The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 9/Writings: Prose and Poems(Original and Translated)/Footnotes to The Imitation of Christ
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In 1889, Swami Vivekananda translated into Bengali selections from Book I, chapters 1-6 of Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. They were published along with a preface in a now-defunct Bengali monthly magazine, Sâhitya Kalpadruma. The Swami’s preface and Bengali translation, entitled “Ishânusharana”, were later published in the Bengali Complete Works (first edition), VI, pp. 16-28. However, only the preface to The Imitation of Christ was published in the English edition of the Complete Works, VIII.
Swami Vivekananda’s partial Bengali translation of The Imitation of Christ includes as footnotes quotations from Hindu scriptures that parallel à Kempis’s ideas, comments or commentary. For the sake of clarity, these footnotes (numbered 1 through 17) have been appended to their respective verses in The Imitation of Christ (indicated in parentheses), arranged under their appropriate chapter headings in the book, and reproduced here in bold.
Many of the Sanskrit footnotes to the Bengali translation were later rendered into English during the course of Swami Vivekananda’s lecturing or writing. For the sake of interest, these English translations have also been added to the Swami’s restored footnote text. Otherwise, Sanskrit verses have been translated by the Publisher for the convenience of the reader.
Of the Imitation of Christ and Contempt of all the Vanities of the World
1. "He that followeth Me, walketh not in darkness", saith the Lord [John 8.12]. (The Imitation of Christ V.1.)
Swami Vivekananda's Footnote: Bhagavad-Gita 7.14
दैवी ह्येषा गुणमयी मम माया दुरत्यया ।
मामेव ये प्रपद्यन्ते मायामेतां तरन्ति ते ॥
Swami Vivekananda's Translation: This My Mâyâ is divine, made up of qualities and very difficult to cross. Yet those who come unto Me, cross the river of life.
2. Let therefore our chief endeavour be to meditate upon the life of Jesus Christ. (The Imitation of Christ V.1.)
Swami Vivekananda's Footnote: Adhyâtma Râmâyana,
Uttara-Kanda 5.54 (RamaGita)
ध्यात्वैवमात्मानमहर्निशं मुनिः ।
तिष्ठॆत्सदा मुक्तसमस्तबन्धनः ॥
Publisher's Translation: Thus meditating upon the Self day and night, let the sage abide free from all bondage.
3. The doctrine of Christ exceedeth all the doctrines of holy men; and he that hath the Spirit will find therein the hidden manna. (The Imitation of Christ V.2.)
When the Israelites were afflicted by want of food in a desert, God showered on them a kind of "manna".
4. But it falleth out, that many who often hear the Gospel of Christ, are yet but little affected, because they are void of the Spirit of Christ. But whosoever would fully and feelingly understand the words of Christ, must endeavour to conform his life wholly to the life of Christ. (The Imitation of Christ V.2.)
Swami Vivekananda's Footnote (a): Bhagavad-Gita 2.29
श्रुत्वाप्येनं वेद न चैव कश्चित् ।
Swami Vivekananda'S Translation: Others, hearing of It, do not understand.
न गच्छति विना पानं व्याधिरौषधशब्दतः ।
विनाऽपरॊक्षानुभवं ब्रह्मशब्दैर्न मुच्यतॆ ॥
Publisher's Translation: A disease does not leave the body by simply repeating the name of the medicine; one must take the medicine. Similarly, liberation does not come by merely saying the word Brahman. Brahman must be experienced.
श्रुतॆन किं यॆन न धर्ममाचरॆत् ।
Publisher's Translation: Of what avail is reading the Vedas without practising religion?
5. What will it avail thee to dispute profoundly of the Trinity if thou be void of humility and art thereby displeasing to the Trinity? (The Imitation of Christ V.3.)
According to the Christians, God the Father, Holy Ghost, and God the Son are One in three and Three in One.
6. Surely great words do not make a man holy and just; but a virtuous life maketh him dear to God. (The Imitation of Christ V.3.)
Swami Vivekananda's Footnote: Vivekachudamani 58
वाग्वैखरी शब्दझरी शास्त्रव्याख्यानकौशलम्।
वैदुष्यं विदुषां तद्वद् भुक्तयॆ न तु मुक्तये॥
Swami Vivekananda's Translation: Wonderful methods of joining words, rhetorical powers, and explaining texts of the books in various ways — these are only for the enjoyment of the learned, and not religion.
7. If thou didst know the whole Bible by heart and the sayings of all the philosophers, what would it profit thee without the love of God and without grace? (The Imitation of Christ V.3.)
—I Corinthians 13.2.
8. "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity" (Eccles.) except to love God and to serve Him only. (The Imitation of Christ V.3.)
Swami Vivekananda's Footnote: Maniratnamâlâ
कॆ सन्ति सन्तॊऽखिलवीतरागाः ।
अपास्तमॊहाः शिवतत्त्वनिष्ठाः ॥
Publisher's Translation: They alone are holy men (Sâdhus) who are devoid of any longing for worldly objects, free from delusion and are devoted to the truth of Shiva.
9. Call often to mind that proverb "The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing". (The Imitation of Christ V.5.)
10. Endeavour, therefore, to withdraw thy heart from the love of visible things and to turn thyself to the invisible. For they that follow their lusts stain their own consciences and lose the grace of God. (The Imitation of Christ V.5.)
Swami Vivekananda's Footnote: Mahabharata, 2.63
न जातु कामः कामानुपभोगेन शाम्यति ।
हविषा कृष्णवर्त्मॆव भूय एवाभिवर्धते ॥
Swami Vivekananda's Translation: Desire is never satisfied by the enjoyment of desires; it only increases the more, as fire when butter is poured upon it.
Of the Doctrine of Truth
11. What availeth it to cavil and dispute much about dark and hidden things; for ignorance of which we shall not be reproved at the day of judgement?(The Imitation of Christ V.1.)
According to the Christian view, God will judge all beings on the last day (the day of the dissolution of the world), and will award heaven or hell according to the virtues or vices of different individuals.
12. He to whom the Eternal Word speaketh is delivered from many an opinion.(The Imitation of Christ V.2.)
This Word is somewhat similar to the Maya of the Vedantists. This Itself was manifested in the form of Christ.
Of the Reading of Holy Scriptures
13. Truth, not eloquence, is to be sought for in Holy Scripture. Each part of the Scripture is to be read with the same Spirit wherewith it was written. (The Imitation of Christ V.1.)
नैषा तर्कॆण मतिरापनॆया ।
Swami Vivekananda's Translation: Neither is the mind to be disturbed by vain arguments, for it is no more a question of argument; it is a question of fact.
14. Let not the authority of the writer offend thee, whether he be of great or small learning; but let the love of pure truth draw thee to read. (The Imitation of Christ V.1.)
आददीत शुभां विद्यां प्रयत्नादवरादपि ।
Swami Vivekananda's Translation: Learn supreme knowledge with service even from the man of low birth.
Of Inordinate Affections
15. Whensoever a man desireth anything inordinately, he becometh presently disquieted in himself. (The Imitation of Christ V.1.)
Swami Vivekananda's Footnote: Bhagavad-Gita 2.67
इन्द्रियाणां हि चरतां यन्मनोऽनु विधीयते ।
तदस्य हरति प्रज्ञां वायुर्नावमिवाम्भसि ॥
Swami Vivekananda's Translation: For the mind which follows in the wake of the wandering senses carries away his discrimination as a wind (carries away from its course) a boat on the waters.
16. The proud and covetous can never rest. The poor and humble in spirit live together in all peace.
The man that is not yet perfectly dead to himself, is quickly tempted and overcome in small and trifling things. (The Imitation of Christ V.1.)
Swami Vivekananda's Footnote: Bhagavad-Gita 2.62-63
ध्यायतो विषयान्पुंसः संगस्तेषूपजायते ।
संगात्संजायते कामः कामात्क्रोधोऽभिजायते ॥
क्रोधाद्भवति संमोहः संमोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः ।
स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति ॥
Publisher's Translation: By thinking about sense objects, attachment to them is formed. From attachment comes longing, and longing breeds anger. From anger comes delusion, and from delusion, confused memory. From confused memory comes the ruin of discrimination; and from the ruin of discrimination, a man perishes.
17. There is then no peace in the heart of a carnal man, nor in him that is addicted to outward things, but in the spiritual and devout man. (The Imitation of Christ V.2.)
Swami Vivekananda's Footnote: Bhagavad-Gita 2.60
यततो ह्यपि कौन्तेय पुरुषस्य विपश्चितः ।
इन्द्रियाणि प्रमाथीनि हरन्ति प्रसभं मनः ॥
Publisher's Translation: The turbulent senses, O son of Kunti, violently carry away the mind of even a wise man striving after perfection.
- Prabuddha Bharata, September 1982, pp. 390-93.
- In Bengali, the word Ishâ means Christ and Anusharana, "to follow"; hence Ishânusharana means "to follow Christ".
- Verses are cited from Thomas à Kempis's Of the Imitation of Christ (London: Oxford University Press, 1961.) This translation—based on that of F. B. (the Jesuit Anthony Hoskins), which first appeared c. 1613—has been lightly edited in order to conform to the grammar, punctuation and style of the Complete Works — Publisher.
- Vide "Maya and Freedom", Complete Works, II:123
- Vide "The Gita II", Complete Works, I.
- Vide "Realization", Complete Works, II:164
- Vide “Maya and Illusion”, Complete Works, II.
- Vide "Realization", Complete Works, II:162
- Vide "The Common Bases of Hinduism", Complete Works, III. 381-382