(Translated from Bengali )
[Place: The rented Math premises at Belur. Year: 1898, November.]
The Math is still situated in Nilambar Babu’s garden house at Belur. It is the month of November. Swamiji is now much engaged in the study and discussion of Sanskrit scriptures. The couplet beginning with “Âchandâlâ-pratihatarayah“, he composed about this time. Today Swamiji composed the hymn, “Om Hring Ritam” etc., and handing it over to the disciple said, “See if there is any metrical defect in these stanzas.” The disciple made a copy of the poem for this purpose.
On this day it seemed as if the goddess of learning had manifested herself on his tongue. With the disciple he fluently talked about two hours at a stretch in exceedingly melodious Sanskrit. After the disciple had copied the hymn, Swamiji said, “You see, as I write immersed in thought, grammatical slips sometimes occur; therefore I ask you all to look over them.”
Disciple: Sir, these are not slips, but the licence of genius.
Swamiji: You may say so; but why will other people assent to that? The other day I wrote an essay on “What is Hinduism”, and some amongst you even are complaining that it was written in a very stiff Bengali. I think, language and thought also, like all other things, become lifeless and monotonous in course of time. Such a state seems to have happened now in this country. On the advent of Shri Ramakrishna, however, a new current has set in, in thought and language. Everything has now to be recast in new moulds. Everything has to be propagated with the stamp of new genius. Look, for example, how the old modes of Sannyasins are breaking, yielding place to a new mould by degrees. Society is protesting much against it — but is it of any avail? Neither are we frightened by that. The Sannyasins of the present day have to go to distant countries for preaching, and if they go in an ash-besmeared, half-nude body like the Sâdhus (holy men) of old, in the first place they won’t be taken on board the ships, and even if they anyhow reach foreign countries in that dress, they will have to stay in jail. Everything requires to be changed a little according to place, time, and civilisation. Henceforth I am thinking of writing essays in Bengali. Littérateurs will perhaps rail at them. Never mind — I shall try to cast the Bengali language in a new mould. Nowadays, Bengali writers use too many verbs in their writings; this takes away the force of the language. If one can express the ideas of verbs with adjectives, it adds to the force of the language; henceforth try to write in that style. Try to write articles in that style in the Udbodhan. Do you know the meaning of the use of verbs in language? It gives a pause to the thought; hence the use of too many verbs in language is the sign of weakness, like quick breathing, and indicates that there is not much vitality in the language; that is why one cannot lecture well in the Bengali language. He who has control over his language, does not make frequent breaks in his thoughts. As your physique has been rendered languid by living on a dietary of boiled rice and dâl, similar is the case with your language. In food, in modes of life, in thought, and in language, energy has to be infused. With the infusion of vitality all round and the circulation of blood in all arteries and veins, one should feel the throbbing of new life in everything — then only will the people of this land be able to survive the present terrible struggle for existence; otherwise the country and the race will vanish in the enveloping shadows of death at no distant date.
Disciple: Sir, the constitution of the people of this country has been moulded in a peculiar way through long ages. Is it possible to change that within a short time?
Swamiji: If you have known the old ways to be wrong, then why don’t you, as I say, learn to live in a better way? By your example ten other people will follow suit, and by theirs another fifty people will learn. By this process in course of time the new idea will awaken in the hearts of the whole race. But even if after understanding, you do not act accordingly, I shall know that you are wise in words only — but practically you are fools.
Disciple: Your words, sir, infuse great courage, enthusiasm, energy and strength into the heart.
Swamiji: By degrees the heart has to be strengthened. If one man is made, it equals the result of a hundred thousand lectures. Making the mind and lips at one, the ideas have to be practised in life. This is what Shri Ramakrishna meant by “allowing no theft in the chamber of thought”. You have to be practical in all spheres of work. The whole country has been ruined by masses of theories. He who is the true son of Shri Ramakrishna will manifest the practical side of religious ideas and will set to work with one-pointed devotion without paying heed to the prattling of men or of society. Haven’t you heard of the couplet of Tulsidas: “The elephant walks the market-place and a thousand curs bark at him; so the Sadhus have no ill-feeling if worldly people slander them.” You have to walk in this way. No count should be taken of the words of people. If one has to pay heed to their praise or blame, no great work can be accomplished in this life. “नायमात्मा बलहीनेन लभ्यः — The Atman is not to be gained by the weak.” If there is no strength in the body and mind, the Atman cannot be realised. First you have to build the body by good nutritious food — then only will the mind be strong. The mind is but the subtle part of the body. You must retain great strength in your mind and words. “I am low, I am low” — repeating these ideas in the mind, man belittles and degrades himself. Therefore, the Shastra (Ashtâvakra Samhita, I. 11) says:
“मुक्ताभिमानी मुक्तो हि बद्धो बद्धाभिमान्यपि।
किम्वदन्तीह सत्येयं या मतिः सा गतिर्भवेत्॥
— He who thinks himself free, free he becomes; he who thinks himself bound, bound he remains — this popular saying is true: ‘As one thinks, so one becomes’.” He alone who is always awake to the idea of freedom, becomes free; he who thinks he is bound, endures life after life in the state of bondage. It is a fact. This truth holds good both in spiritual and temporal matters. Those who are always down-hearted and dispirited in this life can do no work; from life to life they come and go wailing and moaning. “The earth is enjoyed by heroes” — this is the unfailing truth. Be a hero. Always say, “I have no fear.” Tell this to everybody — “Have no fear”. Fear is death, fear is sin, fear is hell, fear is unrighteousness, fear is wrong life. All the negative thoughts and ideas that are in this world have proceeded from this evil spirit of fear. This fear alone has kept the sun, air and death in their respective places and functions, allowing none to escape from their bounds. Therefore the Shruti says (Katha Upanishad, II. iii, 3) says:
“भयादस्याग्निस्तपति भयात्तपति सूर्यः।
भयादिन्द्रश्च वायुश्च मृत्युर्धावति पञ्चमः॥
— Through fear of this, fire burns, the sun heats; through fear Indra and Vâyu are carrying on their functions, and Death stalks upon this earth.” When the gods Indra, Chandra, Vayu, Varuna will attain to fearlessness, then will they be one with Brahman, and all this phantasm of the world will vanish. Therefore I say, “Be fearless, be fearless.”
Swamiji, in saying these words, appeared in the eyes of the disciple like the very embodiment of “fearlessness”, and he thought, “How in his presence even the fear of death leaves one and vanishes into nothingness!”
Swamiji continued: In this embodied existence, you will be tossed again and again on the waves of happiness and misery, prosperity and adversity — but know them all to be of momentary duration. Never care for them. “I am birthless, the deathless Atman, whose nature is Intelligence” — implanting this idea firmly in your heart, you should pass the days of your life. “I have no birth, no death, I am the Atman untouched by anything” — lose yourself completely in this idea. If you can once become one with this idea, then in the hour of sorrow and tribulation, it will rise of itself in your mind, and you will not have to strive with difficulty to bring it up. The other day, I was a guest of Babu Priyanath Mukherjee at Baidyanath. There I had such a spell of asthma that I felt like dying. But from within, with every breath arose the deep-toned sound, “I am He, I am He”. Resting on the pillow, I was waiting for the vital breath to depart, and observing all the time that from within was being heard the sound of “I am He, I am He!” I could hear all along “एकमेवाद्वयं ब्रह्म नेह नानास्ति किञ्चन — The Brahman, the One without a second, alone exists, nothing manifold exists in the world.”
The disciple, struck with amazement said, “Sir, talking with you and listening to your realisations, I feel no necessity for the study of scriptures.”
Swamiji: No! Scriptures have to be studied also. For the attainment of Jnana, study of scriptures is essential. I shall soon open classes in the Math for them. The Vedas, Upanishads, the Gita, and Bhâgavata should be studied in the classes, and I shall teach the Pânini’s Ashtâdhyâyai.
Disciple: Have you studied the Ashtadhayayi of Panini?
Swamiji: When I was in Jaipur, I met a great grammarian and felt a desire to study Sanskrit grammar with him. Although he was a great scholar in that branch, he had not much aptitude for teaching. He explained to me the commentary on the first aphorism for three days continuously, still I could not grasp a bit of it. On the fourth day the teacher got annoyed and said, “Swamiji, I could not make you understand the meaning of the first aphorism even in three days; I fear, you will not be much benefited by my teaching.” Hearing these words, a great self-reproach came over me. Putting food and sleep aside, I set myself to study the commentary on the first aphorism independently. Within three hours the sense of the commentary stood explained before me as clearly as anything; then going to my teacher I gave him the sense of the whole commentary. My teacher, hearing me, said, “How could you gather the sense so excellently within three hours, which I failed to explain to you in three days?” After that, every day I began to read chapter after chapter, with the greatest ease. Through concentration of mind everything can be accomplished — even mountains can be crushed to atoms.
Disciple: Sir, everything is wonderful about you.
Swamiji: There is nothing wonderful in this universe. Ignorance constitutes the only darkness, which confers all things and makes them look mysterious. When everything is lighted by Knowledge, the sense of mystery vanishes from the face of things. Even such an inscrutable thing as Maya, which brings the most impossible things to pass, disappears. Know Him, think of Him, by knowing whom everything else is known. And when that Atman is realised, the purport of all scriptures will be perceived as clearly as a fruit on the palm of one’s hand. The Rishis of old attained realisation, and must we fail? We are also men. What has happened once in the life of one individual must, through proper endeavour, be realised in the life of others. History repeats itself. This Atman is the same in all, there is only a difference of manifestation in different individuals. Try to manifest this Atman, and you will see your intellect penetrating into all subjects. The intellect of one who has not realised the Atman is one-sided, whereas the genius of the knower of Atman is all-embracing. With the manifestation of the Atman you will find that science, philosophy, and everything will be easily mastered. Proclaim the glory of the Atman with the roar of a lion, and impart fearlessness unto all beings by saying, “Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached.”