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.
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
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
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
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
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
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!”
Introduction to” VIVEKANANDA, WORLD TEACHER: His Teachings on the
Spiritual Unity of Humankind”, Edited and with an Introduction by Swami
Weekly Message Archive