Monday, December 13, 2010

Notes from Classes : Swami Vivekananda, i am legend

Buddhism and Vedanta

The following notes taken from Swami Vivekananda's lectures and discourses are reproduced here from his Complete Works, 5: 279-81.

The Vedanta philosophy is the foundation of Buddhism and everything else in India, and the Advaita philosophy of the modern school has a great many conclusions similar to those of the Buddhists. Of course, the orthodox Hindus will not admit that, because to them the Buddhists are heretics. But there is a conscious attempt in Vedanta to stretch out the whole doctrine to include the heretics also.
Vedanta has no quarrel with Buddhism. The ideal of Vedanta is to harmonize everything. With the Northern Buddhists we have no quarrel at all. But the Burmese and Siamese and all the Southern Buddhists say that there is a phenomenal world, and ask what right we have to create a noumenal world behind this(1).
The answer of Vedanta is that this is an incorrect charge. Vedanta never contends that there is a noumenal and a phenomenal world. Vedanta says that there is only one reality. Seen through the senses, it appears phenomenal, but it is really the noumenal all the time. Take the case of a rope mistaken for a snake in a dimly lit room. If we see the rope, we do not see the snake. It is either the rope or the snake but never both. So the Buddhist statement of our position-that we believe there are two worlds-is entirely false. They have the right to say that the reality can only be phenomenal but no right to deny others' right to say that the reality is noumenal.

Buddhism does not want to have anything except phenomena. In phenomena alone is desire. It is desire that is creating all this. Modern Vedantists do not hold this at all. We say that there is something that has become the will. Will is a manufactured something, a compound, not a "simple." There cannot be any will without an external object.
We see that the very position that will created this universe is impossible. How could will have done it? Have you ever known will without an external stimulus? Desire cannot arise without stimulus or, in modern philosophic language, of nerve stimulus. Will is a sort of reaction of the brain, what the Samkhya philosophers call Buddhi. This reaction must be preceded by action, and action presupposes an external universe. When there is no external universe, naturally there will be no will; and yet, according to your theory, it is will that created the universe. Who creates the will?
Will is coexistent with the universe. Will is a phenomenon caused by the same impulse that created the universe. But philosophy must not stop there. Will is entirely personal; therefore we cannot go with Schopenhauer at all. Will is a compound--a mixture of the internal and the external. If we were born without any senses, we would have no will at all. Will requires something from outside, and the brain gets some energy from inside; therefore will is a compound, as much a compound as the wall or anything else. We do not agree with the will-theory of these German philosophers.
Will itself is phenomenal and cannot be the Absolute. Will is one of the many projections. There is something that is not will but is manifesting itself as will. That I can understand. What I do not understand is that will is manifesting itself as everything else. That doesn't make sense because we cannot have any conception of will as separate from the universe. When that something which is freedom becomes will, it is caused by time, space, and causation. Take Kant's analysis. Will is within time, space, and causation. Then how can it be the Absolute? One cannot will without willing in time.
If we can stop all thought, then we know that we are beyond thought. We come to this by negation. When every phenomenon has been negated, whatever remains, that is It. Whatever remains cannot be expressed and cannot be manifested, because the manifestation will be-again-will.


These are Frank Rhodehamel's notes of Swami Vivekananda's lecture given in Alameda (California, USA) on April 16, 1900, and are reproduced here from his Complete Works, 6: 123-25. Being "notes"-and not a verbatim report, like his other lectures in the Complete Works-these are sketchy and may not represent the exact words spoken by Vivekananda. But they give a fairly good indication of his ideas on the subject.

Concentration is the essence of all knowledge. Nothing can be done without concentration. Ordinary people waste ninety per cent of thought force and therefore they are constantly committing blunders. The trained mind never makes a mistake. When the mind is concentrated and turned backward on itself, everything within us will be our servant, not our master. The Greeks applied their concentration to the external world, and the result was perfection in art, literature, etc. The Hindu concentrated on the internal world, upon the unseen realm in the Self, and developed the science of Yoga.
Yoga means controlling the senses, will and mind. The benefit of its study is that we learn to control instead of being controlled. Mind seems to be layer on layer. Our real goal is to cross all these intervening strata of our being and find God. The end and aim of Yoga is to realize God. To do this we must go beyond relative knowledge, go beyond the sense-world. The world is awake to the senses, the children of the Lord are asleep on that plane. The world is asleep to the Eternal, the children of the Lord are awake in that realm(1). There is but one way to control the senses-to see Him who is the Reality in the universe. Then and only then can we really conquer our senses.
Concentration means restraining the mind into smaller and smaller limits. There are eight processes for restraining the mind. The first is Yama, controlling the mind by avoiding externals. All morality is included in this. Beget no evil. Injure no living creature. If you injure nothing for twelve years, then even lions and tigers will go down before you. Practice truthfulness. Twelve years of absolute truthfulness in thought, word, and deed gives us whatever we wish. Be chaste in thought, word, and action. Chastity is the basis of all religions. Personal purity is imperative. Next is Niyama, not allowing the mind to wander in any direction. Then comes Asana, posture. There are eighty-four postures: but the best is the most natural to each person; that is, which can be kept longest with the greatest ease. After this comes Pranayama, restraint of breath. Next is Pratyahara, drawing in of the organs from their objects. Then comes Dharana, concentration, followed by Dhyana, contemplation or meditation. (This is the kernel of the Yoga system.) And finally there is, Samadhi, superconsciousness.
The purer the body and mind, the quicker the desired result will be obtained. You must be perfectly pure. Do not think of evil things, such thoughts will surely drag you down. If you are perfectly pure and practice faithfully, your mind can finally be made a searchlight of infinite power. There is no limit to its scope. But there must be constant practice and non-attachment to the world.
When we reach the superconscious state, body-consciousness melts away. Then alone does we become free and immortal. To all external appearances, unconsciousness and superconsciousness are the same; but they differ as a lump of clay from a lump of gold. The one whose whole soul is given up to God has reached the superconscious plane.

I Am That I Am

These are notes of a lecture given by Swami Vivekananda in San Francisco on March 20, 1900, and are reproduced here from his Complete Works 8: 244-49. These notes were originally taken in shorthand by Ida Ansell, edited by Swami Ashokananda, and published in The Voice of India.

The subject tonight is us human beings in contrast with nature. For a long time the word "nature" was used almost exclusively to denote external phenomena. These phenomena were found to behave methodically; and they often repeated themselves: that which had happened in the past happened again--nothing happened only once. Thus it was concluded that nature was uniform. Uniformity is closely associated with the idea of nature; without it natural phenomena cannot be understood. This uniformity is the basis of what we call law.
Gradually the word "nature" and the idea of uniformity came to be applied also to internal phenomena, the phenomena of life and mind. All that is differentiated is nature. Nature is the quality of the plant, the quality of the animal, and the quality of human beings. Our human life behaves according to definite methods; so do our minds. Thoughts do not just happen, there is a certain method in their rise, existence and fall. In other words, just as external phenomena are bound by law, internal phenomena-that is to say, the life and mind of a human being-are also bound by law.
When we consider law in relation to our human mind and human existence, it is at once obvious that there can be no such thing as free will and free existence. We know how animal nature is wholly regulated by law. The animal does not appear to exercise any free will. The same is true of us; human nature also is bound by law. The law governing functions of the human mind is called the law of karma.
Nobody has ever seen anything produced out of nothing; if anything arises in the mind, it must have been produced from something. When we speak of "free" will, we mean that the will is not caused by anything. But that cannot be true: the will is caused; and since it is caused, it cannot be free--it is bound by law. That I am willing to talk to you and you come to listen to me, that is law. Everything that I do or think or feel, every part of my conduct or behavior, my every movement-all of this is caused and therefore none of this is "free." This regulation of our life and mind--that is the law of Karma.

If such a doctrine had been introduced in olden times into a Western community, it would have produced a tremendous commotion. Westerners do not want to think that their minds are governed by law. In India it was accepted as soon as it was propounded by the most ancient Indian system of philosophy. There is no such thing as freedom of the mind; it cannot be. Why did not this teaching create any disturbance in the Indian mind? India received it calmly; that is the specialty of Indian thought, wherein it differs from every other thought in the world.
The external and internal natures are not two different things; they are really one. Nature is the sum total of all phenomena. "Nature" means all that is: all that "moves" is nature. We make a tremendous distinction between matter and mind; we think that the mind is entirely different from matter. Actually, they are but one nature, half of which is continually acting on the other half. Matter is pressing upon the mind in the form of various sensations. These sensations are nothing but force. The force from the outside evokes the force within. From the will to respond to or get away from the outer force, the inner force becomes what we call thought.
Both matter and mind are really nothing but forces; and if you analyze them far enough, you will find that at root they are one. The very fact that the external force can somehow evoke the internal force shows that somewhere they join each other--they must be continuous and, therefore, basically the same force. When you get to the root of things, they become simple and general. Since the same force appears in one form as matter and in another form as mind, there is no reason to think matter and mind are different. Mind is changed into matter, and matter is changed into mind. Thought force becomes nerve force and muscular force; muscular and nerve forces become thought force. Nature is all this force, whether expressed as matter or mind.
The difference between the subtlest mind and the grossest matter is only one of degree. Therefore the whole universe may be called either mind or matter, it does not matter which. You may call the mind "refined matter" or you may call matter "concretized mind"-it would makes little difference. Nor is it any use discussing which comes first-mind or matter. Is the mind first, out of which matter has come? Or is matter first, out of which the mind has come? Many of the philosophical arguments proceed from these futile questions. It is like asking whether the egg or the hen is first. Both are first, and both last-mind and matter, matter and mind. If I say matter existed first and, growing finer and finer, it then became mind, then I must admit that before matter there must have been mind. Otherwise, where did matter come from? Matter precedes mind, and mind precedes matter. It is the hen and the egg question all through.
The whole of nature is bound by the law of causation and is in time and space. We cannot see anything outside of space, yet we do not know space. We cannot perceive anything outside of time, yet we do not know time. We cannot understand anything except in terms of causality, yet we do not know what causation is. These three things-time, space, and causality-manifest in and through every phenomena, but they are not in themselves phenomena. They are as it were the forms or moulds in which everything must be cast before it can be apprehended. Matter is substance plus time, space, and causation. Mind is substance plus time, space and causation.

This fact can be expressed in another way. Everything is substance plus name and form. Name and form come and go, but substance remains ever the same. Substance, form, and name make this pitcher. When it is broken, you do not call it pitcher any more, nor do you see its pitcher form. Its name and form vanish, but its substance remains. All the differentiation in substance is made by name and form. These are not real, because they vanish. What we call nature is not the substance, unchanging and indestructible. Nature is time, space and causation. Nature is name and form. Nature is Maya. Maya means name and form, into which everything is cast. Maya is not real. We could not destroy it or change it if it were real. The substance is the noumenon, Maya is phenomena. There is the "real" me [called atman, in Sanskrit] which nothing can destroy, and there is the "phenomenal" me which is continually changing and disappearing.
The fact is that everything existing has two aspects. One is noumenal, unchanging and indestructible; the other is phenomenal, changing and destructible. A human being in his or her true nature is substance, soul, spirit (atman). This soul, or spirit, never changes, is never destroyed; but it appears to be clothed with a form and to have a name associated with it. This form and name are not immutable or indestructible; they continually change and are destroyed. Yet we foolishly seek immortality in this changeable aspect, in the body and mind-we want to have an eternal body. That kind of immortality is not possible.
What is the relation between the atman and nature? In so far as nature stands for name and form or for time, space, and causality, I-as atman-am not part of nature, because I am free, I am immortal, I am unchanging and infinite. The question does not arise whether I have free will or not; I am beyond any will at all. Wherever there is will, it is never free. There is no freedom of will whatever. There is freedom of that which becomes will when name and form get hold of it, making it their slave. That substance--the atman--as it were moulds itself, as it were throws itself into the cast of name and form, and immediately becomes bound, whereas it was free before. And yet its original nature is still there. That is why the atman says, "I am free. In spite of all this bondage, I am free." And it never forgets this.

But when the atman has-as it were-become the will, it is no more free. Nature pulls the strings, and it has to dance as nature wants it to. Thus have you and I danced throughout the years. All the things that we see, do, feel, know, all our thoughts and actions, are nothing but dancing to the dictates of nature. There has been, and there is, no freedom in any of this. From the lowest to the highest, all thoughts and actions are bound by law, and none of these pertain to the atman, our real Self.
My true Self-the atman-is beyond all law. Be in tune with slavery, with nature, and you live under law, you are happy under law. But the more you obey nature and its dictates, the more bound you become; the more in harmony with ignorance you are, the more you are at the beck and call of everything in the universe. Is this harmony with nature, this obedience to law, in accord with the true nature and destiny of us human beings? What mineral ever quarreled with and disputed any law? What tree or plant ever defied any law? This table is in harmony with nature, with law; but a table it remains always, it does not become any better. We human beings struggle and fight against nature, we makes many mistakes, and we suffer. But eventually we conquer nature and realize our freedom. When we are free, nature becomes our slave.
The awakening of the soul to its bondage and its effort to stand up and assert itself--this is called life. Success in this struggle is called evolution. The eventual triumph, when all the slavery is blown away, is called salvation, Nirvana, freedom. Everything in the universe is struggling for liberty. When I am bound by nature, by name and form, by time, space and causality, I do not know what I truly am. But even in this bondage my atman is not completely lost. I strain against the bonds; one by one they break, and I become conscious of my innate grandeur. Then comes complete liberation. I attain to the clearest and fullest consciousness of myself--I know that I am the atman, the infinite spirit, the master of nature, not its slave. Beyond all differentiation and combination, beyond space, time and causation, I am that I am.

On Art

The following notes taken from Swami Vivekananda's talks and lectures are reproduced here from his Complete Works, 5: 258-59. Being "notes"-and not a verbatim report, like his other lectures in the Complete Works-these are sketchy and may not represent the exact words spoken by Vivekananda. But they give a fairly good indication of his ideas on the subject.

The secret of Greek art is its imitation of nature even to the minutest details; whereas the secret of Indian Art is to represent the ideal. The energy of the Greek painter is spent in perhaps painting a piece of flesh, and he is so successful that a dog is deluded into taking it to be a real bit of meat and so goes to bite it.
Now, what glory is there in merely imitating nature? Why not place an actual bit of flesh before the dog? The Indian tendency, on the other hand, to represent the idea—or that which transcends the senses—has become degraded into painting grotesque images.
True art can be compared to a lily which springs from the ground, takes its nourishment from the ground, is in touch with the ground, and yet is quite high above it. So art must be in touch with nature—by the way, wherever that touch is gone, art degenerates—yet it must be above nature.
Art means representing the beautiful. There must be art in everything.
The difference between architecture and a building is that the former expresses an idea, while the latter is merely a structure built on economic principles. The value of matter depends solely on its capacities to express ideas.

The artistic faculty was highly developed in Sri Ramakrishna. He used to say that without this faculty none can be truly spiritual.

On Fanaticism

In this excerpt, Swami Vivekananda focuses, amicably and with humor, on the reformer’s single-minded zeal and points out that it is a distortion of "selfless activity." Included in the Complete Works (5: 242-45) as "Notes from Lectures and Discourse," this was originally published in the London edition (no longer available) of Vivekananda’s Karma Yoga. The book was compiled from the transcripts of class talks Swamiji gave in New York in December 1895 and January 1896.

Kinds of Fanaticism
There are fanatics of various kinds. Some people are wine fanatics and cigar fanatics. Some think that if men gave up smoking cigars, the world would arrive at the millennium. Women are generally amongst these fanatics. There was a young lady here one day, in this class. She was one of a number of ladies in Chicago who have built a house where they take in
the working people and give them music and gymnastics. One day this young lady was talking about the evils of the world and said she knew the remedy. I asked, "How do you know?" and she answered, "Have you seen Hull House?" In her opinion, this Hull House is the one panacea for all the evils that flesh is heir to. This will grow upon her. I am sorry for her.
There are some fanatics in India who think that if a woman could marry again when her husband died, it would cure all evil. This is fanaticism.
When I was a boy I thought that fanaticism was a great element in work, but now, as I grow older, I find out that it is not.
There may be a woman who steals and has no objection to taking someone else’s bag and going away with it. But perhaps that woman does not smoke. She becomes a smoke fanatic, and as soon as she finds a man smoking, she strongly disapproves of him, because he smokes a cigar. There may be a man who goes about cheating people; there is no trusting him; no woman is safe with him. But perhaps this scoundrel does not drink wine. If so, he sees nothing good in anyone who drinks wine. All these wicked things that he himself does are of no consideration. This is only natural human selfishness and one-sidedness.
Fanaticism Is a Disease
You must also remember that the world has God to govern it, and He has not left it to our charity. The Lord God is its Governor and Maintainer, and in spite of these wine fanatics and cigar fanatics, and all sorts of marriage fanatics, it would go on. If all these persons were to die, it would go on none the worse.

Do you not remember in your own history how the "Mayflower" people came out here, and began to call themselves Puritans? They were very pure and good as far as they went, until they began to persecute other people; and throughout the history of humanity it has been the same. Even those that run away from persecution indulge in persecuting others as soon as a
favorable opportunity to do so occurs.
In ninety cases out of a hundred, fanatics must have bad livers, or they are dyspeptics, or are in some way diseased. By degrees even physicians will find out that fanaticism is a kind of disease. I have seen plenty of it. The Lord save me from it!
My experience comes to this, that it is rather wise to avoid all sorts of fanatical reforms. This world is slowly going on; let it go slowly. Why are you in a hurry? Sleep well and keep your nerves in good order; eat right food, and have sympathy with the world. Fanatics only make hatred. Do you mean to say that the temperance fanatic loves these poor people
who become drunkards? Fanatics are fanatics simply because they expect to get something for themselves in return. As soon as the battle is over, they go for the spoil.
Fanaticism versus Love
When you come out of the company of fanatics you may learn how to really love and sympathize. And the more you attain of love and sympathy, the less will be your power to condemn these poor creatures; rather you will sympathize with their faults. It will become possible for you to sympathize with drunkards and to know that they are also human beings like you.1 You will then try to understand the many circumstances that are dragging them down, and feel that if you had been in their place you would perhaps have committed suicide.

I remember a woman whose husband was a great drunkard, and she complained to me of his becoming so. I replied, "Madam, if there were twenty millions of wives like yourself, all husbands would become drunkards." I am convinced that a large number of drunkards are manufactured by their wives. My business is to tell the truth and not to flatter anyone.
These unruly women from whose minds the words bear and forbear are gone for ever, and whose false ideas of independence lead them to think that men should be at their feet, and who begin to howl as soon as men dare to say anything to them which they do not like--such women are becoming the bane of the world, and it is a wonder that they do not drive half
the men in it to commit suicide. In this way things should not go on. Life is not so easy as they believe it to be; it is a more serious business!
We must have not only faith but also intellectual faith. To make a person take up everything and believe in it, would be to make him or her a lunatic. I once had a book sent me, which said I must believe everything told in it. It said there was no soul, but that there were gods and goddesses in heaven, and a thread of light going from each of our heads to
heaven! How did the writer know all these things? She had been inspired, and wanted me to believe it too; and because I refused, she said, 'You must be a very bad man; there is no hope for you!" This is fanaticism.

Religion and Science

Reproduced from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 6: 81-82.

Experience is the only source of knowledge. In the world, religion is the only source where there is no surety, because it is not taught as a science of experience. This should not be. There is always, however, a small group of people who teach religion from experience. They are called mystics, and these mystics in every religion speak the same tongue and teach the same truth. This is the real science of religion. As mathematics in every part of the world does not differ, so the mystics do not differ. They are all similarly constituted and similarly situated. Their experience is the same; and this becomes law.
In the church, religionists first learn about religion and then begin to practice it; they do not take experience as the basis of their belief. But the mystics start out in search of truth, experience it first, and then formulate their creed. The church takes the experience of others; the mystics have their own experience. The church goes from the outside in; the mystics go from the inside out.
Religion deals with the truths of the metaphysical world just as chemistry and the other natural sciences deal with the truths of the physical world. The book one must read to learn chemistry is the book of nature. The book from which to learn religion is your own mind and heart. The sages are often ignorant of physical science, because they read the wrong book--the book within; and the scientists are too often ignorant of religion, because they too read the wrong book--the book without.
All branches of science have their particular methods; so has the science of religion. The science of religion has more methods than the other sciences, because it has more material to work upon. The human mind is not homogeneous like the external world. Different minds have different natures and so they must have different methods. As some special sense predominates in a person--one person will see more, another will hear more--so there is a predominant mental sense; and through this gate must each reach his or her own mind. Yet through all minds runs a unity, and there is a science that may be applied to all. This science of religion is based on the analysis of the human soul. It has no creed.
No one form of religion will do for all. Each is a pearl on a string. We must be particular above all else to find individuality in each. No person is born to any religion. Every person has a religion in his or her own soul. Any system that seeks to destroy individuality is disastrous in the long run. Each life has a current running though it, and this current will eventually take it to God. The end and aim of all religions is to realize God. The greatest of all training is to worship God alone. If all people chose their own ideals and stuck to it, all religious controversy would vanish.

Sannyasa: Its Ideal and Practice
On June 19, 1899, the younger monks of the Belur monastery presented Swami Vivekananda with a parting address on the eve of his second and as it turned out final visit to the West. This short piece is a summary of what Swamiji said in response. In this spirited extempore talk, Vivekananda spells out the monastic ideal and the method of attaining that ideal. This can be found in Vivekananda’s Complete Works, 3: 446-48.

The Ideal
This is not the time for a long lecture. But I shall speak to you in brief about a few things which I should like you to carry into practice. First, we have to understand the ideal, and then the methods by which we can make it practical. Those of you who are (1) must try to do good to others, for Sannyasa means that. There is no time to deliver a long discourse on "Renunciation", but I shall very briefly characterize it as the love of death. Worldly people love life. The Sannyasin is to love death.

Are we to commit suicide then? Far from it. For suicides are not lovers of death, as it is often seen that when a man trying to commit suicide fails, he never attempts it for a second time. What is the love of death then? We must die, that is certain; let us die then for a good cause. Let all our actions--eating, drinking, and everything that we do--tend towards the sacrifice of our self.

You nourish the body by eating. What good is there in doing that if you do not hold it as a sacrifice for the well-being of others? You nourish your minds by reading books. There is no good in doing that unless you hold it also as a sacrifice to the whole world. For, the whole world is one; you are rated a very insignificant part of it, and therefore it is right for you that you should serve others rather than aggrandize this little self.
The Method
Then as to the methods of carrying the ideals into practical life. First, we have to understand that we must not have any impossible ideal. An ideal which is too high makes a nation weak and degraded. This happened after the Buddhist and the Jain reforms. On the other hand, too much practicality is also wrong. If you have not even a little imagination, if you have no ideal to guide you, you are simply a brute. So we must neither lower our ideal nor lose sight of practicality. We must avoid the two extremes.
In our country [India], the old idea is to sit in a cave and meditate and die. To go ahead of others in salvation is wrong. One must learn sooner or later that one cannot get salvation if one does not try to seek the salvation of others.
You must try to combine in your life immense idealism with immense practicality. You must be prepared to go into deep meditation now, and the next moment you must be ready to go and cultivate these fields [Swamiji said this pointing to the meadows of the monastery]. You must be prepared to explain the difficult intricacies of the scriptures now, and the next moment to go and sell the produce of the fields in the market. You must be prepared for all menial services, not only here, but elsewhere also.

The next thing to remember is that the aim of this institution is to make men. You must not merely learn what the Rishis taught. Those Rishis are gone and their opinions are also gone with them. You must be Rishis yourselves. You are also men as much as the greatest men that were ever born--even our Incarnations. What can mere book-learning do? What can meditation do even? What can the Mantras and Tantras do? You must stand on your own feet. You must have this new method--the method of man-making.
The true man is he who is strong as strength itself and yet possesses a woman's heart. You must feel for the millions of beings around you, and yet you must be strong and inflexible and you must also possess obedience. Though it may seem a little paradoxical--you must possess these apparently conflicting virtues. If your superior orders you to throw yourself into a river and catch a crocodile, you must first obey and then reason with him. Even if the order be wrong, first obey and then contradict it. The bane of sects, especially in Bengal, is that if anyone happens to have a different opinion, he immediately starts a new sect, he has no patience to wait. So you must have a deep regard for your Sangha. There is no place for disobedience here. Crush it out without mercy. No disobedient members here, you must turn them out. There must not be any traitors in the camp. You must be free as the air, and as obedient as this plant and the dog.

Spirit and Nature

The following notes taken from Swami Vivekananda's talks and lectures are reproduced here from his Complete Works, 6: 98-100. Being "notes"-and not a verbatim report, like his other lectures in the Complete Works-these are sketchy and may not represent the exact words spoken by Vivekananda. But they give a fairly good indication of his ideas on the subject.

Religion is the realization of Spirit as Spirit; not Spirit as matter.
Religion is a growth. Each one must experience it for oneself. The Christians believe that Jesus Christ died to save us all. With Christians it is belief in a doctrine and this belief constitutes their salvation. In Vedanta, doctrine has nothing whatever to do with salvation. Each one may believe in whatever doctrine he or she likes, or in no doctrine at all.
What difference does it make to you whether Jesus Christ lived at a certain time or not? What has it to do with you that Moses saw God in the burning bush? The fact that Moses saw God in the burning bush does not constitute your seeing Him, does it? If it does, then the fact that Moses ate is enough for you; you ought to stop eating. One is just as sensible as the other. Records of great spiritual luminaries of the past do us no good whatever except that they urge us onward to do the same, to experience religion ourselves. Whatever Christ or Moses or anybody else did does not help us in the least, except to urge us on.
Every one has a special nature peculiar to oneself, which they must follow and through which they will find their way to freedom. Your teacher should be able to tell you what your particular path in nature is and to put you in it. The teacher should know by your face where you belong and should be able to indicate it to you. You should never try to follow another's path, for that is their way, not yours. When your own path is found, you have nothing more to do than fold your arms and the tide will carry you to freedom. Therefore when you find your path, never swerve from it. Your way is the best for you, but that is no proof that it is the best for others as well.
The truly spiritual see Spirit as Spirit, not as matter. It is Spirit that makes nature move. Spirit is the reality in nature. Action is in nature, not in the Spirit. Spirit is always the same, changeless, eternal. Spirit and matter are in reality the same; but Spirit, as such, never becomes matter; and matter, as such, never becomes Spirit.

The Spirit never acts. Why should it? It merely is, and that is sufficient. It is pure existence absolute and has no need for action.
You-as Spirit-are not bound by law. Law belongs to nature. The mind is in nature and is bound by law. All nature is bound by law, the law of its own action, and this law can never be broken. If you could break a law of nature, all nature would come to an end in an instant. There would be no more nature. Those who attain freedom break the law of nature, and for them nature fades away and has no more power over them. All of us will one day break the law for all time, and that will end our trouble with nature.
Relatively speaking, Governments, societies, etc. are evils. All societies are based on bad generalization. The moment you form yourselves into an organization, you begin to hate everybody outside of that organization. When you join an organization, you are putting bounds upon yourself, you are limiting your own freedom. The greatest goodness is the highest freedom. Our aim should be to allow the individual to move towards this freedom. More of goodness, less of artificial laws. Such laws are not laws at all. If it were a law, it could not be broken. The fact that these so-called laws are broken, shows clearly that they are not "laws." A law is that which cannot be broken.
Whenever you suppress a thought, it is simply pressed down out of sight, in a coil like a spring, only to spring out again at a moment's notice, with all the pent-up force resulting from the suppression, and do in a few moments what it would have done in a much longer period.
Every ounce of pleasure brings its pound of pain. It is the same energy that at one time manifests itself as pleasure, at another time as pain. As soon as one set of sensations stops, another begins. But in some cases, in more advanced persons, one may have two, yea, even a hundred different thoughts entering into active operation at the same time.
Mind is action of its own nature. Mind-activity means creation. The thought is followed by the word, and the word by the form. All of this creating will have to stop, both mental and physical, before the mind can reflect the Spirit.

The Design Theory

The following notes from Swami Vivekananda's class talk are reproduced from his Complete Works, 6: 97-98. Being "notes"-and not a verbatim report, like his other lectures in the Complete Works-these are sketchy and may not represent the exact words spoken by Vivekananda. But they give a fairly good indication of his ideas on the subject.

The idea that nature in all her orderly arrangements shows design on the part of the Creator of the universe is good as a kindergarten teaching to show the beauty, power, and glory of God, in order to lead children in religion up to a philosophical conception of God; but apart from that, it is not good, and perfectly illogical. As a philosophical idea, it is entirely without foundation, if God is taken to be omnipotent.
If nature shows the power of God in creating the universe, [then] to have a design in so doing also shows His weakness. If God is omnipotent, He needs no design, no scheme, to do anything. He has but to will it, and it is done. No question, no scheme, no plan, of God in nature.
The material universe is the result of our limited consciousness. When we become conscious of our divinity, all matter, all nature, as we know it, will cease to exist.

The material world, as such, has no place in the consciousness of God as a necessity of any end. If it had, God would be limited by the universe. To say that nature exists by His permission is not to say that it exists as a necessity for Him to make us perfect, or for any other reason.
It is a creation for our necessity, not God's. There is no scheme of God in the plan of the universe. How could there be any if He is omnipotent? Why should He have need of a plan, or a scheme, or a reason to do anything? To say that He has is to limit Him and to rob Him of His character of omnipotence.
For instance, if you came to a very wide river, so wide that you could not get across it except by building a bridge, the very fact that you would have to build the bridge to get across the river would show your limitation; it would show your weakness, even if the ability to build the bridge did show your strength. If you were not limited but could just fly or jump across, you would not be under the necessity of building a bridge; and to build the bridge just to exhibit your power to do so would show your weakness again by showing your vanity, more than it would show anything else.
Monism and dualism are essentially the same. The difference consists in the expression. As the dualists hold the Father and the Son to be two, the monists hold them to be really one. Dualism is in nature, in manifestation, and monism is pure spirituality in the essence.
The idea of renunciation and sacrifice is in all religions as a means to reach God.

Work Without Motive

This is a summary of Swami Vivekananda's talk given to the members of the Ramakrishna Mission at the meeting held on 20 March 1898, at 57 Ramakanta Bose Street, Baghbazar, Kolkata. The text is also available in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 5: 246-49.

When the Gita was first preached, there was then going on a great controversy between
two sects. One party considered the Vedic rituals (yajnas) and animal sacrifices to constitute the whole of
religion. The other preached that the killing of numberless horses and cattle cannot be called religion.
The people belonging to the latter party were mostly monks (sannyasins) and followers of the path of
knowledge (jnana). They believed that the giving up of all work and the gaining of the knowledge of the Self
(atman) was the only path to spiritual freedom (moksha). By the preaching of His great doctrine of
work without attachment, the author of the Gita set at rest the disputes of these two antagonistic sects.

Many are of opinion that the Gita was not written at the time of the Mahabharata
but was subsequently added to it. This is not correct. The special teachings of the Gita are to be found in every part of
the Mahabharata, and if the Gita is to be expunged as forming no part of it, every other portion of it which
embodies the same teaching should be similarly treated.
Now, what does it mean to work without motive? Nowadays many understand it to mean that
we must work in such a way that neither pleasure nor pain touches our minds. If this be its real meaning, then the
animals can be said to work without motive. Some animals devour their own offspring and they do not seem to feel any pangs at all in doing
so. Robbers ruin other people by robbing them of their possessions; but if they feel quite callous to pleasure
or pain, then they also would be working without motive. If the meaning of it be such, then one who has a stony
heart, the worst of criminals, might be considered to be working without motive. The walls have no feelings of
pleasure or pain, neither has a stone, but it cannot be said that they work without motive.
In the above sense the doctrine is a potent instrument in the hands of the
wicked. They would go on doing wicked deeds, and would pronounce themselves as working without a motive. If
such be the significance of working without a motive, then a fearful doctrine has been put forth by the Gita.
Certainly this is not the meaning. Furthermore, if we look into the lives of those who were connected with the
preaching of the Gita, we should find them living quite a different life. Arjuna killed Bhishma and Drona in
battle, but withal, he sacrificed all his self-interest and desires and his lower self millions of times.
The Gita teaches karma yoga. All work must be done with concentration (yoga).
In such concentration in action (karma yoga), there is no consciousness of the lower ego present. The
consciousness that "I am doing work" is never present when one works through yoga. Westerners do not
understand this. They say that if there be no consciousness of ego, if this ego is gone, how then can
a person work? But when we work with concentration, losing all consciousness of ourselves, the work that is
done is infinitely better. Every one may have experienced this in their own lives.

We do many things unconsciously, such as the digestion of food etc. We do
other things consciously, and some things we do by becoming immersed in Samadhi, as it were, when there is
no consciousness of the ego. If painters lose the consciousness of their egos and become completely
immersed in painting, they will be able to produce masterpieces. Good cooks concentrate their whole self on
the food-material they handle; they lose all other consciousness for the time being. But people are able to
work perfectly in this way only in fields they specialize in. The Gita teaches that every work
should be done in that way. Those who are one with the Lord through Yoga do all work by becoming
immersed in concentration. They do not seek any personal benefit. Such a performance of work brings only good to
the world, no evil can come out of it. Those who work thus never do anything for themselves.
The result of every work is mixed with good and evil. There is no good work
that has not a touch of evil in it. Like smoke round the fire, some evil always clings to work. We should engage
in those activities that bring the largest amount of good and the smallest amount of evil. One example of
this is the killing of Bhishma and Drona by Arjuna. If this had not been done, Duryodhana could not have been
conquered, the force of evil would have triumphed over the force of good, and thus a great calamity would have
fallen on the country. The government of the country would have been usurped by a body of proud unrighteous
kings, to the great misfortune of the people. Another example is the killing of Kamsa, Jarasandha, and other
tyrants by Sri Krishna. Not a single one of Krishna’s deeds was done for himself. Every one of them was for
the good of others.
We are reading the Gita by candle-light but, at the same time,
many  insects are being burnt to death. Thus it is seen that some evil clings to even good  work no
matter what. Those who work without any consciousness of their lower ego are not affected with evil, for they
work for the good of the world. To work without motive, to work unattached, brings the highest bliss and
freedom. This secret of karma yoga is taught by Sri Krishna in the Gita.

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