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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.





The Great Teachers of the World

(Delivered at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, February 3, 1900)

The universe, according to a philosophical theory of the Hindus, is moving in cycles of wave form. It rises, reaches its zenith, and then falls and remains in the hollow, as it were, for some time, once more to rise, and so on in wave after wave. What is true of the universe is true of every part of it. The march of human affairs is like that; the history of nations is like that: they rise and they fall. After the rise comes a fall; again, out of the fall comes a rise, with greater power. This movement is always going on.

            In the religious world the same movement exists. In every nation’s spiritual life there is a fall as well as a rise. The nation goes down and everything seems to go to pieces. Then again it gains strength and rises. A huge wave comes – sometimes a tidal wave; and always on the crest of that tidal wave is a shining soul, a messenger. Creator and created by turns, he is the impetus that makes the wave rise, the nation rise; at the same time, he is created by the same forces which make the wave, acting and interacting by turns. He puts forth his tremendous power upon society, and society makes him what he is. These are the great world thinkers; these are the prophets, the messengers, the incarnations of God.

            Men have an idea that there can be only one religion, that there can be only one prophet, that there can be only one incarnation; but that idea is not true. By studying the lives of all these great messengers, we find that each was destined to play a part, as it were, and a part only; that the harmony consists in the sum total and not in one note. It is the same in the life of races: no race is born to alone enjoy the world. None dare say so. Each race has a part to play in this divine harmony of nations; each race has its mission to perform, its duty to fulfill. The sum total is the great harmony.

            So not one of these prophets is born to rule the world forever. None has yet succeeded and none is going to succeed in the future. Each only contributes a part; and he will control the world and its destinies as far as that part is concerned.

            Most of us are born believers in a personal God. We talk of principles, we think of theories, and that is all right; but every thought and every movement, every one of our actions, shows that we can only understand a principle when it comes to us through a person. We can only grasp an idea when it comes to us through a concrete ideal person. We can only understand the precept through the example. Would to God that all of us were so developed that we did not require any example, did not require any person. But that we are not; and naturally the vast majority of mankind have put their souls at the feet of these extraordinary personalities, the prophets, the incarnations of God – incarnations worshipped by the Christians, by the Buddhists, and by the Hindus. The Mohammedans from the beginning stood out against any such worship. They would have nothing to do with worshipping the prophets or the messengers, or paying any homage to them; but practically, instead of one prophet, thousands upon thousands of saints are being worshipped. We cannot go against facts. We are bound to worship personalities, and it is good. Remember the answer of your great prophet to the prayer, “Lord, show us the Father” – “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Which of us can have a better idea of God than that he is a man? We can see him only in and through humanity. The vibration of light is everywhere in this room; why cannot we see it everywhere? You can see it only in the lamp. God is an omnipresent principle – everywhere; but we are so constituted at present that we can see him, feel him, only in and through a human God. When these great lights come, then man realizes God.


From “The Great Spiritual Teachers of the World”  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