1. Man is born to conquer nature and not to follow it.
2. When you think you are a body, are apart from the universe; when you think; you are a soul, you are a spark from the great Eternal Fire; when you think you are the Âtman (Self), you are All.
3. The will is not free — it is a phenomenon bound by cause and effect — but there is something behind the will which is free.
4. Strength is in goodness, in purity.
5. The universe is — objectified God.
6. You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.
7. The root of evil is in the illusion that we are bodies. This, if any, is the original sin.
8. One party says thought is caused by matter, and the other says matter is caused by thought. Both statements are wrong; matter and thought are coexistent. There is a third something of which both matter and thought are products.
9. As particles of matter combine in space, so mind-waves combine in time.
10. To define God is — grinding the already ground; for He is the only being we know.
11. Religion is the idea which is raising the brute unto man, and man unto God.
12. External nature is only internal nature writ large.
13. The motive is the measure of your work. What motive can be higher than that you are God, and that the lowest man is also God?
14. The observer in the psychic world needs to be very strong and scientifically trained.
15. To believe that mind is all, that thought is all is only a higher materialism.
16. This world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong.
17. You cannot teach a child any more than you can grow a plant. All you can do is on the negative side — you can only help. It is a manifestation from within; it develops its own nature — you can only take away obstructions.
18. As soon as you make a sect, you protest against universal brotherhood. Those who really feel universal brotherhood do not talk much, but their very actions speak aloud.
19. Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true.
20. You have to grow from inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.
21. If in an infinite chain a few links can be explained, by the same method all can be explained.
22. That man has reached immortality who is disturbed by nothing material.
23. Everything can be sacrificed for truth, but truth cannot be sacrificed for anything.
24. The search for truth is the expression of strength — not the groping of a weak, blind man.
25. God has become man; man will become God again.
26. It is child’s talk that a man dies and goes to heaven. We never come nor go. We are where we are. All the souls that have been, are, and will be, are on one geometrical point.
27. He whose book of the heart has been opened needs no other books. Their only value is to create desire in us. They are merely the experiences of others.
28. Have charity towards all beings. Pity those who are in distress. Love all creatures. Do not be jealous of anyone. Look not to the faults of others.
29. Man never dies, nor is he ever born; bodies die, but he never dies.
30. No one is born into a religion, but each one is born for a religion.
31. There is really but one Self in the universe, all else is but Its manifestations.
32. All the worshippers are divided into the common masses and the brave few.
33. If it is impossible to attain perfection here and now, there is no proof that we can attain perfection in any other life.
34. If I know one lump of clay perfectly, I know all the clay there is. This is the knowledge of principles, but their adaptations are various. When you know yourself you know all.
35. Personally I take as much of the Vedas as agrees with reason. Parts of the Vedas are apparently contradictory. They are not considered as inspired in the Western sense of the word, but as the sum total of the knowledge of God, omniscience. This knowledge comes out at the beginning of a cycle and manifests itself; and when the cycle ends, it goes down into minute form. When the cycle is projected again, that knowledge is projected again with it. So far the theory is all right. But that only these books which are called the Vedas are His knowledge is mere sophistry. Manu says in one place that that part of the Vedas which agrees with reason is the Vedas and nothing else. Many of our philosophers have taken this view.
36. Of all the scriptures of the world it is the Vedas alone that declare that even the study of the Vedas is secondary. The real study is “that by which we realise the Unchangeable”. And that is neither reading, for believing, nor reasoning, but superconscious perception, or Samâdhi.
37. We have been low animals once. We think they are something different from us. I hear, Western people say, “The world was created for us.” If tigers could write books, they would say, man was created for them and that man is a most sinful animal, because he does not allow him (the tiger) to catch him easily. The worm that crawls under your feet today is a God to be.
38. “I should very much like our women to have your intellectuality, but not if it must be at the cost of purity”, said Swami Vivekananda in New York. “I admire you for all that you know, but I dislike the way that you cover what is bad with roses and call it good. Intellectuality is not the highest good. Morality and spirituality are the things for which we strive. Our women are not so learned, but they are more pure.
“To all women every man save her husband should be as her son. To all men every woman save his own wife should be as his mother. When I look about me and see what you call gallantry, my soul is filled with disgust. Not until you learn to ignore the question of sex and to meet on a ground of common humanity will your women really develop. Until then they are playthings, nothing more. All this is the cause of divorce. Your men bow low and offer a chair, but in another breath they offer compliments. They say, ‘Oh, madam, how beautiful are your eyes!’ What right have they to do this? How dare a man venture so far, and how can you women permit it? Such things develop the less noble side of humanity. They do not tend to nobler ideals.
“We should not think that we are men and women. but only that we are human beings, born to cherish and to help one another. No sooner are a young man and a young woman left alone than he pays compliments to her, and perhaps before he takes a wife, he has courted two hundred women. Bah! If I belonged to the marrying set, I could find a woman to love without all that!
“When I was in India and saw these things from the outside, I was told it was all right, it was mere pleasantry and I believed it. But I have travelled since then, and I know it is not right. It is wrong, only you of the West shut your eyes and call it good. The trouble with the nations of the West is that they are young, foolish, fickle, and wealthy. What mischief can come of one of these qualities; but when all three, all four, are combined beware!”
But severe as the Swami was upon all, Boston received the hardest blow:
“Of all, Boston is the worst. There the women are all faddists, all fickle, merely bent on following something new and strange.”
39. “Where is the spirituality one would expect in a country”, he said in America, “that is so boastful of its civilisation?”
40. “Here” and “hereafter” are words to frighten children. It is all “here”. To live and move in God even here, even in this body, all self should go out, all superstition should be banished. Such persons live in India. Where are such in this country (America)? Your preachers speak against dreamers. The people of this country would be better off if there were more dreamers. There is a good deal of difference between dreaming and the brag of the nineteenth century. The whole world is full of God and not of sin. Let us help one another, let us love one another.
41. Let me die a true Sannyâsin as my Master did, heedless of money, of women, and of fame! And of these the most insidious is the love of fame!
42. I have never spoken of revenge, I have always spoken of strength. Do we dream of revenging ourselves on this drop of sea-spray? But it is a great thing to a mosquito!
43. “This is a great land,” said Swamiji on one occasion in America, “but I would not like to live here. Americans think too much of money. They give it preference over anything else. Your people have much to learn. When your nation is as old as ours, you will be wiser.”
44. It may be that I shall find it good to get outside of my body — to cast it off like a disused garment. But I shall not cease to work! I shall inspire men everywhere, until the world shall know that it is one with God.
45. All that I am, all that the world itself will some day be, is owing to my Master, Shri Ramakrishna, who incarnated and experienced and taught this wonderful unity which underlies everything, having discovered it alike in Hinduism, in Islam, and in Christianity.
46. Give the organ of taste a free rein, and the other organs will also run on unbridled.
47. Jnâna, Bhakti, Yoga and Karma — these are the four paths which lead to salvation. One must follow the path for which one is best suited; but in this age special stress should be laid on Karma-Yoga.
48. Religion is not a thing of imagination but of direct perception. He who has seen even a single spirit is greater than many a book-learned Pandit.
49. Once Swamiji was praising someone very much; at this, one sitting near by said to him, “But he does not believe in you.” Hearing this, Swamiji at once replied: “Is there any legal affidavit that he should have to do so? He is doing good work, and so he is worthy of praise.”
50. In the domain of true religion, book-learning has no right to enter.
51. The downfall of a religious sect begins from the day that the worship of the rich enters into it.
52. If you want to do anything evil, do it before the eyes of your superiors.
53. By the grace of the Guru, a disciple becomes a Pandit (scholar) even without reading books.
54. There is no sin nor virtue: there is only ignorance. By realisation of non-duality this ignorance is dispelled.
55. Religious movements come in groups. Each one of them tries to rear itself above the rest. But as a rule only one of them really grows in strength, and this, in the long run, swallows up all the contemporary movements.
56. When Swamiji was at Ramnad, he said in the course of a conversation that Shri Râma was the Paramâtman and that Sitâ was the Jivâtman, and each man’s or woman’s body was the Lanka (Ceylon). The Jivatman which was enclosed in the body, or captured in the island of Lankâ, always desired to be in affinity with the Paramatman, or Shri Rama. But the Râkshasas would not allow it, and Rakshasas represented certain traits of character. For instance, Vibhishana represented Sattva Guna; Râvana, Rajas; and Kumbhakarna, Tamas. Sattva Guna means goodness; Rajas means lust and passions, and Tamas darkness, stupor, avarice, malice, and its concomitants. These Gunas keep back Sita, or Jivatman, which is in the body, or Lanka, from joining Paramatman, or Rama. Sita, thus imprisoned and trying to unite with her Lord, receives a visit from Hanumân, the Guru or divine teacher, who shows her the Lord’s ring, which is Brahma-Jnâna, the supreme wisdom that destroys all illusions; and thus Sita finds the way to be at one with Shri Rama, or, in other words, the Jivatman finds itself one with the Paramatman.
57. A true Christian is a true Hindu, and a true Hindu is a true Christian.
58. All healthy social changes are the manifestations of the spiritual forces working within, and if these are strong and well adjusted, society will arrange itself accordingly. Each individual has to work out his own salvation; there is no other way, and so also with nations. Again, the great institutions of every nation are the conditions of its very existence and cannot be transformed by the mould of any other race. Until higher institutions have been evolved, any attempt to break the old ones will be disastrous. Growth is always gradual.
It is very easy to point out the defects of institutions, all being more or less imperfect, but he is the real benefactor of humanity who helps the individual to overcome his imperfections under whatever institutions he may live. The individuals being raised, the nation and its institutions are bound to rise. Bad customs and laws are ignored by the virtuous, and unwritten but mightier laws of love, sympathy, and integrity take their place. Happy is the nation which can rise to the necessity of but few law books, and needs no longer to bother its head about this or that institution. Good men rise beyond all laws, and will help their fellows to rise under whatever conditions they live.
The salvation of India, therefore, depends on the strength of the individual, and the realisation by each man of the divinity within.
59. Spirituality can never be attained until materiality is gone.
60. The first discourse in the Gita can be taken allegorically.
61. “Swami, you have no idea of time”, remarked an impatient American devotee, afraid of missing a steamer. “No,” retorted Swamiji calmly, “you live in time; we live in eternity!”
62. We are always letting sentiment usurp the place of duty and flatter ourselves that we are acting in response to true love.
63. We must get beyond emotionalism if we want the power to renounce. Emotion belongs to the animals. They are creatures of emotion entirely.
64. It is not sacrifice of a high order to die for one’s young. The animals do that, and just as readily as any human mother ever did. It is no sign of real love to do that; it is merely blind emotion.
65. We are for ever trying to make our weakness look like strength, our sentiment like love, our cowardice like courage, and so on.
66. Say to your soul in regard to vanities, weakness, etc., “This does not befit thee. This does not befit thee.”
67. Never loved a husband the wife for the wife’s sake or the wife the husband for the husband’s sake. It is God in the wife the husband loves, and God in the husband the wife loves. It is God in every one that draws us to the one we love, God in everything and in everybody that makes us love. God is the only love.
68. Oh, if only you knew yourselves! You are souls; you are Gods. If ever I feel like blaspheming, it; is when I call you man.
69. In everyone is God, the Atman; all else is but dream, an illusion.
70. If I do not find bliss in the life of the Spirit, shall, I seek satisfaction in the life of the senses? If I cannot get nectar; shall I fall back upon ditch water? The bird called Châtaka drinks from the clouds only, ever calling as it soars, “Pure water! Pure water!” And no storms or tempests make it falter on wing or descend to drink from the earth.
71. Any sect that may help you to realise God is welcome. Religion is the realising of God.
72. An atheist can be charitable but not religious. But the religious man must be charitable.
73. Everyone makes shipwreck on the rock of would-be Guruism, except those souls that were born to be Gurus.
74. Man is a compound of animality, humanity, and divinity.
75. The term “social progress” has as much meaning as “hot ice” or “dark light”. There is no such thing, ultimately, as “social progress”!
76. Things are not bettered, but we are bettered, by making changes in them.
77. Let me help my fellow men; that is all I seek.
78. “No”, said the Swami, very softly, in answer to a question in New York, “I do not believe in the occult. If a thing be unreal, it is not. What is unreal does not exist. Strange things are natural phenomena. I know them to be matters of science. Then they are not occult to me. I do not believe in occult societies. They do no good, and can never do good.”
79. There are four general types of men — the rational, the emotional, the mystical, and the worker. For each of these we must provide suitable forms of worship. There comes the rational man, who says, “I care not for this form of worship. Give me the philosophical, the rational — that I can appreciate.” So for the rational man is the rational philosophic worship.
There comes the worker. He says, “I care not for the worship of the philosopher. Give me work to do for my fellow men.” So for him is provided work as the path of worship. As for the mystical and the emotional, we have their respective modes of devotion. All these men have, in religion, the elements of their faith.
80. I stand for truth. Truth will never ally itself with falsehood. Even if all the world should be against me, Truth must prevail in the end.
81. Wherever you see the most humanitarian ideas fall into the hands of the multitude, the first result you notice is degradation. It is learning and intellect that help to keep things safe. It is the cultured among a community that are the real custodians of religion and philosophy in their purest form. It is that form which serves as the index for the intellectual and social condition of a community.
82. “I do not come”, said Swamiji on one occasion in America, “to convert you to a new belief. I want you to keep your own belief; I want to make the Methodist a better Methodist; the Presbyterian a better Presbyterian; the Unitarian a better Unitarian. I want to teach you to live the truth, to reveal the light within your own soul.”
83. Happiness presents itself before man, wearing the crown of sorrow on its head. He who welcomes it must also welcome sorrow.
84. He is free, he is great, who turns his back upon the world, who has renounced everything, who has controlled his passion, and who thirsts for peace. One may gain political and social independence, but if one is a slave to his passions and desires, one cannot feel the pure joy of real freedom.
85. Doing good to others is virtue (Dharma); injuring others is sin. Strength and manliness are virtue; weakness and cowardice are sin. Independence is virtue; dependence is sin. Loving others is virtue; hating others is sin. Faith in God and in one’s own Self is virtue; doubt is sin. Knowledge of oneness is virtue; seeing diversity is sin. The different scriptures only show the means of attaining virtue.
86. When, by reasoning, Truth is comprehended by the intellect, then it is realised in the heart, the fountainhead of feeling. Thus the head and the heart become illumined at the same moment; and then only, as says the Upanishad, “The knot of the heart is rent asunder, and all doubts cease” (Mundaka Upanishad, II.ii.8).
When in ancient times this knowledge (Jnâna) and this feeling (Bhâva) thus blossomed forth simultaneously in the heart of the Rishi, then the Highest Truth became poetic, and then the Vedas and other scriptures were composed. It is for this reason that one finds, in studying them, that the two parallel lines of Bhava and Jnana have at last met, as it were, in the plane of the Vedas and become combined and inseparable.
87. The scriptures of different religions point out different means to attain the ideals of universal love, freedom, manliness, and selfless benevolence. Every religious sect is generally at variance as to its idea of what is virtue and what is vice, and fights with others over the means of attaining virtue and eschewing vice, instead of aiming at realising the end. Every means is helpful more or less, and the Gita (XVIII.48) says, “Every undertaking is attended with defects as fire with smoke”; so the means will no doubt appear more or less defective. But as we are to attain the highest virtue through the means laid dozen in our respective scriptures, we should try our best to follow them. Moreover, they should be tempered with reason and discrimination. Thus, as we progress, the riddle of virtue and vice will be solved by itself.
88. How many in our country truly understand the Shastras nowadays? They have only learnt such words as Brahman, Maya, Prakriti, and so on, and confuse their heads with them. Setting aside the real meaning and purpose of the Shastras, they fight over the words only. If the Shastras cannot help all men in all conditions at all times, of what use, then, are such Shastras? If the Shastras show the way to the Sannyasins only and not to the householders, then what need has a householder for such one-sided Shastras? If the Shastras can only help men when they give up all work and retire into the forests, and cannot show the way of lighting the lamp of hope in the hearts of men of the workaday world — in the midst of their daily toil, disease, misery, and poverty, in the despondency of the penitent, in the self-reproach of the downtrodden, in the terror of the battlefield, in lust, anger and pleasure, in the joy of victory, in the darkness of defeat, and finally, in the dreaded night of death — then weak humanity has no need of such Shastras, and such Shastras will be no Shastras at all!
89. Through Bhoga (enjoyment) Yoga will come in time. But alas, such is the lot of my countrymen that, not to speak of possessing yoga, they cannot even have a little Bhoga! Suffering all sorts of indignities they can with the utmost difficulty only meet the barest needs of the body — and even that everyone cannot do! It is strange that such a state of affairs does not disturb our sleep and rouse us to our immediate duties.
90. Agitate ever so much for your rights and privileges, but remember that so long as we do not truly elevate ourselves by rousing intensely the feeling of self-respect in the nation, so long our hope of gaining rights and privileges is like the day-dream of Alnascar.
91. When a genius of a man with some special great power is born, all the best and the most creative faculties of his whole heredity are drawn towards the making up of his personality and squeezed dry, as it were. It is for this reason that we find that all those who are subsequently born in such a family are either idiots or men of very ordinary calibre, and that in time such a family in many cases becomes extinct.
92. If you cannot attain salvation in this life, what proof is there that you can attain it in the life or lives to come?
93. While visiting the Taj at Agra he remarked: “If you squeeze a bit of this marble, it will drip drops of royal love and its sorrow.” Further he observed, “It takes really six months to study a square inch of its interior works of beauty.”
94. When the real history of India will be unearthed, it will be proved that, as in matters of religion, so in fine arts, India is the primal Guru of the whole world.
95. Speaking of architecture he said: “People say Calcutta is a city of palaces, but the houses look much like so many boxes placed one upon the other! They convey no idea whatever. In Rajputana you can still find much pure Hindu architecture. If you look at a Dharmashala, you will feel as if it calls you with open arms to take shelter within and partake of its unqualified hospitableness. If you look at a temple, you are sure to find a Divine Presence in and about it. If you look about a rural cottage, you will at once be able to comprehend the special meanings of its different portions, and that the whole structure bears evidence to the predominant nature and ideal of the owner thereof. This sort of expressive architecture I have seen nowhere else except in Italy.”