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PRACTICAL VEDANTA - Excerpt 2

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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.

 

 

 

 

From Practical Vedanta – Excerpt 2.

(Delivered in London, November 12, 1896)

(continued)

So it is not right to say that the idea of the impersonal will lead to a tremendous amount of evil in the world, as if the other doctrine never lent itself to works of evil; as if it did not lead to sectarianism, deluging the world with blood and causing men to tear each other to pieces. “My God is the greatest God; if anyone disagrees, let us decide it by a free fight” – that is the outcome of dualism all over the world. Come out into the broad, open light of day; come out from the little narrow paths. For how can the infinite soul rest content to live and die in small ruts? Come out into the universe of light. Everything in the universe is yours. Stretch out your arms and embrace it with love. If you ever felt you wanted to do that, you have felt God.

            You remember that passage in the sermon of Buddha: how he sent a thought of love towards the south, the north, the east, and the west, above and below, until the whole universe was filled with this love, so grand, great, and infinite. When you have that feeling you have true personality; for the whole universe is one Person. Let little things go. Give up the small for the infinite; give up small enjoyments for infinite bliss. It is all yours, for the impersonal includes the personal. So God is personal and impersonal at the same time. And man – the infinite, impersonal man – is manifesting himself as a person. We, the infinite, have limited ourselves, as it were, into small parts.

            Vedanta says that infinity is our true nature; it will never vanish; it will abide forever. But we limit ourselves by our karma, which like a chain round our necks has dragged us into this limitation. Break that chain and be free. Trample law under your feet. No law can bind man’s true nature – no destiny, no fate. How can there be law in infinity? Freedom is its watchword. Freedom is its nature, its birthright. Be free and then have any number of personalities you like. Then we shall play like the actor who comes upon the stage and plays the part of a beggar. Contrast him with the actual beggar walking in the streets. The scene is perhaps the same in both cases; the words are perhaps the same; but yet what a difference! The one enjoys his beggary, while the other is suffering misery from it. And what makes this difference? The one is free and the other is bound. The actor knows that his beggary is not true, but that he has assumed it for the play, while the real beggar thinks that it is his own natural state and he has to bear it whether he will or not; for this is the law.

            So long as we have no knowledge of our real nature, we are beggars, jostled about by every force in nature and made slaves of by everything in nature. We cry all over the world for help, but help never comes to us. We cry to imaginary beings and yet it never comes. But still we hope help will come; and thus in weeping, wailing, and hoping, this life is passed and the same play goes on and on.

            Be free. Hope for nothing from anyone. I am sure if you look back upon your lives you will find that you were always vainly trying to get help from others which never came. All the help that ever came was from within yourselves. You had the fruits only of what you yourselves worked for, and yet you were strangely hoping all the time for help from others. A rich man’s parlor is always full; but, if you notice, you do not find the same people there. The visitors are always hoping that they will get something from the wealthy man; but they never do. So are our lives spent in hoping, hoping, hoping, to which there is no end. Give up hope, says Vedanta. Why should you hope? You have everything, nay, you are everything. What are you hoping for? If a king goes mad and runs about trying to find the king of his country, he will never find him, because he is the king himself. He may go through every village and city in his own country, seeking in every house, weeping and wailing, but he will never find him, because he is the king himself. It is better that we know we are God and give up this fool’s search after him. Knowing we are God, we become happy and contented.

            Give up all these mad pursuits and then play your part in the universe as an actor on the stage. The whole scene will change, and instead of an eternal prison this world will appear a playground; instead of a land of competition it will be a land of bliss, where perpetual spring exists, flowers bloom, and butterflies flit about. This very world, which formerly was hell, will be a heaven. To the eyes of the bound it is a tremendous place of torment, but to the eyes of the free it is quite otherwise. This very life is the universal life. Heavens and all those places are here; all the gods are here, the so-called prototypes of man. The gods did not create man after their image, but man created the gods. And here are the prototypes; here is Indra, here is Varuna, and all the gods of the universe. We have been projecting our little doubles, and we are the originals of these gods; we are the real, the only gods to be worshipped.

            This is the view of Vedanta, and this is its practicality. When we have become free, we need not go crazy and give up society and rush off to die in the forest or in a cave. We shall remain where we were, only we shall understand the whole thing. The same phenomena will remain, but with a new meaning.

            We do not know the world yet; it is only through freedom that we shall see what it is and understand its nature. We shall see then that this so-called law, or fate, or destiny, touched only a small part of our nature. It was only one side, but on the other side there was freedom all the time. We did not know this, and that is why we tried to save ourselves from evil by hiding our faces in the ground, like hunted hares. Through delusion we tried to forget our nature, and yet we could not; it was always calling to us, and all our search after God or the gods or external freedom was a search after our real nature. We mistook the voice. We thought it came from the fire or from a god, or from the sun or moon or stars. But at last we have found that it is from within ourselves. Within ourselves is this eternal voice speaking of eternal freedom; its music is eternally going on. Part of this music of the soul has become the earth, the law, this universe; but it was always ours and always will be.

            In one word, the ideal of Vedanta is to know man as he really is; and this is its message: If you cannot worship your brother man, the manifested God, how can you worship a God who is unmanifested? Do you not remember what the Bible says: “If you cannot love your brother whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have not seen?” If you cannot see God in the human face, how can you see him in the clouds or in images made of dull, dead matter, or in the mere fictions of your brain? I shall call you religious from the day you begin to see God in men and women. Then you will understand what is meant by turning the left cheek to the man who strikes you on the right. When you see man as God, everything, even the tiger, will be welcome. Whatever comes to us is but the Lord, the eternal, the blessed one, appearing to us in various forms – as our father and mother and friend and child. They are our own soul playing with us.

            As our human relationships can thus be made divine, so our relationship with God may take any of these forms, and we can look upon him as our father or mother or friend or beloved. Calling God mother is a higher ideal than calling God father, and to call him friend is still higher; but the highest is to regard him as the beloved. The culmination of all is to see no difference between lover and beloved. You may remember, perhaps, the old Persian story of how a lover came and knocked at the door of the beloved and was asked, “Who are you?” He answered, “It is I,” and there was no response. A second time he came and exclaimed, “I am here,” but the door was not opened. The third time he came, and the voice asked from inside, “Who is there?” He replied, “I am thyself, my beloved,” and the door opened. So is the relation between God and ourselves. He is in everything; he is everything. Every man and woman is the palpable, blissful, living God. Who says God is unknown? Who says he is to be searched after? We have known God eternally. We have been living in him eternally. Everywhere he is eternally known, eternally worshipped.

            Then comes another idea: that other forms of worship are not errors. This is one of the great points to be remembered: that those who worship God through ceremonials and forms, however crude we may think them, are not in error. It is the journey from truth to truth, from lower truth to higher truth. Darkness means less light; evil means less good; impurity means less purity. It must always be borne in mind that we should see others with eyes of love, with sympathy, knowing that they are going along the same path that we have trodden. If you are free, you must know that all will be so sooner or later; if you are free, how can you see anyone in bondage? If you are really pure, how do you see the impure? For what is within is without. We cannot see impurity without having it inside ourselves.

            This is one of the practical sides of Vedanta, and I hope that we shall all try to carry it into our lives. Our whole life here is an opportunity to carry this into practice. But our greatest gain is that we shall work with satisfaction and contentment instead of with discontent and dissatisfaction; for we know that truth is within us, we have it as our birthright, and we have only to manifest it and make it tangible.

( concluded)

From “Practical Vedanta” by Swami Vivekananda, 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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