Talk to Students in Memory of Swami Vivekananda by Maria Wirth

This one-hour speech happened to be a first for me, and I want to thank the students that they made it easy for me and looked interested throughout.

My three main points:

  1. To encourage the students to know and be proud of their heritage.
  2. To point out what is lacking in the west.
  3. To give inputs on Jnana, Bhakti, Karma and Raja Yoga – the way of life which enables one to tap/ realise the Divinity within.

Here is my talk, most of it recreated from the points i had made:

Knowledge of Bharat’s wisdom – and Swami Vivekananda was an excellent teacher of it – is very much needed as western education (and Bharat’s education system is also still western education) is highly lopsided.

Only yesterday I saw a news item: a 12th class student from Haridwar was fished out from the Ganga. He had posted on facebook “I go now and do suicide”.

Such a thing should never happen. It seems he had been reprimanded on that day. It shows how one-sided our education is. Strength of character is not imbibed. Yet exactly this strength of character is the priority of Bharat’s wisdom and Swami Vivekananda is the best guide on how to gain this strength. “Man-making” was the most important task for him. “Strength is life, weakness is death”, he said.

Some examples why you can be proud of your tradition – not in the sense of being arrogant, but of knowing its great value.

Bharat always was a knowledge hub, both in material sciences and spiritually. Quest for Truth was the hallmark.

Do you for example know that the Rig Veda 10.22.14 says “the earth goes around the sun”? Yet there is a Copernicus Marg in Delhi and you surely have learnt that he discovered this.

Further, the Rishis thought in huge time frames. You even have names for huge numbers like arab, etc, while the Romans hardly could count a few thousand. Your Rishis got the age of the universe right when the west thought until recently, that the earth is maximum 10,000 years old. How was this possible? Because the rishis had the power of concentration, of complete mind control.

Patanjali says in his yoga sutras that the light of knowledge comes through mastery of samyana. Samyana is the state when concentration, meditation and absorption combined focus on one subject.

Yet even more important than scientific knowledge is the fact that the Rishis discovered the underlying conscious unity in the midst of all this diversity. They had dived deep enough to the source from which everything emerges and they were able to tap it.

Sadly, the British realised the strength of your tradition and cut you off from it by replacing the Sanskrit education system with the English system. Now you couldn’t read anymore the treasure that your ancestors had left. Not only this, the British told Bharatiya children, that their tradition is not worth anything and that England is great. Of course, children believed it. And even today there are many so-called educated Bharatiyas who believe just this and pull down their tradition even abroad.

If Swami Vivekananda were here today, he surely would challenge them.

While this happened in Bharat, Bharat’s knowledge had reached already Europe and was greatly appreciated. When Swamiji went to Chicago in 1893, he made further a huge impact and scientists, too, were keen to meet him, like Nicola Tesla. Of course there were also some fundamental Christians who tried to spread bad rumours about him, but the open-minded elite was taken in by Bharat’s knowledge.

Later, after Swami had passed away, most of those, who were laying the foundation for modern physics, like Heisenberg, Pauli, Schroedinger, were interested in Vedanta. Heisenberg came to Bharat and met Rabindranath Tagore. Bharat’s wisdom showed them the direction where to do research, and they came up with a literally earth shaking new paradigm of all being interconnected, of all being basically one energy.

Even the popular, young Bavarian king Ludwig II had books on Bharatiya philosophy in his library, a friend who worked in the archive of the big Munich library told me.

There is much more, but this may convince you that you owe to your ancestors that you know about this profound knowledge and stand up for it.

What is lacking in western societies

Swami said in USA: why are you so proud of your society when Truth has no place in it?

He is right. It’s either all about “having fun” – seeing man only as body and mind which ends with death.

Or it is about a story around God (sending his son to earth, condemning non-Christians to hell, etc.) that is unlikely to be true.

The hallmark of Christianity is blind belief and the focus is on afterlife.

Result: people are directionless, see no meaning in life, depression.

A bit about myself that I lost faith in Christianity and came to treasure Bharat’s wisdom. I could not accept that non- Christians go to hell. Imagine, Christians have to believe that even Swami Vivekananda will be sent to hell on Judgment Day.

In Bharat I read JNANA and RAJA yoga by Swami Vivekananda. It was a completely new world view yet at the same time greatly familiar.

What impressed me most was the underlying oneness of all: a wave thinks it is separate, but is one with ocean, a cup thinks it is a cup only and is not sure whether mud exists. (Similar: individual is essentially Brahman)

Upanishad: Brahman is NOT what the eyes can see but That by which the eyes can see.

It was written ages ago, what a wisdom! It gives goosebumps.

My conclusion was:  If I am not what I think I am (= a person with body and mind), I want to live life in a way that there is a chance to know what I really am (= Atman).

How to go about discovering the truth?

To hear about it, to reflect on it and to practice/ realise it – shravana, manana, nidhidhyasa. Practice means jnana, bhakti, karma and raja yoga. Swami Vivekananda is the ideal guide. He explained all 4 yogas.

As an aside: in 1983 already I was asked to write a chapter for a reader for psychology students on those four yogas.. German students got to know about them. Bharatiya students did not.

I personally was inclined towards Jnana Yoga. Used to sit on the roof terrace at night, asking basic questions and waiting for answers.

Ananadamyi Ma, a saintly woman from Bengal who passed away in 1982, stressed Bhakti. She claimed that Bhagwan is the only true beloved. Human loves have always some ego- motive involved. My diary turned into a dialogue with God. But how to love God?

I reflected on ‘falling in love” which is considered a highly desirable state in the west, and wondered why there is so much “falling out of love”, too.

The west is immature when it comes to love. Bharatiyas are copying now their immaturity. The emotional pain will be BIG. Romantic love is probably giving the greatest pain to people in the west, because it is not eternal, as one may believe, but often even turns into hate.

Don’t be confused regarding Jnana and Bhakti: God is the Self. Yes. But if it is difficult to love the self, it may be easier to love and talk to Bhagawan. Even Adi Shankara, the pure Advaitin, wrote a love poem to Ma Durga.

It’s the same. Krishna promised, by whatever name you worship, it will reach ME, the one Truth…

Karma Yoga means to do your best, with no expectation for result. It also applies to sadhana or spiritual effort as well as in worldly affairs.  Sri Krishna himself tried to prevent the Mahabharata War. Yet it happened. Even HE could not prevent it. Don’t expect any result even from yoga, but do your best. Have a pure motivation.

Raja Yoga is the most structured of all yogas. It is the royal path to Self-realisation and to a strong character. It is a scientific method.

Yama and Niyama purify, refine and strengthen the character. The desire to know the truth grows by living a pure, truthful life.

Everyone has different samskaras. Find your own way to come close to the truth (and always remember you are already so close that closer is not possible – as close as the cup is to the mud…),

There will be difficult times. Everyone gets them. But try not to get bogged down. Remind yourself of your blessings – I saw a girl in Rishikesh with no arms. She had a genuine smile. Or sing a song. Difficult times make you grow faster.

And if you can’t control anger or sadness, don’t worry. Main thing is you KNOW you are angry or sad. A bit of you should be a witness (Shakshi) of what is happening inside you without judging.

Have you ever noticed, for example in a restaurant, on different tables, the different atmosphere? Sometimes one even feels sorry for the kids. Who do you want to be? Angry, easily annoyed, depressed? Or calm, cheerful and happy?

When I was very young, I once saw a beautiful boy with a beautiful atmosphere around him. How nice would it be to be always with him I thought but then the next thought came, ‘it would be even better if I myself become so beautiful. Then I have this beauty always with me…’

Apart from living a pure life, Raja yoga is mainly about MIND CONTROL.

Mind has huge powers if it is focused. It can also influence the thoughts of others.

Do regularly try to still your mind to tap the still, thought free source of the mind, even for 5 minutes. Nowadays with smartphones, more is hardly possible…. Focus inside. Stop for a little while. Don’t think, but observe. Even during work or study, just for a few moments become aware where you are, what you see, hear, think, feel.

Your essence is divine. Discover it. This was the main message of Swami Vivekananda.

Hatha yoga is also helpful. After Hatha yoga, when you lie on your back in shavasana, it’s easy to feel the energy inside your body and stay without thoughts.

I once experienced in the train how resentment fully dissolved. An English woman was in my compartment who obviously looked for a fight. I won’t go into details, but it was bad and I felt resentment rising. Did I want to spend 36 hours in the train being resentful towards her? No. So I tried to just observe the waves of energy inside and drive away thoughts about her as soon as I noticed them. After maybe 15 minutes, I experienced the most beautiful expansive feeling and my resentment had completely dissolved. Now I was only amused by her attempts to be unpleasant, and maybe, if I had stayed in this meditation a little longer, I might have even felt compassion for her.

Nisargadatta Maharaj said: Mediation is radical refusal to think.

Feel “I AM”. Not “I AM This”.

Ramana Maharshi: “Usually I don’t think…”

From thoughtless, pure awareness comes inspired thought.

Look at the example of the great mathematician Srinivasan Ramanuja. He was sure that Namagiri Devi gave him the solutions to Maths problems. One could also say instead of Namagiri Devi that Atman or Brahman revealed it. “The one Consciousness takes that form that is dearest to the disciple when he calls out for help.” Ramana Maharshi said this when a devotee had claimed that Ramana had appeared and saved him in an accident.

Before Einstein died, he said in an interview, “the scientist of the future needs to be a man of enhanced awareness”…. It means he needs to become a Yogi.

So please become yogis and you will even become inspired scientists. Live up to Swami Vivekananda’s expectations! Be strong, the same in all circumstances, rooted in your own self.

All those yogas may sound difficult, but actually it’s not very difficult. Main thing is that you want to know the truth about yourself. On my way here, I opened a book by Swamiji, wondering whether I get some quote to end the talk with. My eyes fell on this:

“My master told me: My child, if you desire God, God will come after you.”

By Maria Wirth

This article was originally published on Maria Wirth’s blog . It is being reproduced with the author’s consent.


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About the Author

Maria Wirth
Maria Wirth is a German and came to India on a stop over (that’s at least what she thought) on her way to Australia after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University. She visited the Ardha Kumbha Mela in Haridwar in April 1980 where she met Sri Anandamayi Ma and Devaraha Baba, two renowned saints. With their blessing she continued to live in India and never went to Australia… She dived into India’s spiritual tradition, sharing her insights with German readers through articles and books. For long, she was convinced that every Indian knows and treasures their great heritage. However, when in recent years, she noticed that there seemed to be a concerted effort to prevent even Indians (and the world) from knowing how valuable this ancient Indian heritage is, she started to point out the unique value of Indian tradition also in English language.