Sunday, 24 September 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 73

IMPRISONMENT IN FLESH

...The thirteenth century in Europe was the great creative period following the "Dark Ages". Then came St. Francis of Assisi,"the troubadour of God". A wave of spirituality swept the country, thousands embraced "Sister Poverty". In the wake of this power came, first Dante (1265-1321) and Giotto (1266-1336), then later Savonarola (1452-1498) and Michelangelo (1475-1564), Benevenuto Cellini (1500-1571). Bernini (1598-1680) and other great names. The Renaissance had come.

We come now to the twentieth century — with the greatest war in the history of the world waging, brother fighting against brother, millions of the earth's finest and best wiped out, nation against nation in Europe, the East against the West, in a death struggle, famine, pestilence, the downfall of religion, materialism rampant. Western civilization in danger of extinction. If ever there was need of an Avatar, it is at this time. Will the need be met in this time of direst need? What are the signs of the times? During the nineteenth century several stars of greater or lesser magnitude appeared in various parts of the world, all of whom did their part, great or small, to save the world from the cataclysm which seems about to overtake it. Each has brought new spiritual light and power. Among the greatest of these are the Bab and Bahaullah, in Persia, and Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda in India. Which is the Avatar of this age? We are perhaps too close to these luminaries to know which is the greatest. The Baha'ist will say it is the Bab and Bahaullah, while the followers of Ramakrishna will claim with equal certainty that it is Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. Are there signs by which we can tell? Which has given the message most needed at the present time? It must be a message not for any particular nation but for the world. Which has ushered in a new spiritual era, has brought a light which will never be extinguished, has let loose a power which will make a new heaven and a new earth? The future alone can tell.

(Prabuddha Bharata, March 1978)

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 72

IMPRISONMENT IN FLESH

...The revival was felt on all planes-of life, even politically, until under Ashoka, the first Buddhist Emperor. India was a great, united, prosperous empire. But after two or three hundred years the decline began, until at the time of Sankaracharya in the eighth century. Buddhism had reached such a state of degradation that it had to be destroyed.

Six hundred years after Buddha came Jesus of Nazareth. The Roman was master in the land of his birth. Oppression was rife. So desperate was the situation that all classes of people were expecting the coming of the Messiah to deliver them. But does the Avatar ever come in the guise acceptable to the worldly-minded? This son of a carpenter of Nazareth was "despised and rejected of men". Only a few of the humblest followed him. But he was a mighty one, the son of God in very truth, destined to shake the world to its very foundations; for not long after his death, as time is reckoned in the history of nations, came the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. followed by the adoption of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine as the state religion.

Again six hundred years later in Arabia came the Prophet Mohammed who lifted his country out of the darkness and degradation into which it had fallen. With him began the rise of the Moslem power which was eventually to sweep over western Asia, northern Africa, and even into southern Europe, as also into India.

Sankaracharya in southern India was another great light who came "for the protection of the good and destruction of the evil and for the preservation of righteousness." By this time. about A.D. 800. Buddhism had become degraded. Many evil customs had been added by the depressed races who had adopted it. It was fit only for destruction. He brought back to India the pure lofty teaching of the Atman. Buddhism was driven out of India, the ancient wisdom re-established. and the country entered upon a new chapter in its life.



Friday, 22 September 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 71

IMPRISONMENT IN FLESH

...Before the coming of the Buddha, India had sunk into a state of materialism. All privileges were usurped by the Brahmins, who decreed that hot oil should he poured into the ear of Sudras who so much as heard the secret teaching. The time was ripe for the advent of a new manifestation of God, an Avatar — and the Buddha was born. He came, the Compassionate One, who withheld nothing. "I have never had the closed fist." he said. "All that I know I have taught." The highest teaching was given equally to the Brahmin and the outcaste, to the holy man and to the thief. All were equal in his sight, as they are in the sight of God. With him came a new influx of spirituality, a mighty force into which thousands upon thousands were caught. Its highest and greatest manifestation was in the realm of religion. There a great revival took place. Great numbers of all ranks gave up the world for the life of renunciation. Princes and barbers, masters and servants, alike entered upon the path. Once having renounced, all were equal. The prince bowed at the feet of his former barber, if it should be that the barber had been initiated first.

This incident is narrated in the Pali Canon: A number of the most powerful of the Sakya princes had decided to become monks of the Sangha of the Buddha. They were attended by their barber, who was to return to their homes the garments and jewels they had laid aside. As they went on, the barber too felt the impulse to join them in the new life. The princes encouraged him in this resolve, but asked him to go before them and receive initiation first, so that they would be obliged to do reverence to him. Caste restrictions and special privileges were put aside and only he was great, who was great in the "Kingdom of God".



Thursday, 21 September 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 70

IMPRISONMENT IN FLESH

...In 1902, I saw him at Belur, a very different Vivekananda from the one whom I had known in America. Here I saw the lion in his natural surroundings. Here it was not necessary to wear the mask of conventions, nor to conform to man-made rules. He had a serenity here which was sometimes lacking in foreign countries. He was among his own. He could be himself and it was an even greater self than we had seen before. He was surrounded by young devotees and brother-disciples, those sons of Sri Ramakrishna, who were now gathered in after long years of wandering. Much of his work was finished. He had given his message in America, in England, and to a lesser degree in Germany and France. In India the roar of the lion was heard from Colombo to Almora. Through the devotion of his young English disciple Goodwin, his message was put into permanent form. He had acquired the plot of land on the Ganges of which he had dreamed in America, and built a shrine for the worship of Sri Ramakrishna and a monastery which was to shelter the children of Sri Ramakrishna — his fellow disciples. He had organized teaching centres, educational institutions, orphanages, famine and flood relief. He was only thirty-nine, and he knew that his release was near. It came July 4.1902.

He shared the Hindu belief in the saying of the Gita that, "Whenever virtue subsides and vice prevails, then do I manifest Myself. For the protection of the good and the destruction of the evil and for the preservation of righteousness, I am born anew in every age." (Bhagavad-Gita,. IV, 7-8).

Whenever spirituality is at a low ebb and the need of the world is great, God comes in human form. With the advent of the Avatar a great spiritual force comes into the world, a force which protects the good, destroys evil, preserves the Dharma, revivifies religion, draws thousands into the current of living spirituality, and brings new life. This influence is felt not only on the spiritual plane, but on the intellectual and physical planes as well. In the realm of intellect, it expresses itself as a revival of art, literature and music, of learning in every field. Men of genius appear and become famous in these realms. There is new life. In the physical world the power is not so intense, but more widespread and apparent. It manifests itself in a greater prosperity, in a renewed love of freedom, and in a more virile national consciousness. The nation enters upon a Renaissance. This power according to Swami Vivekananda continues in force for nearly six hundred years, gradually expending itself until the world again sinks into a state in which its only hope is another manifestation of God — another Avatar. While these are not all of equal rank, each brings an influx of spiritual power, revivifies life on all planes and moves the world. A few instances may illustrate this theory.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 69

IMPRISONMENT IN FLESH

Up and down, up and down ceaselessly. "He (Swamiji) is restless, so restless," some would say. But it was not the restlessness of the man who does not know what is urging him on, what it is he wants. Only too well did he understand what was actuating him. He could have explained it lucidly, logically. A great free soul, conscious of the reality of his being, of his divinity, felt himself imprisoned in a cage of flesh. The bondage of the body was torture. The lion brought from the jungle, where he roamed at will, never forgets the glory of freedom. Restlessly he paces the short distance allowed by his bars. Here was a mighty free soul caged in flesh. The imprisoned glory struggled to escape. True, we are all caught in this bondage, but there is hardly a human being who knows it. We cling to our captivity. We would not give it up. Few even understand that "shades of the prison house begin to close upon the growing Boy".

But here before our eyes we saw one who was fully conscious, who realized the Great Freedom beyond, to whom the bondage was torture, who was ceaselessly struggling to break through. For us who witnessed this struggle, no words were necessary. Without any teaching whatever, our eyes were opened. "I am not the body, I am not the mind." "So that is what it means," we thought "I am beyond the body with its disabilities, beyond the mind with its limitations, for I am That, I am That."


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 68

THE GURU

...Again, "each has an individual path which is known to the guru'; and his tendencies indicate whether he should take the path of devotion or worship, or of psychic control, or the path of knowledge of the Real, or of unselfish work. All paths lead to the goal, but one of these will present fewer obstacles to the aspirant. Having set the disciple on the path, the guru, like a loving mother, warns him of dangers, explains experiences that might otherwise alarm or dismay. He is the Guardian of the Threshold, not to forbid entrance, but to protect the neophyte against groundless fears. To him the disciple goes for courage. To him the disciple pours out his confidences and tells his experiences. He must tell them to no one else. His mantram, his ishtam, his experiences, must be, as Swamiji said, "not secret, but sacred." There must be the utmost devotion and unquestioning faith in the guru. "Would you jump out of window if I asked you to?" he once asked. He wanted a few disciples who had that kind of devotion. He needed that quality for his work. Again and again, he told the story of Guru Nanak (Govind Singh) who, putting his disciples to the supreme test, asked who would trust him even unto death. One came forward. He look him into his tent and in a few minutes the great leader came out, his sword dripping with blood. Again he put their faith in-him to test, and again one went into the tent with him and did not come out again. This was repeated until five had gone into the tent not to return. Then he threw open the tent-flap, and they saw their companions unharmed in the tent, and with them a goat which the Guru had killed. Is it to be wondered at that with disciples whose devotion was unto death it was possible for Guru Nanak (Govind Singh) to accomplish the great work he did? For, as Swamiji so often said:

"'The guru must be wonderful and the disciple must also be wonderful.'"*

"Worship your guru as God. He will take you to the other shore. Trust him through everything. 'Though my guru should visit the tavern and still, my guru is holy Nityananda still.' * — Have that kind of faith in him."

"'Only those who go through the Sushumna (the path of Yogis) reach the Atman.'"

"They must go to a guru to learn."

"The guru is the vehicle by which the spiritual influence is brought to you."

Great as he himself was, one never felt inferior in his presence. In some indefinable way he made all who came into contact with him feel great. Was this because he had trained himself to see only the best in others and to make nothing of their faults and weaknesses? It was probably even deeper than that. Realizing himself as the Atman, it was his constant effort to see that Divine Self in others. Little faults can drop away, but That remains and shines forth. He knew us better than we knew ourselves. How constantly he voiced the highest truth as: "The greatest sin is to think yourself weak. No one is greater; realize you are Brahman. Nothing has power except as you bestow it. We are beyond the sun, the stars, the universe."


Monday, 18 September 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Sister Christine : 67

THE GURU

In America he preached only Advaita. He seldom spoke of his Guru. Few suspected the tremendous influence upon his life of the simple Brahmin of Dakshineswar. Even to those who were most sympathetic, he approached the subject with shyness. But of the profundity of the relation there could be no doubt. Through it, there came to us our first glimpses of the meaning of 'guru'. To this he added all that the scriptures have said, together with the tradition built up by the holy men of India throughout the ages. Passing through the crucible of his mind, his loyalty and devotion carried a most profound meaning. It did more than that. It created in us a similar feeling and attitude, and brought to birth a similar relation between us and our guru. It set a lofty standard.

How new these ideas were at that time! The first great idea was that the guru must be a knower of Brahman. This is the most important qualification, for only the knower of Brahman has the power to transmit spirituality. The transmission of spirituality from guru to disciple was a startling and fascinating idea to the Protestant type of mind in the West. Spirituality can be transmitted! This, then, explains the doctrine of Apostolic Succession. This is why the Church of Rome still believes that the spiritual power of Peter has been transmitted from Pope to Pope. Be that as it may, today in India it is believed, nay, known with certainty, that the guru can transmit his spirituality to a disciple.