Today, January 12 is 156th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world. Swami Vivekananda’s birthday is also celebrated as National Youth Day here in India.
Right from the childhood, Swami Vivekananda was inclined towards spirituality. He was influenced by his guru, Ramakrishna, the principal teaching he received from Ramakrishna was that all living beings were an embodiment of the divine self; therefore, service to God could be rendered by service to mankind.
After Ramakrishna’s death, Swami Vivekananda toured the Indian subcontinent extensively and acquired first-hand knowledge of the conditions prevailing in British India. He later traveled to the United States, representing India at the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Swami Vivekananda conducted hundreds of public and private lectures and classes, disseminating tenets of Hindu philosophy in the United States, England, and Europe. The lectures and public speeches he gave were mostly impromptu and had very little preparation. Most of his published work is compiled from his speeches.
Today we are trying to make a collage of the Sanskrit texts that Swami Vivekananda quoted during his speeches and letters, we hope you’ll like them and if you do, please share.
This is from Swami Vivekananda’s commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, his comments go as
Vitarka means question; Savitarka, with question, questioning the elements, as it were, that they may give their truths and their powers to the man who meditates upon them. There is no liberation in getting powers. It is a worldly search after enjoyments, and there is no enjoyment in this life; all search for enjoyment is vain; this is the old, old lesson which man finds so hard to learn. When he does learn it, he gets out of the universe and becomes free. The possession of what are called occult powers is only intensifying the world, and in the end, intensifying suffering. Though as a scientist Patanjali is bound to point out the possibilities of this science, he never misses an opportunity to warn us against these powers.
The world is full of these. Every one wants to be a teacher, every beggar wants to make a gift of a million dollars!
Just as these beggars are ridiculous, so are these teachers.
Let such irrelevant things alone. To return to our subject: After all, one wonders at Professor Max Müller’s knowledge of the social customs and codes of law, as well as the contemporaneous occurrences in the various provinces of present-day India; this is borne out by our own personal experiences.
Swami comments on at the situation of the difference between east and west of the time –
The West wants every bit of spirituality through social improvement. The East wants every bit of social power through
spirituality. Thus it was that the modern reformers saw no way to reform but by first crushing out the religion of India. They tried, and they failed. Why? Because few of them ever studied their own religion, and not one ever underwent the training necessary to understand the Mother of all religions.
I claim that no destruction of religion is necessary to improve the Hindu society and that this state of society exists not on account of religion, but because religion has not been applied to society as it should have been. This I am ready to prove from our old books, every word of it. This is what I teach, and this is what we must struggle all our lives to carry out. But it will take time, a long time to study. Have patience and work.
Swami wrote a letter to Sj. Balaram Bose on January 5, 1980. Part of the letter –
“Lord have mercy”, is all right, but He helps him who helps himself. If you simply try to save your purse, will the Lord arrange the change for you by drawing on His ancestral capital? If you think you have so much reliance on the Lord, don’t call in the doctor, please. . . .
If that does not suit you, you should go to Varanasi. I would have already left this place, but the local gentlemen would not give me leave to depart! . . . But let me repeat once more, if change is actually decided upon, please do not hesitate out of
miserliness. That would be suicide. And not even God can save a suicide.
Please convey my compliments to Tulasi Babu and the rest.
Swami wrote a letter to RamKrishnananda on 19th March 1894. Part of the letter –
Isn’t it true?
My brother, in view of all this, especially of the poverty and ignorance, I had no sleep. At Cape Comorin sitting in Mother Kumari’s temple, sitting on the last bit of Indian rock — I hit upon a plan: We are so many Sannyasins wandering
about, and teaching the people metaphysics — it is all madness.
Did not our Gurudeva use to say, “An empty stomach is no good for religion”? That those poor people are leading the life of brutes is simply due to ignorance. We have for all ages been sucking their blood and trampling them underfoot.
Swami’s letter meant for his brother-disciples. Part of the letter –
Great undertakings are always fraught with many obstacles.” It is these obstacles which knock and shape great characters.
… Is it in the power of missionaries and people of that sort to withstand this shock? …
Should a fool succeed where scholars have failed? It is no go, my boy, set your mind at ease about that. In every attempt, there will be one set of men who will applaud, and another who will pick holes. Go on doing your own work, what need have you to reply to any party?
Swami Vivekananda in his letter to Akhandananda in April 1894. Part of the letter –
Go from door to door amongst the poor and lower classes of the town of Khetri and teach them religion. Also, let them have oral lessons on geography and such other subjects. No good will come of sitting idle and having princely dishes, and saying “Ramakrishna, O Lord!” — unless you can do some good for the poor. Go to other villages from time to time, and teach the people the arts of life as well as religion. Work, worship, and Jnana (knowledge) — first work, and your mind will be purified; otherwise, everything will be fruitless like pouring oblations on a pile of ashes instead of in the sacred fire. When
Gunanidhi comes, move from door to door of the poor and the destitute in every village of Rajputana.
If people object to the kind of food you take, give it up immediately. It is preferable to live on grass for the sake of doing good to others. The Geruâ robe is not for enjoyment. It is the banner of heroic work. You must give your body, mind, and speech to “the welfare of the world”. You have read— “मातृदेवो भव, पितृदेवो भव ।” — Look upon your mother as God, look upon your father as God” — but I say “दरिद्रदेवो भव, मुर्खदेवो भव।” — The poor, the illiterate, the ignorant, the afflicted — let these be your God.” Know that service to these alone is the highest religion.
From the quotes, it is clear that Swami Vivekananda did a deep study of Vedic literature and scriptures. His understanding and application of these texts were immaculate and precise.
if you think we can add more quotes, please let us know in the comments below.