The Concentrated Mind is a Lamp
Perception is our only real knowledge or religion. Talking about it for ages will never make us know our soul. There is no difference between theories and atheism. In fact, the atheist is the truer man. Every step I take in the light is mine forever. When you go to a country and see it, then it is yours. We have each to see for ourselves; teachers can only ‘bring the food,’ we must eat it to be nourished. Argument can never prove God save as a logical conclusion.
It is impossible to find God outside of ourselves. Our own souls contribute all the divinity that is outside of us. We are the greatest temple. The objectification is only a faint imitation of what we see within ourselves.
Concentration of the powers of the mind is our only instrument to help us see God. If you know one soul (your own), you know all souls, past, present, and to come. The will concentrates the mind, certain things excite and control this will, such as reason, love, devotion, breathing. The concentrated mind is a lamp that shows us every corner of the soul.
No one method can suit all. These different methods are not steps necessary to be taken one after another. Ceremonials are the lowest form; next God external and after that God internal. In some cases gradation may be needed, but in many only one way is required. It would be the height of folly to say to everyone, ‘You must pass through karma [unselfish action or work] and bhakti [devotion to God] before you can reach jnana [knowledge of God].
Stick to your reason until you reach something higher, and you will know it to be higher because it will not jar with reason. The stage beyond consciousness is inspiration (samadhi); but never mistake hysterical trances for the real thing. It is a terrible thing to claim this inspiration falsely, to mistake instinct for inspiration. There is no external test for inspiration, we know it ourselves; our guardian against mistake is negative—the voice of reason. All religion is going beyond reason, but reason is the only guide to get there. Instinct is like ice, reason is the water, and inspiration is the subtlest form or vapor; one follows the other. Everywhere is this eternal sequence—unconsciousness, consciousness, intelligence—matter, body, mind. And to us it seems as if the chain began with the particular link we first lay hold of. Arguments on both sides are of equal weight and both are true. We must reach beyond both, to where there is neither the one nor the other. These successions are all maya [ignorance obscuring the vision of God].
Religion is above reason, supernatural. Faith is not belief, it is the grasp on the Ultimate, an illumination. First hear, then reason and find out all that reason can give about the atman [Self]. Let the flood of reason flow over it, then take what remains. If nothing remains, thank God you have escaped a superstition. When you have determined that nothing can take away the atman, that it stands every test, hold fast to this and teach it to all. Truth cannot be partial; it is for the good of all. Finally, in perfect rest and peace meditate upon it, concentrate you mind upon it, make yourself one with it. Then no speech is needed; silence will carry the truth. Do not spend your energy in talking, but meditate in silence; and do not let the rush of the outside world disturb you. When your mind is in the highest state, you are unconscious of it. Accumulate power in silence and become a dynamo of spirituality. What can a beggar give? Only a king can give, and he only when he wants nothing himself.
Hold your money merely as a custodian for what is God’s. Have no attachment for it. Let name and fame and money go; they are a terrible bondage. Feel the wonderful atmosphere of freedom. You are free, free, free! Oh, blessed am I! Freedom am I! I am the Infinite! In my soul I can find no beginning and no end. All is my Self. Say this unceasingly.
– Swami Vivekananda
Inspired Talks, Saturday July 20, 1895