The Zoo Fence

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The Way Home
The Way Home

Born in Calcutta, India in 1863 as Narendranath Datta, Swami Vivekananda is the best known disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, whom Vivekananda met at the age of eighteen. Although from their first meeting, Narendranath felt great affection for Ramakrishna, he struggled against the traditional guru-disciple relationship, arguing there is no place for an intermediary between a seeker and God. In time, as the unique Identity of Guru and God – and, ultimately, of all beings and all things – became apparent, the basis of his objections dissolved and disappeared, like a salt doll set into the ocean. In 1893, at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Vivekananda brought down the house with a short, simple, but compelling appeal for harmony among all faiths. For far too long, he said, sectarianism, bigotry, and fanaticism have possessed the earth. “But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.” Vivekananda died in 1902, leaving behind a wealth of inspiration and instruction on the yogas (karma, jnana, bhakti, raja), as well as on various other aspects of the spiritual process.

The material presented below is from VIVEKANANDA: THE YOGAS AND OTHER WORKS by Swami Nikhilananda, Trustee of the Estate of Swami Vivekananda, published by the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York, Copyright 1953 by Swami Nikhilananda. For other titles and additional information please write to the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 17 East 94th Street, New York, NY 10128, or see the Center's website: We are grateful to the Center for their generous permission to present these three selections, which appear in the book at pages 525, 542, and 526, respectively.

Ampersand at The Zoo Fence

The Saktas worship the Universal Energy as Mother; it is the sweetest name they know. The mother is the highest ideal of womanhood in India. When God is worshipped as Mother, the Hindus call such worship the “right-hand” way; and it leads to spirituality but never to material prosperity. When God is worshipped in His terrible aspect, that is, in the “left-hand” way, it leads usually to great material prosperity but rarely to spirituality; and eventually it leads to degeneration and the obliteration of the race that practises it. [In Hinduism, the Female Principle is Sakti, pronounced as if spelled Shakti. She is a personification of Cosmic or Primal Energy, without Whom there is no thing and no where. The Saktas, or Shaktas, direct their worship toward Her. Ed.]

Mother is the first manifestation of power and is considered a higher idea than Father. The name of Mother brings the idea of Sakti, Divine Energy and Omnipotence: the baby believes its mother to be all-powerful, able to do anything. The Divine Mother is the Kundalini sleeping in us; without worshipping Her we can never know ourselves. All-merciful, all-powerful, omnipresent – these are attributes of the Divine Mother. She is the sum total of the energy in the universe. Every manifestation of power in the universe is Mother. She is life, She is intelligence, She is love. She is in the universe, yet separate from it. She is a Person and can be seen and known – as Sri Ramakrishna saw and knew Her. Established in the idea of Mother, we can do anything. She quickly answers prayer.

She can show Herself to us in any form at any moment. The Divine Mother can have form, rupa, and name, nama, or name without form; and as we worship Her in these various aspects, we can rise to Pure Being, having neither form nor name.

The sum total of all the cells in an organism is the person; each soul is like one cell, and the sum of them is God. And beyond that is the Absolute. The sea calm is the Absolute; the same sea in waves is the Divine Mother. She is time, space, and causation. Mother is the same as Brahman and has two natures: the conditioned and the unconditioned. As the former She is God, nature, and soul. As the latter She is unknown and unknowable. Out of the Unconditioned came the trinity: God, nature, and soul – the triangle of existence. This is the Visishtadvaita idea. [A reference to so-called qualified nondualism, one of the streams of the Hindu tradition. Brahman is That Which alone is, and than Which there is no other. Ed.]

A bit of Mother, a drop, was Krishna; another was Buddha; another was Christ. The worship of even one spark of Mother in our earthly mother leads to greatness. Worship Her if you want love and wisdom. 

Can you make yourself at rest even for a second? All yogis say that you can.

The greatest sin is to think yourself weak. No one is greater. Realize that you are Brahman. Nothing has power except what you give it. We are beyond the sun, the stars, the universe. Teach the Godhood of man. Deny evil, create none. Stand up and say, “I am the master, the master of all.” We forge the chain and we alone can break it.

No action can give you freedom; only knowledge can make you free. Knowledge is irresistible: the mind cannot take it or reject it. When it comes, the mind has to accept it. So it is not a work of the mind; but its expression comes through the mind.

Work or worship brings you back to your own nature. Through illusion the Self is identified with the body; so even while living in the body we can be free. The body has nothing in common with the Self. Illusion means to take the unreal for the real, not “nothing at all.”

We divide ourselves into two to love God – myself loving my Self. God has created me and I have created God. We create God in our image. It is we who create Him to be our Master; it is not God who makes us His servants. When we know that we are one with God, that we and He are friends, then come equality and freedom. So long as you hold yourself by a hair's breadth from this Eternal One, fear cannot go.

Never ask that foolish question: What good will our love of God do the world? Let the world go. love and ask nothing; love and look for nothing further. Love and forget all “isms.” Drink the cup of love and become mad. Say, “Thine, O Thine for ever, O Lord!” and plunge in, forgetting all else. The very essence of God is love. Seeing a cat loving her kittens, stand and pray. God has become manifest there – literally believe this. Repeat, “I am Thine, I am Thine”; for we can see God everywhere. Do not seek Him; just see Him. May the Lord – the Light of the world, the Soul of the universe – ever protect you!

Ampersand at The Zoo Fence

The Zoo Fence

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