From Volume 9 of the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda – Letters – Fifth Series
23 October 1899


I was taking a few days’ complete rest and so am late in replying to your very kind note. Accept my congratulations on the anniversary of your marriage. I pray many, many such returns may come to you.
I am sure my previous letter was coloured by the state of my body, as indeed is the whole of existence to us. Yet, Mother, there is more pain than pleasure in life. If not, why do I remember you and your children almost every day of my life, and not many others? Happiness is liked so much because it is so rare, is it not? Fifty percent of our life is mere lethargy, ennui; of the rest, forty percent is pain, only ten happiness — and this for the exceptionally fortunate. We are oft-times mixing up this state of ennui with pleasure. It is rather a negative state, whilst both pleasure and pain are nearer positive, though not positive.
Pleasure and pain are both feeling, not willing. They are only processes which convey to the mind excitements or motives of action. The real positive action is the willing, or impulse to work, of the mind — begun when the sensation has been taken in (pleasure and pain); thus the real is neither pleasure nor pain. It has no connection with either. Quite different from either. The barking of the dog awakens his master to guard against a thief or receive his dearest friend. It does not follow, therefore, that the dog and his master are of the same nature or have any degree of kinship. The feelings of pleasure or pain similarly awaken the soul to activity, without any kinship at all.
The soul is beyond pain, beyond pleasure, sufficient in its own nature. And no hell can punish it, nor any heaven can bless it. So far philosophy.
I am coming soon to Chicago, and hope to say “Lord bless you” to you and your children. All love as usual to my Christian relatives, scientific or quacks.