By Pravrajika Vrajaprana This paper was delivered at the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture during March 2013. Pravrajika Vrajaprana is a nun in the Santa Barbara Convent. Her paper will be posted in two parts. One of the most sacred and ancient chants from the Rg-Veda envisions the created universe as saturated with honey andREAD MORE
A symbol represents or recalls a thing by possession of analogous qualities or by association in fact or thought. The original Greek word symbolon means a sign by which one knows or infers a thing. Symbols express the invisible by means of visible or sensory representations—the immaterial via the material.
Swami Vivekananda’s ideas have been seen through various eyes, and new light has been thrown upon these ideas. In one sense, Swamiji is inexhaustible. In another sense, it can be supported that Swamiji’s core message is that man is the Atman, Atman is perfection, and perfection defies all types of limitations.
Why Take a Mantra from a Guru?
If a mantra is taken from a book, the results will not be exactly the same as if received directly from a guru, nor will it be a waste of time either. God’s name has its own power. Illumined souls explain that if an aspirant learns from a guru who lives the life, who has progressed a little, the results will be greater. One becomes convinced it is possible to realize God after having seen such a soul before one’s own eyes. In the struggle Godward, every now and then aspirants become discouraged. Therefore, to keep up the struggle and sustain a certain zeal, one must associate with the holy. That is another benefit of the guru.
Prayer is generally the first natural and conscious response in a person who has had some kind of religious awakening. The awareness of our human limitations and mortality is generally enough to turn us in the direction of, and seek help from, a Power or a Person who is not bound by those limitations. As a form of “receiving,” prayer is a movement from God toward human beings. When a prayer is answered, the heart is filled with gratitude.
By Swami Shraddhananda Coming to the United States in 1957, Swami Shraddhananda was head of the Vedanta Society in Sacramento from 1970 until his death in 1996. He was the author of Seeing God Everywhere and Story of an Epoch as well as many articles published in both English and Bengali journals. “Living Inwardly” isREAD MORE
This article, by Swami Tyagananda, originally was a talk given at a panel discussion organized at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, in June 2003.
I would like to focus on two issues: first, facing life’s challenges with courage; and second, negotiating the boundaries based on nationality, religion, politics, and race. The two issues are related but need to be examined separately. More specifically, I wish to offer a few insights gathered from Vivekananda’s teachings as possible pointers towards addressing these two issues.
The Utility of Interpretations
That’s the whole point—isn’t it?—of why interpretations are offered and why they are studied. It’s not so much a matter of agreeing or not agreeing with, or accepting or rejecting, any interpretation. That’s secondary. What is primary is the question: does this interpretation help me go closer to the truth, or the inner essence, of the person or the idea that is being interpreted.
Among the earliest in this class of interpretations is Max Muller’s Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings, first published in the year 1899. As a strong believer in the scientific study of religion, Muller believed that a comparative study would uncover hidden religious truths and was adamant that Christianity should be subjected to the same method of study as were employed in the study of other religions.
In Vedanta itself it is possible to view the world in at least five distinct ways: as a cosmic sacrifice (yajna), as a cosmic play (lila), as cosmic union (yoga), as a cosmic person (virat), and as a cosmic mystery (maya). There is also immense diversity in how one’s own self is understood and, of course, how the Being that lies beyond the world and the self—often expressed in English through the overused but handy word “God”—is understood.
The Bengali phrase achine gach refers to a tree that cannot be recognized or identified, a tree that is a puzzle. The more we try to figure out what tree it is, the more confused we get and the more perplexed we become. Hence it is “the tree without a name,” a mysterious tree which is seen and yet not really seen. Its existence is known but not much else. After all, what is generally recognized as “knowledge” is nothing but cataloging and assigning of names to events, things or persons and investigating their interrelationships.
Every one of us has probably felt the beneficial influence of silence. Even the busiest people need to have breaks of silence in their work. Silence seems to be a necessary factor in our lives, yet we do not always realize the implications of the quietness we unconsciously seek and enjoy when we take a walk in a solitary meadow or in a forest or on a mountain. These quiet recreations may not occur very often, but when they do we cannot forget the spell that such solitary communion with nature leaves upon us.
In the great Sanskrit epic, the Mahâbhârata, the story is told how the hero, Yudhishthira, when asked by Dharma to tell what was the most wonderful thing in the world, replied, that it was the persistent belief of man kind in their own deathlessness in spite of their witnessing death everywhere around them almost every moment of their lives. And, in fact, this is the most stupendous wonder in human life.
The ideal of freedom holds a cherished place in human hearts, equalled in depth and intensity only by the feeling of love. To experience both is our natural state. Swami Vivekananda, the great mystic who at the turn of the century inaugurated the Vedanta movement in America, was a tireless adherent of freedom. He was fascinated by the historical account of the American struggle for freedom and independence.
Non-violence is the basis of all virtues. Ahimsa paramo dharmah—“Non-violence is the highest form of righteousness,” says the Mahabharata. Non-violence, or not harming anyone in thought, word and deed, is the highest value.
The “ancient way”—a path extending from humanity to God—cannot be compared to an American nonstop freeway. This subtle, inner path has many stops and degrees of gradation. In some areas it is level and smooth, and in other regions it passes through difficult mud and gravel terrain. Its course may run through the glaring stretches of a desert or along the sharp curves and bends of precipitous mountains. In spite of all these obstructions, we have to journey determinedly along this ancient way leading to God.
It was a late Saturday afternoon and the college hours were almost over. I was in the laboratory busy overseeing the chemistry practical classes and warning the BSc honors students to finish quickly as the bell was about to ring. The lab assistant brought me a visiting card saying that someone wanted to see me. A bit puzzled, I thought: who could be the visitor at this time, during college hours?
Those who are “seekers after knowledge” are jnana yogis, spiritual seekers whose keen, discriminating intellects are more powerful than their emotions. Jnana yoga asserts that ignorance of our divine nature is the only obstacle to spiritual realization, and knowledge alone can remove this obstacle.
Bhakti yoga assures us that the Lord lovingly accepts whatever we offer with devotion. But just as we can offer flowers and fruits, love and adoration, so we can offer our actions and their fruits. This is the sadhana of our third yoga, karma yoga.
The goal of bhakti yoga, the path of devotion, is to develop such intense, one-pointed love for God that no distance is left between the lover and the Beloved. The state of union that the raja yogi achieves through meditation, the bhakti yogi attains through wholehearted devotion.