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SWAMI VIVEKANANDA AND A WORLDWIDE SPIRITUAL REGENERATION

Book  stop.gif (845 bytes) Weekly Message Archive

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.

 

 

 

 

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA AND A WORLDWIDE SPIRITUAL REGENERATION

Swami Vivekananda warned us of the dire consequences we face by forgetting the spiritual unity of all beings and things and called for a recovery of our true Self – the bond of all unity. If we fail to heed this call, our civilization will face the unforgiving law of history. Vivekananda reminded us: “You may not believe in the vengeance of God, but you must believe in the vengeance of history.”

 

Vivekananda is looked upon by many as the world teacher who shows us the way to regain our human dignity. Today there are millions of thoughtful people throughout the world who derive inspiration from his life and teachings. His message has found its way into the spiritual current of our times. His all-encompassing, universal message has paved the way for a new generation of spiritual seekers who are interested not merely in religion but in attaining genuine peace and self-fulfillment.

 

Vivekananda is regarded as a great prophet, both in India and abroad. His birthday is observed throughout India as a national holiday. The present government of India, by an act of Parliament, has established an all India university in his name – the first time that the secular government of India has created a university in the name of a religious personality. There is no leader in India on whom his shadow hasn’t fallen. His message is the model of education and training presented for the new generation to discover where we fail and how to rise to the need of our time.

 

Vivekananda’s message gives us hope for the future. His love for humanity gave him the mandate for his message, and his innate purity gave him an irresistible power that nobody could match. The same love that was born as Buddha, the Compassionate One, once again assumed human form as Vivekananda. Though he lived only 39 years, he strides like a colossus across the whole of modern history and culture. A versatile genius, Vivekananda’s contribution to world thought is immense. His major contributions to world religious thought have been his spiritual democracy, spiritual humanism, and an enduring bond of world unity.

           

Vivekananda’s teachings foster spiritual democracy. Vivekananda offers an infinite variety of ideals and paths to choose from in order to reach the same ultimate goal – Self-knowledge or God-consciousness. Lacking this freedom of spiritual democracy, religion becomes authoritarian and oppressive, insisting upon blind obedience to rigid doctrines and dogmas and unquestioning belief in ceremonials and creeds. Spiritual freedom insures individuality, critical inquiry, honest doubt, free choice of the path, and verification of truth through personal experience. The ideas of exclusive salvation, a jealous God, and a chosen people are all alien to Vivekananda’s thought.

           

Vivekananda promoted spiritual humanism, as opposed to secular humanism. Spiritual humanism is not simply doing good to others but rendering loving service to the Divine, seeing its presence in all beings. Spiritual humanism embraces the whole of humanity, regardless of race, culture, country, religion, or social affiliation.

 

            World unity based on political considerations, economic interest, cultural ties, or humanitarian principles is never enduring. The bonds of such kinds of unity are too fragile to withstand the stresses and strains of social diversities. Unity of the world body, in order to be real, must be organic – and this requires a world soul that embraces countless diversities of human experience and human aspirations. Such a world soul must be the soul of all beings. “The God in you is the God in all” Vivekananda says. “If you have not known this, you have known nothing.” Unity of the world-soul includes not only human beings, but also animals, plants, and every form of life.

 

The essential teachings of Swami Vivekananda as a world teacher can be summarized as follows:

 

The fall of a country or culture is caused by its spiritual bankruptcy. In the same way, its rise depends upon spiritual awakening. Spiritual fall brings in its wake moral fall, moral fall brings intellectual blindness, and intellectual blindness brings material downfall.

 

The meaning of spirituality is the manifestation of the divinity already in a person. “Religion is realization – not talk or doctrines or theories, however beautiful they may be. It is being and becoming – not hearing or acknowledging. It is the whole soul’s becoming changed into what it believes.” Direct perception of this innate divinity is the core of spirituality. Doctrines, dogmas, theologies, and philosophies are secondary details.

 

The ultimate reality of the universe is nondual, designated by various traditions by various names. Believers in time call it time; believers in God call it God; believers in consciousness call it consciousness. We attribute names and epithets to this reality for our convenience, and they are symbolic.

 

“Each soul is a star,” wrote Swami Vivekananda, “and all stars are set in the infinite azure, the eternal sky – the Lord. There is the root, the reality, the real individuality, of each and all. Religion began with a search after some of the stars which had passed beyond our horizon, and ended in finding them all in God, with ourselves in the same place.” God is not only absolute reality but also the sum total of all souls. When this ultimate reality is ignored or forgotten by us, we confront it in our everyday life in the form of sorrow and suffering. When it is recognized, realized, and adored by us, we overcome all laws of material relative existence.

 

The unity of religions is based on direct perception of ultimate reality. The paths are different but the goal remains the same. Even if the whole world becomes converted to one religion or another, it will not enhance the cause of unity. Unity in diversity is the plan of the universe. Unity of religions calls for our paying attention to the basic teachings of all faiths, which provide us with the common ground where we are all rooted. Our scientific age is forcing us to find this common unity. Either we remain in our individual religious ghettos or we accept the fact of the innate spiritual unity of all faiths.

 

Realization of the spiritual unity of humankind begins with ourselves. We may not be able to change the whole world but we can change ourselves. “For the world can be good and pure only if our lives are good and pure. It is an effect, and we are the means. Therefore let us purify ourselves. Let us make ourselves perfect.” Unless we begin to see God within, we will never see God without. Again, unless we see God in the hearts of all beings, we will never see God inside ourselves. To serve the less fortunate and think of their wellbeing is a sacred duty of all human beings. This is the basis of all ethics and morality.

 

When we discover the Self and look upon every being as the embodiment of that Self, we attain the goal of life and become blessed. Swami Vivekananda tells us that we are not living in the final days of our destiny. We can change our destiny by our knowledge and awareness of our true Self and by our selfless work and spiritual humanism. Vivekananda says, “The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion – is it worth the name?” Regaining our spiritual balance may seem hard or impossible but Vivekananda assures us that it is attainable by our determined effort.

 

Vivekananda’s teachings are based on four fundamental principles: nonduality of ultimate reality, divinity of the soul, unity of existence, and harmony of religions.

 

Ultimate reality is always nondual, and the call for overcoming human separateness and human finitude is innate and irresistible in all beings. Divinity of the soul is the most vital aspect of our lives. We do not become divine by making pilgrimages, bathing in sacred waters, or meticulously performing ceremonies and rituals. The foundation of religion is an implicit faith in our own divinity. Ceremonies and rituals only heighten our faith in this divinity. The difference between a saint and a sinner is that the saint has faith in his saintliness and the sinner has faith in his sins. Unity of existence is the law of the universe. Individual selfishness and greed disrupt this unity and endanger even one’s own existence. Harmony of religions is the corollary of the first three principles. When religion loses its spiritual content all dissentions begin – not before that. Unity of religions cannot be promoted merely by lectures and discourses, conferences and workshops. Until we learn the essence of the teachings of all religions, find a common ground, and live according to these principles, harmony and unity will be a far cry.

 

The world today faces a serious crisis, and Swami Vivekananda points out that this crisis is essentially spiritual. Vivekananda the world teacher appeals to thinking people of the world to rise to the occasion and bring about a change and a worldwide spiritual regeneration. “That society is the greatest,” he says, “where the highest truths become practical. That is my opinion. And if society is not fit for the highest truths, make it so – and the sooner, the better. Stand up, men and women, in this spirit, dare to believe in the truth, dare to practice the truth!”

 

From the Introduction to” VIVEKANANDA, WORLD TEACHER: His Teachings on the Spiritual Unity of Humankind”, Edited and with an Introduction by Swami Adiswarananda.

 

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