Sri Ramakrishna’s chief disciple, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), organized the Ramakrishna Order of monks in India and brought Vedanta to the West in the 1890s. The great swami emphasized that, while man can know God in various forms, his ultimate attainment is the realization of his identity with the Supreme Reality. He taught that all the yogas can be harmoniously combined—that Freedom can be attained “by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy, by one, or more, or all of these.”
Further, the swami gave cardinal importance to three teachings as most appropriate to, and most needed by the modern world: one’s highest achievement and greatest happiness lies in fully manifesting his or her own divinity; one’s clearest vision lies in the perception of divinity everywhere; one’s truest worship is the selfless service of his fellowman, for his fellowman is, in reality, God Himself.
“There are moments when we feel that we are one with the universe, and we rush forth to express it, whether we know it or not. This expression of oneness is what we call love, and it is the basis of all our ethics and morality. This is summed up in the Vedanta philosophy by the celebrated aphorism, Tat Tvam Asi, ‘Thou art That.’
“To everyone this is taught: Thou art one with this universal Being, and, as such, every soul that exists is your soul; and every body that exists is your body. In hurting anyone, you hurt yourself; in loving anyone, you love yourself. For I am the universe, which is my body. I am the Infinite, only I am not conscious of it now; but I am struggling to get this consciousness of the Infinite.
“Perfection will be reached when the full consciousness of this Infinite comes. When our eyes are opened and the heart is purified, the unfolding of the same divinity in every human heart will become manifest. When we have reached the highest, when we see neither man nor woman, neither sex, nor creed, nor color, nor birth, nor any of the differentiations, but go beyond and find that divinity which is the reality behind all human beings—only then have we reached universal oneness.”