The Self – Vivekananda

The following excerpt was taken from: “Swami Vivekananda, Inspired Talks”. Ramakrishna-Vivekanda Center of New York: Second edition, 1987.

After every happiness comes misery; they may be far apart or near. The more advanced the soul, the more quickly does the one follow the other. What we want is neither happiness nor misery. Both make us forget our true nature; both are chains – one iron, one gold. Behind both is the Atman, who knows neither happiness nor misery. These are states, and states must ever change; but the nature of the Soul is bliss, peace – unchanging. We have not to get it; we have it. Only wash away the dross and see it.

Stand upon the Self; then only can you truly love the world. Take a very, very high stand. Knowing our universal nature, we must look with perfect calmness upon all the panorama of the world. It is but baby’s play, and we know that, so cannot be disturbed by it. If the mind is pleased with praise it will be displeased with blame. All pleasures of the senses or even of the mind are evanescent; but within ourselves is the one true unrelated pleasure, dependent upon nothing. It is perfectly free. It is bliss. The more we enjoy inner bliss, the more spiritual we are. The pleasure of the Self is what is called religion.

The internal universe, the real, is infinitely greater than the external, which is only a shadowy projection of the true one. This world is neither true nor untrue; it is the shadow of truth. It is imagination – the gilded shadow of truth – says the poet.

We enter into creation, and then for us it becomes living. Things are dead in themselves; only we give them life and then, like fools, we turn around and are afraid of them or run after them. But be not like certain fishwives who, caught in a storm on their way home from market, took refuge in the house of a florist. They were lodged for the night in a room next to the garden, where the air was full of the fragrance of flowers. In vain did they try to rest, until one of their number suggested that they wet their fish-baskets and place them near their heads. As soon as they got the smell of fish, they all fell into a sound sleep.

The world is our fish-basket. We must not depend upon it for enjoyment. Those who do are the tamasikas, the bound. Then there are the rajasikas, the egotistical, who talk always about “I,” “I.” They do good work sometimes and may become spiritual. But the highest are the sattvikas, the introspective, those who live only in the Self. These three qualities – tamas, rajas, and sattva – are in everyone, and different ones predominate at different times.

Creation is not a “making” of something; it is the struggle to regain equilibrium – as when bits of cork, thrown to the bottom of a pail of water, rush to the top, singly or in clusters. Life is and must be accompanied by evil. A little evil is the source of life. The little wickedness that is in the world is very good; for when the balance is regained, the world will end, because sameness and destruction are one. As long as this world exists, good and evil exist with it; but when we can transcend this world, we get rid of both good and evil and have bliss.

There is no possibility of ever having pleasure without pain, good without evil; for life itself is just lost equilibrium. What we want is freedom – not life, nor pleasure, nor good. Creation is infinite, without beginning and without end, the ever moving ripples on an infinite lake. There are, however, unreached depths in this lake, where equilibrium has been regained; but the ripples on the surface are always there; the struggle to regain the balance is eternal. Life and death are only different names for the same fact, the two sides of the one coin. Both are maya, the inexplicable state of striving at one time to live, and a moment later having to die. Beyond this is our true nature, the Atman. What we call God is really only the Self, from which we have separated ourselves and which we worship as outside us; but it is our true Self, all the time, the one and only God.

To regain the balance we must counteract tamas by rajas, then conquer rajas by sattva, the calm, beautiful state that will grow and grow until all else is gone. Give up bondage, become a son of God; be free, and then you can “see the Father” as did Jesus. Infinite strength is religion and God. Avoid weakness and slavery. You are the Soul only if you are free; there is immortality for you only if you are free; there is a God only if He is free.

- Swami Vivekananda

- Biography of Swami Vivekananda