Swami Vivekananda

Quotes

He is an atheist who does not believe in himself. The old religions said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is an atheist who does not believe in himself.

Never think there is anything impossible for the soul. It is the greatest heresy to think so. If there is sin, this is the only sin — to say that you are weak, or others are weak.

Whatever you think, that you will be. If you think yourselves weak, weak you will be. If you think yourselves strong, strong you will be.

Be free; hope for nothing from anyone. I am sure if you look back upon your lives you will find that you were always vainly trying to get help from others which never came. All the help that has come was from within yourselves.

Never say, ‘No’, never say, ‘I cannot’, for you are infinite. Even time and space are as nothing compared with your nature. You can do anything and everything, you are almighty.

The remedy for weakness is not brooding over weakness, but thinking of strength. Teach men of the strength that is already within them.

To succeed, you must have tremendous perseverance, tremendous will. ‘I will drink the ocean’, says the persevering soul; ‘at my will mountains will crumble up’. Have that sort of energy, that sort of will; work hard, and you will reach the goal.

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. Say, ‘I can do everything.’ ‘Even the poison of a snake is powerless if you can firmly deny it.’

Once when I was in Varanasi, I was passing through a place where there was large tank of water on one side and a high wall on the other. It was in the grounds where there were many monkeys. The monkeys of Varanasi are huge brutes and are sometimes surly. They now took into their heads not to allow me to pass through their street, so they howled and shrieked and clutched at my feet as I passed. As they pressed closer, I began to run, but the faster I ran, the faster came the monkeys and they began to bite at me. It seemed impossible to escape, but just then I met a stranger who called out to me, ‘Face the brutes’. I turned and faced the monkeys, and they fell back and finally fled. That is the lesson for all life — face the terrible, face it boldly.

Stand up and fight! Not one step back, that is the idea. Fight it out, whatever comes. Let the stars move from the spheres! Let the whole world stand against us! Death means only a change of garment. What of it? Thus fight! You gain nothing by becoming cowards. Taking a step backward, you do not avoid any misfortune. You have cried to all the gods in the world. Has misery ceased? … The gods come to help you when you have succeeded. So what is the use? Die game. … You are infinite, deathless, birthless. Because you are infinite spirit, it does not befit you to be a slave. Arise! Awake! Stand up and fight!

Take up one idea. Make that one idea our life — think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.

The more this power of concentration, the more knowledge is acquired, because this is the one and only method of acquiring knowledge. Even the lowest shoeblack, if he gives more concentration, will black shoes better; the cook with concentration will cook a meal all the better. In making money, or in worshipping God, or in doing anything, the stronger the power of concentration, the better will that thing be done. This is the one call, the one knock, which opens the gates of nature, and lets out floods of light.

How has all the knowledge in the world been gained but by the concentration of the powers of the mind? The world is ready to give up its secrets if we only know to knock, how to give it the necessary blow. The strength and force of the blow come through concentration. There is no limit to the power of the human mind. The more concentrated it is, the more power is brought to bear on one point; that is the secret.

No force can be created; it can only be directed. Therefore we must learn to control the grand powers that are already in our hands and by will power make them spiritual instead of merely animal.

The mind uncontrolled and unguided will drag us down, down, for ever — rend us, kill us; and the mind controlled and guided will save us, free us.

How to attain purity living this life? Shall we all go to the forest caves? What good would it do? If the mind is not under control, it is no use living in a cave because the same mind will bring all disturbances there. We will find twenty devils in the cave because all the devils are in the mind. If the mind is under control, we can have the cave anywhere, wherever we are.

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.

We are responsible for what we are; and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know to act.

This world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong.

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 all the blame of life upon their fellow-men, 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?

Say,’This misery that I am suffering is of my own doing, and that very thing proves that it will have to be undone by me alone.’ That which I created, I can demolish; that which is created by someone else I shall never be able to destroy. Therefore, stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and succour you want is within yourselves.

Make your own future.’Let the dead past bury its dead.’ The infinite future is before you, and you must always remember that each word, thought, and deed, lays up a store for you and that as the bad thoughts and bad works are ready to spring upon you like tigers, so also there is the inspiring hope that the good thoughts and good deeds are ready with the power of a hundred thousand angels to defend you always and for ever.

‘Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die.’ Be of good cheer and believe that we are selected by the Lord to do great things, and we will do them.

If a man with an ideal makes a thousand mistakes, I am sure that the man without an ideal makes fifty thousand. Therefore, it is better to have an ideal.

What is the use of fighting and complaining? That will not help us to better things. He who grumbles at the little thing that has fallen to his lot to do will grumble at everything. Always grumbling, he will lead a miserable life, and everything will be a failure. But that man who does his duty as he goes, putting his shoulder to the wheel, will see the light, and higher and higher duties will fall to his share.

Every thought that we think, every deed that we do, after a certain time becomes fine, goes into seed form, so to speak, and lives in the fine body in a potential form, and after a time it emerges again and bears its results. These results condition the life of man. Thus he moulds his own life. Man is not bound by any other laws excepting those which he makes for himself.

My ideal indeed can be put into a few words and that is: to preach unto mankind their divinity, and how to make it manifest in every movement of life.

Purity, patience, and perseverance are the three essentials to success and, above all — love.

Life is ever expanding, contraction is death. The self-seeking man who is looking after his personal comforts and lending a lazy life — there is no room for him even in hell.

I am sure God will pardon a man who will use his reason and cannot believe, rather than a man who believes blindly instead of using the faculties He has given him. … We must reason; and when reason proves to us the truth of these prophets and great men about whom the ancient books speak in every country, we shall believe in them. We shall believe in them when we see such prophets among ourselves. We shall then find that they were not peculiar men, but only illustrations of certain principles.

Why should you not try to hit the mark? We become wiser through failures. Time is infinite. … It is better to do something; never mind even if it proves to be wrong; it is better than doing nothing. … Do something!

Go on doing good, thinking holy thoughts continuously; that is the only way to suppress base impressions. Never say any man is hopeless, because he only represents a character, a bundle of habits, which can be checked by new and better ones. Character is repeated habits, and repeated habits alone can reform character. … The chaste brain has tremendous energy and gigantic will-power.

We can overcome the difficulty by constant practice. We must learn that nothing can happen to us, unless we make ourselves susceptible to it.

‘It is the coward and the fool who says, “This is fate”‘ — so says the Sanskrit proverb. But it is the strong man who stands up and says,’I will make my fate’. It is people who are getting old who talk of fate. Young men generally do not come to astrology.

Every good thought that we send to the world without thinking of any return, will be stored up there and break one link in the chain, and make us purer and purer, until we become the purest of mortals.

If you project hatred and jealously, they will rebound on you with compound interest. No power can avert them; when once you have put them in motion, you will have to bear them. Remembering this will prevent you from doing wicked things.

Everything is conscious which rebels against nature; there, consciousness is manifested. Just try to kill a little ant, even it will once resist to save its life. Where there is struggle, where there is rebellion, there is the sign of life, there consciousness is manifested.

Isn’t it man that makes money? Where did you ever hear of money making man? If you can make your thoughts and words perfectly at one, if you can, I say, make yourself one in speech and action, money will pour in at your feet of itself, like water.

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. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.

In doing evil we injure ourselves and others also. In doing good we do good to ourselves and to others as well. … According to  Karma-Yoga, the action one has done cannot be destroyed until it has borne its fruit; no power in nature in nature can stop  it from yielding its results. If I do an evil action, I must suffer for it; there is no power in this universe to stop or stay it. Similarly, if I do a good action, there is no power in the universe which can stop its bearing good results.

The watchword of all well-being, of all moral good is not ‘I’ but ‘Thou’. Who cares whether there is a heaven or a hell, who cares if there is a soul or not, who cares if there is an unchangeable or not? Here is the world, and it is full of misery. Go out into it as Buddha did, and struggle to lessen it or die in the attempt. Forget yourselves; this is the first lesson to be learnt, whether you are a theist or an atheist, whether you are an agnostic or a Vedantist, a Christian or a Mohammedan.

Selfishness is the chief sin, thinking of ourselves first. He who thinks,’ I will eat first, I will have more money than others, and I will possess everything,’ he who thinks,’ I will get to heaven before others, I will get mukti before others’, is the selfish man. The unselfish man says,’ I will be last, I do not care to go to heaven, I will even go to hell if by doing so I can help my brothers.’ This unselfishness is the test of religion. He who has more of this unselfishness is more spiritual and nearer to Shiva.

If in this hell of a world one can bring a little joy and peace even for a day into the heart of a single person, that much alone is true; this I have learnt after suffering all my life; all else is mere moonshine.

The only way of getting out divine nature manifested is by helping others to do the same. If there is inequality in nature, still there must be equal chance for all — or if greater for some and for some less — the weaker should be given more chance than the strong.

The life of Buddha shows that even a man who does not believe in God, has no metaphysics, belongs to no sect, and does not go to any church, or temple, and is a confessed materialist, even he can attain to the highest. … He was the only man who was ever ready to give up his life for animals to stop a sacrifice. He once said to a king:’If the sacrifice of a lamb helps you to go to heaven, sacrificing a man will help you better; so sacrifice me.’ The king was astonished.

‘The good live for others alone. The wise man should sacrifice himself for others’. I can secure my own good only by doing you good. There is no other way,none whatsoever.

Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.

What is education? Is it book-learning? No. Is it diverse knowledge? Not even that. The training by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful is called education.

To me the very essence of education is concentration of mind, not the collecting of facts. If I had to do my education over again and had any voice in the matter, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then with a perfect instrument I could collect facts at will.

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.

Knowledge is inherent in man; no knowledge comes from outside; it is all inside. … We say Newton discovered gravitation. Was it sitting anywhere in a corner waiting or him? It was in his own mind; the time came and he found it out. All knowledge that the world has ever received comes from the mind; the infinite library of the universe is in your own mind. The external world is simply the suggestion, the occasion, which sets you to study your own mind.

We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet.

Truth does not pay homage to any society, ancient or modern. Society has to pay homage to Truth or die. Societies should be moulded upon 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.

Three things are necessary to make every man great, every nation great:
1. Conviction of the powers of goodness.
2. Absence of jealousy and suspicion.
3. Helping all who are trying to be and do good.

Do not recognize wickedness in others. Wickedness is ignorance, weakness. What is the good of telling people they are weak? Criticism and destruction are of no avail. We must give them a little higher; tell them of their own glorious nature, their birthright.

What I say is not, ‘Reform’, but, ‘Move on’. Nothing is too bad to reform. Adaptability is the whole mystery of life–the principle underneath which serves to unfold it. Adjustment or adaptation is the outcome of the Self pitted against external forces tending to suppress it. He who adjusts himself best lives the longest. Even if I do not preach this, society is changing, it must change.

Nothing else is necessary but these — love, sincerity, and patience. What is life but growth, i.e. expansion, i.e. love? Therefore all love is life, it is the only law of life; all selfishness is death, and this is true here or hereafter. It is life to do good, it is death not to do good to others. Ninety per cent of human brutes you see are dead, are ghosts — for none lives, my boys, but he who loves.

Religion is the idea which is raising the brute unto man, and man unto God.

The definition of God and man: Man is an infinite circle whose circumference is nowhere, but the centre is located in one spot; and God is an infinite circle whose circumference is nowhere, but whose centre is everywhere. (II.33)

Unselfishness is God. One may live on a throne, in a golden palace, and be perfectly unselfish; and then he is in God. Another may live in a hut and wear rags, and have nothing in the world; yet, if he is selfish, he is intensely merged in the world.

The first sign that you are becoming religious is that you are becoming cheerful. When a man is gloomy, that may be dyspepsia, but is not religion. … Misery is caused by sin, and by no other cause. What business have you with clouded faces? It is terrible. If you have a clouded face, do not go out that day, shut yourself in your room. What right have you to carry this disease out into the world?

Do you not know from the history of the world where the power of prophets lay? Where was it? In the intellect? Did any of them write a fine book on philosophy, on the most intricate ratiocinations of logic? Not one of them. They only spoke a few words. Feel like Christ and you will be a Christ; feel like Buddha and you will be a Buddha. It is feeling that is life, the strength, the vitality, without which no amount of intellectual activity can reach God.

In one word, the ideal of Vedanta is to know man as he really is, and this is its message, that if you cannot worship your brother man, the manifested God, how can you worship a God who is unmanifested?

If you are really pure, how do you see the impure? For what is within, is without. We cannot see impurity without having it inside ourselves. This is one of the practical sides of Vedanta, and I hope that we shall all try to carry it into our lives.

Your godhead is the proof of God Himself. If you are not a prophet, there never has been anything true of God. If you are not God, there never was any God, and never will be. This, says Vedanta, is the ideal to follow. Every one of us will have to become a prophet, and you are that already. Only know it. Never think there is anything impossible for the soul. It is the greatest heresy to think so. If there is a sin, this is the only sin — to say that you are weak, or others are weak.

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’.

The basic aim of religion is to bring peace to man. It is not a wise thing for one to suffer in this life so that one can be happy in the next. One must be happy here and now. Any religion that can bring that about is the true religion for humanity.

You will find many persons in this world who will say: ‘I wanted to become religious, I wanted to realize these things, but I have not been able, so I do not believe anything.’ Even among the educated you will find these. Large numbers of people will tell you. ‘I have tried to be religious all my life, but there is nothing in it.’ At the same time you will find this phenomenon: Suppose a man is a chemist, a great scientific man. He comes and tells you this. If you say to him, ‘I do not believe in chemistry, because I have all my life tried to become a chemist and do not find anything in it’, he will ask, ‘When did you try?’ ‘When I went to bed, I repeated “O chemistry, come to me”, and it never came.’ That is the very same thing. The chemist laughs at you and says: ‘Oh, that is not the way. Why did you not go to the laboratory and get all the acids and alkalis and burn your hands from time to time? That alone would have taught you.’ Do you take the same trouble with religion? Every science has its own method of learning, and religion is to be learnt the same way.

We want to lead mankind in the place where there is neither the Vedas, nor the Bible, nor the Koran; yet this is to be done by harmonizing the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran. Mankind ought to be taught that religions are but the varied expressions of THE RELIGION, which is Oneness, so that each may choose that path that suits him best.

Even the least work done for others awakens the power within; even thinking the least good of others gradually instills into the heart the strength of a lion. I love you all ever so much, but I wish you all to die working for others — I should rather be glad to see you do that! … Get up, and put your shoulders to the wheel — how long is this life for? As you have come into the world, leave some mark behind. Otherwise, where is the difference between you and the trees and stones?

My boy, when death is inevitable, is it not better to die like heroes than as stocks and stones? And what is the use of living a day or two more in this transitory world? It is better to wear out than to rust out — specially for the sake of doing the least good to others.

If you are really my children, you will fear nothing, stop at nothing. You will be like lions. We must rouse India and the whole world. … My children must be ready to jump into fire, if needed, to accomplish their work.

When there is conflict between the heart and the brain, let the heart be followed, because intellect has only one state, reason, and within that, intellect works, and cannot get beyond. It is the heart which takes one to the highest plane, which intellect can never reach; it goes beyond intellect, and reaches to what is called inspiration. … Men of heart get the ‘butter’, ad the ‘buttermilk’ is left for the intellectual.

Let us all become honest. If we cannot follow the ideal, let us confess our weakness, but not degrade it; let not any try to pull it down.

You must remember that humanity travels not from error to truth, but from truth to truth; it may be, if you like it better, from lower truth to higher truth, but never from error to truth.

The lower the organization, the greater the pleasure in the senses. Very few men can eat a meal with the same gusto as a dog or a wolf. But all the pleasures of the dog or the wolf has gone, as it were into the senses. The lower types of humanity in all nations find pleasure in the senses, while the cultured and educated find it in thought, in philosophy, in arts and sciences, Spirituality is a still higher plane.

Every successful man must have behind him somewhere tremendous integrity, tremendous sincerity, and that is the cause of his signal success in life. He may not have been perfectly unselfish; yet he was tending towards it. If he had been perfectly unselfish, his would have been a great success as that of the Buddha or of the Christ. The degree of unselfishness marks the degree of success everywhere.

Truth, purity, and unselfishness — wherever these are present, there is no power below or above the sun to crush the possessor thereof. Equipped with these, one individual is able to face the whole universe in opposition.

Go on! Do not look back if you think you have done something that is not right. Now, do you believe you could be what you are today, had you not made those mistakes before? Bless your mistakes then. They have been angels unawares. Blessed be torture! Blessed be happiness! Do not care what be your lot. Hold on to the ideal. March on!

Doing good to others is virtue (dharma); injuring others is sin. Strength and manliness are virtue; weakness and cowardice are sin. Independence is virtue; dependence is sin. Loving others is virtue; hating others is sin. Faith in God and in one’s own Self is virtue; doubt is sin. Knowledge of oneness is virtue; seeing diversity is sin.

Let people praise you or blame you, let fortune smile or frown upon you, let your body fall today or after a yuga, see that you do not deviate from the path of Truth. How much of tempests and waves one has to weather, before one reaches the haven of Peace! The greater a man has become, the fiercer ordeal he has had to pass through.

This I have seen in life — he who is overcautious about himself falls into dangers at every step; he who is afraid of losing honour and respect, gets only disgrace; he who is always afraid of loss always loses.

If I do not find bliss in the life of the spirit, shall I seek satisfaction in the life of the senses? If I cannot get nectar; shall I fall back upon ditch water?

You are the Pure One; awake and arise, O mighty one, this sleep does not become you. Awake and arise, it does not befit you. Think not that you are weak and miserable. Almighty, arise and awake, and manifest your own nature. It is not fitting that you think yourself a sinner. It is not fitting that you think yourself weak. Say that to the world, say it to yourselves, and see what a practical result comes, see how with an electric flash everything is manifested, how everything is changed. Tell that to mankind, and show them their power.

My hope and faith rest in men like you. Understand my words in their true spirit, and apply yourselves to work in their light. … I have given you advice enough; now put at least something in practice. Let the world see that your listening to me has been a success.

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