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)
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
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
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.
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
Weekly Message Archive