A Message from Swami Vivekananda

A Message from Swami Vivekananada

londondec1896Excerpts from “Freedom of the Soul” from Jnana Yoga

A lecture from Swami Vivekananda in London on November 5, 1896

If you say that the soul was by its own nature pure and free, it naturally follows that there was nothing in this universe which could make it bound or limited.  But if there was anything in nature which could bind the soul, it naturally follows that it was not free, and your statement that it was free is a delusion.  So if it is possible for us to attain to freedom, the conclusion is inevitable that the soul is by its nature free.  It cannot be otherwise.  Freedom means independence of anything outside, and that means that nothing outside itself could work upon it as a cause.  The soul is causeless, and from this follows all the great ideas that we have.  You cannot establish the immortality of the soul, unless you grant that it is by its nature free, or in other words, that it cannot be acted upon by anything outside….Freedom, immortality, blessedness, all depend upon the soul being beyond the law of causation, beyond this Maya.

…The solution of the Vedanta is that we are not bound; we are free already.  Not only so, but to say or to think that we are bound is dangerous – it is a mistake, it is self-hypnotism.  As soon as you say, “I am bound,” “I am weak,” “I am helpless,” woe unto you; you rivet one more chain upon yourself.  Do not say it, do not think it…..I am pure and perfect and so are all my enemies.  You are He, and so am I….” that is the position of strength. …It is weakness, says the Vedanta, which is the cause of all misery in this world.  Weakness is the one cause of suffering.  We become miserable because we are weak.  We lie, steal, kill, and commit other crimes, because we are weak.  We suffer because we are weak.  We die because we are weak.  Where there is nothing to weaken us, there is no death nor sorrow.  We are miserable through delusion.  Give up the delusion, and the whole thing vanishes.  It is plain and simple indeed.  Through all these philosophical discussions and tremendous mental gymnastics we come to this one religious idea, the simplest in the whole world.

The monistic Vedanta is the simplest form in which you can put truth.  …To many, these tremendous philosophical and logical propositions were alarming.  They thought these things could not be made universal, could not be followed in everyday practical life, and that under the guise of such a philosophy much laxity of living would arise.

But I do not believe at all that monistic ideas preached to the world would produce immorality and weakness.  On the contrary, I have reason to believe that it is the only remedy there is.  If this be the truth, why let people drink ditch water when the stream of life is flowing by?  If this be the truth, that they are all pure, why not at this moment teach it to the whole world?  Why not teach it with the voice of thunder to every man that is born, to saints and sinners, men, women, and children, to the man on the throne and to the man sweeping the streets?

…Whether this idea first flashed into the brains of Hebrews or of people living in the Arctic regions, nobody cares.  For this is the truth and truth is eternal; and truth itself teaches that it is not the special property of any individual or nation.  Men, animals, and gods are all common recipients of this one truth.  Let them all receive it.  Why make life miserable?  Why let people fall into all sorts of superstitions?  I will give ten thousand lives, if twenty of them will give up their superstition.  Not only in this country [England], but in the land of its very birth, if you tell people this truth, they are frightened.  They say, “This idea is for Sannyasins who give up the world and live in forests; for them it is all right.  But for us poor householders, we must all have some sort of fear, we must have ceremonies,” and so on.

Dualistic ideas have ruled the world long enough, and this is the result.  Why not make a new experiment?  It may take ages for all minds to receive monism, but why not begin now?  If we have told it to twenty persons in our lives, we have done a great work.

There is one idea which often militates against it.  It is this.  It is all very well to say, “I am the Pure, the Blessed,” but I cannot show it always in my life.  This is true; the ideal is always very hard.  Every child that is born sees the sky overhead very far away, but is that any reason why we should not look towards the sky?  Would it mend matters to go towards superstition?  If we cannot get nectar, would it mend matters for us to drink poison?  Would it be any help for us, because we cannot realize the truth immediately to go into darkness and yield to weakness and superstition?

I have no objection to dualism in many of its forms.  I like most of them, but I have objections to every form of teaching which inculcates weakness.  This is the one question I put to every man, woman, or child, when they are in physical, mental, or spiritual training.  Are you strong?  Do you feel strength? – For I know it is truth alone that gives strength.  I know that truth alone gives life, and nothing but going towards reality will make us strong, and none will reach truth until he is strong.  Every system, therefore, which weakens the mind, makes one superstitious, makes one mope, makes one desire all sorts of wild impossibilities, mysteries, and superstitions, I do not like, because its effect is dangerous.  Such systems never bring any good; such things create morbidity in the mind, make it weak, so weak that in course of time it will be almost impossible to receive truth or live up to it.  Strength, therefore, is the one thing needful.  Strength is the medicine of the world’s disease.  Strength is the medicine which the poor must have when tyrannized over by the rich.  Strength is the medicine that the ignorant must have when oppressed by the learned; and it is the medicine that sinners must have when tyrannized over by other sinners; and nothing gives such strength as this idea of monism.  Nothing makes us so moral as this idea of monism.  Nothing makes us work so well at our best and highest as when all the responsibility is thrown upon ourselves.

I challenge every one of you.  How will you behave if I put a little baby in your hands?  Your whole life will be changed for the moment; whatever you may be, you must become selfless for the time being.  You will give up all your criminal ideas as soon as responsibility is thrown upon you – your whole character will change.  So if the whole responsibility is thrown upon our own shoulders, we shall be at our highest and best; when we have nobody to grope towards, no devil to lay our blame upon, no Personal God to carry our burdens, when we are alone responsible, then we shall rise to our highest and best.  I am responsible for my fate, I am the bringer of good unto myself, I am the bringer of evil.  I am the Pure and Blessed One.  We must reject all thoughts that assert the contrary.  “I have neither death nor fear, I have neither caste nor creed, I have neither father nor mother, nor brother, neither friend nor foe, for I am Existence, Knowledge, and bliss Absolute; I am the Blissful One, I am the Blissful One. I am not bound either by virtue or vice, by happiness or misery.  Pilgrimages and books and ceremonials can never bind me.  I have neither hunger nor thirst; the body is not mine, nor am I subject to the superstitions and decay that come to the body, I am Existence, Knowledge, and bliss Absolute; I am the blissful One, I am the blissful One.”

This, says the Vedanta, is the only prayer that we should have.  This is the only way to reach the goal, to tell ourselves, and to tell everybody else, that we are divine.  And as we go on repeating this, strength comes.  He who falters at first will get stronger and stronger and the voice will increase in volume until the truth takes possession of our hearts, and courses through our veins, and permeates our bodies.  Delusion will vanish as the light becomes more and more effulgent, load after load of ignorance will vanish, and then will come a time when all else has disappeared and the Sun alone shines.
[Excerpts from The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol. 2, pages 196-202, Advaita Ashrama, publisher.]