Thoughts, Quotes & Sayings by Swami Vivekananda
- Man comes from God in the beginning, in the middle he becomes man, and in the end he goes back to God.
- He is an Acharya through whom the Divine Power acts.
- According to Karma Yoga, the action one has done cannot be destroyed, until it has borne its fruit; no power in nature can stop it from yielding its results.
- Know it for certain that there is no greater Tirtha (holy spot) than the body of man. Nowhere else is the Atman so manifest as here.
- This world is just a gymnasium in which we play; our life is an eternal holiday.
- Strength is the one thing needful. Strength is the medicine for the world’s disease. And nothing gives such strength as the idea of Monism.
- Despondency is not religion, whatever else it may be. By being pleasant always and smiling, it takes you nearer to God, nearer than any prayer.
- Any new discovery of truth does not contradict the past truth but fits into it.
- Our King Janaka tilled the soil with his own hands, and he was also the greatest of the knowers of Truth, of his time.
- Not believing in the glory of our own soul is what the Vedanta calls atheism.
- You are the makers of your own fortunes. You make yourselves suffer, you make good and evil, and it is you who put your hands before your eyes and say it is dark. Take your hands away and see the light.
- The senses cheat you day and night. Vedanta found that out ages ago, modern science is just discovering the same fact.
- It will not do merely to listen to great principles. You must apply them in the practical field, turn them into constant practice.
- Of Gyan and Bhakti, he who advocates one and denounces the other cannot be either a Jnanin or a Bhakta, but he is a thief and a cheat.
- While real perfection is only one, relative perfections must be many.
- The wind of grace of the Lord is blowing on, for ever and ever. Do you spread your sail.
- Practice is absolutely necessary. You may sit down and listen to me by the hour every day, but if you do not practice, you will not get one step further.
- So long as the ‘skin sky’ surrounds man, that is, so long as he identifies himself with his body, he cannot see God.
- Men worship Incarnations such as Christ or Buddha. They are the most perfect manifestations of the eternal Self. They are much higher than all the conceptions of God that you or I can make.
- The happiest moments we ever know are when we entirely forget ourselves.
- Books cannot teach God, but they can destroy ignorance; their action is negative.
- The monk is the religious expert, having made religion his one métier of life. He is the soldier of God.
- I do not believe in a God who cannot give me bread here, giving me eternal bliss in heaven !
- The first thing to be got rid of by him who would be a Gyanani, is fear.
- Brahman, this Reality, is unknown and unknowable, not in the sense of the agnostic, but because to know Him would be a blasphemy, because you are He already.
- Where do you find the Indian Society standing still ? It is always on the move. Sometimes, as in the times of foreign invasions, the movement has been slow, at other times quicker. This is what I say to my countrymen, I do not condemn them. I look into their past. I find that under the circumstances no nation could do more glorious work. I tell them that they have done well. I only ask them to do better.
- Our ideal is the Brahmin of spiritual culture and renunciation. By the Brahmin ideal Brahminness in which worldliness is altogether absent and true wisdom is abundantly present. That is the ideal of the Hindu race.
- Buddha was a working Gynani, Christ was a Bhakta, but the same goal was reached by them.
- Maya is eternal both-ways, taken universally, as genus; but it is not-eternal individually.
- Renunciation is the real beginning of religion. Nowadays it is very hard even to talk of renunciation. It was said of me in America that I was a man who came out of a land that had been dead and buried for five thousand years, and talked of renunciation. So says perhaps the English philosopher. Yet it is true that is the only path to religion. Renounce and give up.
- It is impossible to find God outside of ourselves. We are the greatest temple.
- Worship of God, worship of the holy ones, concentration and meditation, and unselfish work, these are the ways of breaking away from Maya’s net; but we must first have the strong desire to get free.
- Wisdom can be practiced even on a battlefield. The Gita was preached so.
- To think there is any imperfection creates it. Thoughts of strength and perfection alone can cure it.
- Where is fate, and who is fate? We reap what we sow. We are the makers of our own fate. None else has the blame, none has the praise. We make our own destiny.
- Those that want to help mankind must take their own pleasure and pain, name and fame, and all sorts of interests, and make a bundle of them and throw them into the sea, and then come to the Lord. That is what all the masters said and did.
- The finer the organism, the higher the culture – greater is the power to enjoy pleasure, and the sharper are the pangs of pain.
- With us, the prominent idea is Mukti; with the Westerners it is Dharma. What we desire is – Mukti; what they want is – Dharma. Dharma is that which makes man seek for happiness in this world or the next.
- They had hundreds of Rishis in ancient India. We will have millions – we are going to have, and the sooner everyone of you believes in this, the better for India and the better for the world. Whatever you believe, that you will be.
- The greatest men in the world have passed away unknown. Silently they live and silently they pass away; and in time their thoughts find expression in Buddhas or Christs, and it is these latter that become known to us.
- Better be ready to live in rags with Christ than to live in palaces without him.
- Vedanta says, ‘We are free and not free at the same time.’ That means that we are never free on the earthly plane, but ever free on the spiritual side.
- In our country, the imparting of knowledge has always been through men of renunciation. India had all good prospects so long as tyagis (men of renunciation) used to impart knowledge.
- Creation is infinite, without beginning and without end, the ever moving ripple in an infinite lake.
- Monism and Dualism are essentially the same. The difference consists in the expression. Dualism is in nature, in manifestation and Monism is pure spirituality in the essence.
- The reconciliation of the different paths of Dharma and work without desire or attachment – these are the two special characteristics of the Gita.
- The personal God is the highest reading that can be attained to, of the impersonal, by the human intellect.
- The teachings of Krishna as taught by the Gita are the grandest the world has ever known. He who wrote that wonderful poem was one of those rare souls whose lives send a wave of regeneration through the world.
- The living secrets must be handed down from Guru to disciple, in every science, much more so in religion.
- Jesus Christ was a Jew, and Shakya Muni was a Hindu. The Jews rejected Jesus Christ, nay crucified him, and the Hindus have accepted Shakya Muni as God and worship him.
vivekanand and youth – How India Can Conquer The World
One wants to lose the individual in the universal, one renounces, flies off, and tries to cut himself off from all associations of the body, of the past, one works hard to forget even that he is a man; yet, in the heart of his heart, there is a soft sound, one string vibrating, one whisper, which tells him, East or West, home is best. Citizens of the capital of this Empire, before you I stand, not as a Sannyasin, no, not even as a preacher, but I come before you the same Calcutta boy to talk to you as I used to do. Aye, I would like to sit in the dust of the streets of this city, and, with the freedom of childhood, open my mind to you, my brothers. Accept, therefore, my heartfelt thanks for this unique word that you used, “Brother”. Yes, I am your brother, and you are my brothers. I was asked by an English friend on the eve of my departure, “Swami, how do you like now your motherland after four years’ experience of the luxurious, glorious, powerful West?” I could only answer, “India I loves before I came away, now the very air is now to me holy, it is now the holy to me, the very air is now to me holy, it is now the holy land, the place of pilgrimage, the Tirtha.” Citizens of Calcutta – my brothers – I cannot express my gratitude to you for the kindness you have shown, or rather I should not thank you at all, for you are my brothers, you have done only a brother’s duty, aye, only a Hindu brother’s duty for such family ties, such relationships, such love, exist nowhere beyond the bounds of this motherland of ours.
The Parliament of Religions was a great affair, no doubt. From various cities of this land, we have thanked the gentlemen who organized the meeting, and they deserved all our thanks for the kindness that has been shown to us, but yet allow me to construe for you the history of the Parliament of Religions. They wanted a horse, and they wanted to ride it. There were people there who wanted to make it a heathen show, but it was ordained otherwise; it could not help being so. Most of them were kind, but we have thanked them enough.
On the other hand, my mission in America was not to the Parliament of Religions. That was only something by the way, it was only an opening, an opportunity, and for that we are very thankful to the members of the Parliament; but really, our thanks are due to the great people of the United States, the American nation, the warm-hearted, hospitable, great nation of America, where more than anywhere else the feeling of brotherhood has been developed. An American meets you for five minutes on board a train, and you are his friend, and the next moment he invites you as a guest to his home, and open the secret of his whole living there. That is the character of the American race, and we highly appreciate it. Their kindness to me is past all narration, it would take me years yet to tell you how I have been treated by them, most kindly and most wonderfully. So are our thanks due to the other nation on the other side of the Atlantic. No one ever landed on English soil with more hatred in his heart for a race than I did for the English, and on this platform are present English friends, who can bear witness to the fact; but the more I lived among them, and saw how the machine was working – the English national life – and mixed with them, I found where the heartbeat of the nation was, and the more I loved them. There is none among you here present, my brothers, who loves the English people more than I do now. You have to see what is going on there, and you have to mix with them. As the philosophy, our national philosophy of the Vedanta, has summarized all misfortune, all misery, as coming from that one cause, ignorance, herein also we must understand that the difficulties that arise between us and the English people are mostly due to that ignorance; we do not know them, they do not know us. Unfortunately, to the Western mind, spirit uality, nay, even morality, is eternally connected with worldly prosperity, and as soon as an Englishman or any other Western man, lands on our soil, and finds a land of poverty and of misery, he forthwith concludes, that there cannot be any morality even. His own experience is true. In Europe, owing to the inclemency of the climate and many other circumstances, poverty and sin go together, but not so in India. In India, on the other hand, my experience is, that the poorer the man the better he is in point of morality. Now this takes time to understand, and how many foreign people are there who will stop to understand this, the very secret of national existence in India? Few are there who will have the patience to study the nation and understand. Here and here alone, is the only race where poverty does not mean crime, poverty does not mean sin, and here is the only race where not only poverty does not mean crime, but poverty has been deified, and the beggar’s garb is the garb of the highest in the land. On the other hand, we have also similarly, patiently to study the social institutions of the West, and not rush into mad judgments about them. Their intermingling of the sexes, their different customs, their manners, have ll their meaning, have all their grand sides, if you have the patience to study them. Not that I mean that we are going to borrow their manners and customs, not that they are going to borrow ours, for the manners and customs of each race are the outcome of centuries of patient growth in that race and each one has a deep meaning behind it, and therefore neither are they to ridicule our manners and customs, nor we theirs.
Again, I want to make another statement before this assembly. My work in England has been more satisfactory to me than my work in America. The bold, brave, and steady Englishman, if I may use the expression, with his skull a little thicker than those of other people – if he has once an idea put into his brain, it never comes out, and the immense practicality and energy of race makes it sprout up and immediately bear fruit. It is not so in any other country. That immense practicality, that immense vitality of the race, you do not see anywhere else. There is less of imagination, but more of work, and who knows the well-spring, the mainspring of the English heart? How much of imagination and of feeling is there ! they are a nation of heroes, they are the true Kshatriyas their education is to hide their feelings and never to show them. From their childhood they have been educated up to that. Seldom will you find an Englishman manifesting feeling, nay, even an Englishwoman. I have seen Englishwomen go to work and do deeds which would stagger the bravest of Bengalis to follow. But of the fighter, there is a deep spring of feeling in the English heart. If you once know how to reach it, if you get there, if you have personal contact and mix with him, he will open his heart, he is your friend for ever, he is your servant. Therefore in my opinion, my work in England has been more satisfactory than anywhere else, I firmly believe that if I should die tomorrow, the work in England would not die, but would go on expanding all the time.
Brothers, you have touched another chord in my heart, the deepest of all, and that is the mention of my teacher, my master, my hero, my ideal, my God in life – Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. If there has been any thing achieved by me, by thoughts, or words, or deeds, if from my lips has ever fallen one word that has helped any one in the world, I lay no claim to it, it was his. But if there have been curses falling from my lips, if there has been hatred coming out of me, it is all mine and not his. All that has been weak has been mine, and all that has been life-giving, strengthening, pure, and holy, has been his inspiration, his words, and he himself. Yes, my friends, the world has yet to know that man. We read in the history of the world, about prophets and their lives, and these come down to us through centuries of writings and working by their disciples. Through thousands of years of chiseling and modeling, the lives of the great prophets of yore come down to us; and yet, in my opinion, not one stands so high in brilliance as that life which I saw with my own eyes, under whose shadow I have lived, at whose feet I have learnt everything – the life of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Aye, friends, you all know the celebrated saying of the Gita.
यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत |
अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् ||
परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुषत्क्रुताम् |
धर्मसंस्थापनाथयि संभवामि युगे युगे |
“Whenever, O descendant of Bharata, there is decline of Dharma, and rise of Adharma, then I body My self forth. For the protection of the god, for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of Dharma, I come into being in every age.”
Along with it you have to understand one thing more. Such a thing is before us today. Before one of these tidal waves of spirituality comes, there are whirlpools of lesser manifestation all over society. One of these comes up, at first unknown, unperceived, and un-thought of, assuming proportion, swallowing, as it were, and assimilating all the other little whirlpools, becoming immense, becoming a tidal wave, and falling upon society with a power which none can resist. Such is happening before us. If you have eyes you will see it. If your heart is open you will receive it. If you are truth seekers you will find it. Blind, blind indeed is the man who does not see the signs of the day! Aye, this boy born of poor Brahmin parents in an out-of-the-way village, of which very few of you have even heard, is literally being worshipped in lands which have been fulminating against heathen worship for centuries. Whose power is it? It is mine, or yours? It is none else than the power which was manifested here as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. For, you and I, and sages and prophets, nay, even incarnations, the whole universe, are but manifestations of power more or less individualized, more or less concentrated. Here has been a manifestation of an immense power, just the very beginning of whose workings we are seeing, and before this generation passes away, you will see more wonderful workings of that power. It has come just in time for the regeneration of India, for we forget from time to time the vital power that must always work in India.
Each nation has its own peculiar method of work Some work through politics, some through social reforms, some through other lines. With us, religion is the only ground along which we can move. The Englishman can understand religion even through politics. Perhaps, the American can understand religion even through social reforms. But the Hindu can understand even politics when it is given through religion; sociology must come through religion, everything must come through religion. For that is the theme, the rest are the vibrations in then national life-music. And that was in danger. It seemed that we were going to change this theme in our national life, that we were going to exchange the back-bone of our existence, as it were, that we were trying replace a spiritual by a political backbone. And if we could have succeeded, the result would have been annihilation. But it was not to be. So this power became manifest. I do not care in what light you understand this great sage, it matters not how much respect you pay to him, but I challenge you face to face with the fact, that here is a manifestation of the most marvelous power that has been for several centuries in India, and it is your duty, as Hindus, to study this power, to find what has been done for the regeneration, for the good of India, and for the good of the whole human race through it. Aye, long before ideas of universal religion and brotherly feeling between different sects were mooted and discussed in any country in the world, here, in sight of this city, had been living a man whose whole life was a Parliament of Religions, as it should be.
The highest ideal in our Scriptures is the Impersonal, and would to God everyone of us here were high enough to realize that Impersonal ideal; but, as that cannot be, it is absolutely necessary for the vast majority of human beings to have a Personal ideal; and no nation can rise, can become great, can work at all, without enthusiastically coming under the banner of one of these great ideals in life. Political ideals, personages representing political ideals, even social ideals, commercial ideals, would have no power in India. We want spiritual ideals before us, we want enthusiastically to gather round grand spiritual names. Our heroes must be spiritual. Such a hero has been given to us in the person of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. If this nation wants to rise, take my word for it, it willhave to rally enthusiastically round this name. it does not matter who preaches Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, whether I, or you, or anybody else. But him I place before you, and it is for you to judge, and for the good of our race, for the good of our nation, to judge now, what you shall do with this great ideal of life. One thing we are to remember, that it was the purest of all lives that you have ever seen, or let me tell you distinctly, that you have ever read of. And before you is the fact that it is the most marvelous manifestation of Soul-power that you can read of, much less expect to see. Within ten years of his passing away, this power has encircled the globe; that fact is before you. In duty bound therefore for the good of our race, for the good of our religion, I place this great spiritual ideal before you. Judge him not through me. I am only a weak instrument. Let not his character be judged by seeing me. It was so great that if I, or any other of his disciples spent hundreds of lives, we could not do justice to a millionth part of what he really was. Judge for your selves; in the heart of your hearts is the Eternal Witness, and may He, the same Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, for the good of our nation, for the welfare of our country, and for the good of humanity, open your hearts, make you true and steady to work for the immense change which must come, whether we exert ourselves or not. For, the work of the Lord does not wait for the likes of you or me. He can raise His workers from the dust by hundreds and by thousands. It is a glory and a privilege that we are allowed to work at all under Him.
From this the idea expands. As you have pointed out to me, we have to conquer the world. That we have to! India must conquer the world, and nothing less than that is my ideal. It may be very big, it may astonish many of you, but it is so. We must conquer the world or die. There is no other alternative. The sign of life is expansion; we must go out, expand, show life, or degrade, fester, and die. There is no other alternative. Take either of these, either live or die. Now, we all know about the petty jealousies and quarrels that we have in our country. Take my word, it is the same everywhere. The other nations with their political lives have foreign policies. When they find too much quarreling at home, they look for somebody abroad to quarrel with, and the quarrel at home stops. We have there quarrels, without any foreign policy to stop them. This must be our eternal foreign policy, preaching the truths of our Shastras to the nations of the world. I ask you who are politically-minded, do you require any other proof that this will unite us as a race? This very assembly is a sufficient witness. Secondly, apart from these selfish considerations, there are the unselfish, the noble, the living examples behind us. One of the great causes of India’s misery and downfall has been that she narrowed herself, went into her shell, as the oyster does, and refused to give her jewels and her treasures to the other races of mankind, refused to give the life-giving truths to thirsting nations outside the Aryan fold. That has been the one great cause, that we did not fold. That has been the one great cause, that we did not go out, that we did not compare notes with other nations – that has been the one great cause of our downfall and every one o f you knows that that little stir, the little life that you see in India, begins from the day when Raja Rammohan Roy broke through the walls of that’s exclusiveness. Since that day, history in India has taken another turn, and now it is growing with accelerated motion. If we have had little rivulets in the past, deluges are coming, and none can resist them. Therefore we must go out, and the secret of life is to give and take. Are we to take always, to sit at the feet of the Westerners to learn everything, even religion? We can learn mechanism from them. We can learn many other things. But we have to teach them something, and that is our religion, that is our spirituality. For a complete civilisastion, of India, waiting for the marvelous spiritual inheritance of the race, which, through decades of degradation and misery, the nation has still clutched to her breast. The world is waiting for that treasure; little do you know how much of hunger and of thirst three is outside of India for these wonderful treasure of our forefathers. We talk here, we quarrel with each other, we laugh at and we ridicule everything sacred, till it has become almost a national vice to ridicule everything holy. Little do we understand the heart-pangs of millions waiting outside the walls. Stretching forth their hands for a little
Vivekanand and youth – Its Application To Indian Life
Vedanta In Its Application To Indian Life
There is a word which has become very common as an appellation of our race and our Religion. The word “Hindu” requires a little explanation in connection with what I mean by Vedantism. This word “Hindu” was the name that the ancient Persians used to apply to the river Sindhu. Whenever in Sanskrit there is an “S,” in ancient Persian it changes into “H,” so that “Sindhu” became “Hindu”; and you are all aware how the Greeks found it hard to pronounce “H” and dropped it altogether, so that we became known as Indians. Now this word “Hindu” as applied to the inhabitants of the other side ancient times, has lost all its force in modern times; for all the people that live on this side of the Indus no longer belong to on e religion. There are the Hindus proper, the Mohammedans, the Parsees, the Christians, the Buddhists and Jains. The word “Hindu” in its literal sense ought to include all these; but as signifying the Religion, it would not be proper to call all these Hindus. It is very hard, therefore, to find any common name for our Religion, seeing that this Religion is a collection, so to speak, of various religions, of various ideas, of various ceremonials, and forms, all gathered together almost without a name, and without a church, and without an organization. The only point where, perhaps, all our sects agree is that we all believe in the Scriptures – the Vedas. This perhaps is certain, that no man can have a right to be called a Hindu who does not admit the supreme authority of the Vedas. All these Vedas, as you are aware, are divided into two portions – the Karma Kanda and the Gnana Kanda. The Karma Kanda includes various sacrifices and ceremonials, of which the larger part has fallen into disuse in the present age. The Gnana Kanda, as embodying the spiritual teachings of the Vedas known as the Upanishads and the Vedanta, has always been cited as the highest authority by all our teachers, philosophers, and writers, whether Dualist, or Qualified Monist, or Monist. Whatever be his philosophy or sect, everyone in India has to find his authority in the Upanishads. If he cannot, his sect would be heterodox. Therefore, perhaps the one name in modern times which would designate every Hindu throughout the land would be “Vedantist” or “Vaidika” as you may put it; and in that sense I always use the words “Vedantism” and “Vedanta”. I want to make it a little clearer, for of late it has become the custom of most people to identify the word Vedanta with the Advaitic system of the Vedanta philosophy. We all know that Advaitism is only one branch of the various philosophic systems that have been founded on the Upanishads. The followers of the Vishishtadvaitic system as much reverence for the Upanishads as the followers of the Advaita, and the Vishishtadvaitists claim as much authority for the Vedanta as the Advaitist. So do the Dualists; so does every other sect in India; but the word Vedantist has become somewhat identified in the popular mind with the word Advaitist, and perhaps with some reason, because, although we have the Vedas for our Scriptures, we have Smritis and Puranas – subsequent writings – to illustrate the doctrines of the Vedas; these of course have not the same weith as the Vedas. And the law is, that wherever these Puranas and Smritis differ from anypart of the Shruti, and Shruti must be followed and the Smriti rejected. Now in the expositions of the great Advaitic philosopher Shankara, and the school founded by him, we find most of the authorities cited are from the Upanishads, very rarely is an authority cited from the Smritis, except, perhaps, to elucidate a point which could harldly be found in the Shrutis. On the other hand, other schools take refuge more and more in the Smritis and less and less in the Shrutis, and as we go to the more and more Dualistic sects we find a proportionate quantity of the Smritis quoted, which is out of all proportion to what we should expect from a Vedantist. It is perhaps because these gave such predominance to the Pauranika authorities, that the Advaitist came to be considered as the Vedantist par excellence, if I may say so.
However it might have been, the word Vedanta must cover the whole ground of Indian religious life, and being part of the Vedas, by all acceptance it is the most ancient literature that we have; for whatever might most ancient literature that we have; for whatever might be the idea of modern scholars, the Hindus are not ready to admit that parts of the Vedas were written at one time and parts were written at another time. They of course still hold on to their belief that the Vedas as a whole were produced at the same time, rather if I may say so, that they were never produced, but that they always existed in the mind of the Lord. This is what I mean by the word Vedanta, that it covers the ground of Dualism, of Qualified Monism, and Advaitism in India. Perhaps we may even take in parts of Buddhism, and of Jainism too, if they would come in – for our hearts are sufficiently large. But it is they that will not come in; we are ready; for upon severe analysis you will always find that the essence of Buddhism was all borrowed from the same Upanishads; even the ethics, the so-called great and wonderful ethics of Buddhism, were there word for word, in some one or other of the Upanishads, and so all the good doctrines of the Jain were there, minus their vagaries. In the Upanishads, also, we find the germs of all the subsequent development of Indian religious thought. Sometimes it has been urged without any ground whatsoever, that there is no ideal of Bhakti in the Upanishads. Those that have been students of the Upanishads know that that is not true at all. There is enough of Bhakti in every Upanishad, if you will only seek for it; but many of these ideas which are found so fully developed in later times in the Puranas and other Smritis are only in the germ in the Upanishads. The sketch, the skeleton, was there. As it were. It was filled in in some of the Puranas. But there is not one full-grown Indian ideal that cannot be traced back to the same source – the Upanishads. Certain ludicrous attempts have been made by persons without much Upanishadic scholarship to trace Bhakti to some foreign source; but as you know, these have all been proved to be failures, and all that you want to Bhakti is there, even in the Samhita, portion, now and then, you find traces of a religion of fear and tribulation; in the Samhitas now and then you find a worshiper quaking before a Varuna, or some other god. now and then you will find they are very much tortured by the idea of sin, but the Upanishads have no place for the delineation of these things. There is no religion of fear in the Upanishads; it is one of Love, and one of Knowledge.
These Upanishads are our Scriptures. They have been differently explained, and, as I have told you already, whenever there is a difference between subsequent Pauranika literature and the Vedas, the Puranas must give way. But it is at the same time true that as a practical result we find ourselves ninety per cent Pauranika and ten per cent Vaidika, even if so much as that. And we all find the most contradictory usages prevailing in our midst, and also religious opinions prevailing in our society, which scarcely have any authority in the Scriptures of the Hindus; and in many cases, we read in books and see with astonishment, customs of the country that neither have their authority in the Vedas, nor in the Smritis or Puranas, but are simply local; and yet each ignorant villager thinks that if that little local custom dies out, he will no more remain a Hindu. In his mind Vedantism and these little local customs have been indissolubly identified. In reading the Scriptures it is hard for him to understand, that what he is doing has not the sanction of the Scirptures, and that the giving up of them will not hurt him at all, but on the other hand will make him a better man. Secondly, there is the other difficulty. These Scriptures of ours have been very vast. We read in the Mahabhashya of Patanjali, that great philological work, that the Sama Veda had one thousand branches. Where are they all? Nobody knows. So with each of the Vedas; the major portion of these books has disappeared, and it is only the minor portion that remains to us. They were all taken charge of by particular families; and either these families died out or were killed under foreign persecution, or somehow became extinct; and with them, that branch of the learning of the Vedas they took charge of, became extinct also. This fact we ought to remember, as it always forms the sheet-anchor in the hands of those who want to preach anything new, or to defend anything, even against the Vedas. Wherever in India there is a discussion between local custom and the Shrutis, and whenever it is pointed out that the local custom is against the Scriptures, the argument that is forwarded is, that it is not, that the custom existed in the branch of the Shrutis which has become extinct and so has been a recognized one. In the midst of all these varying methods of reading and commenting n our Scriptures, it is very difficult indeed to find the thread that runs through all of them; for we become convinced at once that there must be some common ground underlying all these varying divisions and subdivisions; there must be harmony, a common plan, upon which all these little bits of buildings have been constructed, some basis common to this apparently hopeless mass of confusion which we call our religion. Otherwise it could not have stood so long, it could not have endured so long.
Coming to our commentators again, we find another difficulty. The Advaitic commentator, whenever an Advaitic text comes, preserves it just as it is; but the same commentator, as soon as a Dualistic text presents itself, tortures it if he can, and brings the most queer meaning out of it. Sometimes the “Unborn” is explained as “Aja” a she-goat. In the same way, if not in a still worse fashion, the texts are handled by the Dualistic commentator. Every Dualistic text is preserved, and every text that speaks of non-dualistic philosophy, is tortured in any fashion he likes. This Sanskrit language is so intricate, the Sanskrit of the Vedas is so ancient, and the Sanskrit philology so perfect that any amount of discussion can be carried on for ages in regard to the meaning of one word. If a Pandit takes it into his head, he can render anybody’s prattle into correct Sanskrit by force of argument and quotation of texts and rules. These are the difficulties in our way of understanding the Upanishads. It was given to me to live with a man who was as ardent a Dualist, as ardent an Advaitist, as ardent a Bhakta, as a Gnani. And living with this man first put it into my head to understand the Upanishads and the texts of the Scriptures from an independent and better basis than by blindly following the commentators; and in my opinion, and in my researches I came to the conclusion, that these texts are not at all contradictory. So we need have no fear pf text are not at all contradictory. So we need have no fear of text-torturing at all! The texts are beautiful, aye, they are most wonderful, and they are not contradictory, but wonderfully harmonious, one idea leading up to the other. But the one fact I found is, that in all the Upanishads, they begin with Dualistic ideas, with worship and all that, and end with a grand flourish of Advaitic ideas.
Therefore, I now find, in the light of this man’s life, that the Dualist and the Advaitist need not fight each other; each has a place, and a great place in the national life; the Dualist must remain, for he is as much part and parcel of the national religious life as the Advaitist; now cannot exist without the other; one is the fulfillment of the other; one is the building, the other is the top; the one the root, the other the fruit, and so on. Therefore, any attempt to torture the texts of the Upanishads appears to me very ridiculous. I begin to find out that the language is wonderful; apart from all its merits as the greatest philosophy, apart from its wonderful merit as theology, as showing the path of salvation to mankind, the Upanishadic literature is the most wonderful painting of sublimity that the world has. Here comes out in full force that individuality of the human mind, that introspective, intuitive Hindu mind. We have paintings of sublimity elsewhere in all nations, but almost without exception, you will find that their ideal is to grasp the sublime in the muscles. Take for instance, Milton, Dante, Homer or any of the Western poets. There are wonderfully sublime passages in them; but there, it is always a grasping at infinity through the senses, the muscles, getting the ideal of infinite expansion, the infinite of space. We find the same attempts made in the Samhita portion. You know some of those wonderful Riks, where creation is described; the very heights of expression of the sublime in expansion, and the infinite in space are attained; but they found out very soon that the Infinite cannot be reached in that way, that even infinite space and expansion, and infinite external nature could not express the ideas that were struggling to find expression in their minds, and so they fell back upon other explanations. The language became new in the Upanishads; it is almost negative, it is sometimes chaotic, sometimes taking you beyond the senses, pointing out to you something which you cannot grasp, which you cannot sense, and at the same time you feel certain that it is there. What passage in the world can compare with this? – न तत्र सूर्यो भाति न चन्द्रतारकं नेमा विधुतो भग्नि कुतोडयभग्नि: “There the sun cannot illumine, nor the moon, nor the stars, the flash of lightning cannot illumine the place, what to speak of this mortal fire.” Again, where can you find a more perfect expression of the whole philosophy of the world, the gist of what the Hindus ever thought, the whole dream of human salvation, painted in language more wonderful, in figures more marvelous than this? –
द्वा सुपर्णा सयुजा सखाया समानं वृक्षं परिषस्वजाते |
तयोरन्यः पिप्पलं खाद्वत्त्यनशनंन्नन्योडभिचाकशीति ||
समाने वृक्षे पुरुषो निमग्नोडनीशया शोचति मुह्यमान: |
जुष्टं यदा पश्यत्यन्यमीशमस्य महिमानमिति वोतशोक: ||
- Upon the same tree there are two birds of beautiful plumage, most friendly to each other, one eating the fruits, the other sitting there calm and silent without eating; the one on the lower branch eating sweet and bitter fruits in turn and becoming happy and unhappy, but the other one on the top, calm and majestic; he eats neither sweet nor bitter fruits, cares neither for happiness nor misery, immersed in his own glory. This is the picture of the human soul. Man is eating the sweet and bitter fruits of this life, pursuing gold, pursuing his senses, pursuing the vanities of life, hopelessly, madly careering he goes. In other place the Upanishads have compared the human soul to the charioteer, and the senses to the mad horses unrestrained. Such is the career of men pursuing the vanities of life children dreaming golden dreams only to find that they are but vain, and old men chewing the cud of their past deeds, and yet not knowing how to get out of this network. This is the world. Yet in the life of everyone there come golden moments; in the midst of the deepest sorrows, nay, of the deepest joys there come moments when a part of the clouds that hides the sunlight moves away, as it were, and we catch a glimpse, in spite of ourselves, of something beyond – away, away beyond the life of the senses; away, away beyond its vanities, its joys and its sorrows; away, away beyond nature, or our imaginations of happiness here or hereafter; away beyond all thirst for gold, or for fame, or for name, or for posterity. Man stops for a moment at this glimpse, and sees the other bird calm and majestic, eating neither sweet nor bitter fruits, but immersed in his own glory, self-content, self-satisfied. A the Gita says – यस्वत्वात्मरतिरेव स्यादात्मतृप्तश्च मानवः | आत्मन्येव च संतुष्टस्तस्य कार्यं न विघते || “He whose devotion is to the Atman, he who does not want anything beyond the Atman, he who has become satisfied in the Atman, what work is there for him to do?” Why should he drudge? Man catches a glimpse, then again he forgets and goes on eating the sweet and bitter fruits of life, perhaps after a time he catches another glimpse, and the lower bird goes nearer and nearer to the higher bird as blows after blows are received; if he be fortunate to receive hard knocks, then he comes nearer and nearer to his companion, the other bird, his life, his friend; and as he approaches him he finds that the light from the higher bird is playing round his own plumage, and as he comes nearer and nearer, lo ! the transformation is going on. The nearer and nearer he comes, he finds himself melting away, as it were, until he has entirely disappeared. He did not really exist; it was but the reflection of the other bird, who was there calm and majestic amidst the moving leaves. It was all his glory, that upper bird’s. He then becomes fearless, perfectly satisfied, calmly serene. In this figure, the Upanishads take you from the Dualistic to the utmost Advaitic conception.
Endless examples can be cited, but we have no time in this lecture to do that or to show the marvelous poetry of the Upanishads, the painting of the sublime, the grand conceptions. But one other idea I must note, that the language and the thought and everything come direct, they fall upon you like a sword-blade, strong as the blows of a hammer they come. There is no mistaking their meanings. Every tone of that music is firm and produces its full effect; no gyrations, no mad words, no intricacies in which the brain is lost. No signs of degradation are there – no attempts at too much allegorizing, too much piling of adjectives after adjectives, making it more and more intricate, till the whole of the sense is lost, and the brain becomes giddy, and man does not know his way out from the maze of that literature. There was none of that yet. If it be human literature, it must be the production of a race which had not yet lost any of its national vigour.
Strength, strength is what the Upanishads speak to me from every page. This is the one great thing to remember; it has been the one great lesson I have been taught in my life; strength, it says, strength, O man, be not weak. Are there no human weaknesses? – says man. There are, say the Upanishads, but will more weakness heal them, would you try to wash dirt with dirt? Will sin cure sin, weakness cure weakness? Strength, O man, strength, say the Upanishads, stand up and be strong; aye, it is the only literature in the world where you find the word, “Abhih,” “fearless,” used again and again; in no other scripture in the world is this adjective applied either to God or to man. “Abhih,” “fearless!” And in my mind rises from the past, the vision of the great Emperor of the West, Alexander the Great, and I see, as it were in a picture, the great monarch standing on the banks of the Indus, talking to one of our Sannyasins in the forest; the old man he was talking to, perhaps naked, stark naked, sitting upon a block of stone, and the Emperor astonished at his wisdom, tempting him with gold and honour, to come over to Greece. And this man smiles at his gold, and smiles at his temptations, and refuses, and then the Emperor standing on his authority as an Emperor, says, “I will kill you, if you do not come,” and the man bursts into a laugh, and says, tell just now. Who can kill me? Me you kill, Emperor of the material world ! Never ! For I am Spirit unborn and undecaying, never was I born and never do I die, I am the Infinite, the Omnipresent, the Omniscient; and you kill me, child that you are !” That is strength, that is strength ! And the more I read the Upanishads, my friends, my countrymen the more I weep for you, for therein is the great practical application. Strength, strength for us. What we need is strength, who will give us strength? There are thousands to weaken us, and of stories we have had enough. Every one of our Puranas if you press it, gives out stories enough to fill t here-fourths of the libraries of the world. Everything that can weaken us as a race we have had for the last thousand years. It seems as if during that period the national and weaker, till we have become real earth-worms, crawling at the feet of every one who dares to put his foot on us. Therefore, my friends, as one of your blood, as one that lives and dies with you, let me tell you that we want strength, strength, and every time strength. And the Upanishads are the great mine of strength. Therein lies strength enough to invigorate the whole world; the whole world can be vivified, made strong, energized through them. They will call with trumpet voice upon the weak, the miserable, and the downtrodden of all races, all creeds, and all sects, to stand on their feet and be free; freedom, physical freedom, mental freedom, and spiritual freedom are the watch words of the Upanishads.
Aye, this is the one Scripture in the world, of all others, that does not talk of salvation, but of freedom. Be free from the bonds of nature, be free from weakness! And it shows to you that you have this freedom already in you. that is another peculiarity of its teachings. You are a Dvaitist; never mind, you have got to admit that by its very nature the soul is perfect; only by certain actions of the soul has it become contracted. In-deed, Ramanuja’s theory of contraction and expansion is exactly what the modern evolutionists call Evolution and Atavism. The soul goes back, becomes contracted, as it were, its powers become potential, and by good deeds and good thoughts it expands again and reveals its natural perfection. With the Advaitist the one difference is, that he admits evolution in nature and not in the soul. Suppose there is a screen, and there is a small hole in the screen. I am a man standing behind the screen and looking at this grand assembly. I can only see very few faces here. Suppose the hole increases; as it increases, more and more of this assembly is revealed to me, and in full when the hole has become identified with the screen. There is nothing between you and me in this case; neither you changed nor I changed; all the change was in the screen. You were the same from first to last; only the screen changed. This is the Advaitist’s position with regard to Evolution – evolution of nature and manifestation of the Self within. Not that the Self can by any means be made to contract. It is unchangeable, the Infinite One. It was covered, as it were, with a veil, the veil of Maya, and as this Maya veil becomes thinner and thinner, the inborn, natural glory of the Soul comes out and becomes more manifest. This is the one great doctrine which the world is waiting to learn from India. Whatever they may talk, however they may try to boast, they will find out day after day, that no society can stand without admitting this. Do you not find how everything is being revolutionized? Do you not see how it was the custom to take for granted, that everything was wicked until it proved itself good? In education, in punishing criminals, in treating lunatics, in the treatment of common disease even, that was the old law. What is the modern law? The modern law says, the body itself is healthy; it cures diseases of its own nature. Medicine can at the best but help the storing up of the best in the body. What says it of criminals? It takes for granted that however low a criminal may be, there is still the divinity within, which does not change, and we must treat criminals accordingly. All these things are now changing, and reformatories and penitentiaries are established. So with everything consciously or unconsciously, that Indian idea of the divinity within everyone is expressing itself even in other countries. And in your books is the explanation, which other actions have to accept. The treatment of one man to another will be entirely revolutionized, and these old, old ideas of pointing to the weakness of mankind will have to go. They will have received their death-blow within this century. Now people may stand up and criticize us. I have been criticized from one end of the world to the other, as one who preaches the diabolical idea that there is no sin! Very good. The descendants of these very men will bless me as the preacher of virtue, not of sin. I glory in being the preacher of light, and not of darkness.
The second great idea which the world is waiting to receive from our Upanishads is the solidarity of this universe. The old lines of demarcation and differentiation are vanishing rapidly. Electricity and steampower are placing the different parts of the world in intercommunication with each other, and, as a result, we Hindus no longer say that every country beyond our own land is peopled with demons and hobgoblins; nor do the people of Christian countries say that India is only peopled by cannibals and savages. When we go out of our country, we find the same brother-man, with the same strong hand to help, with the same lips to say godspeed, and sometimes they are better than in the country in which we are born. When they come here, they find the same brotherhood, the same cheer, the same godspeed. Our Upanishads say that the cause of all misery is ignorance; and that is perfectly true when applied to every state of life, either social or spiritual. It is ignorance that we do not know, and do not love each other, love comes, must come, for are we not one? Thus we find solidarity coming in spite of itself. Even in Politics and Sociology, problems that were only national twenty years ago can no more be solved on national grounds only. They are assuming huge pro-portions, gigantic shapes. They can only be solved when looked at in the broader light of international grounds. International organizations, international combinations, international laws are the cry of the day. That shows the solidarity. In science, every day they are coming to a similar broad view of matter. You speak of matter, the similar broad view of matter. You speak of matter, the whole universe as one mass, one ocean of matter, in which you and I, the sun and the moon, and everything else, are but the names of different little whirlpools and nothing more. Mentally speaking it is one universal ocean of thought, in which you and I are similar little whirlpools, and as spirit it moveth not, it changeth not. It is the One Unchangeable, Unbroken, Homogeneous Atman. The cry for morality is coming also, and that is to be found in our books. The explanation of morality, the fountain of ethics, that also the world wants; and that it will get here. What do we want in India? If foreigners want these things, we want them twenty times more. Because, in spite of the greatness of the Upanishads, in spite of our boasted ancestry of sages. Compared to many other races, I must tell you that we are weak very weak. First of all, is our physical weakness. That physical weakness is the cause at least of one-third of our miseries. We are lazy; we cannot work; we cannot combine; we do not love each other; we are intensely selfish; not three of us can come together without hating each other, without being jealous of each other. That is the state in which we are – hopelessly disorganized mobs, immensely selfish, fighting each other for centuries as to whether a certain mark is to be put on our forehead this way or that way; writing volumes and volumes upon such momentous questions as to whether the look of a man spoils my food or not! This we have been doing for the last few centuries. We cannot expect anything high from a race whose whole brain energy has been occupied in such wonderfully beautiful problems and researches! And are we not ashamed of ourselves? Aye, sometimes we are, but though we think these things frivolous, we cannot give them u p. we speak of many things, parrot-like, but never do them; speaking and not doing has become a habit with us. What is the cause of that? Physical weakness. This sort of weak brain is not able to do anything; we must strengthen it. First of all, our young men must be strong. Religion will come afterwards. Be strong, my young friends; that is my advice to you. you will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the Gita. These are bold words, but I have to say them, for I love you. I know where the shoe pinches. I have gained a little experience. You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger. You will understand the mighty genius and the mighty strength of Krishna better with a little of strong blood in you. you will understand the Upanishads better and the glory of the Atman, when your body stands firm upon your feet, and you feel yourselves as men. Thus we have to apply these to our needs.
People get disgusted many times at my preaching Advaitism. I do not mean to preach Advaitism, or Dvaitism, or any ism in the world. The only ism that we require now is this wonderful idea of the Soul – Its eternal might, Its eternal strength, Its eternal purity, and Its eternal perfection. If I had a child I would from its very birth begin to tell it, “Thou art the Pure One.” You have read in one of the Puranas that beautiful story of Queen Madalasa, how as soon as she has a child she puts her baby with her own hands in the cradle, and how as the cradle rocks to and fro, she begins to sing, “Thou art the Pure Ione, the Stainless, the Mighty One, the Great one.” Aye, there is much in that. Feel that you are great and you become great. What did I get as my experience all over the word, is the question. They may talk about sinners; and if all Englishmen really believed that they were sinners, Englishmen would be no better than the Negroes in Central Africa. God bless them that they do not believe it! On the other hand, the Englishman believes he is born the lord of the world. He believes he is great and can do anything in the world; if he wants to go to the sun or the moon, he believes he can, and that makes him great. If he had believed his priests that he was a poor miserable sinner, going to be barbecued through all eternity, he would not be the same Englishman that he is today. So I find in every nation that, in spite of priests and superstition, the divine within lives and asserts itself. We have lost faith. Would you believe me, we have less faith than the Englishman and woman, a thousand times less faith! These are plain words, but I say these, I cannot help it. Don’t you see how Englishmen and women, when they catch our ideals, become mad, as it were, and although they are the ruling class, they come to India to preach our own religion nothwithstanding the jeers and ridicule of their own countrymen? How many of you could do that? And why cannot you do that? Do you not know it? You know more than they do; you are more wise than is good for you, that is you difficulty! Simply because your blood is only like water, our brain is sloughing, you r body is weak! You must change the body. Physical weakness is the cause and nothing else. You have talked of reforms, of ideals, and all these things, for the past hundred years, but when it comes to practice, you are not to be found anywhere – till you have disgusted the whole world, and the very name of reform is the thing of ridicule! And what is the cause? Do you not know? You know too well. The only cause is that you are weak, weak, weak; your body is weak, your mind is weal, you have no faith in yourselves! Centuries and centuries, a thousand years of crushing tyranny of castes, and kings, and foreigners, and your own people, have taken out all your strength, my brethren! Your backbone is broken, you are like downtrodden worms! Who will give you strength? Let me tell you, strength is what we want. And the first step in getting strength is to uphold the Upanishads, ad believe – “I am the Soul”, “Me the sword cannot cut; no weapons pierce; me the fire cannot burn; me the air cannot dry; I am the Omnipotent, I am the Omniscient.” So repeat these blessed saving words. Do not say we are weak; we can do anything and everything. What can we not do, everything can be done by us; we all have the same glorious Soul, let us believe in it. Have faith, as Nachiketa. At the time of his father’s sacrifice, faith came unto Nachiketa; aye, I wish that faith would come to each of you; and every one of you would stand up a giant, a world-mover with a gigantic intellect, an infinite God in every respect. That is what I want you to become. This is the strength that you get from the Upanishads, this is the faith that you get from there.
Aye, but it was only for the Sannyasin ! Rahasys ! The Upanishads were in the hands of the Sannyasin; he went into the forest! Shankara was a little kind, and says even Grihasthas may study the Upanishads, it will do them good; it will not hurt them. But still the idea is that the Upanishads talked only of the forest life of recluse. As I told you the other day, the only commentary, the authoritative commentary on the Vedas, has been made once and for all by Him who inspired the Vedas, by Krishna in the Gita. It is there for everyone in every occupation of life. These conceptions of the Vedanta must come out, must remain not only in the forest, not only in the cave, but they must come out to work at the Bar and the Bench, in the Pulpit, and in the cottage of the poor man, with the fishermen that are catching fish, and with the students that are studying. They call to every man, woman, and child whatever be their occupation, wherever they may be; and what is there to fear! How can the fishermen and all these carry out the ideals of the Upanishads? The way has been shown. It is infinite; religion is infinite, none can go beyond it; and whatever you do sincerely, is good for you. Even the least thing well done brings marvelous results; therefore let everyone do what little he can. If the fisherman thinks that he is the Spirit, he will be a better fisherman. If the student thinks he is the Spirit, he will be a better student. If the lawyer thinks that he is the Spirit, he will be a better lawyer, and so on, and the result will be that the castes will remain for ever. It is in the nature of society to form itself into groups; and what will go will be these privileges ! Caste is a natural order. I can perform one duty in social life, and you another; you can govern a country, and I can mend a pair of old shoes, but that is no reason why you are greater than I, for can you mend my shoes? Can I govern the country? I am clever in mending shoes, you are clever in reading Vedas, but that is no reason why you should trample on my head; why if one commits murder should he be praised, and if another steals an apple why should he be hanged! This will have to go. Caste is good. This is the only natural way of solving life. Men must form themselves into groups, and you cannot get rid of that. Wherever you go there will be caste. But that does not mean that there should be these privileges. They should be knocked on the head. If you teach Vedanta to the fisherman, he will say, I am as good a man as you, I am a fisherman, you are a philosopher, but I have the same God in me, as you have in you. and that is what we want, no privilege for any one, equal chances for all; let everyone be taught that the divine is within and everyone will work out his own salvation.
Liberty is the first condition of growth. It is wrong, a thousand times wrong, if any of you dares to say, “I will work out the salvation of this woman or child.” I am asked again and again, what I think of the widow problem and what I think of the woman question. Let me answer once for all – am I a widow that you ask me that nonsense? Am I a woman, that you ask me that question again and again? Who are you to solve women’s problems? Are you the Lord God that you should rule over every widow and every woman? Hands off! They will solve their own problems. Oh tyrants, attempting to think that you can do anything for any one! Hand off! The Divine will look after all. Who are you to assume that you know everything? How dare you think, O blasphemers, that you have the right over God? for don’t you know that every soul is the Soul of God? mind your own Karma, a load of Karma is there in you to work out. Your nation may put you upon a pedestal, your society may cheer you up to the skies, and fools may praise you; but He sleeps not, and retribution will be sure to follow, here or hereafter.
Look upon every man, woman and everyone as God. you cannot help anyone; you can only serve : serve the children of the Lord, serve the Lord Himself, if you have the privilege. If the Lord grants that you can help any one of His children, blessed you are; do not think too much of yourselves. Blessed you are that that privilege a worship. I should see God in the poor, and it is for my salvation that I go and worship them. The poor and the miserable are for our salvation, so that we may serve the Lord, coming in the shape of the diseased, coming in the shape of the lunatic, the leper, and the sinner! Bold are my words, and let me repeat that it is the greatest privilege in our life that we are allowed to serve the Lord in all these shapes. Give up the idea that by ruling over others, you can do any good to them. But you can do just as much as you can in the case of the plant; you can supply the growing seed with the materials for the making up of its body, bringing to it the earth, the water, the air, that it wants. It will take all that it wants by its own nature, it will assimilate and grow by its own nature.
Bring all light into the world; light, bring light! Let light come unto everyone; the task will not be finished till everyone has reached the Lord. Bring light to the poor, and bring more light to the rich, for they require it more than the poor; bring light to the ignorant and more light to the educated for the vanities of the education of our time are tremendous! Thus bring light to all and leave the rest unto the Lord, for in the words of the same Lord, “To work you have the right and not to the fruits thereof.” “Let not your work product results for you, and at the same time may you never be without work.”
May He who taught such grand ideas to our forefathers ages ago, help us to get strength to carry into practice Hid commands!
vivekanand and youth – My plan of Campaign
With all my faults, I think I have a little bit of boldness. I had a message from India to the West, and boldly I gave it to the American and the English peoples. I want, before going into the subject of the day, to speak a few bold words to you all. There have been certain circumstances growing around me, tending to thwart me, oppose my progress, and crush me out of existence, if they could. Thank God they have failed, as such attempts will always fail. But there has been, for the last three years, a certain amount of misunderstanding, and so long as I was in foreign lands, I held my peace and did not even speak one word; but now, standing upon the soil of my motherland, I want to give a few words of explanation. Not that I care what the result will be of these words – not that I care what feeling I shall evoke from you by these worlds. I care very little, for I am the same Sannyasin that entered your city about four years ago with this staff and Kamandalu; the same broad world is before me. Without further preface let me begin.
First of all, I have to say a few words about the Theosophical Society. It goes without saying that a certain amount of good work has been done to India by the Society; as such, every Hindu is grateful to it, and especially to Mrs. Besant, for, though I know very little of her, yet what little I know, has impressed me with the idea that she is a sincere well-wisher of this motherland of ours, and that she is doing the best in her power to raise our country. For that, the eternal gratitude of every true-born Indian is hers, and all blessings be on her and hers for ever. But that is one thing – and joining the Society of the Theosophists is another. Regard and estimation and love are one thing, and swallowing everything any one has to say, without reasoning, without criticizing, without analyzing, is quite another. There is a report going round, that the Theosophists helped the little achievements of mine in America and in England. I have to tell you plainly that every word of it is wrong, every word o fit is untrue. We hear so much talk, in this world, of liberal ideas and sympathy with differences of opinion. That is very good, but as a fact, we find that one sympathises with another only so long as the other believes in everything he has to say, but as soon as he dares to differ, that sympathy is gone, that love vanishs. There are others, again, who have their own axes to grind, and if anything arises in a country which prevents the grinding of them, their hearts burn, any amount of hatred comes out, and they do not know what to do. What harm does it do to the Christian missionary that the Hindus are trying to cleanse their own houses? What injury will it do to the Brahmo Samaj and other reform bodies that the Hindus are trying their best to reform themselves? Why should they stand in opposition? Why should they be the greatest enemies of these movements? Why? I ask. It seems to me that their hatred and jealousy are so bitter that no why or how can be asked there.
Four years ago, when I, a poor, unknown, friendless Sannyasin was going to America, going beyond the waters of America without any introductions or friends there, I called on the leader of the Theosophical Society. Naturally I thought he being an American and a lover of India, perhaps, would give me a letter of introduction to somebody there. He asked me, “Will you join my Society?” “No,” I replied, “how can I? For I do not believe in most of your doctrines.” “Then, I am sorry, I cannot do anything for you,” he answered. That was not paving the way for me. I reached America, as you know, through the help of a few friends of Madras. Most of them are present here; only one o f absent, Mr. Justice Subramania Iyer, to whom my deepest gratitude is due. He has the insight of a genius, and is one of the staunchest friends I have in this life, a true friend indeed, a true child of India. I arrived in America several months before the Parliament of Religions began. The money I had with me was little, and it was soon spent. Winter approached and I had only thin summer clothes. I did not know what to do in that cold, dreary climate, for, if I went to beg in the streets, the result would have been that I should have been sent to jail. There I was with the last few dollars in my pocket. I sent a wire to my friends in Madras. This came to be known to the Theosophists, and one of them wrote : “Now the devil is going to die; God bless us all” Was that paving the way for me? I would not have mentioned this now, but, as my countrymen wanted to know, it must come out. For three years I have not opened my lips about these things; silence has been my motto, but today the thing has come out. That was not all. I saw some Theosophists in the Parliament of Religions, and I wanted to talk and mix with them. I remember the looks of scorn which were on their faces, as much as to day – “What business has the worm to be here in the midst of the gods?” After I had got name and fame at the Parliament of Religions, then came tremendous work for me, but at every turn the Theosophists tried to cry me down. Theosophists were advised not to come and hear my lectures, for thereby they would lose all sympathy of the Society because the laws of the esoteric section declare that any man who joins that esoteric section should receive instruction from Kuthumi and Moria, of course through their visible representatives – Mr. Judge and Mrs. Besant. So that, to join the esoteric section means to surrender one’s independence. Certainly, I could not do any such thing, nor could I call my man a Hindu who did any such thing. I had a great respect for Mr. Judge. He was a worthy man, open, fair, simple, and he was the best representative the Theosophists ever had. I have no right to criticise the dispute between him and Mrs. Besant, when each claims that his or her Mahatma is right. And the strange part of it is, that the same Mahatma is claimed by both. Lord knows the truth : He is the Judge, and no one has the right to pass judgment when the balance is equal.
Thus they prepared the way for me all over America! They joined the other opposition – the Christian missionaries. There is not one black lie imaginable that these latter did not invent against me. They blackened my character from city to city, poor and friendliness thought I was in a foreign country. They tried to oust me from every house, and to make every man who became my friend my enemy. They tried to starve me out, and I am sorry to say that one of my own countrymen took part against me in this. He is the leader of a reform party in India. This gentleman is declaring every day, “Christ has come to India.” Is this the way Christ is to come to India? Is this the way to reform India? And this gentleman I know from my childhood; he was one of my best friends; when I saw him – I had not met for a long time one of my countrymen – I was so glad, and this was the treatment I received from him. The day the Parliament cheered me, the day I became popular in Chicago, from that day his tone changed, and in an underhand way, he tried to do everything he could to injure me. Is that the way that Christ will come to India? Is that the lesson that he had learnt after sitting twenty years at the feet of Christ? Our great reforms declare that Christianity and Christian power are going to uplift the Indian people. Is that the way to do it? Surely, if that gentleman is an illustration, it does not look very hopeful.
One word more : I read in the organ of the social reformers that I am called a Shudra, and am challenged as to what right a Shudra has to become a Sannyasin. To which I reply – I trace my descent to one at whose feet every Brahmana lays flowers when he utters the words – यमाय धर्मराजाय चित्रगुप्ताय वै नमः – ad whose descendants are the purest of Kshatriyas. If you believe in your mythology, or your Pauranika Scriptures, let these so-called reformers know that my caste, apart from other services in the past, ruled half of India for centuries. If my caste is left out of consideration, what will there be left of the present-day civilization of India? In Bengal alone, my blood has furnished them with t heir greatest archaeologist, the greatest religious preachers; my blood has furnished India with the greatest of her preachers; my blood has furnished India with the greatest of her modern scientists. These detractors ought to have known a little of our own history, and to have studied our three castes, and learnt that the Brahmana, the Kshatriya, and the Vaisya have equal right to be Sannyasins; the Trivarnikas have equal right to the Vedas. This is only by the way. I just refer to this, but I am not at all hurt if they call me a Shudra. It will be a little reparation for the tyranny of my ancestors over the poor. If I am a Pariah I will be all the more glad, for I am the disciple of a man, who – the Brahmana of Brahmanas – wanted to cleanse the house of a Pariah. Of course the Pariah would not allow him, how could he let this Brahmana Sannyasin come and cleanse his house! And this man woke up in the dead of night, entered surreptitiously the house of this Pariah, cleansed his latrine, and with his long hair wiped the place, and that he did day after day in order that he might make himself the servant of all. I bear the feet of that man on my head; he is my hero; that hero’s life I will try to imitate. B y being the servant of all a Hindu seeks to uplift himself, that is how the Hindus should uplift the masses, and not by looking for any foreign influence. Twenty years of occidental civilization brings to my mind the illustration of the man who wants to starve his own friend in a foreign land, simply because this friend is popular, simply because he thinks that this man stands in the way of his making money. And the other is the illustration of what genuine, orthodox Hinduism itself will do at home. Let any one of our reformers bring out that life, ready to serve even a Pariah, and then I will sit at his feet and learn, and not before that. One ounce of practice is worth twenty thousand tons of big talk.
Now I come to the reform societies in Madras. They have been very kind to me. They have given me very kind words, and they have pointed out, and I heartily agree with them that there is a difference between the reformers of Bengal and those of Madras. Many of you will remember what I have very often told you, that Madras is in a very beautiful state just now. It has not got into the play of action and reaction as Bengal has done. Here, there is steady and slow progress all through; here is growth and not reaction. In many cases, and to a certain extent, there is a revival in Bengal, but in Madras it is not a revival, it is a growth, a natural growth. As such, I entirely agree with what the reformers point out as the difference between the two peoples; but there is one difference which they do not understand. Some of these societies, I am afraid, try to intimidate me to join them. That is a grange thing for them to attempt. A man who has met starvation face to face for fourteen years of his life, who has not known where he will get a meal the next day, and where to sleep, cannot be intimidated so easily. A man almost without clothes, who dared to live where the thermometer registered thirty degrees below zero, without knowing where the next meal was to come from, cannot be so easily intimidated in India. This is the first thing I will tell them – I have a little will of my own. I have my little experience too, and I have a message for the world which I will deliver without fear, and without care for the future. To the reformers I will point out that I am a greater reformer than any one of them. They want to reform only little bits. I want root-and-branch reform. Where we differ is in the method. There is the method of destruction, mine is that of construction. I do not believe in reform; I believe in growth. I do not dare to put myself in the position of God and dictate to our society. “This way thou shouldst move and not that.” I simply want to be like the squirrel in the building of Rama’s bridge, who was quite content to put on the bridge his little quota of sand-dust. That is my position. This wonderful national machine has worked through ages, this wonderful river of national life is flowing before us. Who knows, and who dares to say whether it is good, and how it shall move? Thousands of circumstances are crowding round it, giving it a special impulse, making it dull at one time, and quicker at another. Who dares command its motion? Ours is only to work, as the Gita says, without looking for results. Feed the national life with the fuel it wants, but the growth is its own; none can dictate its growth to it. Evils are plentiful in our society, but so are there evils in every other society. Here, the earth is soaked sometimes with windows tears; there, in the West the air is rent with the sighs of the unmarried. Here, poverty is the great bane of life; there, the life-weariness of luxury is the great bane that is upon the race. Here, men want to commit suicide because they have nothing to eat; there, they commit suicide because they have to much to eat. Evil is everywhere, it is like chronic rheumatism. Drive it from the foot, it goes to the head; drive it from there, it goes somewhere else. It is a question of chasing it from place to place; that is all. Aye, children, to try to remedy evil is not the true way. Our philosophy teaches that evil and good are eternally conjoined, the obverse and the reverse of the same coin. If you have one, you must have the other; a wave in the ocean must be at the cost of a hollow elsewhere. Nay, all life is evil. No breath can be breathed without killing some one else; not a morsel of food can b eaten without killing some one else; not a morsel of food can be eaten without depriving some one of it. This is the law; this is philosophy. Therefore the only thing we can do, is to understand that all this work against evil is more subjective than objective. The work against evil is more educational than actual, however big we may talk. This, first of all, is the idea of work against evil, and it ought to make us calmer, it ought to take fanaticism out of our blood. The history of the world teaches us that wherever there have been fanatical reforms, the only result has been that they have defeated their own ends. No greater upheaval for the establishment of right and liberty can be imagined than the war of the abolition of slavery in America. You all know about it. And what has been its results? The slaves are a hundred times worse off today than they were before the abolition. Before the abolition, these poor Negroes were the property of somebody, and, as properties, they had to be looked after, so that they might not deteriorate. Today they are the property of nobody. Their murders; for they are niggers, they are not human beings, they are not even animals; and that is the effect of such violent taking away of evil by law, or by fanaticism. Such is the testimony of history against every fanatical movement, even for doing good. I have seen that. My own experience has taught me that. Therefore I cannot join anyone of these condemning societies. Why condemn? There are evils in every society; everybody knows it. Every child of today knows it; he can stand upon a platform and give us a harangue on the awful evils in Hindu Society. Every uneducated foreigner who comes here globe-trotting, takes a vanishing railway view of India. We admit that there are evils. Everybody can show what evil is, but he is the friend of mankind who finds a way out of the difficulty. Like the drowning boy and the philosopher, when the philosopher was lecturing him the boy cried – “Take me out of the water first”; so our people cry : “We have had lectures enough, societies enough, papers enough, where is the man who will lend us a hand to drag us out? Where is the man who really love us? Where is the man who has sympathy for us ?” Aye, that main is wanted. That is where I differ entirely from these reform movements. For a hundred years they have been here. What good has been done, except the creation of a most vituperative, a most condemnatory literature? Would to God it was not here! They have been criticized, condemned, abused the orthodox, until the orthodox have caught their tone, and paid them back in their own coin, and the result is the creation of a literature in every vernacular which is the shame of the race, the shame of the country. Is this reform? Is this leading the nation to glory? Whose fault is this?
There is, then, another great consideration. Here in India, we have always been governed by kings; kings have made all our laws. Now the kings are gone, and there is no one left to make a move. The Government dare not; it has to fashion its ways according to the growth of public opinion. It takes time, quite a long time, to make a healthy, strong, public opinion which will solve its own problems; and in the interim we shall have to wait. The whole problem of social reform, therefore, resolves itself into this: where are those who want reform? Make them first. Where are the people? The tyranny of a minority is the worst tyranny that the world ever sees. A few men who think that certain things are evil will not make a nation move. Why does not the nation move? First educate the nation, create you legislative body, and then the law will be forthcoming. First create the power, the sanction from which the law will spring. The kings are gone; where is the new sanction, the new power of the people? Bring it up. Therefore, even for social reform, the first duty is to educate the people, and you will have to wait till that time comes. Most of the reforms that have been agitated for during the last century have been ornamental. Every one of these reforms only touches the first two castes, and no other. The question of widow marriage would not touch seventy only reach the higher castes of Indian people who are educated, mark you, at the expense of the masses. Every effort has been spent in cleaning their own houses. But that is no reformation. You must go down to the basis of the thing, to the very root of the matter. That is what I call radical reform. Put the fire there and let it burn upwards and make an Indian nation. And the solution of the problem is not so easy, as it is a big and a vast one. Be not in a hurry, this problem has been known several hundred years.
Today it is the fashion to talk of Buddhism, and Buddhistic agnosticism, especially in the south. Little do they dream that this degradation which is with us today has been left by Buddhism. This is the legacy which Buddhism has left to us. You read in books written by men who had never studied the rise and fall of Buddhism, that the spread of Buddhism was owing to the wonderful ethics and the wonderful personality of Gautama Buddha. I have every respect and veneration for Lord Buddha, but mark my words, the spread of Buddhism was less owing to the doctrines and the personality of the great preacher, than to the temples that were built, the idols that were erected, and the gorgeous ceremonials that were put before the nation. Thus Buddhism progressed. The little fireplaces in the houses, in which the people poured their liberations were not strong enough to hold their own against these gorgeous temples and ceremonies, but later on the whole thing degenerated. It became a mass of corruption of which I cannot speak before this audience, but those who want to know about it may see a little of it in those big temples, full of sculptures, in Southern Indian, and this is all the inheritance we have from the Buddhists.
Then arose the great reformer Shankaracharya and his followers, and during these hundreds of years, since his time to the present day, there has been the slow bringing back of the Indian masses to the pristine purity of the Vedantic religion. These reformers knew full well the evils which existed, yet they did not condemn. They did not say, “All that you have is wrong, and you must throw it away.” It can never be so. Today I read that my friend Dr.Barrows says, that in three hundred years Christianity overthrew the Roman and Greek religious influences. That is not the word of a man who has seen Europe, and Greece, and Rome. The influence of Roman and Greek religion is all there, even in Protestant countries only with changed names; old gods rechristened in a new fashion. They change their names; the goddesses become Marys and the gods become saints, and the ceremonials become new; even the old title of Pontifex Maximus is there. So, sudden changes cannot be, and Shankaracharya knew it. So did Ramanuja. The only way left to them was slowly to bring up to the highest ideal, the existing religion. If they had sought to apply the other method they would have been hypocrites, for the very fundamental doctrine of their religion is evolution, the soul going towards the highest goal, through all these various stages and phases which are therefore necessary and helpful. And who dares condemn them?
It has become a trite saying, that idolatry is wrong, and every man swallows it at the present time without questioning. I once thought so, and to pay the penalty of that I had to learn my lesson sitting at the feet of a man who realized everything through idols; I allude to Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. If such Ramakrishna Paramahamsas are produced by idol-worship, what will you have – the reformer’s creed or any number of idols? I want an answer. Take a thousand idols more if you can produce Ramakrishna Paramahansas through idol-worship, and may God speed you! Produce such noble natures by any means you can. Yet idolatry is condemned ! Why ! Nobody knows. Because some hundreds of years ago some men of Jewish blood happened to condemn it? That is, he happened to condemn every body else’s idols except his own. If God is represented in any beautiful form, or any symbolic form, said the Jew, it is awfully bad; it is sin. But if He is represented in the form of a chest, with two angels sitting on each side, and a cloud hanging over it, it is the holy of holies. If God comes in the form of a dove, it is holy. But if He comes in the form of a cow, it is heathen superstition; condemn it! That is how the world goes. That is why the poet says, “What fools we mortals be!” How difficult it is to look through each other’s eyes, and that is the bane of humanity. That is the basis of hatred and jealousy, of quarrel and of fight. Boys, moustached babies, who never went out of Madras, standing up and wanting to dictate laws to three hundred millions of people, with thousands of traditions at their back : Are you not ashamed? Stand back from such blasphemy, and learn first your lessons! Irreverent boys, simply because you can scrawl a few lines upon paper and get some fool to publish them for you, you think you are the educators of the world, you think you are the public opinion of India! Is it so ? This I have to tell to the social reformers of Madras, that I have the greatest respect and love from them. I love them for their great hearts and their love for their country, for the poor, for the oppressed. But what I would tell them with a brother’s love is that their method is not right; it has been tried a hundred years and failed. Let us try some new method.
Did India ever stand in want of reformers? Do you read the history of India? Who was Ramanuja? Who was Shankara? Who was Chaitanya? Who was Kabir? Who was Dadu? Who were all these great preachers, one following the other, a galaxy of stars of the first magnitude? Did not Ramanuja feel for the lower classes? Did he not try all his life to admit even the Pariah to his community? Did he not try to admit even Mohammedans to his own fold? Did not Nanak confer with Hindus and Mohammedans, and try to bring about a new state of things? They all tried, and their work is still going on. The difference is this. They had not the still going on. The difference is this. They had not the fanfaronade of the reformers of today; they had no curses on their lips as modern reformers have; their lips pronounced only blessings. They never condemned. They said to the people that the race must always grow. They looked back and they said, “O Hindus, what you have done is good, but, my brothers, let us do better.” They did not say, “You have been wicked, now let us be good.” They said, ”You have been good, but let us now be better.” That makes a whole world of difference now be better.” That makes a whole world of difference. We must grow according to that nature. Vain is it to attempt the lines of action that foreign societies have engrafted upon us; it is impossible. Glory unto God that it is impossible, that we cannot be twisted and tortured into the shape of other nations. I do not condemn the institutions of other races; they are good for them, but not for us. What is met for them may be poison for us. This is the first lesson to learn. With other sciences, other institutions, and other traditions, behind them, they have got their present system. We, with our traditions, with thousands of years of Karma behind us, naturally can only follow our own grooves, and that we shall have to do.
What is my plan them? My plan is to follow the ideas of the great ancient Masters. I have studied their work, and it has been given unto me to discover the line of action they took. They were the great originators of Society. They were the great givers of strength, and of purity, and of life. They did most marvelous work. We have to do most marvelous work also. Circumstances have become a little different, and in consequence the lines of action have to be changed a little, and that is all. I see that each nation, like each individual, has one theme in this life, which is its centre, the principal note round which every other note comes to form the harmony. In one nation political power is its vitality, as in England. Artistic life in another, and so on. In India, religious life forms the centre, the keynote of the whole music of national life; and if any nation attempts to throw off is national vitality, the direction which has become its own through the transmission of centuries – that nation dies, if it succeeds in the attempt. And, therefore, if you succeed in the attempt to throw off your religion and take up either politics or society, or any other thing as your centre, as the vitality of your national life, the result will be that you will become extinct. To prevent this you must make all and everything work through that vitality of your religion. Let all our nerves vibrate through the backbone of your religion. I have seen that I cannot preach even religion to Americans without showing them its practical effect on social life. I could not preach religion in England without showing the wonderful political changes the Vedanta would bring. So, in India, social reform h as to be preached by showing how much more spiritual a life the new system will bring; and politics has to be preached by showing how much it will improve the one thing that the nation wants – its spirituality. Every man has to make his own choice; so has every nation. We made our choice ages ago and we must abide by it. And, after all, it is not such a bad choice in this world to think, not of matter but of spirit, not of man but of God? That intense faith in another world, that intense hatred for this world, that intense power of renunciation, that intense faith in God, that intense faith in the immortal soul, is in you. I challenge any one to give it up. You cannot. You may try to impose upon me by becoming materialists, by talking materialism for a few months, but I know what you are; if I take you by the hand, back you come as good theists as ever were born. How can you change your nature?
So every improvement in India requires first of all an upheaval in religion. Before flooding India with socialistic or political ideas, first deluge the land with spiritual ideas. The first work that demands our attention is, that the most wonderful truths confined in our Upanishads, in our Scriptures, in our Puranas – must be brought out from the books, brought out from the monasteries, brought out from the forests, brought out from the possession of selected bodies of people, and scattered broadcast all over the land, so that these truths may run like fire all over the country, from north to south, and east to west, from the Himalayas to Comorin, from Sindh to the Brahmaputra. Everyone must know of them, because it is said, “This has first to be heard, then thought upon, and then meditated upon” . Let the people hear first, and whoever helps in making the people hear about the great truths in their own Scriptures, cannot make for himself a better Karma today. Says our Vyasa, “In the Kaliyug there is one Karma left. Sacrifices and tremendous Tapasyas are of no avail now. Of Karma one remains, and that is the Karma of giving.” And of these gifts, the gift of spirituality and spiritual knowledge is the highest; the next gift is the gift of secular knowledge; the next is the gift of life; and the fourth is the gift of food. Look at this wonderfully charitable race; look at the amount of gifts that are made in this poor , poor country; look at the hospitality, where a man can travel from the north to the south, having the best in the land, being treated always by everyone as if he were a friend, and where no beggar starves so long as there is a piece of bread anywhere!
In this land of charity, let us take up the energy of the first charity, the diffusion of spiritual knowledge. And that diffusion should not be confined within the bounds of India; it must go out all over the world. This has been the custom. Those that tell you that Indian thought never went outside of India, those that tell you that I am the first Sannyasin who went to foreign lands to preach, do not know the history of their own race. Again and again this phenomenon has happened. Whenever the world has required it, this perennial flood of spirituality has overflowed and deluged the world. Gifts of political knowledge can be made with the blast of trumpets, and the march of cohorts. Gifts of secular knowledge and social knowledge can be made with fire and sword; but spiritual knowledge can only be give in silence, like the dew that falls unseen and unheard, yet bringing into bloom masses of roses. This has been the gift of India to the world again and again. Whenever there has been a great conquering race, bringing the nations of the world together, making roads and transit spiritual power to the sum total of the progress of the world. This happened ages before Buddha was born, and remnants of it are still left in China, in Asia Minor, and in the heart of the Malayan Archipelago. This was the case when the great Greek conqueror united the four corners of the then known world; then rushed out Indian spirituality, and the boasted civilization of the West is but the remnant of that deluge. Now the same opportunity has again come; the power of England has linked the nations of the world together as was never done before. English roads and channels of communication rush from one end of the world to the other. Owing to English genius, the world today has been linked in such a fashion as has never before been done. Today trade centers have been formed such as have never been before in the history of mankind; and immediately, consciously or unconsciously, India rises up and pours forth her gifts of spirituality; and they will rush through these roads till they have reached the very ends of the world. That I went to America was not my doing, or your doing; but the God of India, who is guiding her destiny sent me, and will send hundreds of such to all the nations of the world. No power on earth can resist it. This is also has to be done. You must go out to preach your religion, preach it to every nation under the sun, preach it to every people. This is the first thing to do. And after preaching spiritual knowledge, along with it will come that secular knowledge, along with it will come that secular knowledge and every other knowledge that you want; but if you attempt to get the secular knowledge without religion, I tell you plainly, vain is your attempt in India, it will never have a hold on the people. Even the great Buddhistic movement was a failure, partially on account of that.
Therefore, my friends, my plan is to start institutions in India, to train our young men as preachers of the truths of our Scriptures, in India and outside India. Men, men, these are wanted: everything else will be ready, but strong vigorous, believing young men, sincere to the backbone, are wanted. A hundred such and the world becomes revolutionized. The will is stronger than any thing else. Everything must go down before the will, for that comes from God and God Himself; a pure and a strong will is omnipotent. Do you not believe in it? Preach, preach unto the world the great truths of your religion; the world waits for them. For centuries people have been taught theories of degradation. They have been told that they are nothing. The masses have been told all over the world that they are not human beings. They have been so frightened for centuries, till they have nearly become animals. Never were they allowed to hear of the Atman. Let them hear of the Atman – that even the lowest of the low have the Atman within, which never dies and never is born – of Him whom the sword cannot pierce, nor the fire burn, nor the air dry, immortal, without beginning or end, the all-pure, omnipotent and omnipresent Atman! Let them have faith in themselves, for what makes the difference between the Englishman and you? Let them talk their religion and duty and so forth. I have found the difference. The difference is here, that the Englishman believes in himself, and you do not. He believes in his being an Englishman, and he can do anything he likes. You have been told and taught that you can do nothing, and nonentities you are becoming every day. What we want is strength, so believe in yourselves. We have become weak, and that is why occultism and mysticism come to us – these creepy things; there may be great truths in them, but they have nearly destroyed us. Make your nerves strong. What we want is, muscles of iron and nerves of steel. We have wept long enough. No more weeping but stand on your feet and be men. It is a man-making religion that we want. It is man-making theories, that we want. It is man-making education all round that we want. And here is the test of truth – anything that makes you weak physically, intellectually and spiritually – reject as poison, there is no life in it, it cannot be true. Truth is strengthening. Truth is purity, truth is all-knowledge; truth must be strengthening, must be enlightening, must be invigorating. These mysticisms, in spite of some gains of truth in them, are generally weakening. Believe me, I have a lifelong experience of it, and the one conclusion that I draw is that it is weakening. I have travelled all over India, searched almost every cave here, and lived in the Himalayas. I know people who lived there all their lives. I love my nation, I cannot see you degraded, weakened any more than you are now. Therefore I am bound for your sake and for truth’s sake to cry, “Hold!” and to raise my voice against this degradation of my race. Give up these weakening mysticisms, and be strong. Go back to your Upanishads – the shining, the strengthening, the bright philosophy – and part from all these mysterious things, all these weakening things. Take up this philosophy; the greatest truths are the simplest things in the world, simple as your own existence. The truths of the Upanishads are before you. take them up, live up to them, and the salvation of India will be at hand.
One word more and I have finished. They talk of patriotism. I believe in patriotism, and I also have my own ideal of patriotism. Three things are necessary for great achievements. First, feel from the heart. What is in the intellect or reason? It goes a few steps and there it stops. But through the heart comes inspiration. Love opens the most impossible gates; love is the gate to all secrets of the universe. Feel, therefore, my would-be reformers, my would-be patriots ! do you feel? Do you feel that millions and millions of the descendants of gods and of sages have become next-door neighbours to brutes? Do you feel that millions are starving today, and millions have been starving for ages? Do you feel that ignorance has come over the land as a dark cloud? Does it make you restless? Does it make you sleepless? Has it gone into your blood, coursing through your veins, becoming consonant with your heart-beats? Has it made you almost mad? Are you seized with that one idea of the misery of ruin, and have you forgotten all about your name, your fame, your wives, your children, our property, even your own bodies? Have you done that? That is the first step to become a patriot, the very first step. I did not go to America, as most of you know, for the Parliament of Religions, but this demon of a feeling was in me and within my soul. I t raveled twelve years all over India, finding no way to work for my countrymen, and that is why I went to America. Most of you know that, who knew me then. Who cared about this Parliament of Religions? Here was my own flesh and blood sinking every day, and who cared for them? This was my first step.
You may feel, then; but instead of spending your energies in frothy talk, have you found any way out, any practical solution, some help instead of condemnation, some sweet word to soothe their miseries, to bring them out of this living death? Yet that is not all. Have you got the will to surmount mountain-high obstructions? If the whole world stands against you sword in hand, would you still stick to it? Would you still pursue it and go on steadily towards your own goal? As the great Kind Bhartrihari says – “Let the sages blame or let them praise; let the goddess of fortune come or let her go wherever she likes; let death come today, or let her go wherever she likes; let death come today, or let it come in hundreds of years; he indeed is the steady man who does not move one inch from the way of truth.” Have you got that steadfastness? If you have these three things, each one of you will work miracles. You need not write in the newspapers, you need not go about lecturing, your very face will shine. If you live in a cave, your thoughts will permeate even through the rock walls, will go vibrating all over the world for hundreds of years, may be, until they will fasten on to some brain, and work out there. Such is the power of thought, of sincerity, and of purity of purpose.
I am afraid I am delaying you, but one word more. This national ship, my countrymen, my friends, my children – this national ship has been ferrying millions and millions of souls across the waters of life. For scores of shining centuries it has been plying across this water, and through its agency, millions of souls have been taken to the other shore, to blessedness. But today, perhaps through your own fault, this boat has become a little damaged, has sprung a leak, and would you therefore cause it? Is it fir that you stand up and pronounce malediction upon it, one that has done more work than any other thing in the world? If there are holes in this national ship, this society of ours, we are its children. Let us go and stop the holes. Let us gladly do it with our hearts blood, and if we cannot, then let us die. We will make a plug of our brains and put them into the ship, but condemn it, never. Say not one harsh word against this society. I love it for its past greatness. I love you all because you are the children of gods, and because you are the children of the glorious forefathers. How then can I curse you! Never. All blessings be upon you! I have come to you, my children, to tell you all my plans. If you hear them I am ready to work with you. but if you will not listen to them, and even kick me out of India, I will come back and tell you that we are all sinking! I am come now to sit in your midst, and, if we are to sink, let us all sink together, but never let curses rise to our lips.