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Let Us Be Gods
Courtesy: The Vedanta Kesary, English monthly from R K Math, Chennai
My subject this morning is 'Let Us Be Gods'—with a capital G. Of course, you are not surprised at the title of my lecture, because most of you know that one of the fundamental teachings of our philosophy, Vedanta, in its monistic interpretation, is that the individual soul is the same as God himself. In one of the Upanishads it is said, Yo ha vai tat paramam brahma veda brahmaiva bhavati [Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.9] –– 'He who knows Brahman, God, becomes God.' Now, this sentence 'Let us be Gods,' is found in the book Inspired Talks by Swami Vivekananda. And I would like to read you the passage in which it occurs:
'The world for me, not I for the world. Good and evil are our slaves, not we theirs. It is the nature of the brute to remain where he is, not to progress. It is the nature of man to seek good and avoid evil. It is the nature of God to seek neither, but just to be eternally blissful. Let us be Gods! Make the heart like an ocean. Go beyond all the trifles of the world. Be mad with joy, even at evil. See the world as a picture, and then enjoy its beauty, knowing that nothing affects you. Children finding glass beads in a mud puddle, that is the good of the world. Look at it with calm complacency. See good and evil as the same, both are merely "God's play". Enjoy all.'
I have no doubt many of you have read this book and some of you, no doubt, have studied it. These 'inspired talks' were given in June, July and August of 1895, and were taken down by one of Swami Vivekananda's American disciples, Miss Waldo. She was a distant relative of Emerson, and was, herself, a very scholarly person, and very earnest. The Swami had started his work in New York in the beginning of 1895, and had lectured and held classes there almost daily. When summer came, he felt exceedingly tired, and one of the New York students offered him the use of her cottage in Thousand Island Park, which is one of the islands in the St. Lawrence River. The Swami accepted this invitation very gladly.
A few students who wanted to continue their study were also invited to come and live in the cottage which Swamiji used. Altogether there were twelve students, not all of them were present at the same time, but the largest number was twelve. Swami Vivekananda came to Thousand Island Park about the middle of June, and he at once started his classes. It was a most wonderful time for the Swami, and, it goes without saying, for those who lived with him. It was a wonderful time because he had been tired, and having come to that place, he, as it were, received a new life.
Swami Vivekananda's mind had been very highly lifted even before he came to Thousand Island Park. He had been the guest of one of his disciples, Mr. Leggett, in his country place in New Hampshire, a place called Camp Percy. Meditating on the bank of a small lake there, the Swami had entered into Nirvikalpa samadhi. A gardener found him seated, dead-like, and had run to the house to tell them that Swami had passed away. They all ran to where he was seated, and they called him, they shook him, but they could not bring life back to him. They thought he had actually died. And then they saw the sign of life coming back to his body, and afterwards the Swami told them that he had been in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. So you can see he was in a very high state even before he reached Thousand Island Park.
For those who do not know anything about samadhi, it is a state in which one is able to completely withdraw the whole mind and consciousness from everything else, what to speak of the outside world, even from the body—so much so that breathing stops, the heartbeat stops, the pulse stops, because none of those things would go on in the body unless there was a little part of the mind behind it. When the mind completely relinquishes the body, the body cannot function in the least. So that is one sign. Of course, from the outside, it would appear as if the person was dead. But it is different from death in that a person can come back, and again life will begin to function in the body.
To be continued.....
About the author
Swami Ashokananda (1893-1969) was a much-venerated monk of the Ramakrishna Order. He was ordained into sannyasa by Swami Shivananda, and was the editor of Prabuddha Bharata, an English monthly of the Ramakrishna Order brought out from the Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati in Uttaranchal. He was an outstanding writer and speaker and the leader of the Vedanta Society of Northern California (San Fransisco) from 1931 until his passing away in 1969.