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by Swami Vivekananda

Editor’s Note: Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) is considered to be a major figure in Vedanta and Yoga, and is particularly known for his role in introducing these philosophies to Europe and America. These notes on a lecture given by Vivekananda give an enlightening introduction to concentration by "restraining" the mind, the eight-fold path of Yoga. ~Christina

These are Frank Rhodehamel's notes of Swami Vivekananda's lecture given in Alameda (California, USA) on April 16, 1900, and are reproduced here from his Complete Works, 6: 123-25. Being "notes"-and not a verbatim report, like his other lectures in the Complete Works-these are sketchy and may not represent the exact words spoken by Vivekananda. But they give a fairly good indication of his ideas on the subject.

Concentration is the essence of all knowledge. Nothing can be done without concentration. Ordinary people waste ninety per cent of thought force and therefore they are constantly committing blunders. The trained mind never makes a mistake. When the mind is concentrated and turned backward on itself, everything within us will be our servant, not our master. The Greeks applied their concentration to the external world, and the result was perfection in art, literature, etc. The Hindu concentrated on the internal world, upon the unseen realm in the Self, and developed the science of Yoga.

Yoga means controlling the senses, will and mind. The benefit of its study is that we learn to control instead of being controlled. Mind seems to be layer on layer. Our real goal is to cross all these intervening strata of our being and find God. The end and aim of Yoga is to realize God. To do this we must go beyond relative knowledge, go beyond the sense-world. The world is awake to the senses, the children of the Lord are asleep on that plane. The world is asleep to the Eternal, the children of the Lord are awake in that realm(1). There is but one way to control the senses-to see Him who is the Reality in the universe. Then and only then can we really conquer our senses.

Concentration means restraining the mind into smaller and smaller limits. There are eight processes for restraining the mind. The first is Yama, controlling the mind by avoiding externals. All morality is included in this. Beget no evil. Injure no living creature. If you injure nothing for twelve years, then even lions and tigers will go down before you. Practice truthfulness. Twelve years of absolute truthfulness in thought, word, and deed gives us whatever we wish. Be chaste in thought, word, and action. Chastity is the basis of all religions. Personal purity is imperative. Next is Niyama, not allowing the mind to wander in any direction. Then comes Asana, posture. There are eighty-four postures: but the best is the most natural to each person; that is, which can be kept longest with the greatest ease. After this comes Pranayama, restraint of breath. Next is Pratyahara, drawing in of the organs from their objects. Then comes Dharana, concentration, followed by Dhyana, contemplation or meditation. (This is the kernel of the Yoga system.) And finally there is, Samadhi, superconsciousness.

The purer the body and mind, the quicker the desired result will be obtained. You must be perfectly pure. Do not think of evil things, such thoughts will surely drag you down. If you are perfectly pure and practice faithfully, your mind can finally be made a searchlight of infinite power. There is no limit to its scope. But there must be constant practice and non-attachment to the world.

When we reach the superconscious state, body-consciousness melts away. Then alone does we become free and immortal. To all external appearances, unconsciousness and superconsciousness are the same; but they differ as a lump of clay from a lump of gold. The one whose whole soul is given up to God has reached the superconscious plane.


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About the Author

A spiritual genius of commanding intellect and power, Vivekananda crammed immense labor and achievement into his short life, 1863-1902. Born in the Datta family of Calcutta, the youthful Vivekananda embraced the agnostic philosophies of the Western mind along with the worship of science.

At the same time, vehement in his desire to know the truth about God, he questioned people of holy reputation, asking them if they had seen God. He found such a person in Sri Ramakrishna, who became his master, allayed his doubts, gave him God vision, and transformed him into sage and prophet with authority to teach.

After Sri Ramakrishna's death, Vivekananda renounced the world and criss-crossed India as a wandering monk. His mounting compassion for India's people drove him to seek their material help from the West. Accepting an opportunity to represent Hinduism at Chicago's Parliament of Religions in 1893, Vivekananda won instant celebrity in America and a ready forum for his spiritual teaching.

For three years he spread the Vedanta philosophy and religion in America and England and then returned to India to found the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Exhorting his nation to spiritual greatness, he wakened India to a new national consciousness. He died July 4, 1902, after a second, much shorter sojourn in the West. His lectures and writings have been gathered into nine volumes.

For more information visit www.Vivekananda.org.




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