From Writings: Prose and Poems of Volume 5 of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda
[The following three chapters were discovered among Swami Vivekananda’s papers. He evidently intended to write a book and jotted down some points for the work.]
- Desire is infinite, its fulfilment limited. Desire is unlimited in everyone; the power of fulfilment varies. Thus some are more successful than others in life.
- This limitation is the bondage we are struggling against all our lives.
- We desire only the pleasurable, not the painful.
- The objects of desire are all complex—pleasure-giving and pain-bringing mixed up.
- We do not or cannot see the painful parts in objects, we are charmed with only the pleasurable portion; and, thus grasping the pleasurable, we unwittingly draw in the painful.
- At times we vainly hope that in our case only the pleasurable will come, leaving the painful aside, which never happens.
- Our desires also are constantly changing—what we would prize today we would reject tomorrow. The pleasure of the present will be the pain of the future, the loved hated, and so on.
- We vainly hope that in the future life we shall be able to gather in only the pleasurable, to the exclusion of the painful.
- The future is only the extension of the present. Such a thing cannot be!
- Whosoever seeks pleasure in objects will get it, but he must take the pain with it.
- All objective pleasure in the long run must bring pain, because of the fact of change or death.
- Death is the goal of all objects, change is the nature of all objective things.
- As desire increases, so increases the power of pleasure, so the power of pain.
- The finer the organism, the higher the culture—the greater is the power to enjoy pleasure and the sharper are the pangs of pain.
- Mental pleasures are greatly superior to physical joys. Mental pains are more poignant than physical tortures.
- The power of thought, of looking far away into the future, and the power of memory, of recalling the past to the present, make us live in heaven; they make us live in hell also.
- The man who can collect the largest amount of pleasurable objects around him is as a rule too unimaginative to enjoy them. The man of great imagination is thwarted by the intensity of his feeling of loss, or fear of loss, or perception of defects.
- We are struggling hard to conquer pain, succeeding in the attempt, and yet creating new pains at the same time.
- We achieve success, and we are overthrown by failure; we pursue pleasure and we are pursued by pain.
- We say we do, we are made to do. We say we work, we are made to labour. We say we live, we are made to die every moment. We are in the crowd, we cannot stop, must go on—it deserves no cheering. Had it not been so, no amount of cheering would make us undertake all this pain and misery for a grain of pleasure—which, alas, in most cases is only a hope!
- Our pessimism is a dread reality, our optimism is a faint cheering, making the best of a bad job.
- The law is never separate from the phenomena, the principle from the person.
- The law is the method of action or poise of every single phenomenon within its scope.
- We get our knowledge of law from the massing and welding of changes that occur. We never see law beyond these changes. The idea of law as something separate from phenomena is a mental abstraction, a convenient use of words and nothing more. Law is a part of every change within its range, a manner which resides in the things governed by the law. The power resides in the things, is a part of our idea of that thing—its action upon something else is in a certain manner—this is our law.
- Law is in the actual state of things—it is in how they act towards each other, and not in how they should. It might have been better if fire did not burn or water wet; but that they do—this is the law; and if it is a true law, a fire that does not burn or water that does not wet is neither fire nor water.
- Spiritual laws, ethical laws, social laws, national laws—are laws if they are parts of existing spiritual and human units and the unfailing experience of the action of every unit said to be bound by such laws.
- We, by turn, are made by law and make it. A generalization of what man does invariably in certain circumstances is a law with regard to man in that particular aspect. It is the invariable, universal human action that is law for man—and which no individual can escape—and yet the summation of the action of each individual is the universal Law. The sum total, or the universal, or the infinite is fashioning the individual, while the individual is keeping by its action the Law alive. Law in this sense is another name for the universal. The universal is dependent upon the individual, the individual dependent upon the universal. It is an infinite made up of finite parts, an infinite of number, though involving the difficulty of assuming an infinity summed up of finites—yet for all practical purposes, it is a fact before us. And as the law, or whole, or the infinite cannot be destroyed—and the destruction of a part of an infinite is an impossibility, as we cannot either add anything to or subtract anything from the infinite—each part persists for ever.
- Laws regarding the materials of which the body of man is composed have been found out, and also the persistence of these materials through time has been shown. The elements which composed the body of a man a hundred thousand years ago have been proved to be still existing in some place or other. The thoughts which have been projected also are living in other minds.
- But the difficulty is to find a law about the man beyond the body.
- The spiritual and ethical laws are not the method of action of every human being. The systems of ethics of morality, even of national laws, are honoured more in the breach than in the observance. If they were laws how could they be broken?
- No man is able to go against the laws of nature. How is it that we always complain of his breaking the moral laws, national laws?
- The national laws at best are the embodied will of a majority of the nation—always a state of things wished for, not actually existing.
- The ideal law may be that no man should covet the belongings of others, but the actual law is that a very large number do.
- Thus the word law used in regard to laws of nature has a very different interpretation when applied to ethics and human actions generally.
- Analysing the ethical laws of the world and comparing them with the actual state of things, two laws stand out supreme. The one, that of repelling everything from us—separating ourselves from everyone—which leads to self-aggrandisement even at the cost of everyone else’s happiness. The other, that of self-sacrifice—of taking no thought of ourselves—only of others. Both spring from the search for happiness—one, of finding happiness in injuring others and the ability of feeling that happiness only in our own senses. The other, of finding happiness in doing good to others —the ability of feeling happy, as it were, through the senses of others. The great and good of the world are those who have the latter power predominating. Yet both these are working side by side conjointly; in almost everyone they are found in mixture, one or the other predominating. The thief steals, perhaps, for someone he loves.
The Absolute and the attainment of freedom
Om Tat Sat—that Being—Knowing—Bliss.
- The only real Existence, which alone is—everything else exists inasmuch as it reflects that real Existence.
- It is the only Knower—the only Self-luminous—the Light of consciousness. Everything else shines by light borrowed from It. Everything else knows inasmuch as it reflects Its knowing.
- It is the only Blessedness—as in It there is no want. It comprehends all—is the essence of all. It is Sat-Chit-Ânanda.
- It has no parts, no attributes, neither pleasure nor pain, nor is it matter nor mind. It is the Supreme, Infinite, Impersonal Self in everything, the Infinite Ego of the Universe.
- It is the Reality in me, in thee, and in everything—therefore, “That thou art”—Tattvamasi.
The same Impersonal is conceived by the mind as the Creator, the Ruler, and the Dissolver of this universe, its material as well as its efficient cause, the Supreme Ruler—the Living, the Loving, the Beautiful, in the highest sense.
- The Absolute Being is manifested in Its highest in Isvara, or the Supreme Ruler, as the highest and omnipotent Life or Energy.
- The Absolute Knowledge is manifesting Itself in Its highest as Infinite Love, in the Supreme Lord.
- The Absolute Bliss is manifested as the Infinite Beautiful, in the Supreme Lord. He is the greatest attraction of the soul.
The Absolute or Brahman, the Sat-Chit-Ananda, is Impersonal and the real Infinite
Every existence from the highest to the lowest, all manifest according to their degree as—energy (in the higher life), attraction (in the higher love), and struggle for equilibrium (in the higher happiness). This highest Energy-Love-Beauty is a person, an individual, the Infinite Mother of this universe—the God of gods—the Lord of lords, omnipresent yet separate from the universe—the Soul of souls, yet separate from every soul—the Mother of this universe, because She has produced it—its Ruler, because She guides it with the greatest love and in the long run brings everything back to Herself. Through Her command the sun and moon shine, the clouds rain, and death stalks upon the earth.
She is the power of all causation. She energises every cause unmistakably to produce the effect. Her will is the only law, and as She cannot make a mistake, nature’s laws—Her will—can never be changed. She is the life of the Law of Karma or causation. She is the fructifier of every action. Under Her guidance we are manufacturing our lives through our deeds or Karma. Freedom is the motive of the universe, freedom its goal. The laws of nature are the methods through which we are struggling to reach that freedom, under the guidance of Mother. This universal struggle for freedom attains its highest expression in man in the conscious desire to be free.
This freedom is attained by the threefold means of—work, worship, and knowledge.
- Work—constant, unceasing effort to help others and love others.
- Worship—consists in prayer, praise, and meditation.
- Knowledge—that follows meditation.