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SRI RAMAKRISHNA: A NEW SPIRITUAL WAVE, Part One

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WEEKLY MESSAGES

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.

 

 

 

 

Sri Ramakrishna: A New Spiritual Wave

Part One

 (From “My Master” by Swami Vivekananda)

“Whenever virtue subsides and vice prevails, I come down to help mankind,” declares Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Whenever this world of ours, on account of growth and of additional circumstances, requires a new adjustment, a wave of power comes; and as a man is acting on two planes, the spiritual and the material, the wave of adjustment comes on both planes. On the one side, on the material plane, Europe has mainly been the basis of the adjustment during modern times, and on the other side, on the spiritual plane, Asia has been the basis of the adjustment throughout the history of the world. Today man requires one more adjustment on the spiritual plane. Today, when material ideas are at the height of their glory and power, today, when man is likely to forget his divine nature through his growing dependence on matter, and is likely to be reduced to a mere money-making machine, an adjustment is necessary. And the voice has spoken; the power is coming to drive away the clouds of gathering materialism. The power has been set in motion which, at no distant date, will bring unto mankind once more the memory of its real nature, and again the place from which this power has started is Asia. This world of ours is built on the plan of the division of labor. It is vain to say that one nation shall possess everything. Yet how childish we are! The baby, in his childishness, thinks that his doll is the only possession that is to be coveted in this whole universe. So a nation which is great in the possession of material power thinks that this is all that is to be coveted, that this is all that is meant by progress, that this is all that is meant by civilization, and if there are other nations which do not care to possess, and do not possess this power, they are not fit to live, their whole existence is useless. On the other hand, another nation may think that mere material civilization is utterly useless. From the Orient came the voice which once told the world that if a man possessed everything that is under the sun or above it, and did not possess spirituality, it availed him nothing. This is the Oriental type; the other is the Occidental type.

            Each of these types has its grandeur, each has its glory. The present adjustment will be the harmonizing, the blending, of these two ideals. To the Oriental, the world of the spirit is as real as to the Occidental is the world of the senses. In the spiritual, the Oriental finds everything he wants or hopes for; in it he finds all that makes life real to him. To the Occidental he is a dreamer. To the Oriental, the Occidental is a dreamer, playing with dolls that last only for five minutes, and he laughs to think that grownup men and women should make so much of a handful of matter which they will have to leave sooner or later. Each calls the other a dreamer. But the Oriental ideal is as necessary for the progress of the human race as the Occidental, and I think it is more necessary. Machines never made mankind happy, and never will. He who tries to make us believe this, claims that happiness is in the machine; but it is always in the mind. The man who is the lord of his mind alone can be happy, and none else.

            But what, after all, is this power of the machine? Why should a man who can send a current of electricity through a wire be called a very great and a very intelligent man? Does not nature do a million times more than that every moment? Why not then fall down and worship nature? What matters it if you have power over the whole of the world, if you have mastered every atom in the universe? That will not make you happy unless you have the power of happiness in yourself, until you have conquered yourself. Man is born to conquer nature, it is true, but the Occidental means by “nature” only the physical or external nature. It is true that external nature is majestic, with its mountains and oceans and rivers, and with its infinite power and variety. Yet there is a more majestic, internal nature of man, higher than the sun, moon, and stars, higher than this earth of ours, higher than the physical universe, transcending these little lives of ours; and it affords another field of study. There the Orientals excel, just as the Occidentals excel in the other. Therefore it is fitting that, whenever there is a spiritual adjustment, it should come from the Orient. It is also fitting that when the Oriental wants to learn about machine making, he should sit at the feet of the Occidental and learn from him. When the Occident wants to learn about the spirit, about God, about the soul, about the meaning and the mystery of this universe, he must sit at the feet of the Orient.

            I am going to present before you the life of a man who has put in motion a spiritual wave in India. But before going into the life of this man, I will try to present before you the secret of India, what India stands for. If those whose eyes have been blinded by the glamour of material things, whose whole life is dedicated to eating and drinking and enjoying, whose whole ideal of possession is lands and gold, whose whole ideal of pleasure is in the senses, whose God is money, and whose goal is a life of ease and comfort in this world and death after that, whose minds never look forward, and who rarely think of anything higher than the sense-objects in the midst of which they live – if such as these go to India, what do they see? Poverty, squalor, superstition, darkness, hideousness everywhere. Why? Because to their minds enlightenment means dress, education, social politeness. Whereas Occidental nations have used every effort to improve their material position, India has done differently. There lives the only race in the world who, in the whole history of humanity, never went beyond their frontiers to conquer anyone, who never coveted that which belonged to anyone else, and whose only fault was that their lands were so fertile, and their wits so keen, that they accumulated wealth by the hard labor of their hands and so tempted other nations to come and despoil them. They are content to be despoiled, and to be called barbarians, and in return they want to send to this world visions of the Supreme, to lay bare for the world the secrets of human nature, to rend the veil that conceals the real man, because they know that all this is a dream, because they know that behind matter lives the real, divine nature of man, which no sin can tarnish, no crime can spoil, no lust can kill; which fire cannot burn, nor water wet, which heat cannot dry, nor death kill; and to them this true nature of man is as real as is any material object to the senses of an Occidental.

            Just as you are brave enough to jump into the mouth of a cannon with a hurrah, brave enough, in the name of patriotism, to stand up and give up your lives for your country, so they are brave in the name of God. There it is that when a man declares that this is a world of ideas, that it is all a dream, he casts off clothes and property to demonstrate that what he believes and thinks is true. There it is that a man sits on the bank of a river, when he has known that life is eternal, and is willing to give up his body as if it were nothing, just as you would give up a bit of straw. Therein lies his heroism; he is ready to face death as a brother because he is convinced that there is no death for the soul. Therein lies the strength that has made India invincible through hundreds of years of oppression and foreign invasion and foreign tyranny. The nation lives today, and in that nation, even in the days of the direst disaster, spiritual giants have never failed to arise. Asia produces giants in spirituality, just as the Occident produces giants in politics, giants in science.

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.

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