A God known is no more God!

swamiji

The one question that is most difficult to grasp in understanding the Advaita philosophy, and the one question that will be asked again and again and that will always remain is: How has the Infinite, the Absolute, become the finite?

Supposing we knew the answer, would the Absolute remain the Absolute? It would have become relative.

What is meant by the knowledge in our common-sense idea? It is only something that has become limited by our mind, that we know, and when it is beyond our mind, it is not knowledge. Now if the Absolute becomes limited by the mind, it is no more Absolute; It has become finite. Everything limited by the mind becomes finite. Therefore, to know the Absolute is again a contradiction in terms. That is why this question has never been answered, because if it were answered, there would no more be an Absolute. A God known is no more God; He has become finite like one of us. He cannot be known; He is always the Unknowable One.

But what Advaita says is that God is more than knowable. This is a great fact to learn. You must not go home with the idea that God is unknowable in the sense in which agnostics put it. For instance, here is a chair, it is known to us. But what is beyond ether or whether people exist there or not is possibly unknowable. But God is neither known nor unknowable in this sense. He is something still higher than known; that is what is meant by God being unknown and unknowable. The expression is not used in the sense in which it may be said that some questions are unknown and unknowable. God is more than known. This chair is known, but God is intensely more than that, because in and through Him we have to know this chair itself.

He is the Witness, the eternal Witness of all knowledge. Whatever we know we have to know in and through Him. He is the Essence of our own Self. He is the Essence of this ego, this I and we cannot know anything excepting in and through that I. Therefore, you have to know everything in and through the Brahman. To know the chair, you have to know it in and through God. Thus God is infinitely nearer to us than the chair, but yet He is infinitely higher. Neither known, nor unknown, but something infinitely higher than either. He is your Self. “Who would live a second, who would breathe a second in this universe, if that Blessed One were not filling it?” Because in and through Him we breathe, in and through Him we exist. Not that He is standing somewhere and making my blood circulate. What is meant is that He is the Essence of all this, the Soul of my soul. You cannot by any possibility say you know Him; it would be degrading Him. You cannot get out of yourself, so you cannot know Him.

Knowledge is objectification. For instance, in memory you are objectifying many things, projecting them out of yourself. All memory, all the things which I have seen and which I know are in my mind. The pictures, the impressions of all these things, are in my mind, and when I would try to think of them, to know them, the first act of knowledge would be to project them outside. This cannot be done with God, because He is the Essence of our souls; we cannot project Him outside ourselves. Here is one of the profoundest passages in Vedanta: “He that is the Essence of your soul, He is the Truth, He is the Self, thou art That, O Shvetaketu.” This is what is meant by “Thou art God.” You cannot describe Him by any other language. All attempts of language, calling Him father, or brother, or our dearest friend, are attempts to objectify God, which cannot be done. He is the Eternal Subject of everything. I am the subject of this chair; I see the chair; so God is the Eternal Subject of my soul. How can you objectify Him, the Essence of your souls, the Reality of everything? Thus, I would repeat to you once more, God is neither knowable nor unknowable, but something infinitely higher than either. He is one with us; and that which is one with us is neither knowable nor unknowable, as our own self. You cannot know your own self; you cannot move it out and make it an object to look at, because you are that and cannot separate yourself from it. Neither is it unknowable, for what is better known than yourself? It is really the center of our knowledge. In exactly the same sense, God is neither unknowable nor known, but infinitely higher than both; for He is our real Self.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Jnana Yoga, The Absolute and Its Manifestation

Take your time and you will achieve your end.

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It is thought which is the propelling force in us. Fill the mind with the highest thoughts, hear them day after day, think them month after month. Never mind failures; they are quite natural. They are the beauty of life, these failures. What would life be without them? It would not be worth having if it were not for struggles. Where would be the poetry of life? Never mind the struggles, the mistakes. I never heard a cow tell a lie; but it is only a cow-not a man. So never mind these failures, these little back sliding; hold to the ideal a thousand times, and if you fail a thousand times, make the attempt once more. The ideal of man is to see God in everything. But if you cannot see Him in everything, see Him in one thing, in that thing which you like best, and then see Him in another. So on you can go. There is infinite life before the soul. Take your time and you will achieve your end.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Jnana Yoga

Open Your Eyes, and See! The world we have been thinking, it never existed!

swamiji

Give up the world which you have conjectured, because your conjecture was based upon a very partial experience, upon my poor reasoning, and upon your own weaknesses. Give it up. The world we have been thinking for so long, the world we have been clinging to so long, is a false world of our own creation Give that up. Open your eyes and see that, as such, it never existed; it was dream, maya. What existed was the Lord Himself. It is He who is in the child, in the wife, and in the husband; it is He who is in the good and in the bad. He is in the sin and in the sinner; He is in life and death.

Swami Vivekananda

How वैराग्य renunciation – necessary for the attainment of bhakti – is obtained?

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At first, pleasure is associated with the lower sense-organs; but as soon as an animal reaches a higher plane of existence, the lower pleasure becomes less intense. In human society, the nearer a man is to the animal, the stronger is his pleasure in the senses; and the higher and the more cultured a man is, the greater is his pleasure in intellectual and other such finer pursuits. So, when a man goes even higher than the plane of the intellect, higher than that of mere thought, when he reaches the plane of spirituality and of divine inspiration, he finds there a state of bliss compared with which all the pleasures of the senses, or even of the intellect, are as nothing. When the moon shines brightly all the stars become dim, and when the sun shines the moon itself becomes dim. The renunciation necessary for the attainment of bhakti is not obtained by killing anything; it comes naturally, just as, in the presence of an increasingly stronger light, less intense lights become dimmer and dimmer until they vanish away completely.

So this love of the pleasures of the senses and of the intellect is all made dim and thrown aside and cast into the shade by the love of God Himself. That love of God grows and assumes a form called para-bhakti, or supreme devotion. Forms vanish, rituals fly away, books are superseded; images, temples, churches, religions and sects, countries and nationalities – all these little limitations and bondages fall away naturally from him who knows this love of God. Nothing remains to bind him or fetter his freedom. A ship all of a sudden comes near a magnetic rock, and its iron bolts and bars are all attracted and drawn out, and the planks are loosened and float freely on the water. Divine grace thus loosens the binding bolts and bars of the soul, and it becomes free. So in this renunciation auxiliary to devotion there is no harshness, no dryness, no struggle, no repression or suppression. The bhakta has not to suppress any single one of his emotions; he only strives to intensify them and direct them to God.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Vivekananda – Yoga & Other Works, Bhakti Yoga

Knowledge is inherent in man. The external world is simply the suggestion!

Swami-VivekanandaKnowledge is inherent in man. No knowledge comes from outside; it is all inside. What we say a man “knows” should, in strict psychological language, be what he discovers or unveils; what a man “learns” is really what he discovers by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge. We say that Newton discovered gravitation. Was it sitting any— wherein a comer waiting for him? It was in his own mind. The right time came and he found it out. All the knowledge that the world has ever received comes from the mind; the infinite library of the universe is in your own mind. The external world is simply the suggestion, the occasion, which sets you to studying your own mind; but the object of your study is always your own mind. The falling of an apple gave the suggestion to Newton, and he studied his own mind; he rearranging all the previous links of thought in his mind and discovered a new link among them, which we call the law of gravitation. It was not in the apple nor in anything in the center of the earth. All knowledge, therefore, secular or spiritual, is in the human mind. In many cases it is not discovered, but remains covered. When the covering is being slowly taken off we say that we are “learning,” and the advance of knowledge is made by the advance of this process of uncovering. The man from whom this veil is being lifted is the knowing man; the man upon whom it lies thick is ignorant; and the man from whom it has entirely gone is all-knowing, omniscient. There have been omniscient men, and, I believe, there will be yet; there will be many of them in years to come.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from: Vivekananda Yoga and Other Works, Karma Yoga

Beautiful and inspiring truth that love, the lover, and the Beloved are one!

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We all have to begin as dualists in the religion of love. God is to us a separate Being, and we feel ourselves to be separate beings also. Love then comes between, and man begins to approach God; and God also comes nearer and nearer to man. Man takes up all the various relationships of life—such as father, mother, son, friend, master, lover—and projects them on his ideal of love, on his God. To him God exists as all these. And the last point of his progress is reached when he feels that he has become absolutely merged in the object of his worship.

We all begin with love for ourselves, and the unfair claims of the little self make even love selfish. At last, however, comes the full blaze of light, in which this little self is seen to have become one with the Infinite. Man himself is transfigured in the presence of this light of love, and he realizes at last the beautiful and inspiring truth that love, the lover, and the Beloved are one.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Vivekananda, Yoga and Other Works. Bhakti Yoga

Vedanta does not preach an impossible ideal, however high it be, and it is high enough for an ideal.

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Vedanta preaches the ideal, and the ideal, as we know, is always far ahead of the real, of the practical, as we may call it. There are two tendencies in human nature: one to reconcile the ideal with life and the other to elevate life to the ideal. It is a great thing to understand this; for we are often tempted by the former. I think that I can do a certain kind of work. Most of it, perhaps, is bad; most of it, perhaps, has a motive power of passion behind it—anger, or greed, or selfishness. Now, if any man comes to preach to me a certain ideal, the first step towards which is to give up selfishness, to give up self-enjoyment, I think that that is impractical. But when a man brings an ideal which can be reconciled with my selfishness, I am glad and at once jump at it. That is the ideal for me. As the word orthodox has been manipulated into various forms, so has the word practical. “My doxy is orthodoxy; your doxy is heterodoxy.” So with practicality. What I think is practical is to me the only practicality in the world. If I am a shopkeeper, I think shop-keeping the only practical pursuit in the world. If I am a thief, I think stealing is the best means of being practical; others are not practical. You see how we all use this word practical for things we like and can do. Therefore I will ask you to understand that Vedanta, though it is intensely practical, is always so in the sense of the ideal. It does not preach an impossible ideal, however high it be, and it is high enough for an ideal.

In one word, this ideal is that you are divine. “Thou art That.” This is essence of Vedanta. After all its ramifications and intellectual gymnastics. you know the human soul to be pure and omniscient; you see that such some superstitions as birth and death are entire nonsense when spoken of in connection with the soul. The soul was never born and will never die, and all these ideas that we are going to die and are afraid to die are mere superstitions. And all this ideas as that we can do this, or cannot do that, are superstitions. We can do everything. The Vedanta teaches men to have faith in themselves first. As certain religions of the world say that a man who does not believe in a Personal God outside of himself is an atheist, so the Vedanta says, a man who does not believe in himself is an atheist. Not believing in the glory of our own soul is what the Vedanta calls atheism. To many this is, no doubt, a terrible idea; and most of us think that this ideal can never be reached; but the Vedanta insists that it can be realized by everyone. There is neither man nor woman or child, nor difference of race or sex, nor anything that stands as a bar to the realization of the ideal, because Vedanta shows that it is realized already, it is already there!

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Vivekananda Yoga and Other Works, Jnana Yoga

The world is just a playground, and we are here having good fun, having a game!

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We may well say that we are all playing in this universe. Just as children play their games, just as the most glorious kings and emperors play their owr1 games, so is the beloved Lord Himself playing in this universe. He is perfect! He does not want anything. Why should He create? Activity, with us, is always for the fulfillment of a certain want; and want always presupposes imperfection. God is perfect. He has no wants. Why should He go on with this incessant work of creation? What purpose could He have in View? The stories of God’s creating the world for some end or other that we imagine, are good as stories, but not otherwise. It is all really sport; the universe is merely His play. The whole universe must after all be a big piece of pleasing fun to Him. If you are poor enjoy being poor, as fun; if you are rich enjoy the fun of being rich; if dangers come it is also good fun; if happiness comes there is more good fun. The world is just a playground, and we are here having good fun, having a game; and God is playing with us all the while, and we are playing with Him. God is our eternal playmate. How beautifully He is playing! The play is finished when the cycle comes to an end. There is rest for a shorter or longer time; again all come out and play.

It is only when you forget that it is all play and that you are also helping in the play-it is only then that misery and sorrows come, that the heart becomes heavy, that the world weighs upon you with tremendous power. But as soon as you give up your serious belief in the reality of the changing incidents of the three minutes of life, and know it to be but a stage on which you are playing, helping Him to play, at once misery ceases for you. He plays in every atom. He is playing when He is building up earths and sons and moons. He is playing with the human heart, with animals, with plants. We are His chessmen: He puts the chessmen on the board and shakes them up. He arranges us first in one way and then in another, and we consciously or unconsciously help in His play. And oh, bliss! We are His playmates.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from Vivekananda Yoga and Other Works, Bhakti-Yoga

All the actions in the world, are simply the manifestation of the will of man. The gigantic will which manifested Buddha and Jesus—whence did it come?

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The word karma is derived from the Sanskrit kri, “to do.” All action is karma. Technically this word also means the effects of actions. In connection with metaphysics it sometimes means the effects of which our past actions were the causes. But in karma-yoga we have simply to do with the word karma as meaning work.

The goal of man is knowledge. That is the one great ideal placed before us by Eastern philosophy. Not pleasure, but knowledge, is the goal of man. Pleasure and happiness come to an end. It is a mistake to suppose that pleasure is the goal; the cause of all the miseries we have in the world is that men foolishly think pleasure to be the ideal to strive for. After a ‘time a man finds that it is not happiness, but knowledge, towards which he is going, and that both pleasure and pain are great teachers, and that he learns as much from ’pain as from pleasure. As pleasure and pain pass before his soul, they leave upon it different pictures, and the result of these combined impressions is what is called a man’s “character.” If you take the character of any man, it really is but the aggregate of tendencies, the sum total of the inclinations of his mind; you will find that misery and happiness are equal factors in the formation of that character. Happiness and misery have an equal share in molding character, and in some instances misery is a better teacher than happiness. Were one to study the great characters the world has produced, I dare say it would be found, in the vast majority of cases, that misery taught them more than happiness, poverty taught them more than wealth, blows brought out their inner fire more than praise.

Now knowledge, again, is inherent in man. No knowledge comes from out- side; it is all inside. What we say a man “knows” should, in strict psychological language, be what he discovers or unveils; what a man “learns” is really what he discovers by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge. We say that Newton discovered gravitation. Was it sitting anywhere in a corner waiting for him? It was in his own mind. The right time came and he found it out. All the knowledge that the world has ever received comes from the mind; the infinite library of the universe is in your own mind. The external world is simply the suggestion, the occasion, which sets you to studying your own mind; but the object of your study is always your own mind. The falling of an apple gave the suggestion to Newton, and he studied his own mind; he rearranged all the previous links of thought in his mind and discovered a new link among them, which we call the law of gravitation. It was not in the apple nor in anything in the center of the earth. All knowledge, therefore, Secular or spiritual, is in the human mind. In many cases it is not discovered1 hut remains covered. When the covering is being slowly taken off we say that

We are “learning,” and the advance of knowledge is made by the advance of this process of uncovering. The man from whom this veil is being lifted is the knowing man; the man upon whom it lies thick is ignorant; and the man from whom it has entirely gone is all-knowing, omniscient. There have been omniscient men, and, I believe, there will be yet; there will be many of them in years to come. Like fire in a piece of flint, knowledge exists in the mind. Suggestion is the friction which brings it out. So with all our feelings and actions. Our tears and our smiles, our joys and our griefs, our weeping and our laughter, on, curses and our blessings, our praises and our blaming – every one of these we shall find, if we calmly study our own selves, to have been brought out from within ourselves by so many blows. The result is what we are. All these blows taken together are called karma—work, action. Every mental and physical blow that is given to the soul, by which, as it were, tire is struck from it, and b, which its own power and knowledge are discovered, is karma, using the word in its widest sense. Thus we are all doing karma all the time. I am talking to you: that is karma. You are listening: that is karma. We breathe: that is karma. We, walk: that is karma. Everything we do, physical or mental, is karma) and it leaves its marks on us.

There are certain works which are, as it were, the aggregate, the sum total, of a large number of smaller works. If we stand near the seashore and hear the waves dashing against the shingle, we think it is a great noise. And yet we know that one wave is really composed of millions and millions of minute waves: Each one of these is making a noise, and yet we do not hear it; it is only when they become the big aggregate that we hear them. Similarly every pulsation of the heart is work. Certain kinds of work we feel and they become tangible to us; they are, at the same time, the aggregate of a number of small works. If you really want to judge the character of a man, do not look at his great performances. Every fool can act as a hero at one time or another. Watch a man do his most common actions; those are indeed the things which will tell you the real character of a great man. Great occasions rouse even the lowest of human beings to some kind of greatness; but he alone is the really great man whose character is great always, the same wherever he may be.

Karma in its effect on character is the most tremendous power that man has to deal with. Man is, as it were, a center and is attracting all the powers of the universe towards himself, and in this center is fusing them all and again sending them off in a big current. Such a center is the real man, the almighty and the omniscient. He draws the whole universe towards him; good and bad, misery and happiness, all are running towards him and clinging round him. And out of them he fashions the mighty stream of tendency called character and throws it outwards. As he has the power of drawing in anything, so has he the power of throwing it out.

All the actions that we see in the world, all the movements in human society all the works that we have around us, are simply the display of thought, the manifestation of the will of man. Machines, instruments, cities, ships, men-of-war – all these are simply the manifestation of the will of man; and this will is caused by character, and character is manufactured from karma. As is the karma, so is the manifestation of the will. The men of mighty will the world has produced have all been tremendous workers – gigantic souls with wills powerful enough to overturn worlds, wills they got by persistent work through ages and ages. Such a gigantic will, as that of a Buddha or a Jesus could not be shunned in one life, for we know who their fathers were. It is not known that their fathers ever spoke a word for the good of mankind. Millions and millions of carpenters like Joseph had come and gone; millions are still living. Millions and millions of petty kings like Buddha’s father had been in the world. If it was only a case of hereditary transmission, how do you account for the fact that this petty prince, who was not, perhaps, obeyed by his own servants, produced a son whom half the world worships? How do you explain the gulf between the carpenter and his son, whom millions of human beings worship as God? It cannot be solved by the theory of heredity. The gigantic will which manifested Buddha and Jesus—whence did it come? Whence came this accumulation of power? It must have been there through ages and ages, continually growing bigger and bigger until it burst on society as Buddha or Jesus, and it is rolling down even to the present day.

Swami Vivekananda

Excerpts from: Vivekananda Yogas and Other Works, Karma Yoga

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

Swami-Vivekananda

“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