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INTERVIEW WITH SWAMI VIVEKANANDA

{Harvard University, Graduate Philosophical Society, 25 March 1896}

 

Question: What is the antagonism of this thought with Western science?

No antagonism at all. We are in harmony with it. Our theory of evolution and of Âkâsha and Prâna is exactly what your modern philosophies have. Your belief in evolution is among our Yogis and in the Sankhya philosophy. For instance, Patanjali speaks of one species being changed into another by the infilling of nature — ” “; only he differs from you in the explanation. His explanation of this evolution is spiritual.

He says that just as when a farmer wants to water his field from the canals that pass near, he has only to lift up gate — ” ” — so each man is the Infinite already, only these bars and bolts and different circumstances shut him in; but as soon as they are removed, he rushes out and expresses himself. In the animal, the man was held in abeyance; but as soon as good circumstances came, he was manifested as man. And again, as soon as fitting circumstances came, the God in man manifested itself. So we have very little to quarrel with in the new theories. For instance, the theory of the Sankhya as to perception is very little different from modern physiology.

Q: But your method is different?

Yes. We claim that concentrating the powers of the mind is the only way to knowledge. In external science, concentration of mind is — putting it on something external; and in internal science, it is — drawing towards one’s Self. We call this concentration of mind Yoga.

Q: In the state of concentration does the truth of these principles become evident?

The Yogis claim a good deal. They claim that by concentration of the mind every truth in the universe becomes evident to the mind, both external and internal truth.

Q: What does the Advaitist think of cosmology?

The Advaitist would say that all this cosmology and everything else are only in Maya, in the phenomenal world. In truth they do not exist. But as long as we are bound, we have to see these visions. Within these visions things come in a certain regular order. Beyond them there is no law and order, but freedom.

Q:  Is the Advaita antagonistic to dualism?

The Upanishads not being in a systematised form, it was easy for philosophers to take up texts when they liked to form a system. The Upanishads had always to be taken, else there would be no basis. Yet we find all the different schools of thought in the Upanishads. Our solution is that the Advaita is not antagonistic to the Dvaita (dualism). We say the latter is only one of three steps. Religion always takes three steps. The first is dualism. Then man gets to a higher state, partial non-dualism. And at last he finds he is one with the universe. Therefore the three do not contradict but fulfil.

Q: Why does Maya or ignorance exist?

“Why” cannot be asked beyond the limit of causation. It can only be asked within Maya. We say we will answer the question when it is logically formulated. Before that we have no right to answer.

Q: Does the Personal God belong to Maya?

Yes; but the Personal God is the same Absolute seen through Maya. That Absolute under the control of nature is what is called the human soul; and that which is controlling nature is Ishvara, or the Personal God. If a man starts from here to see the sun, he will see at first a little sun; but as he proceeds he will see it bigger and bigger, until he reaches the real one. At each stage of his progress he was seeing apparently a different sun; yet we are sure it was the same sun he was seeing. So all these things are but visions of the Absolute, and as such they are true. Not one is a false vision, but we can only say they were lower stages. Q. Q— What is the special process by which one will come to know the Absolute?

We say there are two processes. One is the positive, and the other, the negative. The positive is that through which the whole universe is going — that of love. If this circle of love is increased indefinitely, we reach the one universal love. The other is the “Neti”, “Neti” — “not this”, “not this” — stopping every wave in the mind which tries to draw it out; and at last the mind dies, as it were, and the Real discloses Itself. We call that Samâdhi, or superconsciousness.

[Only some portions of the discussion have been presented here].