11 June 2011

Complete Works: Vol - I

Swami Vivekananda’s Complete Works contain his speeches, writings and numerous letters he wrote to his friends, admirers, disciples and others during his lifetime. The first of the nine volumes of ‘COMPLETE WORKS OF SWAMI VIVEKANANDA’ begins with his Chicago address he gave during the World Parliament of Religions, and rightly so. Once he had made his impact on the American audience by his famous first words “Brothers and Sisters of America”, there was no stoppage thereafter.

By presenting Hinduism (precisely Vedanta) to the Christian world with great success, Vivekananda accomplished what many other Hindu saints failed to achieve in the west. In other words, he took the bull by its horns. சிங்கத்தின் குகையிலேயே தன் நாட்டு கலாச்சாரப் பெருமையையும் சமய வரலாற்றையும் வெற்றிகரமாக விவாதித்தவர் விவேகானந்தர்.

No doubt Vivekananda was well read and was well versed in Eastern and Western philosophy. But when we see his ability to speak extempore on any religious or spiritual topic thrown at him, we get the feeling that knowledge alone wouldn’t have helped him while in facing the well learned western audience on stage, but also his inborn wisdom. Valluvar himself says in couplet 372, “நுண்ணிய நூல்பல கற்பினும், மற்றுந்தன் உண்மை அறிவே மிகும்” (A man may have studied many subtle works, but what survives is his innate wisdom).

Efforts to edit and compile his lectures had begun even during his lifetime, as we see him referring to this in one of his own lectures. The publishers, Advaita Ashrama, were initially planning to publish his works in 4 or 5 volumes, but they had to expand this to eight volumes later. Subsequently one more volume was added to this series, 45 years after the eight volumes was published in 1951! They had to do this because more and more materials were made available to the publishers, and this meant that the contents of these works could not be organized in any particular order or subject matter. In every volume you will find the contents page with titles such as lectures, notes taken during classes, letters, writings in prose and poems, sayings and utterances etc.

The Complete Works has been translated into all major regional languages including Tamil. Some selected sayings from the 543 pages first volume:
  • If you want to have life, you have to die every moment for it. Life and death are only different expressions of the same thing looked at different standpoints. (Page 112)
இதைத்தானோ வள்ளுவர் பிறப்பையும் இறப்பையும், “உறங்கு வதுபோலுஞ் சாக்காடு உறங்கி விழிப்பது போலும் பிறப்பு” (339) என்று கூறினார்?
  • If you want the reward, you must also have the punishment the only way to get out of punishment is to give up the reward. The only way of getting misery is by giving up the idea of happiness, because these two are linked to each other. (Page 104)
இதைத்தானோ வள்ளுவர், “இன்பத்துள் இன்பம் விழையாதான், துன்பத்துள் துன்பம் உறுதல் இலன்” (629) என்று கூறினார்?
  • If you read the Koran, you find the most wonderful truths mixed with superstitions. How will you explain it? That man was inspired, do doubt, but that inspiration was, as it were, stumbled upon. He was not a trained Yogi, and did not know the reason of what he was doing. (Page 184)
வள்ளுவர் கூறியதுபோல, “நிறைமொழி மாந்தர் பெருமை நிலத்து மறைமொழி காட்டி விடும்” (28).

There is also an interesting series of answers given by Vivekanand to some of the questions posed by a Christian member of the audience during one of his lectures in the US (pages 327 & 328 of Volume 1).

Q. If ministers stop preaching hell-fire, they will have no control over their people. (அதாவது, நரக தண்டனை ஒன்று உண்டென்பதை பிரசங்கிகள் சொல்வதை நிறுத்தினால், மக்களிடம் உள்ள கட்டுப்பாட்டை இழந்திடுவர்)

    A. They had better lose it then. The man who is frightened into religion has no religion at all. Better teach him his divine nature than of his animal.

Q. What did the Lord (Jesus) mean when he said: ‘The kingdom of heaven is not of this world”?

    A. That the kingdom of heaven is within us. The Jewish idea was a kingdom of heaven upon this earth. That was not the idea of Jesus.

Q. Do you believe we come up from the animals?

    A. I believe that, by the law of evolution, the higher beings  have come up from the lower kingdoms.

Q. Do you know of anyone who remembers his previous life?

    A. I have met some who told me they did remember their previous life. They had reached a point where they could remember former incarnations.
Q. Do you believe in Christ’s crucifixion?

    A. Christ was God incarnate; they could not kill him. That which was crucified was only a resemblance, a mirage.

Q. If he could have produced such a resemblance as that, would that not have been the greatest miracle of all?

    A. I look upon miracles as the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of truth. .......... Let us brush them aside.

Q. Do you believe Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount?
    A. I do believe he did. But in this matter I have to go by the books as others do, and I am aware that mere book testimony is rather shaky ground. But we are all safe in taking the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount as a guide. We have to take what appeals to our inner spirit. Buddha taught five hundred years before Christ, and his were full of blessings; never a curse came from his lips, nor from his life; never one from Zoroaser, nor from Confucius.

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