was suppressed may be judged by what remains.—Ed.
  4. * Surely our respected correspondent cannot mean to convey the idea that in penning this answer he had "composed" himself into the state of Nirvikalpa: unless we take Monier Williams' definition of the term and bear in mind that it is a state "destitute of all reflection." (See Indian Wisdom, page 122, foot-note 2.)—Ed.
  5. † To this kind thrust we answer that we have never confounded Prakriti with Purusha any more than we have confused the north with the south Pole. As both Poles belong to the same and one earth, so spirit and matter, or Purusha and Prakriti, are the two ends that lose themselves, in the eternity of unmanifested and the cycles of manifested matter. But like some of our distinguished Western metaphysicians, our opponent seems to regard matter and energy as two distinct things, whereas the Esoteric doctrine recognizes but one substratum for everything visible as invisible—"Purush-Prakriti" and vice versa. Moreover, we may remind the good Swami, that one need not be a yogee to be a good occultist, nor are there many yogees in India who know anything of real occult sciences.—Ed.
  6. ‡ In such case, our respected critic ought to criticise and correct Professor Monier Williams and other Sanskritists, who regard Anna-Maya as "the covering supported by food, i. e., the corporeal or gross body," calling it the fourth, while we name it as the first sheath or Kósa. (See p. 123 of Indian Wisdom.)—Ed.
  7. * We leave it to our readers to judge which is the most absurd—to consider our physical body as the first, or to call it, as the Swami does—the treble or the third; though of course there is "no harm" in either.—Ed.
  8. † We willingly forgive the impolite remark under its garb of "outspokenness." We beg our respected correspondent to bear in mind though that it is one thing to be "outspoken," and quite another one to be rude.—Ed.
  9. ‡ It is precisely because we claim to know something of "practical" Occultism in addition to being a Theosophist that we answer without in the least "evading the question" that a mortal wound may be inflicted "not only upon, but also by one" inner man upon another. This is the A B C of esoteric mesmerism. The wound is inflicted by neither a real dagger or a hand of flesh, bones and blood, but simply by—Will. It is the intense will of the "Gospoja" that guided the astral or inner body, the Mayavi-rupa of Frozya. It is the passively obedient action of the latter's "double" that scanning space and material obstacles, followed the "trial" of, and found the real murderers. It is again that Will shaped by the incessant thought of the revenger, that inflicted the internal wounds which, though unable to kill or even to hurt the inner man, yet by reaction of the interior physical body proved mortal to the latter. If the fluid of the mesmerizer can cure, it can also kill. And now we have "established the fact as scientifically"—as science which generally disbelieves in and rejects such mesmeric phenomena will permit it. For those who believe in, and know something of, mesmerism, this will be plain. As to those who deny it the explanation will appear to them as absurd as any other psychological claim: as much so as the claims of Yogism with its beatitudes of Samadhi and other states, for the matter of that.—Ed.
  10. * This is precisely the question we have been asking; and also the reason why, knowing that matter is indestructible, as also spirit or rather energy—we say with all the esoteric Adwaitees that matter and spirit are oneEd.
  11. † See Mr. Subba Row's reply. While we mean Cosmic, indestructible matter, the Swami speaks of objective and differentiated matter!—Ed.
  12. * Because it is not usual to call them by sach a name. Nevertheless, we maintain that there is in a piece of wood or a stone as much of latent spirit or life as there is in a weak—old human fœtus.—Ed.
  13. † See Mr. T. Subba Row's reply.—Ed.
  14. ‡ For the same good reason that we call a chair by its "false" name of chair instead of calling it by that of the "oak" or any other wood of which it was made.—Ed.
  15. § "We refer the reader to the pages of the abovenamed excellent monthly magazine.—Ed.
  16. * We thank the good Swami for his advice. We have read all the monthly numbers of the Saddarshana Chintanika with great attention until lately, and advocated it zealously both in America and upon our arrival here. Notwithstanding all that Shankaracharya may be made to say in the abovenamed studies, we claim to know that he said nothing of the kind, not at any rate in the sense conveyed by our opponent. We leave the question to be settled between him and Mr. Subba Row.—Ed.
  17. † The "esteemed Editor" follows but the doctrines of Esoteric Buddhism, which are nearly identical with those of the esotoric Adwaitees—the true followers of Shankaracharya.—Ed.
  18. ‡ We refer the reader to the abovenamed volume of the "Studies in Indian Philosophy."—Ed.
  19. * And if "activity is also eternal," then how can our philosophical antagonist maintain that matter is not so? Can activity (in the usual sense of the word), whether physical or mental, manifest itself or exist without, or outside of, matter, or to be plainer—outside of any one of its seven states? And how about his contradicting himself? "Activity also eternal." Then there are after all two eternals, how? And he just saying that "two eternals cannot exist at the same time." (See above).—Ed.
  20. † We beg to draw our correspondent's attention to the fact that he is again contradicting himself. Or is it the "Boudhas"? But a few lines above he declares "activity...eternal" and now he makes it "impotent"—in other words, kills and annihilates that which is eternal?—Ed.
  21. The reader is invited to turn to the Sanskrit verses of the abovenamed work, at the additional quotations would again require at least two columns. Our magazine avoids as much at possible the publication of anything that is not original matter.Ed.
  22. * See Mr. T. Subba Row's reply. We thank again our kind adviser for tbe interest he displays in our spiritual welfare, and refer him, if he desires to learn the cause of our refusal, to our note at the end of his letter. We can also assure him that we have never and nowhere called Laya "a protest of religion."—Ed.
  23. * Reader referred to the aboremontioned work.—Ed.
  24. * We beg to be explained the hidden meaning of this really incomprehensible sentence. "Latent spirit is never referred to as Maha Iswara," (a term we, at any rate, never used,) while the Sanskrit verse "states that Maha Iswara is the spirit beyond Prakriti, when the latter is layed." Now does the learned Swami mean to say that the spirit beyond differentiated matter is active? It cannot mean anything else, for otherwise the two assumptions would contradict each other most absurdly and would be suicidal; and if he does mean that which he says—viz., that Maha Iswara (if the latter is identified here with Parabrahma), the spirit beyond" Prakriti becomes active since it is called Maha Iswara, which it would not be were it latent—then, we are sorry to say to the learned Paramahansa that he does not know what he is talking about. He is no Esoteric Adwaitee and—we close the discussion as becoming quite useless.—Ed.