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Swami Vivekananda on the Vedas and

Book: Sister Gayatriprana
Review: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi

The Vedas in Swami Vivekananda Own Life

Shri Ramakrishna would ask Naren to read those scriptures which treat solely of
Brahman, the Absolute. Shri Ramakrishna saw that his was the path of Jnana.
His main message was to be the incomparable glory of the Vedanta.

Naren saw in the life of Shri Ramakrishna the full meaning and the ripe
blossoming-forth of all that the Upanishads taught. The example of the Master,
his own eagerness as disciple, his own great power in the spiritual faculty of
understanding these were the factors in that making up of thought and insight
which later burst forth, for him, into the blessedness of the highest Advaita

He was taken, little by little, and by the power of Shri Ramakrishna, out of bondage into
infinite freedom. He was taken out from the pale of a little learning into omniscience
which is the consciousness of Brahman. He was lifted out of all objective conceptions of
the Godhead into the glorious awareness of the subjective nature of true Being, above
form, above thought, above sense, above all relative good and evil, into the sameness
and reality of the absolute beyondness of Brahman.

In the presence of his guru Naren dwelt in the spiritual world, the inhabitants of
which were the simple-hearted devotees of Shri Ramakrishna, the light of which
was the beautifully human and humanly divine personality of the Master.

Swami Vivekananda always thought of himself as a child of India, a descendant of the
Rishis. While he was a modern of moderns, few Hindus have been able to bring back
the Vedic days and the life of the sages in the forests of India as he did. Indeed,
sometimes he seemed to be one of the Rishis of that far off time come to life again, so
living was his teaching of that ancient wisdom.
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After his return to Baranagore from his first pilgrimage to the north of India in early 1888,
Swami Vivekananda instilled into his brother-disciples all the ideas he had gathered as
a Parivrajaka (wandering monk). He broadened their perspective, instructing them for
days and days and making them interested in the spiritual regeneration of the nation.
He tried to eradicate their provincial consciousness and make them think of all the
separate parts of India as composing an indivisible unit. And the spirit of that unit, he
said, was the Vedas and Upanishads, its strength the super-sensuous vision and the
most wonderful outlook upon life that the human mind and heart had ever conceived.

At Porbander, Swami Vivekananda was a guest of Shankar Pandurang Purohit, the
governor of Porbander (Sudampur). Swami Vivekananda said that in the whole of
India he had not seen Pandurangs equal in Vedic learning. He edited Sayanacharyas
commentary on Atharva Veda. He had a big beautiful library of Vedic and other
Sanskrit books.

The more he studied the Vedas, the more he pondered over the philosophies
which the Aryan Rishis had thought out, the surer he was that India was in very
truth the mother of religions, the cradle of civilization, and the foundation of

In Madras, Swami Vivekananda would speak eloquently on the need of preaching the
Sanatana Dharma to the nations of the world, and of raising the masses in India. He
would charge the audience to give back to the masses their lost individuality by throwing
open to them that treasure which has been hidden for generations from them the
learning of the Vedas and the Vedanta if they wished India to rise.

In Hyderabad, the Swami spoke of the merits of the Hindu religion, of the greatness of
Hindu culture in its replescent days. He spoke of the Rishis as the great law-givers, and
organizers of the Shastras, and showed how the Puranas incorporated great ethical
ideas [in form of Mythological stories]. He spoke of his mission, which is nothing
less than the regeneration of the Motherland, and he declared that he felt it an
imperative duty to go out as a missionary from India to the farthest West to reveal to the
world the incomparable glory of the Vedas and Vedanta.

Swami Vivekananda on Vedas and Upanishads

Swami Vivekananda never quoted anything but the Vedas, the Upanishads and
the Bhagavad-Gita.

Truth is One; sages call it by different names. [Rig Veda 1.164.46]

The contradictions in the Vedas are like the contradictions in life they are very real,
but they are all true.

All truths reveal themselves to him who has got real devotion to the Guru.
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The Himalayas of India is the land of our forefathers, in which was born Parvati,
the Mother of India. This is the holy land where every ardent soul in India wants to
come at the end of his life and to close the last chapters of his mortal career. On
the tops of the mountains of this blessed land, in the depths of the caves, on the
banks of its rushing torrents, have been thought out the most wonderful

The knowledge of God is what is meant by the Vedas (vid means to know). Veda
means the sum total of eternal things.

Truth is of two kinds: that which is cognizable by the five ordinary senses of man and
by reasoning based thereon; and that which is cognizable by the subtle, super-
sensuous power of yoga. Knowledge acquired by the first means is called science; and
knowledge acquired by the second is called the Vedas.

The Vedas being the first, the most complete, and the most undistorted
collection of spiritual truths, deserves to occupy the highest place among all
scriptures, command the respect of all nations of the earth, and furnish the
rationale of their respective scriptures.

We (Hindus) believe the Vedas to be the eternal teachings of the secrets of
religion. We all believe that this holy literature is without beginning and without
end; and that all our religious differences, all our religious struggles, must end
when we stand in the presence of that holy book; we are all agreed that the truth
recorded by them is the last court of appeal in all our spiritual differences.

The Vedas are beginning-less and eternal in the sense that the truth revealed by them
is permanent and changeless. Vedas are an expression of the knowledge of God; and
as God is eternal, His knowledge is eternally with Him, and so are the Vedas eternal.

Vedanta philosophy is perfectly impersonal; it does not owe its origin any person or
prophet; it does not build itself around one man as its centre. Yet it has nothing to say
against philosophies which do build themselves around certain persons.

Our religion preaches an impersonal personal God. It preaches any amount of
impersonal laws plus any amount of personality, but the very fountainhead of our
religion is Shrutis, the Vedas, which are perfectly impersonal; the persons all
come in the Smritis and Puranas the great avatars, the incarnations of God,
prophets and so forth. Our religion is not based upon persons, but upon

Every one of the great religions in the world, excepting our own (Vedanta), is
built upon historical characters; but ours rests upon principles. There is no man
or woman who can claim to have created the Vedas. They are the embodiment of
eternal principles; sages discovered them; and now and then the names of these
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sages are mentioned just their names; we do not even know who or what they
were. In many cases we do not know who their fathers were, and in almost every
case we do not know when and where they were born. But what cared they, these
sages, for their names? They were the preachers of principles; and they
themselves, so far as they went, tried to become the illustrations of the principles
they preached.

Just as our God is an impersonal and yet personal God, so is our religion a most
intensely personal one a religion based upon principles and yet with an infinite scope
for the play of persons; for what religion gives you more incarnations, more seers and
yet waits for infinitely more?

There is that most wonderful theory of Ishta, which gives you the fullest and freest
choice possible among those great religious personalities. You may take up any one of
the incarnations or teachers as your guide and the object of your special adoration; you
are allowed to think that he whom you have chosen is the greatest of the gurus,
greatest of the avatars there is no harm in it but you must keep to a firm background
of eternally true principles.

Upanishads are the most wonderful poems in the world. When in ancient times,
knowledge and feeling blossomed forth simultaneously in the heart of the Rishis,
the highest truth became poetic, and then Vedas and other scriptures were
composed. It is for this reason that one finds, in studying them, that the two
parallel lines of Bhava (emotion) and Jnana (knowledge) have at last met as it
were, in the plane of the Vedas and combined and became inseparable.

The Upanishadic literature is the most wonderful painting of sublimity that the
world has. Here comes out in full force that individuality of human mind, that
retrospective, intuitive Hindu mind.

In the Atman, the Rishis found the solution the greatest of all atmans, the God, the
Lord of the universe, His relation to the Atman of man, our duty to Him; and through
that, our relation to each other.

[The Katha Upanishad says:

There the sun cannot illumine, nor the moon, nor the stars; a flash of lightning
cannot illumine the place (the Atman), what to speak of mortal fire. [Katha
Upanishad 2.2.15]]

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The exact definition of the Sanskrit word Rishi is a seer of mantras of the
thoughts conveyed in the Vedic hymns.

The fact is that there is a state beyond the conscious plane, where there is no
duality of the knower, knowledge and the instrument of knowledge.
Shankaracharya called it Aparokshanubhuti.

The secret of religion is not in being able to think and say all these thoughts but, as the
Vedas teach, to realize them, to realize newer and higher ones than have ever been
realized, to discover them, bring them to society.

Religion is not in books, nor in dogmas, nor in talking, not even in reasoning. It
is being and becoming.

Whoever realizes transcendental truth, whoever realizes the Atman in his or her
own nature, whoever comes face to face with God, sees God alone in everything;
he becomes a Rishi.

Whatever you believe, that you will be. If you believe yourselves to be sages,
sages you will be tomorrow. There is nothing to obstruct you.

We must see religion face to face, experience it, and thus solve our doubts about it;
and then, standing up in the glorious light of Rishi-hood, each one of us will become a
giant, and every word falling from our lips will carry behind it than infinite sanction
security, and before us evil will vanish by itself, without the necessity of fighting anyone
in the world. May Lord help us to realize Rishi-hood, for our salvation and for that of

Vedic Culture

There is not one word in our scriptures, not one, to prove that the Aryans came
from anywhere outside India and in ancient India was included Afghanistan.

Wherever Europeans find an opportunity, they exterminate the aborigines and
settle down in ease and comfort on their lands; and therefore they think the
Aryans must have done the same!

India has never exterminated weaker races. The Aryans were kind and generous;
and their hearts, which were large and unbounded as the ocean, and in their
brains, gifted with superhuman genius, all these ephemeral and apparently
pleasant, but virtually beastly practices never found a place.

It is the Hindus who have all along called themselves Aryas. Whether of pure or mixed
blood, the Hindus are Aryas; there it rests.

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We stick, in spite of Western theories to that definition, of the word Arya which
we find in our sacred books, and which includes only the multitude we now call
Hindus. This Aryan race, itself a mixture of the great races, Sanskrit speaking and
Tamil speaking, applies to all Hindus alike.

We find three ideas wherever the Aryans go:
1. The village community
2. The rights of women
3. A joyful religion.
The Aryans were lovers of peace, cultivators of soil, and were quite happy and
contented if only they could rear their families undisturbed.

The Aryans were by nature an analytical race. In the science of mathematics and
grammar, wonderful fruits were gained, and by the analysis of the mind the full
tree was developed. The boldness of the Aryans evolved the science of
geometry from the arrangement of the bricks to build various altars and startled
the world with astronomical knowledge that arose from the attempts to time
accurately their worship and oblations. It makes their contribution to the science
of mathematics the largest of any race, ancient or modern; and to their
knowledge of chemistry, or metallic compounds in medicine, their scale of
musical notes, their invention of bow instruments all of great service in building
of the modern European civilization. It led them to invent the science of building
up the childs mind through shining fables, of which every child in every civilized
country learns in a nursery or school and carries an impress through life.

Behind and before this analytical keenness, covering it as in a velvet sheath was
the other great mental peculiarity of the race poetic insight. Its religion, its
philosophy, its history, its ethics, its politics, were all inlaid in a flowerbed of
poetic imagery the miracle of language which was called Sanskrit, far perfected,
lending itself to expressing and manipulating them better than any other tongue.
The aid of melodious numbers was involved even to express the hard facts of

The Work Portion of the Vedas (Karma Kanda)

Every rite which you now consider holy was simply an old custom, and the Vedic
sacrifices were of that nature. In course of time, as they found better methods of life,
their ideas were much improved; still these old forms remained, and from time to time
they were practiced and received a holy significance.

All external forms of prayer and worship are included in the Karma Kanda.
These are good when performed in a spirit of unselfishness and are not allowed
to degenerate into mere formality. They purify the heart.

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The main ideas of the Karma Kanda, which consists of the duties of humanity, the
duties of the student, of the householder, of the recluse, and the various duties of the
different stations in life, are followed more or less down to the present day.

[In reviewers opinion, the Karma Kanda portion of the Veda was the routine
activities to be incorporated in the daily life of the Gurukula, where teachers
practiced them as a model for the students to observe, how these routines could
help them purify their mind and heart.

Moreover, just reading and studying and teaching would have been a
monotonous activity, which would have been difficult to sustain. Hence these
extra-curricular activities all intended to discipline the body and mind so as to
achieve the concentration required for the study and practice of Vedanta, which
was the ultimate objective.]

It was in India, that the kings, having enjoyed for some time earthly pleasures to their
full satisfaction, were stricken at the latter part of their lives with heavy world-weariness,
as is sure to follow an extreme sense-gratification; and thus having satisfied with worldly
pleasures, they retired in their old age into secluded forests and there began to
contemplate the deep problems of life.

Upanishads say, renounce. That is the test of everything. It is the creative faculty that
brings us into all this entanglement. The mind is in its own nature when it is calm. The
moment you can calm it, that (very) moment you will know the truth.

The glory of the Vedic structure is unique in the history of religion, not merely
because of their great antiquity, but vastly more due to the fact that they alone
amongst all the authoritative books of the world, warned man that he must go
beyond all books.

[The Katha Upanishad says:

This Atman cannot be obtained by study of the scriptures, nor by sharp intellect,
nor by much hearing; by him is It attained whom It chooses to him this Atman
reveals Its own (true) form. [Katha Upanishad 1.2.23]]

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It is true that we have created a system of religion in India which we believe to
be the only rational religious system extant; but our belief in rationality rests
upon its all-inclusion of the searches after God, its absolute charity towards all
forms of worship, and its external receptivity of those ideas tending towards the
evolution of God in the universe. We admit the imperfections of our system,
because Reality must always be beyond all system; and in this admission lies the
potent promise of an eternal growth.

[The Taittiriya Upanishad says:

The words rebound from there along with the reasoning, without finding that
One. [Taittiriya Upanishad 2.4.1]]
[To continue]

Review: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi