Vivekananda (or Swami Vivekananda, as he is popularly known in India) was a religious reformer and spiritual guru known for his sharp intellect, commanding personality and compassion for the poor. His intense desire to understand God lead him to question every religion and religious leaders he came across.
While one may debate forever whether the truth Vivekananda preached is the "truth", his research certainly gives us insights to better understand ourselves, our world and, of course, God and religion. Following are some of his thoughts:
- The remedy for weakness is not brooding over weakness, but thinking of strength. Teach men of the strength that is already within them.
- Let people say whatever they like, stick to your own convictions, and rest assured, the world will be at your feet. They say, 'Have faith in this fellow or that fellow', but I say, 'Have faith in yourself first', that's the way. Have faith in yourself - all power is in you - be conscious and bring it out.
- The difference between God and the devil is in nothing except unselfishness and selfishness. The devil knows as much as God, is as powerful as God; only he has no holiness - that makes him a devil. Apply the same idea to the modern world: excess of knowledge and power, without holiness, makes human beings devils.
- It is our own mental attitude which makes the world what it is for us. Our thoughts make things beautiful, our thoughts make things ugly. The whole world is in our own minds. Learn to see things in the proper light.
- This world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves stronger.
- You have to grow from inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.
- Men in general lay the blame of life on their fellowmen, or, failing that, on God, or they conjure up a ghost, and say it is fate. Where is fate, and who is fate? We reap what we sow. We are the makers of our own fate. None else has the blame, none has the praise. The wind is blowing; those vessels whose sails are unfurled catch it, and go forward on their way, but those which have their sails furled do not catch the wind. Is that the fault of the wind?
- For the world can be good and pure, only if our lives are good and pure. It is an effect, and we are the means. Therefore, let us purify ourselves.
- Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making, assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library.
- Truth does not pay homage to any society, ancient and modern. Society has to pay homage to Truth or die. Societies should be moulded on truth, and truth has not to adjust itself to society ... That society is the greatest, where the highest truths become practical. That is my opinion; and if society is not fit for the highest truths, make it so; and the sooner, the better.
- Virtue is that which tends to our improvement, and vice to our degeneration. Man is made up of three qualities - brutal, human, and Godly. That which tends to increase the divinity in you is virtue, and that which tends to increase brutality in you is vice. You must kill the brutal nature and become human, that is, loving and charitable. You must transcend that too and become pure bliss ... fire without burning, wonderfully loving, but without the weakness of human love, without the feeling of misery.
- The secret of religion lies not in theories but in practice. To be good and do good - that is the whole of religion. 'Not he that crieth "Lord", "Lord", but he that doeth the will of the Father.'
- Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship or psychic control or philosophy - by one or more or all of these and be free.
- The only definition that can be given of morality is this: That which is selfish is immoral, and that which is unselfish is moral.
- Let us all be honest. If we cannot follow the ideal, let us confess our weakness, but not degrade it; let not any try to pull it down.
- Understand my words in their true spirit and apply yourself to work in their light ... I have given you advice enough; now put atleast something in practice.
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