Pathways to Joy: Master Vivekananda on the Yoga Paths to Godby Swami Vivekananda
At the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda transformed Western thinking. He showed that, far from being an exotic novelty, Hinduism was an important, legitimate spiritual tradition with valuable lessons for the West. Pathways to Joy is a selection of 108 of his sacred teachings on Vedanta philosophy. In accessible and powerful prose,/i>
At the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda transformed Western thinking. He showed that, far from being an exotic novelty, Hinduism was an important, legitimate spiritual tradition with valuable lessons for the West. Pathways to Joy is a selection of 108 of his sacred teachings on Vedanta philosophy. In accessible and powerful prose, Vivekananda illuminates the four classical yoga paths karma, bhakti, raja, and jnana for the different natures of humankind. The messages focus on the oneness of existence; the divinity of the soul; the truth in all religions; and unifying with the Divine within. Invaluable and inspiring, the selections also explore karma, maya, rebirth, and other great revelations of Hinduism.
- New World Library
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Pathways to Joy
The Master Vivekananda on the Four Yoga Paths to God
By Dave DeLuca
New World LibraryCopyright © 2003 Dave DeLuca
All rights reserved.
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The Ancient Wisdom of Vedanta
The Vedanta Philosophy
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I came here to represent a philosophy from India that is called the Vedanta philosophy. This philosophy is very, very ancient; it is the outcome of that mass of ancient Aryan literature known by the name of the Vedas. It is, as it were, the very flower of all the speculations and experiences and analyses embodied in that mass of literature collected and culled through centuries. This Vedanta philosophy has certain peculiarities. In the first place, it is perfectly impersonal: it does not owe its origin to any person or prophet, and it does not build itself around one person as a center. Yet it has nothing to say against philosophies that do build themselves around certain persons. In later days in India, other philosophies and systems arose, built around certain persons — such as Buddhism or many of our present sects. They each have a certain leader to whom they owe allegiance, just as the Christians and Muslims have. But the Vedanta philosophy stands at the background of all these various sects, and there is no fight and no antagonism between the Vedanta and any other system in the world.
Vedanta claims that the human soul is divine, and that all this that we see around us is the outcome of that consciousness of the divine. Everything that is strong and good and powerful in human nature is the outpouring of that divinity, and though only potential in many, there is no difference between one human being and another essentially, all being alike divine. There is, as it were, an infinite ocean behind, and you and I are like so many waves coming out of that infinite ocean; and each one of us is trying our best to manifest that infinite outside. Each one of us has that infinite ocean of Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss as our birthright, our real nature; and the difference between us is caused by the greater or lesser power to manifest that divinity. Therefore, the Vedanta teaches that each of us should be treated not as what we manifest, but as what we stand for. Each human being stands for the divine, and therefore, each one of us should be helpful, not by condemning others, but by helping others to call forth the divinity that is within them.
Vedanta has no quarrel with those who do not yet understand this divinity of the soul. Consciously or unconsciously, every human being is trying to unfold that divinity. Each of us is like an infinite spring, coiled up in a small box, and that spring is trying to unfold itself; and all the social phenomena that we see is the result of this trying to unfold.
Now, this idea of the divinity of the soul, claims the Vedanta, is to be found in all religions, whether in India or outside of it; only, in some of them, the idea is expressed through mythology, and in others, through symbology. The Vedanta claims that all that we call ethics and morality and doing good to others is but the manifestation of this oneness. There are moments when each of us feels that we are one with the universe, and we rush forth to express it, whether we know it or not. This expression of oneness is what we call love and sympathy, and it is the basis of all our ethics and morality. It is summed up in the Vedanta philosophy by the celebrated aphorism Tat Twam Asi, "Thou art That."
To every person, this is taught: Thou art one with this Universal Being, and, as such, every soul that exists is your soul; and every body that exists is your body; and in hurting anyone, you hurt yourself, in loving anyone, you love yourself. As soon as a current of hatred is thrown outside, whomsoever else it hurts, it also hurts you; and if love comes out from you, it is bound to come back to you.
You are the Infinite, only you are not conscious of it now; but you are struggling to reach this consciousness of the Infinite, and perfection will be reached when full consciousness of this Infinite comes.
Another peculiar idea of the Vedanta is that because the goal is the same, we must allow this infinite variation in religious thought, and not try to bring everybody to the same opinion. As the Vedantist says in his poetical language, "As so many rivers, having their source in different mountains, roll down, and at last come into the sea — so, all these various creeds and religions, taking their start from different standpoints and running through crooked or straight courses, at last come unto Thee."
This is one of the great lessons that the Vedanta has to teach. Knowing that consciously or unconsciously we are struggling to reach the same goal, why should we be impatient? If one man is slower than another, we need not be impatient, and we need not curse or revile him. When our eyes are opened and our hearts are purified, the work of the same divine influence unfolding the same divinity in every human heart will become manifest; and then alone shall we be in a position to claim the brotherhood of man.
When a person has reached the highest state of Unity, seeing neither man nor woman, neither sect nor creed, nor color, nor birth, nor any of these differentiations, but goes beyond and finds that One Infinite Spirit behind every human being — only then has that person reached the universal brotherhood, and only then is that person a Vedantist.
There Is Only One Existence
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All human knowledge proceeds out of experience. Looking around us, what do we experience? A continuous change. The plant comes out of the seed, grows into the tree, completes the circle, and goes back to the seed. The animal comes, lives a certain time, dies, and completes the circle. So does the human being. The mountains slowly but surely crumble away, the rivers slowly but surely dry up, and the rains come out of the sea and then go back to the sea. Everywhere, circles are being completed: birth, growth, development, and decay, each following the other with mathematical precision. This is our everyday experience. Inside of it all, behind all this vast mass of what we call life, of millions of forms and shapes, of millions upon millions of varieties, from the lowest atom to the highest spiritualized individual, we find a certain unity. Every day we find that the wall that was thought to be dividing one thing and another is being broken down, and all matter is coming to be recognized by modern science as one Consciousness manifesting itself in different ways and in various forms; the one Life that runs through all.
What are you and I? You and I are part of the Cosmic Consciousness, or Cosmic Intelligence. This Cosmic Intelligence is what people call Lord or God or Christ or Buddha or Brahman or Spirit; it is what the materialists perceive as force, and what the agnostics call the infinite, inexpressible beyond; and we are all part of that.
The human soul is part of the cosmic energy beyond life and death. Your soul was never born, and it will never die. Birth and death belong to the body only, because the soul is eternal. Standing behind this little universe of nature is the Eternal Soul. There is only One Existence, One Being, the Ever-Blessed, the Omnipresent, the Omniscient, the Birthless, the Deathless. "Through His control the sky expands, through His control the air breathes, through His control the sun shines, and through His control all live." "He is the Reality in nature, He is the Soul of your soul, nay, more, you are He, you are one with Him."
Wherever there are two, there is fear, there is danger, there is conflict, there is strife. When it is all One, who is there to hate, who is there to struggle with? When it is all He, with whom can you fight?
This explains the true nature of life; this explains the true nature of being. As long as you see the many, you are under delusion. "In this world of many, he who sees the One, in this ever-changing world, he who sees Him who never changes as the Soul of his own soul, as his own Self, he is free, he is blessed, he has reached the goal." Therefore, know that you are He; you are one with the God of this universe.
All these small ideas that I am a man or a woman, sick or healthy, strong or weak, or that I hate or love or have little power, are but hallucinations. Stand up then. Know that every thought and word that weakens you in this world is the only evil that exists. Whatever makes us weak and fearful is the only evil that should be shunned. Stand as a rock; you are the Infinite Spirit. Say, "I am Existence Absolute, Bliss Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, I am He," and like a lion breaking its cage, break your chains and be free forever.
What frightens you, what holds you down? Only ignorance of your true nature, of your blessedness; nothing else can bind you. You are the Pure One, the Ever-Blessed. Therefore, if you dare, stand on that — mold your whole life on that. You are one with the Eternal Soul. Know then that thou art He, and model your whole life accordingly; for those who know this and model their lives accordingly will no more suffer in darkness.
The Glory of Our Soul
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I have been asked to say something about the practical position of the Vedanta philosophy. Theory is very good indeed; but how are we to carry it into practice? If it is absolutely impracticable, no theory is of any value whatever, except as intellectual gymnastics. Vedanta, therefore, as a religion, must be intensely practical. We must be able to carry it out in every part of our lives. The fictitious differentiation between religion and the life of the world must vanish. The ideals of religion must cover the whole field of life; they must enter into all our thoughts, and more and more into practice.
Vedanta teaches Oneness — one life throughout. It preaches the ideal, and the ideal, as we know, is always far ahead of the current state of things, of the practical, as we may call it. Therefore, I ask you to understand that Vedanta, though it is intensely practical, is always so in the sense of the highest ideal. This ideal is that you are, in one word, divine. You are the Infinite Spirit; "Thou art That." This is the essence of Vedanta. The human soul is pure and omniscient; such superstitions as birth and death are nonsense when spoken of in connection with the soul. The soul was never born and will never die.
Vedanta teaches people 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 himself is an atheist, so Vedanta says that a man who does not believe in the God within himself is an atheist. Not believing in the glory of our own soul is what Vedanta calls atheism.
To many this is, no doubt, a terrible ideal, and most of us think that this ideal can never be reached; but Vedanta insists that it can be realized by everyone. Nothing can stand as a bar to the realization of this ideal, because, as Vedanta shows, all the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark. Know that there is no darkness around you. Take your hands away and there is the light that was there from the beginning. Darkness never existed; weakness never existed. We who are fools cry that we are weak; we who are fools cry that we are impure. Vedanta insists not only that divinity is our very nature, but that it has been so always. Everything else that you see is false, untrue. As soon as you say, "I am a little mortal being," you are saying something that is not true, you are giving the lie to yourselves, you are hypnotizing yourselves into something weak and wretched. Vedanta recognizes no sin; it recognizes only ignorance. And the greatest ignorance, it says, is to think that you are weak, that you are a sinner, and that you have no power. Every time you think in that way, you rivet one more link in the chain that binds you down, you add one more layer of hypnotism upon your soul. Therefore, whosoever thinks themselves weak is wrong, and whosoever thinks themselves impure is wrong and is throwing bad thoughts into the world.
This we must always bear in mind: In Vedanta, there is no attempt at reconciling the present life — the hypnotized life, this false life that we have assumed — with the ideal; this false life must go, and the Real Life, which has always existed, must manifest itself, must shine out. No one becomes purer and purer; it is only a matter of greater manifestation of the perfection that has always been within. The veil drops away, and the native purity of the Eternal Soul begins to manifest itself. Everything is ours already — infinite purity, freedom, love, and power.
Brahman, the God of the Vedanta
* * *
Brahman, the One Infinite Reality of the Vedanta, is the highest generalization to which we can come about God. It has no attributes, but is Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss Absolute. Existence is the very ultimate idea that the human mind can come to. True knowledge does not mean the knowledge of things, but of that One Principle which is expressing itself through all things. What is meant by Knowledge is the realization of the essential Unity of things.
The whole universe is simply an ocean of matter, of which you and I are like little whirlpools. Masses of matter are coming into each whirlpool, taking the whirlpool form, and coming out as matter again. The matter that is in my body may have been in yours a few years ago, or in the sun or in a plant, and so on, in a continuous state of flux. So it is with thought. It is an ocean of thought, one infinite mass, in which your mind and my mind are like whirlpools. Are you not seeing the effect now, how my thoughts are entering into yours and yours into mine? The whole of our lives is one.
The essence of matter and thought is Spirit; this is the Unity from which all have come. This grand preaching, the Oneness of all things, making us one with everything that exists, is the great lesson to learn. It is the grand teaching of the Advaita Vedanta. The One Infinite Spirit is the essence of this universe, the essence of all souls. Happiness belongs to those who know this Oneness, who know that they are one with this universe.
Brahman, the God of the Vedanta, has nothing outside of Himself, nothing at all. All this indeed is He. He is everywhere and everything. Him we see and feel; in Him we live and move and have our being. You have that concept in the New Testament. It is the idea of God immanent in the universe, as the very essence, the heart, the soul of all things. He manifests Himself, as it were, in this universe. You and I are little bits, little points, little channels, little expressions, all living inside of that infinite ocean of Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss. The difference between one person and another, between angels and people, between people and animals, between animals and plants, and between plants and stones is not in kind, because everyone from the highest angel to the lowest particle of matter is but an expression of that one infinite ocean, and the difference is only in degree. I am a low manifestation, you may be a higher, but in both, the materials are the same. You and I are both outlets of the One Existence, and that is God; as such, your nature is God, and so is mine. You are of the nature of God by your birthright; so am I. You may be an angel of purity, and I may be the darkest of demons. Nevertheless, my birthright is that infinite ocean of Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss. So is yours. You have manifested yourself more today. But wait; I will manifest myself more yet, for I have it all within me. No extraneous explanation is sought; none is asked for. God Himself is the whole universe, and infinitely more. Is God, then, matter? No, certainly not, for matter is only that infinitesimal part of God able to be perceived by the five senses. God as perceived through the intellect is mind; and when the Spirit sees, He is seen as Spirit. He is not matter, but whatever is real in matter is eternally He.
The Freedom of the Spirit
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The cardinal features of the Hindu religion are founded on the meditative philosophy and the ethical teachings contained in the various books of the Vedas. According to these teachings, innumerable have been the manifestations of the Infinite in the domain of the finite, but the Infinite Spirit Itself is self-existent, eternal, and unchangeable. The passage of time makes no mark whatsoever on the dial of eternity. In the highest region of the Infinite, one that cannot be comprehended at all by human understanding, there is no past and there is no future.
Excerpted from Pathways to Joy by Dave DeLuca. Copyright © 2003 Dave DeLuca. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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