From Questions and Answers of Volume 5 of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda
Q.—How can Vedanta be realised?
A.—By “hearing, reflection, and meditation”. Hearing must take place from a Sad-guru. Even if one is not a regular disciple, but is a fit aspirant and hears the Sad-guru’s words, he is liberated.
Q.—Who is a Sad-guru?
A.—A Sad-guru is one on whom the spiritual power has descended by Guru-paramparâ, or an unbroken chain of discipleship.
To play the role of a spiritual teacher is a very difficult thing. One has to take on oneself the sins of others. There is every chance of a fall in less advanced men. If merely physical pain ensues, then he should consider himself fortunate.
Q.—Cannot the spiritual teacher make the aspirant fit?
A.—An Avatâra can. Not an ordinary Guru.
Q.—Is there no easy way to liberation?
A.—”There is no royal road to Geometry”—except for those who have been fortunate enough to come in contact with an Avatara. Paramahamsa Deva used to say, “One who is having his last birth shall somehow or other see me.”
Q.—Is not Yoga an easy path to that?
A.—(Jokingly) You have said well, I see!—Yoga an easy path! If your mind be not pure and you try to follow Yoga, you will perhaps attain some supernatural power, but that will be a hindrance. Therefore purity of mind is the first thing necessary.
Q.—How can this be attained?
A.—By good work. Good work is of two kinds, positive and negative. “Do not steal”—that is a negative mandate, and “Do good to others”—is a positive one.
Q.—Should not doing good to others be performed in a higher stage, for if performed in a lower stage, it may bind one to the world?
A.—It should be performed in the first stage. One who has any desire at first gets deluded and becomes bound, but not others. Gradually it will become very natural.
Q.—Sir, last night you said, “In you is everything.” Now, if I want to be like Vishnu, shall I have to meditate on the form also, or only on the idea?
A.—According to capacity one may follow either way.
Q.—What is the means of realisation?
A.—The Guru is the means of realisation. “There is no knowledge without a teacher.”
Q.—Some say that there is no necessity of practicing meditation in a worship-room. How far is it true?
A.—Those who have already realised the Lord’s presence may not require it, but for others it is necessary. One, however, should go beyond the form and meditate on the impersonal aspect of God, for no form can grant liberation. You may get worldly prosperity from the sight of the form. One who ministers to his mother succeeds in this world; one who worships his father goes to heaven; but the worshipper of a Sâdhu (holy man) gets knowledge and devotion.
Q.—What is the meaning of “क्षणमिह सज्जनसंगतिरेका”—”Even a moment’s association with the holy ones serves to take one beyond this relative existence”?
A.—A fit person coming in contact with a true Sadhu attains to liberation. True Sadhus are very rare, but their influence is such that a great writer has said, “Hypocrisy is the tribute which vice pays to virtue.” But Avataras are Kapâlamochanas, that is, they can alter the doom of people. They can stir the whole world. The least dangerous and best form of worship is worshipping man. One who has got the idea of Brahman in a man has realised it in the whole universe. Monasticism and the householder’s life are both good, according to different circumstances. Knowledge is the only thing necessary.
Q.—Where should one meditate—inside the body or outside it? Should the mind be withdrawn inside or held outside?
A.—We should try to meditate inside. As for the mind being here or there, it will take a long time before we reach the mental plane. Now our struggle is with the body. When one acquires a perfect steadiness in posture, then and then alone one begins to struggle with the mind. Âsana (posture) being conquered, one’s limbs remain motionless, and one can sit as long as one pleases.
Q.—Sometimes one gets tired of Japa (repetition of the Mantra). Should one continue it or read some good book instead?
A. —One gets tired of Japa for two reasons. Sometimes one’s brain is fatigued, sometimes it is the result of idleness. If the former, then one should give up Japa for the time being, for persistence in it at the time results in seeing hallucinations, or in lunacy etc. But if the latter, the mind should be forced to continue Japa.
Q.—Sometimes sitting at Japa one gets joy at first, but then one seems to be disinclined to continue the Japa owing to that joy. Should it be continued then?
A.—Yes, that joy is a hindrance to spiritual practice, its name being Rasâsvâdana (tasting of the sweetness). One must rise above that.
Q.—Is it good to practice Japa for a long time, though the mind may be wandering?
A.—Yes. As some people break a wild horse by always keeping his seat on his back.
Q.—You have written in your Bhakti-Yoga that if a weak-bodied man tries to practice Yoga, a tremendous reaction comes. Then what to do?
A.—What fear if you die in the attempt to realise the Self! Man is not afraid of dying for the sake of learning and many other things, and why should you fear to die for religion?
Q.—Can Jiva-sevâ (service to beings) alone give Mukti ?
A.—Jiva-seva can give Mukti not directly but indirectly, through the purification of the mind. But if you wish to do a thing properly, you must, for the time being, think that that is all-sufficient. The danger in any sect is want of zeal. There must be constancy (Nishthâ), or there will be no growth. At present it has become necessary to lay stress on Karma.
Q.—What should be our motive in work—compassion, or any other motive?
A.—Doing good to others out of compassion is good, but the Seva (service) of all beings in the spirit of the Lord is better.
Q.—What is the efficacy of prayer?
A.—By prayer one’s subtle powers are easily roused, and if consciously done, all desires may be fulfilled by it; but done unconsciously, one perhaps in ten is fulfilled. Such prayer, however, is selfish and should therefore be discarded.
Q.—How to recognise God when He has assumed a human form?
A.—One who can alter the doom of people is the Lord. No Sadhu, however advanced, can claim this unique position. I do not see anyone who realises Ramakrishna as God. We sometimes feel it hazily, that is all. To realise Him as God and yet be attached to the world is inconsistent.