The topic of this article is Swami Vivekananda‘s quotes on prostitution. This has been marked as a “sensitive topic”. Related articles are listed at the bottom of this page.
Swami Vivekananda in Cairo, Egypt
During the second visit to the West, in November 1900, Swami Vivekananda went to Cairo, Egypt. He had a good number of Western friends and disciples with him (including Emma Calvé). One day when Vivekananda and others were taking a walk in the streets of Cairo, they somehow lost their way and entered a red-light area. Vivekananda’s friends almost immediately understood that they had come to a wrong place and tried to bring Vivekananda out of the area. But Vivekananda was walking ahead and was not very attentive towards his friends’ calls.
He saw a woman of the area, sitting in a revealing dress and started walking towards her. Some other girls and women of the area also came out. Some of them started making fun and gestures to attract him. Vivekananda looked at them with deep compassion and then muttered, “Poor children! Poor creatures! They have put their divinity into beauty!” He was feeling so sad that tears rolled down his eyes.
Now the women, who were making fun and silly gestures, started feeling ashamed and embarrassed. One of them tried to hide her face in remorse, another one kissed the hem of Vivekananda’s robe and told, “Here is a man who has seen God!”. She turned to Vivekananda and softly uttered, “Sir, you must be a man of God!”
Swami Vivekananda on prostitution
- According to the doctrine of Bhakti, God is held to be “All-Love”. One cannot even say, “I love Him”, for the reason that He is All-Love. There is no love outside of Himself; the love that is in the heart with which you love Him is even He Himself. In a similar way, whatever attractions or inclinations one feels drawn by, are all He Himself. The thief steals, the harlot sells her body to prostitution, the mother loves her child—in each of these too is He![Source]
- Go now this minute to the temple of Pârthasarathi and before Him who was friend to the poor and lowly cowherds of Gokula, who never shrank to embrace the Pariah Guhaka, who accepted the invitation of a prostitute in preference to that of the nobles and saved her in His incarnation as Buddha — yea, down on your faces before Him, and make a great sacrifice, the sacrifice of a whole life for them, for whom He comes from time to time, whom He loves above all, the poor, the lowly, the oppressed. (Parthasarathi was a name of Krishna —Ed.)[Source]
- In course of time there appeared among the Jews a class of men who used to invoke the presence of deities in their person by means of music or dance. They were called Prophets. Many of these, through association with the Persians, set themselves against image-worship, sacrifice of sons, immorality, prostitution, and such other practices. By degrees, circumcision took the place of human sacrifice; and prostitution and image-worship etc. gradually disappeared. In course of time from among these Prophets Christianity had its rise.[Source]
- One fundamental doctrine of Hinduism is that all men are different, there being unity in variety. Even for a drunkard, there are some Mantras—even for a man going to a prostitute![Source]
- Prostitution is chiefly a Mohammedan practice.[Source]
- There is no progress without corresponding digression. In one society there is one set of evils; in another, another. So with periods of history. In the Middle Ages, there were more robbers, now more cheats. At one period there is less idea of married life; at another, more prostitution. In one, more physical agony; in another, a thousandfold more mental. So with knowledge.[Source]
- This one great Northern sage, Chaitanya, represented the mad love of the Gopis. . . .The saint or the sinner, the Hindu or the Mohammedan, the pure or the impure, the prostitute, the streetwalker — all had a share in his love, all had a share in his mercy.[Source]
From Ramakrishna, His Life and Sayings
From translation of a review of Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings by Prof. Max Müller, originally published in Udbodhana, 14 March 1899—
Again another charge put forward is that “he did not show sufficient moral abhorrence of prostitutes”. To this the Professor’s rejoinder is very very sweet indeed: he says that in this charge Ramakrishna “does not stand quite alone among the founders of religion! ” Ah! How sweet are these words — they remind one of the prostitute Ambâpâli, the object of Lord Buddha’s divine grace, and of the Samaritan woman who won the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet again, another charge is that he did not hate those who were intemperate in their habits. Heaven save the mark! One must not tread even on the shadow of a man, because he took a sip or two of drink — is not that the meaning? A formidable accusation indeed! Why did not the Mahâpurusha kick away and drive off in disgust the drunkards, the prostitutes, the thieves, and all the sinners of the world! And why did he not, with eyes closed, talk in a set drawl after the never-to-be-varied tone of the Indian flute-player, or talk in conventional language concealing his thoughts! And above all, the crowning charge is why did he not “live maritalement” all his life!
Swami Vivekananda on Amrapali
Amrapali or Ambapali or Ambapalika was a royal courtesan of ancient India (around 500 BCE). She was blessed by Gautama Buddha and later became an arhat (perfected one). Now we find Amrapali’s mention thrice in Complete Works (CW). In CW the spelling Ambâpâli has been used.
- From “translation of a review of Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings— “Ah! How sweet are these words — they remind one of the prostitute Ambâpâli, the object of Lord Buddha’s divine grace, and of the Samaritan woman who won the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.”[Source]
- From CW-IX, Morning Talks at Almora, Time: May-June 1898, Place: Almora— “Many times he spoke of Buddha in this fashion, sometimes at Belur and sometimes afterwards. And once he told us the story of Ambâpâli, the beautiful courtesan who feasted him. . . .”[Source]
- From CW-IX, The Temple of Pandrenthan, Time: 16–19 July 1898, Place: Kashmir— “But Buddha! Buddha! Surely he was the greatest man who ever lived. He never drew a breath for himself. Above all, he never claimed worship. He said, ‘Buddha is not a man, but a state. I have found the door. Enter, all of you! . . . He went to the feast of Ambâpâli, ‘the sinner’. He dined with the pariah, though he knew it would kill him, and sent a message to his host on his death-bed, thanking him for the great deliverance.”[Source]
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