Religion begins with a tremendous dissatisfaction with the present state of things, with our lives, and a hatred, an intense hatred, for this patching up of life


“Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is the voice that is leading us forward. Man has heard it and is hearing it – all through the ages. This voice comes to man when everything seems to be lost, and hope has fled, when man’s dependence on his own strength has been crushed down, and everything seems to melt away be his fingers, and life is a hopeless ruin. Then he hears it. This is called religion.

On the one side, therefore, is the bold assertion that this is all nonsense, this is maya; but along with it there is the hopeful assertion that from this maya there is a way out. On the other hand, practical men tell us: “Don’t bother your heads about such nonsense as religion and metaphysics. Live here; this is a very bad world, indeed, but make the best of it.” Which, put in plain language, means: Live a hypocritical, lying life, a life of continuous fraud, covering your old sores in the best way you can; go on putting patch after patch, until everything is lost and you are a mass of patchwork. This is what is called practical wisdom. Those who are satisfied with this patchwork will never come to religion.

Religion begins with a tremendous dissatisfaction with the present state of things, with our lives, and a hatred, an intense hatred, for this patching up of life, an unbounded disgust for fraud and lies. He alone can be religious who dares to say what the mighty Buddha once said under the Bo-tree, when this idea of practicality appeared before him and he saw that it was nonsense, and yet could not find a way out. When the temptation came to him to give up his search after truth, to go back to the world and live the old life of fraud, calling things by wrong names, telling lies to himself and to everybody, he, the giant, conquered it and said: “Death is better than a vegetating ignorant life; itis better to die on the battlefield than to live a life of defeat.” This is the basis of religion.

When a man takes this stand he is on the way to find the truth, he is on the way to God. That determination must be the first impulse towards becoming religious. I will hew out a way for myself. I will know the truth or give up my life in the attempt. For on this side it is nothing, it is gone, it is vanishing every day. The beautiful, hopeful young person of today is the veteran of tomorrow. Hopes and joys and pleasures will die like blossoms with tomorrow’s frost. That is one side. On the other, there are the great charms of conquest, victories over all the ills of life, victories over life itself, the conquest of the universe. On that side men can stand. Those who dare, therefore, to struggle for victory, for truth for religion, are on the right path, and that is what the Vedas preach. “Be not in despair; the way is very difficult, like walking on the blade of a razor. Yet despite not; arise, awake, and find the ideal, the goal.”

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Jnana Yoga, Vivekananda Yoga and Other Works


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