Carry the light

Therefore our solution of the caste question is not degrading those who are already high up, is not running amuck through food and drink, is not jumping out of our own limits in order to have more enjoyment, but it comes by every one of us, fulfilling the dictates of our Vedantic religion (…) Such is our ideal of caste as meant for raising all humanity slowly and gently towards the realisation of that great ideal of the spiritual man who is non-resisting, calm, steady, worshipful, pure, and meditative. In that ideal there is God.

Let us tell our countrymen of the danger, let them awake and help us. I will cry at the top of my voice from one part of this country to the other, to awaken the people to the situation and their duty. Suppose they do not hear me, still I shall not have one word of abuse for them, not one word of cursing. Great has been our nation’s work in the past; and if we cannot do greater things in the future, let us have this consolation that we can sink and die together in peace. Be patriots, love the race which has done such great things for us in the past. Ay, the more I compare notes, the more I love you, my fellow-countrymen; you are good and pure and gentle. You have been always tyrannised over, and such is the irony of this material world of Mâyâ. Never mind that; the Spirit will triumph in the long run. In the meanwhile let us work and let us not abuse our country, let us not curse and abuse the weather-beaten and work-worn institutions of our thrice-holy motherland. Have no word of condemnation even for the most superstitious and the most irrational of its institutions, for they also must have served some good in the past. Remember always that there is not in the world any other country whose institutions are really better in their aims and objects than the institutions of this land. I have seen castes in almost every country in the world, but nowhere is their plan and purpose so glorious as here. If caste is thus unavoidable, I would rather have a caste of purity and culture and self-sacrifice, than a caste of dollars. Therefore utter no words of condemnation. Close your lips and let your hearts open. Work out the salvation of this land and of the whole world, each of you thinking that the entire burden is on your shoulders. Carry the light and the life of the Vedanta to every door, and rouse up the divinity that is hidden within every soul. Then, whatever may be the measure of your success, you will have this satisfaction that you have lived, worked, and died for a great cause. In the success of this cause, howsoever brought about, is centred the salvation of humanity here and hereafter.

-Vivekananda

A Prayer for Dark Folk

Remember, O God, thru’out the world this night those who struggle for better government and freer institutions…Help us to realize that our brothers are not simply those of our own blood and nation, but far more are they those who think as we do and strive toward the same ideals. So tonight in Persia and China, in Russia and Turkey, in Africa and all America, let us bow with our brothes and sisters and pray as they pray for a world, well-governed–void of war and caste, and free to each asking soul. Amen.

The day has dawned when above a wounded, tired earth unselfish sacrifice, without sin and hell, may join through technique, shorn of ruthless greed, and make a new religion, one with new knowledge, to shout from old hills of heaven ‘Go down Moses!’

W.E.B DU BOIS

Vivekananda, Letter to Mohammed Sarfaraz Husain of Naini Tal, Almora

10th June, 1898.

MY DEAR FRIEND,

I appreciate your letter very much and am extremely happy to learn that the Lord is silently preparing wonderful things for our motherland.

Whether we call it Vedantism or any ism, the truth is that Advaitism is the last word of religion and thought and the only position from which one can look upon all religions and sects with love. I believe it is the religion of the future enlightened humanity. The Hindus may get the credit of arriving at it earlier than other races, they being an older race than either the Hebrew or the Arab; yet practical Advaitism, which looks upon and behaves to all mankind as one’s own soul, was never developed among the Hindus universally.

On the other hand, my experience is that if ever any religion approached to this equality in an appreciable manner, it is Islam and Islam alone.

Therefore I am firmly persuaded that without the help of practical Islam, theories of Vedantism, however fine and wonderful they may be, are entirely valueless to the vast mass of mankind. We want to lead mankind to the place where there is neither the Vedas, nor the Bible, nor the Koran; yet this has to be done by harmonising the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran. Mankind ought to be taught that religions are but the varied expressions of THE RELIGION, which is Oneness, so that each may choose that path that suits him best.

For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam — Vedanta brain and Islam body — is the only hope.

I see in my mind’s eye the future perfect India rising out of this chaos and strife, glorious and invincible, with Vedanta brain and Islam body.

Ever praying that the Lord may make of you a great instrument for the help of mankind, and especially of our poor, poor motherland.

Yours with love,
VIVEKANANDA.

Evidence of forces unseen

The fact is that non-violence does not work in the same way as violence. It works in the opposite way. An armed man naturally relies upon his arms. A man who is intentionally unarmed relies upon the Unseen Force called God by poets, but called the Unknown by scientists. But that which is unknown is not necessarily non-existent. God is the Force among all forces known and unknown. Non-violence without reliance upon that Force is poor stuff to be thrown in the dust.

Gandhiji, Harijan, 28-6-1942

The sun in the heavens fills the whole universe with its life-giving warmth. But if one went too near it, it would consume him to ashes. Even so it is with God-head. We become Godlike to the extent we realize non-violence; but we can never become wholly God.

—Mahatma Gandhi, Harijan, 12-11-1938

The Poet of the Râmâyana

Cheriyal scroll painting by D. Vaikuntam

There was a young man that could not in any way support his family. He was strong and vigorous and, finally, became a highway robber; he attacked persons in the street and robbed them, and with that money he supported his father, mother, wife, and children. This went on continually, until one day a great saint called Nârada was passing by, and the robber attacked him. The sage asked the robber, “Why are you going to rob me? It is a great sin to rob human beings and kill them. What do you incur all this sin for?” The robber said, “Why, I want to support my family with this money.” “Now”, said the sage, “do you think that they take a share of your sin also?” “Certainly they do,” replied the robber. “Very good,” said the sage, “make me safe by tying me up here, while you go home and ask your people whether they will share your sin in the same way as they share the money you make.” The man accordingly went to his father, and asked, “Father, do you know how I support you?” He answered, “No, I do not.” “I am a robber, and I kill persons and rob them.” “What! you do that, my son? Get away! You outcast! “He then went to his mother and asked her, “Mother, do you know how I support you?” “No,” she replied. “Through robbery and murder.” “How horrible it is!” cried the mother. “But, do you partake in my sin?” said the son. “Why should I? I never committed a robbery,” answered the mother. Then, he went to his wife and questioned her, “Do you know how I maintain you all?” “No,” she responded. “Why, I am a highwayman,” he rejoined, “and for years have been robbing people; that is how I support and maintain you all. And what I now want to know is, whether you are ready to share in my sin.” “By no means. You are my husband, and it is your duty to support me.” The eyes of the robber were opened. “That is the way of the world — even my nearest relatives, for whom I have been robbing, will not share in my destiny.” He came back to the place where he had bound the sage, unfastened his bonds, fell at his feet, recounted everything and said, “Save me! What can I do?” The sage said, “Give up your present course of life. You see that none of your family really loves you, so give up all these delusions. They will share your prosperity; but the moment you have nothing, they will desert you. There is none who will share in your evil, but they will all share in your good. Therefore worship Him who alone stands by us whether we are doing good or evil. He never leaves us, for love never drags down, knows no barter, no selfishness.”

Then the sage taught him how to worship. And this man left everything and went into a forest. There he went on praying and meditating until he forgot himself so entirely that the ants came and built ant-hills around him and he was quite unconscious of it. After many years had passed, a voice came saying, “Arise, O sage! ” Thus aroused he exclaimed, “Sage? I am a robber!” “No more ‘robber’,” answered the voice, “a purified sage art thou. Thine old name is gone. But now, since thy meditation was so deep and great that thou didst not remark even the ant-hills which surrounded thee, henceforth, thy name shall be Valmiki — ‘he that was born in the ant-hill’.” So, he became a sage. And this is how he became a poet.

-Swami Vivekananda

Nirvanashatakam or Song of Self-Realization

If night and day are but the wink of God’s eye,

A million calyxes have opened and closed in a single wink.

Desire blinds and bewilders memory of love, like the slow torpor of heat escaping a tormented earth

the wrath that follows is a midnight howl,

a bloodless gash in the soul of man,

wrought in the anvils of lust,

ever gluttonous bitterness, ever paralyzing,

now violent now lecherous, a pestilential torrent beating against the castle of the soul,

sullen like a devil who cannot wet it.

Sorrows only end when we become perfect witnesses

and he who no longer seeks umbrage in grief nor joy ,

he who is like the stillness of a quiet summer night,

seated in the garden, moonflowers vining their way into the light,

he has learned the secret of witnessing,

he is the perfect witness, for he has nothing to gain from the object of his witnessing,

nothing to prove,

in whom self has conquered self,

for whom only the bliss of knowing the love of God exists—

to seek such a purity of intent in the works of life, to work as witness,

to love the wicked and good,

hold the sinner and saint in one’s arms with the same devotion, with the same unflinching embrace of truth.

Indeed only these can be judged as true works, works wrought in the fine filigree of sacrifice,

as a reaper’s scythe against the harvest,

pitiless in its shearing of sheaves,

yet seeking not its fruit for his own gain—

stern, simple, salutary,

like a a stack of white linens

freshly dried in the sun.

Knowledge is like this: a play of a play within a play and the world is its stage–

as darkness is the source of light and light the cause of shadow,

the lie also bears the seed of truth,

for the liar too is a truth-teller

ever revealing the very truth

he seeks to suppress, and so enlightening us all

as a murderer gives birth to life

as a mother suppresses it

As a soldier yearns for peace on the battlefield, so a false peace-monger may be the harbinger of pusillanimity

In evil a glimmer of good

and in the good always the glimmer of evil

all that is is also all that isn’t

and all that was is also all that is and will be,

for matter and spirit can neither be created nor destroyed

and response is not merely a function of the living, but also the non living

Death is but the beginning of life

and life but the beginning of death

Pain the precipitate of pleasure

And pleasure an escape of pain –

as the sun rises in one place and sets elsewhere,

as the tide leaps even as it recedes

amidst the relativity of time and space,

love is the only constant

love that slips a sapling out of the earth and nourishes it with rain,

love that draws a flock of geese into a wild dance against the break of day,

Love that syncopates the choral cacophony of human voices into metric harmony,

Love that pulls the heavens tightly around the earth, like some spangled blanket, soft and ethereal, studded with the diamonds of the night.