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SRI RAMAKRISHNA: A NEW SPIRITUAL WAVE, Part Two

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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 Two

 

 (From “My Master” by Swami Vivekananda)

 

In the beginning of the present century, when Western influence began to pour into India, when Western conquerors, swords in hand, came to demonstrate to the children of the sages that they were mere barbarians, a race of dreamers, that their religion was but mythology, and God and soul and everything they had been struggling for were mere words without meaning, that the thousands of years of struggle, the thousands of years of endless renunciation, had all been in vain – at that time certain questions began to agitate young men at the universities: whether their whole national existence up to then had been a failure, whether they must begin anew on the Occidental plan, tear up their old books, burn their philosophies, drive away their preachers, and break down their temples. Did not the Occidental conqueror, the man who demonstrated his religion with sword and gun, say that all the old ways were mere superstition and idolatry? Children brought up and educated in the new schools started on the Occidental plan drank in these ideas from their childhood, and it is not to be wondered at that doubts assailed their minds. But instead of throwing away superstition and making a real search after truth, they asked: “What does the West say?” This, for them, became the test of truth. The priests must go, the Vedas must be burned, because the West said so. Out of the feeling of unrest thus produced there arose a wave of so-called reform in India.

            If you wish to be a true reformer, you must possess three things. The first is to feel. Do you really feel for your brothers? Do you really feel that there is so much misery in the world, so much ignorance and superstition? Do you really feel that all men are your brothers? Does this idea permeate your whole being? Does it run in your blood? Does it tingle in your veins? Does it course through every nerve and filament of your body? Are you full of that idea of sympathy? If you are, that is only the first step. Next you must ask yourself if you have found any remedy. The old ideas may be all superstition, but in and around these masses of superstition are nuggets of truth. Have you discovered means by which to keep that truth alone, without any of the dross? If you have done that, that is only the second step; one more thing is necessary. What is your motive? Are you sure that you are not actuated by greed for gold, by thirst for fame or power? Are you really sure that you can stand for your ideals and work on, even if the whole world wants to crush you down? Are you sure that you know what you want and will perform your duty, and that alone, even if your life is at stake? Are you sure that you will persevere so long as life endures, so long as there is one pulsation left in the heart? Then you are a real reformer, you are a teacher, a master, a blessing to mankind. But man is so impatient, so shortsighted! He has not the patience to wait, he has not the power to see. He wants to rule, he wants results immediately. Why? He wants to reap the fruits himself and does not really care for others. Duty for duty’s sake is not what he wants. “To work you have the right, but not to the fruits thereof,” says Krishna. Why cling to results? Ours is to do our duties. Let the fruits take care of themselves. But man has no patience; he takes up any scheme that will produce quick results; and the majority of reformers all over the world can be classed under this heading.

            As I have said, an intense desire for reform came to India, and it seemed as if the wave of materialism that had invaded her shores would sweep away the teachings of the sages. But the nation had borne the shocks of a thousand such waves of change. This one was mild in comparison. Wave after wave had flooded the land, breaking and crushing everything for hundreds of years; the sword had flashed and “Victory unto Allah!” had rent the skies of India; but these floods subsided, leaving the national ideals unchanged.

            In the beginning of the present century, when Western influence began to pour into India, when Western conquerors, swords in hand, came to demonstrate to the children of the sages that they were mere barbarians, a race of dreamers, that their religion was but mythology, and God and soul and everything they had been struggling for were mere words without meaning, that the thousands of years of struggle, the thousands of years of endless renunciation, had all been in vain – at that time certain questions began to agitate young men at the universities: whether their whole national existence up to then had been a failure, whether they must begin anew on the Occidental plan, tear up their old books, burn their philosophies, drive away their preachers, and break down their temples. Did not the Occidental conqueror, the man who demonstrated his religion with sword and gun, say that all the old ways were mere superstition and idolatry? Children brought up and educated in the new schools started on the Occidental plan drank in these ideas from their childhood, and it is not to be wondered at that doubts assailed their minds. But instead of throwing away superstition and making a real search after truth, they asked: “What does the West say?” This, for them, became the test of truth. The priests must go, the Vedas must be burned, because the West said so. Out of the feeling of unrest thus produced there arose a wave of so-called reform in India.

            If you wish to be a true reformer, you must possess three things. The first is to feel. Do you really feel for your brothers? Do you really feel that there is so much misery in the world, so much ignorance and superstition? Do you really feel that all men are your brothers? Does this idea permeate your whole being? Does it run in your blood? Does it tingle in your veins? Does it course through every nerve and filament of your body? Are you full of that idea of sympathy? If you are, that is only the first step. Next you must ask yourself if you have found any remedy. The old ideas may be all superstition, but in and around these masses of superstition are nuggets of truth. Have you discovered means by which to keep that truth alone, without any of the dross? If you have done that, that is only the second step; one more thing is necessary. What is your motive? Are you sure that you are not actuated by greed for gold, by thirst for fame or power? Are you really sure that you can stand for your ideals and work on, even if the whole world wants to crush you down? Are you sure that you know what you want and will perform your duty, and that alone, even if your life is at stake? Are you sure that you will persevere so long as life endures, so long as there is one pulsation left in the heart? Then you are a real reformer, you are a teacher, a master, a blessing to mankind. But man is so impatient, so shortsighted! He has not the patience to wait, he has not the power to see. He wants to rule, he wants results immediately. Why? He wants to reap the fruits himself and does not really care for others. Duty for duty’s sake is not what he wants. “To work you have the right, but not to the fruits thereof,” says Krishna. Why cling to results? Ours is to do our duties. Let the fruits take care of themselves. But man has no patience; he takes up any scheme that will produce quick results; and the majority of reformers all over the world can be classed under this heading.

            As I have said, an intense desire for reform came to India, and it seemed as if the wave of materialism that had invaded her shores would sweep away the teachings of the sages. But the nation had borne the shocks of a thousand such waves of change. This one was mild in comparison. Wave after wave had flooded the land, breaking and crushing everything for hundreds of years; the sword had flashed and “Victory unto Allah!” had rent the skies of India; but these floods subsided, leaving the national ideals unchanged.

            The Indian nation cannot be killed. Deathless it stands, and it will stand so long as that spirit shall remain as the background, so long as her people do not give up their spirituality. Beggars they may remain, poor and poverty-stricken; dirt and squalor may surround them perhaps throughout all time, but let them not give up their God, let them not forget that they are the children of the sages. Just as, in the West, even the man in the street wants to trace his descent from some robber-baron of the Middle Ages, so in India, even an Emperor on the throne wants to trace his descent from some beggar-sage in the forest, from a man who wore the bark of a tree, lived upon the fruits of the forest, and communed with God. That is the type of heritage we want; and so long as holiness is thus supremely venerated, India cannot die.

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