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THE REAL NATURE OF MAN - PART II

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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.

 

 

 

 

THE REAL NATURE OF MAN – Part II

(Delivered at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolors, London, June 21, 1896)

This idea of “me” and “mine” – ahamkara and mamata – is the result of past superstition, and the more this present self passes away, the more the real Self becomes manifest. This is true self-abnegation, the center, the basis, the gist of all moral teaching, and whether man knows it or not, the whole world is slowly going towards it, practicing it more or less. Only, the vast majority of mankind are doing it unconsciously. Let them do it consciously. Let them make the sacrifice, knowing that this “me” and “mine” is not the real Self, but only a limitation. But one glimpse of that infinite reality which is behind, but one spark of that infinite fire that is the All, represents the present man. The infinite is his true nature.

 

            What is the utility, the effect, the result of this knowledge? In these days we have to measure everything by utility – by how many pounds, shillings, and pence it represents. What right has a person to ask that truth should be judged by the standard of utility or money? Suppose there is no utility, will it be less true? Utility is not the test of truth. Nevertheless, there is the highest utility in this. Happiness, we see, is what everyone is seeking for; but the majority seeks it in things which are evanescent and not real. No happiness was ever found in the senses. There never was a person who found happiness in the senses or in enjoyment of the senses. Happiness is only found in the spirit. Therefore the highest utility for mankind is to find this happiness in the spirit.

 

            The next point is that ignorance is the great mother of all misery, and the fundamental ignorance is to think that the infinite weeps and cries, that it is finite. This is the basis of all ignorance – that we, the immortal, the ever pure, the perfect spirit, think we are little minds, we are little bodies. It is the mother of all selfishness. As soon as I think I am a little body, I want to preserve it, to protect it, to keep it nice, at the expense of other bodies. Then you and I become separate. As soon as this idea of separation comes, it opens the door to all mischief and leads to all misery. This, then, is the utility of this knowledge – that if a small fractional part of human beings living today can put aside the idea of selfishness, narrowness, and littleness, this earth will become a paradise tomorrow. But with machines and improvements of material knowledge only, it will never be so. These only increase misery, as oil poured on fire increases the flame all the more. Without the knowledge of the spirit, all material knowledge is only adding fuel to fire, only giving into the hands of selfish man one more instrument to take what belongs to others, to live upon the life of others instead of giving up his life for them.

 

            Is it practical? – is another question. Can it be practiced in modern society? Truth does not pay homage to any society, ancient or modern. Society has to pay homage to truth or die. Societies should be molded upon truth; truth has not to adjust itself to society. If such a noble truth as unselfishness cannot be practiced in society, it is better for man to give up society and go into the forest. That is the daring man.

 

            There are two sorts of courage. One is the courage of facing the cannon; and the other is the courage of spiritual conviction. An emperor who invaded India was told by his teacher to go and see some of the sages there. After a long search for one, he found a very old man sitting on a block of stone. The emperor talked with him a little and became very much impressed by his wisdom. He asked the sage to go to his country with him. “No,” said the sage, “I am quite satisfied with my forest here.” Said the emperor: “I will give you money, position, wealth. I am the emperor of the world.” “No,” replied the man, “I don’t care for those things.” The emperor replied, “If you do not go, I will kill you.” The man smiled serenely and said: “That is the most foolish thing you ever said, Emperor. You cannot kill me. Me the sun cannot dry, fire cannot burn, sword cannot kill; for I am the birthless, the deathless, the ever living omnipotent, omnipresent spirit.” This is spiritual boldness, while the other is the courage of a lion or a tiger.

 

            During the Mutiny of 1857, there was a swami, a very great soul, whom a Mohammedan mutineer stabbed severely. The Hindu mutineers caught and brought the man to the swami, offering to kill him. But the swami looked up calmly and said, “My brother, thou art He, thou art He!” and expired. This is another instance.

            What good is it to talk of the strength of your muscles, of the superiority of your Western institutions, if you cannot make truth square with your society, if you cannot build up a society into which the highest truth will fit? What is the good of this boastful talk about your grandeur and greatness if you stand up and say, “This courage is not practical”? Is nothing practical but pounds, shillings, and pence? If so, why boast of your society? That society is the greatest 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! The world requires a few hundred bold men and women. Practice that boldness which dares know the truth, which dares show the truth in life, which does not quake before death, nay, welcomes death, makes a man know that he is the spirit, that in the whole universe nothing can kill him. Then you will be free. Then you will know your real soul.

 

            “This Atman is first to be heard of, then thought about, and then meditated upon.” There is a great tendency in modern times to talk too much of work and decry thought. Doing is very good, but that comes from thinking. Little manifestations of energy through the muscles are called work. But where there is no thought, there will be no work. Fill the brain, therefore, with high thoughts, with the highest ideals; place them day and night before you, and out of that will come great work. Talk not about impurity, but say that we are pure. We have hypnotized ourselves into this thought that we are little, that we are born and that we are going to die, and into a constant state of fear.

 

            There is a story about a lioness who was big with young. Going about in search of prey, and seeing a flock of sheep, she jumped upon them. She died in the effort and a little baby lion was born, motherless. It was taken care of by the sheep and they brought it up. It grew up with them, ate grass, and bleated like the sheep. And although in time it became a full-grown lion, it thought it was a sheep. One day another lion came in search of prey and was astonished to find that in the midst of this flock of sheep was a lion, fleeing like the sheep at the approach of danger. He tried to get near the sheep-lion to tell it that it was not a sheep but a lion, but the poor animal fled at his approach. However, he watched his opportunity and one day found the sheep-lion sleeping. He approached it and said, “You are a lion.” “I am a sheep,” cried the other lion; it could not believe the contrary, but bleated. The lion dragged it towards a lake and said, “Look here: there is my reflection and there is yours.” Then came the comparison. The sheep-lion looked at the lion and then at its own reflection, and in a moment came the idea that it was a lion. The lion roared; the bleating was gone.

 

            You are lions; you are the soul, pure, infinite, and perfect. The might of the universe is within you. “Why weepest thou, my friend? There is neither birth nor death for thee. Why weepest thou? There is no disease or misery for thee. Thou art like the infinite sky: clouds of various colors come over it, play for a moment, then vanish; but the sky is ever the same eternal blue.”

 

            Why do we see wickedness? There was a stump of a tree, and in the dark a thief came that way and said, “That is a policeman.” A young man waiting for his beloved saw it and thought that it was his sweetheart. A child who had been told ghost stories took it for a ghost and began to shriek. But all the time it was the stump of a tree. We see the world as we are. Suppose there is a baby in a room with a bag of gold on the table, and a thief comes and steals the gold. Would the baby know it was stolen? That which we have inside, we see outside. The baby has no thief inside and sees no thief outside. So with all knowledge.

 

            Do not talk of the wickedness of the world and all its sins. Weep that you are bound to see wickedness yet. Weep that you are bound to see sin everywhere. If you want to help the world, do not condemn it. Do not weaken it more. For what is sin and what is misery – what are all these but the results of weakness? The world is made weaker and weaker every day by such teachings. Men are taught from childhood that they are weak and sinners. Teach them that they are all glorious children of immortality, even those who are the weakest in manifestation. Let positive, strong, helpful thoughts enter into their brains from very childhood. Lay yourselves open to these thoughts, and not to weakening and paralyzing ones. Say to your own minds, “I am He, I am He.” Let it ring day and night in your minds like a song, and at the point of death declare “I am He.” That is the truth. The infinite strength of the world is yours. Drive out the superstition that has covered your minds. Let us be brave. Know the truth and practice the truth. The goal may be distant, but awake, arise, and stop not till the goal is reached

            From “The Real Nature of Man” by Swami Vivekananda, 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