Well, the Indian sages reached that conclusion long, long ago. It must have been the most glorious day in the history of man when an ancient seer first burst upon this truth. Like a river starting from a very distant fastness of a mountain, trickling its way down, cutting its way through mountains and all kinds of obstructions, winding and winding, and at last reaching a point where it bursts into the sea, the heart of man must have come through all kinds of difficulties and misconceptions and unknown territories to this grand realization in which the human spirit loses itself in the divine Spirit. No doubt there is a date and an hour to that, but of course the date and hour are lost; we only know of that age, several thousand years before Christ, when the Hindu people became crazed over the idea of oneness with God. We are most proud of that period of our history, because it is so unique; no other nation has devoted itself to the realization of truth to that extent. In a small measure there was a similar period in the history of Christianity in the first centuries after Christ, when a sort of compulsion came upon many Christian devotees to go into the desert and search for God through contemplation and asceticism. They were seized with that mania. That was the time when Christianity acquired its strength the strength by which it is being sustained even now. Just as through geological epochs vast lakes were formed underground so that for thousands of years thereafter springs have spurted cool water, in the same way religions gathered strength in distant ages, and afterwards through centuries and centuries people are sustained by this strength which comes in driblets here and there.
Such was that glorious period in Indian history: those ancient sages didn’t want to remain even one inch separated from this grand and ultimate Truth. As long as there remained even a suspicion of time, they were unconsoled; they wanted to go beyond time. They would not brook any condition. No wonder they have called this state of realization freedom, liberation. We don’t call it salvation, or attainment of the kingdom of heaven, or any such thing. We say freedom mukti or moksa. You feel now that you are bound; you, the free, eternal, immortal, infinite Being, are hemmed in by all kinds of bondages. When you become conscious of it, you strain against even the least bondage until you have become completely free. Like that, the soul reaches this goal. That is called monism.
Monism implies naturally two concepts: One is the unreality of the material world, including our body and mind. Very drastic. And the other is that I, the individual, am truly the universal God. In Sanskrit this second concept is expressed in various ways, such as so ‘ham? Tam He’; tattvam asi,4 That thou art’; aham brahmdsmi,5 I am Brahman. Such sentences are called mahavakyas, supreme statements, because they contain the highest truth, the grand conclusions of monism. Many Hindus continually recite these grand truths and think about them.
But that is not enough. As I said before, these ideals are realizable, that is to say, they can become actual facts of our experience. If you do not experience them, they are not much good to you. Of course, I admit that since I have a mind and have to think of something, it is much better that I think of myself as Spirit, of the same nature as God, than that I think of myself as a mortal being, embodied. I admit that. But our goal is much higher, much greater, and therefore we shall not remain satisfied with only thinking about those things, we would like to experience them.