This article was recorded by Ida Ansell in shorthand. As, however, Swamiji’s speed was too great for her in her early days, dots are put in the articles to indicate the omissions, while the words within square brackets are added by way of linking up the disconnected parts.
(Delivered on March 25, 1900, in the San Francisco Bay Area)
The ancient message of Krishna is one harmonising three — Buddha’s, Christ’s and Mohammed’s. Each of the three started an idea and carried it to its extreme. Krishna antedates all the other prophets. [Yet, we might say,] Krishna takes the old ideas and synthesises them, [although] his is the most ancient message. His message was for the time being submerged by the advance wave of Buddhism. Today it is the message peculiar to India. If you will have it so, this afternoon I will take Mohammed and bring out the particular work of the great Arabian prophet….
Mohammed [as] a young man … did not [seem to] care much for religion. He was inclined to make money. He was considered a nice young man and very handsome. There was a rich widow. She fell in love with this young man, and they married. When Mohammed had become emperor over the larger part of the world, the Roman and Persian empires were all under his feet, and he had a number of wives. When one day he was asked which wife he liked best, he pointed to his first wife: “Because she believed [in] me first.” Women have faith…. Gain independence, gain everything, but do not lose that characteristic of women! …
Mohammed’s heart was sick at the sin, idolatry and mock worship, superstitions and human sacrifices, and so on. The Jews were degraded by the Christians. On the other hand, the Christians were worse degraded than his own countrymen.
We are always in a hurry. [But] if any great work is to be done, there must be great preparation. … After much praying, day and night, Mohammed began to have dreams and visions. Gabriel appeared to him in a dream and told him that he was the messenger of truth. He told him that the message of Jesus, of Moses, and all the prophets would be lost and asked him to go and preach. Seeing the Christians preaching politics in the name of Jesus, seeing the Persians preaching dualism, Mohammed said: “Our God is one God. He is the Lord of all that exists. There is no comparison between Him and any other.”
God is God. There is no philosophy, no complicated code of ethics. “Our God is one without a second, and Mohammed is the Prophet.” … Mohammed began to preach it in the streets of Mecca. … They began to persecute him, and he fled into the city of [Medina]. He began to fight, and the whole race became united. [Mohammedanism] deluged the world in the name of the Lord. The tremendous conquering power! …
You … people have very hard ideas and are so superstitious and prejudiced! These messengers must have come from God, else how could they have been so great? You look at every defect. Each one of us has his defects. Who hasn’t? I can point out many defects in the Jews. The wicked are always looking for defects. … Flies come and seek for the [ulcer], and bees come only for the honey in the flower. Do not follow the way of the fly but that of the bee….
Mohammed married quite a number of wives afterwards. Great men may marry two hundred wives each. “Giants” like you, I would not allow to marry one wife. The characters of the great souls are mysterious, their methods past our finding out. We must not judge them. Christ may judge Mohammed. Who are you and I? Little babies. What do we understand of these great souls? …
[Mohammedanism] came as a message for the masses. … The first message was equality. … There is one religion — love. No more question of race, colour, [or] anything else. Join it! That practical quality carried the day. … The great message was perfectly simple. Believe in one God, the creator of heaven and earth. All was created out of nothing by Him. Ask no questions. …
Their temples are like Protestant churches. … no music, no paintings, no pictures. A pulpit in the corner; on that lies the Koran. The people all stand in line. No priest, no person, no bishop. … The man who prays must stand at the side of the audience. Some parts are beautiful. …
These old people were all messengers of God. I fall down and worship them; I take the dust of their feet. But they are dead! … And we are alive. We must go ahead! … Religion is not an imitation of Jesus or Mohammed. Even if an imitation is good, it is never genuine. Be not an imitation of Jesus, but be Jesus, You are quite as great as Jesus, Buddha, or anybody else. If we are not … we must struggle and be. I would not be exactly like Jesus. It is unnecessary that I should be born a Jew. …
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? Wherever you are, it is this mind that perceives even the Infinite. I see God, therefore He exists. If I cannot think of God, He does not exist [for me]. This is the grand march of our human progress.
These [great souls] are signposts on the way. That is all they are. They say, “Onward, brothers!” We cling to them; we never want to move. We do not want to think; we want others to think for us. The messengers fulfil their mission. They ask to be up and doing. A hundred years later we cling to the message and go to sleep.
Talking about faith and belief and doctrine is easy, but it is so difficult to build character and to stem the tide of the senses. We succumb. We become hypocrites. …
[Religion] is not a doctrine, [not] a rule. It is a process. That is all. [Doctrines and rules] are all for exercise. By that exercise we get strong and at last break the bonds and become free. Doctrine is of no use except for gymnastics. … Through exercise the soul becomes perfect. That exercise is stopped when you say, “I believe.” …
“Whenever virtue subsides and immorality abounds, I take human form. In every age I come for the salvation of the good, for the destruction of the wicked, for the establishment of spirituality.” (Gita, IV. 7-8.)
[Such] are the great messengers of light. They are our great teachers, our elder brothers. But we must go our own way!
(New Discoveries, Vol. 5, pp. 401-3. Cf. “Mohammed”, Complete Works, I.)
[Excerpts of Ida Ansell’s first transcript of Swami Vivekananda’s San Francisco lecture delivered Sunday, March 25, 1900]
[After stating that he would “take Mohammed and bring out the particular work of the great Arabian prophet”, Swami Vivekananda continued his lecture.]
Each great messenger not only creates a new order of things, but is himself the creation of a certain order of things. There is no such thing as an independent, active cause. All causes are cause and effect in turn. Father is father and son in turn. Mother is mother and daughter in turn. It is necessary to understand the surroundings and circumstances into which they [the great messengers] come. . . .
This is the peculiarity of civilization. One wave of a race will go from its birthplace to a distant land and make a wonderful civilization. The rest will be left in barbarism. The Hindus came into India and the tribes of Central Asia were left in barbarism. Others came to Asia Minor and Europe. Then, you remember the coming out of Egypt of the Israelites. Their home was the Arabian desert. Out of that springs a new work. . . . All civilizations grow that way. A certain race becomes civilized. Then comes a nomad race. Nomads are always ready to fight. They come and conquer a race. They bring better blood, stronger physiques. They take up the mind of the conquered race and add that to their body and push civilization still further. One race becomes cultured and civilized until the body is worn out. Then like a whirlwind comes a race strong in the physical, and they take up the arts and the sciences and the mind, and push civilization further. This must be. Otherwise the world would not be.
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The moment a great man rises, they build a beautiful [mythology] around him. Science and truth is all the religion that exists. Truth is more beautiful than any mythology in the world. . . .
The old Greeks had disappeared already, the whole nation [lay] under the feet of the Romans who were learning their science and art. The Roman was a barbarian, a conquering man. He had no eye for poetry or art. He knew how to rule and how to get everything centralized into that system of Rome and to enjoy that. That was sweet. And that Roman Empire is gone, destroyed by all sorts of difficulties, luxury, a new foreign religion, and all that. Christianity had been already six hundred years in the Roman Empire. . . .
Whenever a new religion tries to force itself upon another race, it succeeds if the race is uncultured. If it [the race] is cultured, it will destroy the [religion]. . . . The Roman Empire was a case in point, and the Persian people saw that. Christianity was another thing with the barbarians in the north. [But] the Christianity of the Roman Empire was a mixture of everything, something from Persia, from the Jews, from India, from Greece, everything.
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The race is always killed by [war]. War takes away the best men, gets them killed, and the cowards are left at home. Thus comes the degeneration of the race. . . . Men became small. Why? All the great men became [warriors]. That is how war kills races, takes their best into the battlefields.
Then the monasteries. They all went to the desert, to the caves for meditation. The monasteries gradually became the centres of wealth and luxury. . . .
The Anglo-Saxon race would not be Anglo-Saxon but for these monasteries. Every weak man was worse than a slave.. . . In that state of chaos these monasteries were centres of light and protection.
Where [cultures] differ very much they do not quarrel. All these warring, jarring elements [were originally] all one.
In the midst of all this chaos was born the prophet. . . .