The first Swami in the US

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Swami Vivekananda

                 I often start the articles on this blog with quotes from the great master – Swami Vivekananda. January 12, 2013 was his 150th birth-anniversary. The theme of this blog is being an Indian in the US; and I couldn’t help but note that Swamiji was the first Hindu Swami who gave the message of Vedanta to the US and to the West at large. He paved the way for many that followed – Swami Yogananda, Swami Prabhupada, Mahesh Yogi and so on. The list of lives that he influenced and transformed either directly or indirectly in just 39 years of his life reads like a Who’s who of both the Eastern and Western worlds:   Netaji Subhashchandra Bose, Rabindranath Thakur, Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo, Bagha Jatin, Max Muller, Salinger, Nikola Tesla, Leo Tolstoy, John D. Rockefeller, Lord Kelvin, Sister Nivedita, Hermann von Helmholtz.  Though every piece of his work is inspiring and every sentence is like a drop of nectar that can transform one’s personality and life, I have compiled below some of my favorite quotations by Swamiji. They show a man of great wisdom, intellect and strength – one clearly ahead of his times!

On Soul/Religion

  • Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divine within, by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy, or one or more, or all of these –and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines,or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.
  • Religion is not in books, nor in theories, nor in dogmas, nor in talking, not even in reasoning. It is being and becoming.
  • The mighty word that came from the sky of spirituality in India was Anubhuti, realization; and ours are the only books which declare again and again, “The Lord is to be seen.”
  • Each individual has to work out his or her own salvation; there is no other way.
  • Soul is the circle of which the circumference is nowhere, but the centre is located in one spot; and God is an infinite circle whose circumference is nowhere, but whose centre is everywhere.
  • Unity in variety is the plan of nature, and the Hindu has recognised it. Every other religion lays down certain fixed dogmas, and tries to force society to adopt them. It places before society only one coat which must fit Jack and John and Henry, all alike. If it does not fit John or Henry, he must go without a coat to cover his body. The Hindus have discovered that the absolute can only be realised, or thought of, or stated, through the relative; and the images, crosses,and crescents are simply so many symbols — so many pegs to hang the spiritual ideas on.
  • What is material and what is not material? When the world is the end and God the means to attain that end, then that is material. When God is the end and the world is only the means to attain that end, spirituality has begun.

On Reason

  • I am sure God will pardon a man who will use his reason and cannot believe, rather than a man who believes blindly instead of using his faculties He has given him. 
  • All religions are going beyond reason, but reason is the only guide to get there.
  • Everything can be sacrificed for truth, but truth can’t be sacrificed for anything.
  • Comfort is no test of truth; on the contrary, truth is often far from being comfortable.
  • Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true.

On Women

  • The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women.
  • The idea of perfect womanhood is perfect independence. Woman has suffered for eons, and that has given her infinite patience and infinite perseverance. Women will work out their destinies—much better, too, than men can ever do for them. All the mischief to women has come because men undertook to shape the destiny of women.
  • The first manifestation of God is the hand that rocks the cradle.

On Education

  • Our supreme duty is to advance toward freedom—physical, mental, and spiritual—and help others to do so.
  • Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.
  • You have to grow from the inside out…There is no other teacher but your own soul.
  • Knowledge can only be got in one way, the way of experience; there is no other way to know.
  • As long as I live, so do I learn.
  • If any of you believes what I teach, I will be sorry. I will only be too glad if I can excite in you the power of thinking for yourselves.
  • To me the very essence of education is concentration of mind, not the collecting of facts.
  • The powers of the mind should be concentrated and the mind turned back upon itself; as the darkest places reveal their secrets before the penetrating rays of the sun, so will the concentrated mind penetrate its own innermost secrets.

On Work/Success

  • Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.
  • Work on with the intrepidity of a lion but at the same time with the tenderness of a flower.
  • Never mind failures, they are quite natural, they are the beauty of life,these failures. What would life be without them?
  • Great convictions are the mothers of great deeds.
  • Fortune approaches him who is industrious. It is the weak-minded who says ‘fate gives’.
  • Never mind if your contribution is only a mite, your help only a little. Blades of grass united into a rope will hold in confinement the maddest of elephants.
  • Each work has to pass through these stages—ridicule, opposition, and then acceptance.Those who think ahead of their time are sure to be misunderstood.
  • In the world take always the position of the giver. Give everything and look for no return. Give love, give help, give service, give any little thing you can, but keep out barter.

On one’s own Self

  • My own experience tells me what food is good for me, and no army of doctors can tell me that. So I know from my own experience what path is the best for me.
  • It is our own mental attitude, which makes the world what it is for us. Our thoughts make things beautiful,our thoughts make things ugly. The whole world is in our own minds.
  • The greatest religion is to be true to your own nature. Have faith in yourselves! If you do not exist, how can God exist, or anybody else?
  • I, for one, thoroughly believe that no power in the universe can withhold from anyone anything they really deserve.

On Strength/Fearlessness

  • You must not say that you are weak. How do you know what possibilities lie behind that degradation on the surface? You know but little of that which is within you. For behind you is the ocean of infinite power and blessedness.
  • Stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and succor you want is within yourself.
  • Why are people so afraid? The answer is that they have made themselves helpless and dependent on others. We are so lazy, we do not want to do anything ourselves. We want a Personal God, a Savior or a Prophet to do everything for us.
  • Be strong, my young friends, that is my advice to you. You will be nearer to heaven through football than through study of the Gita.

On Love

  • Love is the only law of life. He who loves lives, he who is selfish is dying. Therefore, love for love’s sake, because it is law of life, just as you breathe to live.
  • Love opens the most impossible gates; love is the gate to all the secrets of the universe. Every step that has been really gained in the world has been gained by love. 
  • When there is a conflict between the heart and the brain, let the heart be followed.
  • First, believe in this world – that there is meaning behind everything. Everything in the world is good, is holy and beautiful. If you see something evil, think that you do not understand it in the right light. Throw the burden on yourselves!
  • We must not look down with contempt on others. All of us are going towards the same goal…. All difference in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.