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by Vivekananda Swamy
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The man [Vivekananda] is simply a wonder for oratorical power . . . the Swami is an honor to humanity.
Christopher Isherwood, author
[Vivekananda is] one of the very greatest historical figures that India has ever produced. When one sees the full range of his mind, one is astounded.
His whole life and teaching inspired my generation . . . . he brought his great spirituality to bear upon his patriotism and thus his message was not confined to India only, but was for the whole world. I pay my homage to his memory.
My homage and respect to the very revered memory of Swami Vivekananda . . . .after having gone through [his works], the love that I had for my country became a thousandfold.
Romain Rolland (Author and Nobel Laureate)
His words are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are through the pages of books at thirty years' distance, without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero!
Inspired Talks contains conversations of Swami Vivekananda (1863 - 1902) with chosen disciples and presents his most brilliant flashes of illumination. Swami Vivekananda, India's first spiritual and cultural ambassador to the West, proclaimed the universal message of Vedanta: the non-duality of the Godhead, the divinity of the soul, the oneness of existence, and the harmony of religions. This 288 page book, containing a selection of letters, poems, and lectures by the Swami, presents his deep spiritual insight, brilliant conversation, and colorful personality. Contains the lecture, "My Master", Swami Vivekananda's only lecture on Sri Ramakrishna. For more information about Swami Vivekananda, visit www.ramakrishna.org.
From the Publisher
Swami Vivekananda, India's first spiritual and cultural ambassador to the West, came to represent the religions of India at the World's Parliament of Religions, held at Chicago in connection with the World's Fair (Columbian Exposition) of 1893. His message of the unity of humankind and harmony of religions was embraced by the public and press of the time as representing the essence of the Parliament. The Swami wished to create a bridge between the East and the West by bringing to America the gift of India's ancient spirituality, in exchange for the scientific and industrial outlook of the West. After four years of traveling and teaching in America and Europe, the Swami returned to India, where he is revered as a "Patriot Saint." The government of India has declared his birthday a national holiday. In 1976 on the occasion of the American Bicentennial, Swami Vivekananda was honored by the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery as one who came to America from abroad during the past 200 years and made a significant impact on its spiritual development.
Upon his return to India, Swami Vivekananda founded The Ramakrishna Order of India in the name of his teacher, Sri Ramakrishna, who is regarded as the Prophet of Harmony of Religions. The Order is the pre-eminent religious organization of modern India. More than 1000 monks of the Order serve throughout the world. While in the West the work is mainly in the form of conducting worship, teaching, writing and lecturing, in India the Order is widely known for its vast charitable activities -- running hospitals and schools, rural uplift, and extensive relief work in times of emergency. The Swamis of the Order work tirelessly in the spirit of "Service of God in Man," regarding the service of all people as a veritable form of worship.
The Centers of the Order in America, often referred to by such names as Ramakrishna or Vivekananda Centers, or Vedanta Societies, were first organized by Swami Vivekananda for the propagation of the Swami's teachings. Today there are Centers in many of America's major cities, including New York, Boston, Providence, Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Berkeley, Sacramento, and Hollywood. Because of their belief in the underlying truth of all religions, the Centers of the Ramakrishna Order are at the forefront of the Interfaith Movement. Publisher's comments written by Swami Adiswarananda (Spiritual Leader, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York). A brief Biography follows: Swami Nikhilananda, a direct disciple of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, was born in a small Indian village in 1895 and was ordained a monk of the Ramakrishna Order in 1924. After spending several years in the Himalayan monastery of his Order, during which time he made a study of Hinduism and other systems of philosophy and religion, he was sent to America in 1931. He founded the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York in 1933 and was its spiritual leader until his passing away in 1973.
The Swami was a gifted writer, and his contributions to the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature cannot be overstated. His translations of the scriptures, his biographies of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother and Swami Vivekananda, his compilations of the works of Swami Vivekananda, his other books and many articles in various journals and publications are permanent sources of spiritual knowledge and inspiration. Notable among these works are the following titles: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother, Vivekananda: A Biography, The Upanishads (volumes I-IV), The Bhagavad Gita, Self-Knowledge, Hinduism, and Man in Search of Immortality. Many of these works were originally introduced by major publishers, such as Harper & Row (New York) and George Allen & Unwin (London). Time Magazine called Swami Nikhilananda's translations of The Bhagavad Gita, "The first really readable, authoritative English translation of one of the world's greatest religious classics." W. Somerset Maugham praised Self-Knowledge as a "wonderful piece of exposition."
But the Swami's monumental work, for which he will ever be remembered, is The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. This complete translation into English from the original Bengali of the Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita, as recorded by "M," has made the immortal words of this great prophet of the nineteenth century available to countless readers throughout the world. Aldous Huxley was pleased to write a foreword to The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, and high praise was given to the book by such notable persons as Thomas Mann and Henry Miller. Time Magazine referred to The Gospel as "One of the world's most extraordinary religious documents." For more information about Swami Nikhilananda, visit www.ramakrishna.org.
"Blessed is the country in which he was born, blessed are they who lived on this earth at the same time, and blessed, thrice blessed are the few who sat at his feet...Only if one's mind were lifted to that high state of consciousness in which we lived for the time, could we hope to recapture the experience. We were filled with joy. We did not know at that time that we were living in his radiance. On the wings of inspiration, he carried us to the height which was his natural abode. He himself, speaking of it later, said that he was at his best in Thousand Islands." Sister Christine, a student of Swami Vivekananda who was present during his stay at Thousand Island Park.
In America Vivekananda's mission was the interpretation of India's spiritual culture, especially in its Vedantic setting. He also tried to enrich the religious consciousness of the Americans through the rational and humanistic teachings of the Vedanta philosophy. In America he became India's spiritual ambassador and pleaded eloquently for better understanding between India and the New World in order to create a healthy synthesis of East and West, of religion and science.
In his own motherland Vivekananda is regarded as the patriot saint of modern India and an inspirer of her dormant national consciousness. To the Hindus he preached the ideal of a strength-giving and man-making religion. Service to man as the visible manifestation of the Godhead was the special form of worship he advocated for the Indians, devoted as they were to the rituals and myths of their ancient faith. Many political leaders of India have publicly acknowledged their indebtedness to Swami Vivekananda.
The Swami's mission was both national and international. A lover of mankind, he strove to promote peace and human brotherhood on the spiritual foundation of the Vedantic Oneness of existence. A mystic of the highest order, Vivekananda had a direct and intuitive experience of Reality. He derived his ideas from that unfailing source of wisdom and often presented them in the soul-stirring language of poetry.
The natural tendency of Vivekananda's mind, like that of his Master, Ramakrishna, was to soar above the world and forget itself in contemplation of the Absolute. But another part of his personality bled at the sight of human suffering in East and West alike. It might appear that his mind seldom found a point of rest in its oscillation between contemplation of God and service to man. Be that as it may, he chose, in obedience to a higher call, service to man as his mission on earth; and this choice has endeared him to people in the West, Americans in particular.
In the course of a short life of thirty-nine years (1863-1902), of which only ten were devoted to public activities - and those, too, in the midst of acute physical suffering - he left for posterity his four classics: Jnana-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Karma-Yoga, and Raja-Yoga, all of which are outstanding treatises on Hindu philosophy. In addition, he delivered innumerable lectures, wrote inspired letters in his own hand to his many friends and disciples, composed numerous poems, and acted as spiritual guide to the many seekers, who came to him for instruction. He also organized the Ramakrishna Order of monks, which is the most outstanding religious organization of modern India. It is devoted to the propagation of the Hindu spiritual culture not only in the Swami's native land, but also in America and in other parts of the world.
Swami Vivekananda once spoke of himself as a "condensed India." His life and teachings are of inestimable value to the West for an understanding of the mind of Asia. William James, the Harvard philosopher, called the Swami the "paragon of Vedantists." Max Muller and Paul Deussen, the famous Orientalists of the nineteenth century, held him in genuine respect and affection. "His words," writes Romain Rolland, "are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are through the pages of books, at thirty years' distance, without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero!''
The chapter "Swami Vivekananda at Thousand Island Park," the materials for which have been collected from various sources, gives the setting of the Swami's Inspired Talks. The talks themselves are a record of the Swami's intimate conversations with chosen devotees and disciples who lived with him at the cottage. The reader will be struck with the brilliant flashes of illumination, the lofty flights of eloquence, and the words of profound wisdom revealed here. The conversations were taken down by the Swami's disciple, Miss S. E. Waldo, of New York, to whom he also dictated his translation and explanation of Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms, published later as Raja-Yoga, Swami Vivekananda had great confidence in Miss Waldo's ability and would often hand over to her the transcripts of his lectures with the instruction to edit or change them as she thought best. Once, when she was reading a portion of the manuscript of Inspired Talks to some friends at the Thousand Island Park house, the Swami paced up and down, apparently unconscious of what was going on, till the listeners had left the room, when he turned and said: "How could you have caught my thought and words so perfectly? It was as if I heard myself speaking."
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