We are always talking of big abstract things; we talk of God, infinity, eternity. … and I think a little caution in the use of such words might be very helpful. What do we know of infinity? What do we know of eternity? We don’t know anything; we just use some words and a kind of vague feeling arises in our mind. Words are useless in describing things which are beyond speech. To know what infinity is, you have to see a person who has experienced infinity and having experienced it has become absorbed in it. As Sri Ramakrishna used to say, once a salt doll wanted to measure the depth of the sea; so it began to walk into the waters of the sea, and very soon it melted into the water. Those who know the infinite very soon become one with it. Brahma veda brahmaiva bhavati2 He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman.’ That is what we believe. So if you ever have the good fortune of coming in contact with a person who has experienced the infinite, then you will understand what is meant by infinity. You will know what the infinite is through the way such a person behaves, the way he thinks, feels, and reacts. Otherwise how would you know?
When a person realizes that state he does not give lectures as I am doing except those who, like a Swami Vivekananda, are charged by God to come back for the benefit of others. Only a very few are commissioned by God. That is the traditional Indian belief. They are the Incarnations and the divinely ordained prophets. They come to this world; they are not caught in it. They see the light as well as the darkness; they are capable of seeing both, and they drag people out of darkness into the realm of light. But, generally speaking, unless one is commissioned by God, one progresses from silence to greater and deeper silence, until one enters into Silence with a capital S. And in that Silence one becomes completely lost. One does not necessarily come back.
Today we don’t make the mistake of thinking, as did the orthodox Christians in the beginning of the modern age, that this earth is the centre of the universe, but we do practically the same thing: we think that this miserable life which we call our existence on earth is the centre and core of everything that is, and it is in terms of this existence that we measure everything. Therefore you don’t like the idea of people becoming absorbed in that silent Being; you always want them to give lectures and organize societies and go on talking endlessly. Why do you think this existence should be the measure, when*you know it is the very embodiment of all kinds of imperfections? Let one person ask himself this question: Has he found anything perfect here? If anyone has found perfection, it is only when he has gone beyond this life into the Silence in the depth of his own heart. As long as one has not reached that state, everything here is imperfect. We are dwelling in the intense darkness of ignorance. It is in this that we pretend to know, pretend to see; whereas actually speaking we are peopling our own darkness with our fantastic dreams. How can this be the measure by which we judge the highest? We should never think like that. If you think that to become absorbed in God is to be selfish, then be selfish! By all means be selfish! You will be truly unselfish by being selfish in that way. As it is, you are cluttering your life with nonsense; and pretending to be unselfish, you are cluttering the lives of others with your own nonsense. No. That is not the way.
Fortunate indeed is he who feels in his heart the longing for God alone! Even the most ignorant person is unconsciously reaching towards this infinite and eternal Being. According to Vedanta, although man is overcome by ignorance and has forgotten his own true nature, he is still somewhat aware of his lost self. If a prince were to suffer from amnesia, you would still see a kind of natural dignity about him; although he would not know why he reacts in the way he does, he possesses an unconscious majesty. We also carry that unconscious majesty about us. We who are infinite and eternal by nature, we who are always one with God, have forgotten that truth . If we were asked if we are infinite, eternal, we would deny it, our actions themselves would apparently deny it. Nevertheless, in and through all these ignorances there is a continual assertion of our forgotten nature, our divine nature. It is in pursuit of our own divinity that we are doing the things we are doing here. When a mother embraces her child and seems to forget everything in her love for this child, she thinks she has found the all and the whole. When a maiden falls in love with a young man and thinks here is everything that is to be found, she is unconsciously affirming this most adorable Being the Infinite and Eternal One. Of course we all know the sequel to this infatuation. Very soon she finds that’s not it. So comes divorce, or she gets accustomed to a life with him. That’s all. The ideal has not been realized, but the search was real.