Chants, Music, and Lectures
Minister's Monthly Message
Center's Teachings
Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Sarada Devi
Swami Vivekananda
Books, Incense, Photographs and Videos
What's New
Website Contents


Book  stop.gif (845 bytes)  Weekly Message Archive


In this new feature of our website, we present every week a new selection of the teachings of Vedanta, taken from a variety of sources – lectures and writings of Swami Adiswarananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, and other spiritual texts.





Every Being is the Temple of the Most High

(From “Vedanta and Privilege” Delivered in London, 1896)


But the mind cannot be easily conquered. Minds that rise into waves at the approach of every little thing, at the slightest provocation or danger, in what a state they must be! How talk of greatness or spirituality when these changes come over the mind? This unstable condition of the mind must be changed. We must ask ourselves how far we can be acted upon by the external world, and how far we can stand on our own feet in spite of all the forces outside us. When we have succeeded in preventing all the forces in the world from throwing us off our balance, then alone have we attained to freedom, and not before. That is salvation. It is here and nowhere else, this very moment.

            Out of this idea, out of this fountainhead, two beautiful streams of thought have flowed upon the world, generally misunderstood in their expression, apparently contradicting each other. We find hosts of brave and wonderfully spiritual souls, in every nation, taking to caves or forests for meditation, severing their connection with the external world. This is the one idea. And on the other hand, we find bright, illustrious beings coming into society, trying to raise their fellow men, the poor, the miserable. Apparently these two methods are contradictory. The man who lives in a cave, apart from his fellow beings, smiles contemptuously upon those who are working for the regeneration of their fellow men. “How foolish!” he says. “What work is there to do? The world of maya will always remain the world of maya; it cannot be changed.”

            If I ask one of our priests in India, “Do you believe in Vedanta?” he says: “That is my religion; I certainly do. That is my life.” “Very well, do you admit the equality of all life, the sameness of everything?” “Certainly I do.” The next moment, when a low-caste man approaches this priest, he jumps to one side of the street to avoid that man. “Why did you jump?” “Because his very touch would have polluted me.” “But you were just saying we are all the same, and you admit there is no difference in souls.” He says, “Oh, that does not apply to householders; when I become a monk, then I shall look upon everyone as the same.” You ask one of your great men in England, of great birth and wealth, if he believes as a Christian in the brotherhood of mankind, since all came from God. He answers in the affirmative; but in five minutes he shouts something uncomplimentary about the common herd. Thus it has been only a theory for several thousand years, and has never come into practice. All understand it, declare it as the truth, but when you ask them to practice it, they say it will take millions of years.

            There was a certain king who had a large number of courtiers, and each one of these courtiers declared that he was ready to sacrifice his life for his master and that he was the most sincere being ever born. In course of time, a sannyasin came to the king. The king said to him that there never was a king who had so many sincere courtiers as he had. The sannyasin smiled and said that he did not believe it. The king said that the sannyasin could test it if he liked. So the sannyasin declared that he would perform a great sacrifice by which the king’s reign would be extended very long; as an accessory of the sacrifice, he wanted a small pond into which, in the dark of night, each one of his courtiers should pour a pitcher of milk. The king smiled and said, “Is this the test?” And he asked his courtiers to come to him and told them what was to be done. They all expressed their joyful assent to the proposal and returned. In the dead of night they came and emptied their pitchers into the tank. But in the morning it was found full of water only. The courtiers were assembled and questioned about the matter. Each one of them had thought there would be so many pitchers of milk that his water would not be detected. Unfortunately most of us have the same idea, and we do our share as did the courtiers in the story.

            There is so much talk of equality, says the priest, that my little privilege will not be detected. So say our rich men; so say the tyrants of every country. There is more hope for the tyrannized over than for the tyrants. It will take a very long time for tyrants to arrive at freedom, but less time for the others. The cruelty of the fox is much more terrible than the cruelty of the lion. The lion strikes a blow and is quiet for some time afterwards; but the fox, persistently following his prey, never misses an opportunity to harass it. Priestcraft is in its nature cruel and heartless. That is why religion goes down where priestcraft arises. Vedanta says that we must give up the idea of privilege; then religion will come. Before that there is no religion at all.

            Do you accept what Christ says? “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.” Practical equality there – no trying to torture the texts, but taking the truth as it is. Do not try to torture texts. I have heard it said that that was preached only to the handful of Jews who listened to Jesus. The same argument will apply to other things also. Do not torture texts. Dare to face truth as it is. If we cannot reach it, let us confess our weakness, but let us not destroy the ideal. Let us hope that we shall attain to it sometime, and let us strive for it. There it is: “Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and follow me.” Thus, trampling on every privilege and everything in us that works for privilege, let us work for that knowledge which will bring the feeling of sameness towards all mankind. You think that because you use a little more polished language you are superior to the man in the street. Remember that when you are thinking this, you are not going towards freedom, but are forging a fresh chain for your feet. And above all, if the pride of spirituality enters into you, woe unto you. It is the most awful bondage that ever existed. Neither can wealth nor any other bondage of the human heart bind the soul so much as this. “I am purer than others” is the most awful idea that can enter into the human heart. In what sense are you pure? The God in you is the God in all. If you have not known this, you have known nothing. How can there be difference? It is all one. Every being is the temple of the Most High; if you can see that, good; if not, spirituality has yet to come to you.

From “Vedanta and Privilege” by Swami Vivekananda, quoted from “VIVEKANANDA, WORLD TEACHER: His Teachings on the Spiritual Unity of Humankind”, Edited and with an Introduction by Swami Adiswarananda.

Book  stop.gif (845 bytes) Weekly Message Archive