By Deepak Chopra
Ever since I was young there has been a halo around the name of Swami Vivekananda, as there was around his master's, Sri Ramakrishna. Recognition outside India meant a lot a hundred years ago; it was an enviable kind of validation. But to be candid, none of this reverence affected my life. Vedanta was just an arcane term, and the flight of modern Indians was toward science, upward social mobility and personal freedom. I imagine that anyone who took the step of joining the Indian Diaspora followed the same wave that carried me to America.
It was years before I realized what I'd run away from, and now Vedanta means a lot to me. It is the map to higher consciousness, never surpassed by later history yet frequently validated in fresh, new ways. Vivekananda did that a century ago. We honour his memory for it, but that's incidental, for the spiritual path implies action, not salute to memory. Vedanta is either here and now or it is nowhere.
Which means that without new life Vivekananda's legacy will be inert. The only viable memorial is to put his model of spirituality into practice. I'm avoiding the phrase "put his ideas into practice," because Vedanta, once reduced to ideas, is equally lifeless. So what would Vivekananda ask us to do today, here and now?
First, to put into practice his famous adage: Jiva is Shiva. A lifetime can be richly devoted simply to these three words. They tell us that individual God-realization is possible; also that external deities exist only to point inward. Further, they imply that inner transcendence is the path to reach the Absolute. None of this is news, and it would be easy to gather countless aspirants who strive to put these words into practice in their daily lives. What is the secret of success, since so many of these aspirants fall short of the goal?
The secret is: There is no goal. The present moment is the home of Vedanta and also the home of Self-realization. The present moment isn't heading anywhere; it has no goal or end-point. Seen as Vivekananda would see it, the now is eternal; it is the only time that renews itself endlessly. In the now we experience two things only: the rush of events, both physical and mental, and the background of consciousness which acts like the screen upon which experience is registered. Experience is passing scenery; consciousness is silent observer. For most, these two are jumbled together. Caught in the rush of experience, they've lost the silent observer and so cannot walk through the door that opens to the transcendent.
Vivekananda's work was mainly occupied with revealing the transcendent. He left many inspiring reminders to point us in the right direction: "You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul."
"You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself." And, "The goal of mankind is knowledge ... No knowledge comes from outside: it is all inside."
Reminders in this case are actually goads to action. The first duty of every person is to develop a true self. This cannot be done without the inner knowing that Vivekananda embodied as did Vedic sages. The time is always right for transcendence. No worldly accomplishments are substitutes nor as worthy as the project of developing a true self. The best way to honour Vivekananda begins at this very moment, with each of us.
Read more: New life for Vivekananda - The Times of India
Source: Times of India