I am grateful to the lands of the West for the many warm hearts that received me with all the love that pure and disinterested souls alone could give; but my life’s allegiance is to this my motherland, if I had a thousand lives, every moment of the whole series would be con-secreted to your service, my countrymen, my friends!
For, to this land I owe whatever I possess, physical, mental and spiritual, and if I have been successful in anything, the glory is yours, not mine. Mine alone are my weaknesses and failures, as they come through my inability of profiting by the mighty lessons with which this land surrounds one, even from one’s very birth.
I am thoroughly convinced that no individual or nation can live by holding itself apart from the community of others, and whenever such an attempt has been made under false ideas of greatness, policy or holiness—the result has always been disastrous to the seceding one.
To my mind, the one great cause of the downfall and the degeneration of India was the building of a wall of custom—whose foundation was hatred of others—round the nation, and the real aim of which in ancient times was to prevent the Hindus from coming in contact with the surrounding Buddhistic nations.
A bit of public demonstration was necessary for Guru Maharaja’s work. It is done and so far so good.
I do not believe in a God or religion which cannot wipe the widow’s tears or bring a piece of bread to the orphan’s mouth.
I believe in God and I believe in man. I believe in helping the miserable; I believe in going to hell to save others.
India has suffered long, the religion eternal has suffered long. But the Lord is merciful. Once more He has come to help His children, once more the opportunity is given to fallen India to rise. India can only rise by sitting at the feet of Sri Ramakrishna. His life and his teachings are to be spread far and wide, are to be made to penetrate every pore of Hindu society.
My master used to say that these names, Hindu, Christian, etc. stand as great bars to all brotherly feelings between man and man. We must try to break them down first. Well, we will have to work hard and must succeed.
That is why I desire so much to have a centre. Organisation has its faults, no doubt, but without that nothing can be done.
Sankaracharya had caught the rhythm of the Vedas, the national cadence. Indeed I always imagine that he had some vision such as mine when he was young, and recovered the ancient music that way.
But finally the Parliament of Religions opened and I met kind friends who helped me right along. I worked a little, collected funds, started two papers, and so on After that I went over to England and worked there. At the same time, I carried on the work for India in America, too.
My plan for India, as it has been developed and centralised, is this; I have told you of our lives as monks there, (in India) how we go from door to door, so that religion is brought to everybody without charge, except, perhaps, a broken piece of bread. That is why you see the lowest of the low in India holding the most exalted religious ideas…But ask a man, “Who are the English?” — he does not know. “Who governs you?” “We do not know”. “What is the Government?” They don’t know. But they know philosophy. It is a practical want of intellectual education about life on this earth they suffer from. These millions and millions of people are ready for life beyond this w7orld—is not that enough for them? Certainly not. They must have a better piece of bread and a better of rag on their bodies. The. great, question is how to get that better bread and better piece of frag for these sunken millions.
First I must tell you, there is great hope for them, because you see, they are the gentlest people on earth, not that they are timid. When they want to ‘fight, they fight like demons. The best soldiers the English have, are recruited from the peasantry of India. Death is a thing of no importance to them. Their attitude is, “Twenty times I have died before, and I shall die many times after this; what of that”? They never turn back. They are not given to much emotion, but they make very good fighters.
Their instinct, however, is to plough. If you rob them, murder them, tax them, do anything to them, they will be quiet and^gentle, so long as you leave them free to practise the^ religion. They never interfere with the religion of others. “Leave us liberty to worship our Gods, and take everything else..” That is their attitude. Touch them there, trouble starts. That was the real cause of 1857 Mutiny—they would not bear religious repression. The great Mohammedan Governments were simply blown up because they touched India’s religion.
Now there is no reason why they should suffer such distress—these people, so pure and good !
No national civilisation is perfect, yet, give the civilisation a push, and it will arrive at its own goal; don’t strive to change it. Take away a nation’s institutions, customs and manners, and what will be left ? They hold the nation together.
But, here comes the very learned foreign man, and he says, “Look here, you give up all those institutions and customs of thousands of years, and take my tomfool tin pot and be happy.” This is all nonsense.
We will have to help each other.
And that strikes to the heart. The people come to know it.
Well, then, my plans are, therefore, to reach these masses of India.
Now, you see, we have brought the plan down nicely on paper; but I have taken it, at the same time, from the regions of idealism. So far the plan was loose and idealistic. As years went on, it became more and more condensed; I began to see by actual working its defects and all that.
What did I discover in its working on the material plane ? First, there must be centres, to educate these monks in the method of education…In India, you will find every man quite illiterate, and that teaching requires tremendous centres. And what does all that mean ? Money. From the idealistic plane you come to everyday work. Well? I have worked hard fgj years in America, and two in England…There are American friends and English friends who come over with me to India, and there has been a very crude beginning. Some English people came and joined the Orders. One poor man worked hard and died in India……I have started the Awakened India (Prabuddha Bharat-monthly)……I have a centre in the Himalayas……I have another centre in Calcutta.
The same work I want to do on parallel lines, for women.
That part has to be accomplished.
My idea is to bring to the door of the meanest, the poorest, the noble ideas that the human race has developed both in and out of India, and let them think for themselves. Whether there should be caste or not, whether women should be perfectly free or not, does not concern me.
‘ Liberty of thought and action is the only condition of life, of growth and well-being.”
My whole ambition in life is to set in motion a machinery which will bring noble idea to the door of everybody and then let men and women settle their own fate.
Look at that handful of young men called into existence by the divine touch of Ramakrishna’s feet. They have preached the message from Assam to Sindh, from the Himalayas to the Cape Comorin. They have crossed the Himalayas at a height of twenty-thousand feet over snow and ice on foot, and penetrated into the mysteries of Tibet. They have begged their bread, covered themselves with rags; they have been persecuted, followed by the police, kept in prison, and at last set free when the government was convinced of their innocence.
A movement which half a dozen penniless boys set on foot and which bids fair to progress in such an accelerated motion—is it a humbug or the Lord’s will ?
I have been criticised from one end of the world to the other as one who preaches the diabolical idea that there is no sin ! Very good. The descendents of these very men will bless me as the preacher of virtue, and not of sin. I am the teacher of virtue, not of sin. I glory in being the preacher of light, and not of darkness.
Travelling through many cities of Europe and observing in them the comforts and education of even the poor people, there was brought to my mind the state of our own people, and I used to shed tears. What made the difference ? Education was the answer I got.
I don’t feel tired even if I talk for two whole nights to earnest enquirers; I can give up food and sleep and talk and talk. Well, if I have a mind, I can sit up in Samadhi in Himalayan cave. Why then don’t I do so ? And why am I here ? Only the sight of the country’s misery and the thought of its future do not let me remain quiet any more even Samadhi and all that appear as futile even the sphere of Braham with its enjoyments becomes insipid! My vow of life is to think of others’ welfare. The day that vow will be fulfilled, I shall leave this body and make a straight run up !
Going round the whole world, I find that people of this country ( India) are immersed in great Tamas (inactivity), compared with people of other countries. On the outside, there is a simulation of the Sattwa (calm and balanced) state, but inside, down—right inertness like that of stocks and stones. What work will be done in the world by such people ?…So my idea is first to make the people active by developing their Rajas, and thus make them fit for struggle for existence. With no strength in the body, no enthusiasm at heart, and no originality in the brain, what will they do, these lumps of dead matter !
By stimulating them, I want to bring life into them; to this, I have dedicated my life. I will rouse them through the infalliable power of Vedic mantras. I am born to proclaim to them that fearless message “Arise, Awake ! ”
Social life in the west is like a peal of laughter, but underneath it is a wail. It ends in a sob. The fun and frivolity are all on the surface; really, it is full of tragic intensity. Now here (in India) it is sad and gloomy on the outside, but underneath are carelessness and merriment.
I have never spoken of revenge : I have always spoken of strength.
Now my own desire is to rouse the country—the sleeping Leviathan, that has lost faith in its power and makes no response. If I can wake it up to a sense of the
Enternal Religion, then I shall know that Sri Rama-krishna’s advent and our birth are fruitful. That is the one desire in my heart; Mukti and all else appear of no consequence to me.
My hope is to see again the strong points of India, reinforced by the strong points of this age; only in a natural way. The new state of things must be a growth from within.
So, I preach the Upanishads. If you look, you will find that I have never quoted anything but the Upanishads. And of Upanishads it is only that one idea, strength. The quintessence of the Vedas and Vedanta, all lies in that one word. Budha’s teaching was non-resistance, or non-injury. But I think this is a better way of teaching the same thing……My own ideal is that saint whom they killed in the Mutiny and who broke his silence, when stabbed to the heart, to say, “And thou also art He.”
But you may ask what is the place of Ramakrishna in this scheme ?
His is the method, that wonderful unconscious method! He did not understand himself. He knew nothing of England or the English, save that they were queer folk from over the sea. But he lived that great life and I read the meaning. Never a word of condemnation for any ! Once I had been attacking one of our sects of Diabolism. I had been raving on for three hours, and he had listened quietly. “Well, well !” said the old man as I finished, “Perhaps, every house may have a back door, who knows?”
It is not for me to determine in what sense is Sri Ramakrishna a part of this awakened Hinduism. I have never preached personalities. My own life is guided by the enthusiasm of this great soul.
Vedanta is the one light that lightens the sects and creeds of the world, the one principle of which all religions are only applications. And what was Ramakrishna Paramahamsa ? The practical demonstration of this ancient principle, the embodiment of India that is past, and a foreshadowing of the India that is to be, the bearer of spiritual light unto nations.
The other day when I installed Sri Ramakrishna on the Math grounds, I felt as if his ideas shot forth from this place and flooded the whole universe, sentient and insentient. I, for one, am doing my best, and shall continue to do so– Sankara left the Advaita philosophy in the hills and forests, while I have come to bring it out of those places and scatter it broadcast before the work-a-day world and society.
This Math that we are building will harmonise all creeds, all standpoints. Just as Sri Ramakrishna held highly liberal views, this Math too will be a centre for propagating similar ideas. The blazing light of universal harmony that will emanate from here will flood the whole world.
Through the will of Sri Ramakrishna, his Dharma-kshetra sanctified spot has been established today. A twelve years anxiety is off my head.
You see only a little manifestation of what has been done by our labours. In time the whole world must accept the universal and catholic ideas of Sri Rama-krishna and of this, only the beginning has been made. Before this flood, everybody will be swept off.
That activity and self-reliance must come in the people of the country in time I see it clearly. Ever since the advent of Sri Ramakrishna, the eastern horizon has been aglow with the dawning rays of the sun which in course of time, will illumine the country with the splendour of the midday sun.
It is my opinion that Sri Ramakrishna was born to vivify all branches of art and culture in this country (India).
If but a thorn pricks the foot of one who has surrendered himself to Sri Ramakrishna, it makes my bones ache; all others I love. You will find very few men so unsectarian as I am, but you must excuse me, I have got that bit of bigotry. If I do not appeal to his name, whose else shall I ? In this birth, it is that unlettered Brahmin who has bought this body of mine for ever.
This boy born of poor Brahmin parents, is literally worshipped in lands which have been fulminating against heathen worship for centuries. Whose powers ^it ? It is none else than the power which was manifested here as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Here has been a manifestation of an immense power, just the very beginning of whose workings we are seeing; and before this generation passes away, you will see more wonderful workings of that power. It has come just in time for the regeneration of India.
It seemed that we were going to change the theme in our national life, that we were going to exchange the backbone of our existence, as it were, that we were trying to replace a spiritual by a political backbone. If it all could have succeeded, the result would have been annihilation. But it was not to be. So, this power became manifest. I do not care in what light you understand this great sage, it matters not how much respect you pay to him, but I challenge you with the fact that here is a manifestation of the most marvellous power that has heen for several centuries in India. Long before ideas of universal religion and brotherly feeling between different sects were mooted and discussed in any country in the world, here in the sight of the city of Calcutta had been living a man whose life was a Parliament of Religions, as it should be.
Such a hero has been given to us in the person of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. If this nation wants to rise, take my word for it, it will have to rally enthusiastically round his name.
It does not matter who preaches Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, whether I or you or anybody else. But, him I place before you for the good of our race, for the good of our nation. One thing is sure that It was the purest of all lives that you have ever seen, or, let me tell you distinctly, that you have ever heard of. Within ten years of his passing away, this power has encircled the globe. Judge him not through me. I am only a weak instrument. Let not his character be judged by seeing me. It was so great that if I, or any other of his disciples spent hundreds of lives we could not do justice to a millionth part of what he really was.
I, through the grace of God, had the great good fortune of sitting at the feet of one, whose whole life was an interpretation of the underlying harmony of the Upanishadic texts; whose life, a thousandfold more than whose teaching, was a living commentary on the texts of the Upanishads, was, in tact, the spirit of Upanishads lying in a human form. Perhaps, I have got a little of that harmony.
Jnanam is all right but there is the danger of its becoming dry intellectualism. Love is great and noble, but it may die away in meaning-less sentimentalism. A harmony of all these is the thing required. Ramakrishna was such a harmony. Such beings are few and far between; but keeping him and his teachings as the ideal, we can move on.
God, though everywhere, can be known to us in and through human character. No character was ever so perfect as Ramakrishna, and that would be the centre round which we ought to rally; at the same time, allowing everybody to regard him in his own light, either as God, Saviour, teacher, model, or great man, just as he pleases.
My hopes of the future lies in the youths of character — intelligent, renouncing all for the service of others, and obedient — who can sacrifice their lives in working my ideas and thereby do good to themselves and the country at large… If I can get ten or twelve boys with the faith of Nachiketa, I can turn the thoughts and pursuits of this country in a new channel.
I once met a man in my country whom I had known before as a very stupid, dull person, who knew nothing and had not the desire to know anything, and was living the life of a brute. He asked what he should do to know God, how he was to get free. “Can you tell a lie?.“It is better to tell a lie than to be a brute, or a log of wood. You are inactive; you have not certainly reached the highest state, which is beyond all actions, calm and serene; you are too dull even to do something wicked.” That was an extreme case of course, and I was joking with him; but what I meant was that a man must be active, in order to pass through activity to perfect calmness.
Sometimes, I feel a desire to sell the Math and everything and distribute the money to the poor and destitute… When I was in the western countries, I prayed to the Divine Mother, “People here are sleeping on a bed of flowers, they eat all kinds of delicacies, and what do they not enjoy ? while people in our country are dying of starvation. Mother, will there be no way for them?” One of the objects of my going to the West to preach religion was to see if I could find any means for feeding the people of this country…I see as clear as daylight that there is one Brahman in all, in them and in me,— one Shakti dwells in all. The only difference is of manifestation… After so much austerity, I have understood this as the real truth— God is present in every Jiva; there is no other God besides that; “Who serves Jiva, serves God indeed.”
This body is born and it will die. If I have been able to instill a few of my ideas into you all, then I shall know that my birth has not been in vain.
I was born for the life of a scholar—retired—quiet —poring over my books. But the mother dispenses otherwise, yet the tendency is there.
Today, the Americans, out of love, have given me this nice bed and I have something to eat also. But, I have not been destined to enjoy physically, and lying on the matteresses only aggravates my illness, I feel suffocated as it were. I have to come down and lie on the floor for relief.
I do not see into the future; nor do I care to see. But, one vision I see clear as life before me: that the ancient Mother (India) has awakened once more, sitting on her throne, rejuvenated, more glorious than ever.
My teaching is my own interpretation of our ancient books, in the light which my Master shed upon them. I claim no supernatural authority.
1899 – A very funny thing happened today. I went to a friend’s house. He has had a picture painted, the subject of which is Sri Krishna addressing Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Sri Krishna is standing in the chariot, holding the reins in His hand, and preaching the Gita to Arjuna. He showed me the picture and asked me how I like it. “Fairly well,I said. But as he insisted on having my criticism on it, I had to give my honest opinion by saying, “There is nothing in it to commend itself to me; first, because the chariot of the time of Sri Krishna was not like the modern Pagoda-shaped car, and also there is no expression in the figure of Sri Krishna. The kings never used to fight in pagoda-chariots. There are chariots even today in Rajputana that greatly resemble the chariots of old.
“See the chariots in the pictures of Grecian mythology. They have two wheels, and one mounts them from behind; we had that sort of chariot. What good is it to paint a picture if the details are wrong? An historical picture comes up to a standard of excellence when, after making proper study and research, things are portrayed exactly as they were at that period. The truth must be represented, otherwise the picture is nothing. To paint a really good picture requires as much talent as to produce a perfect drama.
“Sri Krishna ought to be painted as He really was, the Gita personified; and the central idea of the Gita should radiate from His whole form as He was teaching the path of Dharma to Arjuna, who had been overcome by infatuation and cowardice.” So, saying, I posed myself in the way in which Sri Krishna should be portrayed and continued, “Look here, thus does he hold the bridle of the horses, with their forelegs fighting the air and their mouths gaping. This will show a tremendous play of action in the figure of Sri Krishna. His friend, the world-renowned hero, casting aside his bow and arrows, has sunk down like a coward on the chariot, in the midst of the two armies. And Sri Krishna, whip in one hand and tightening the reins with the other, has turned Himself to Arjuna, with his childlike face beaming with unwordly love and sympathy, and a calm and serene look, and is delivering the message of the Gita to his beloved comrade.”
“Aye, that is it; Intense action in the whole body, and withal a face expressing the profound calmness and serenity of the blue sky. This is the central idea of the Gita – to be calm and steadfast in all circumstances, with one’s body, mind and soul centred at His hallowed Feet!”
Everyone says that the highest, the pure truth, cannot be realised all at once by all, that men have to be led to it gradually through worship, prayer and other kinds of prevalent religious practices.
He who has faith has everything, and he who lacks faith lacks everything. It is faith in the name of Lord that works wonders, for faith is life and doubt is death.
– Sri RAMAKRISHNA.
have experienced in my insignificant life, that good motives, sincerity and infinite love conquer the world.
– SWAMI V1VEKANANDA.