The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 9/Notes of Lectures and Classes/The Gita — I
THE GITA — I
(New Discoveries, Vol. 6, pp. 205-7. Cf. Ida Ansell’s notes of “The Gita I”, Complete Works, I.)
[Mr. Frank Rhodehamel’s notes of a Bhagavad-Gitâ lecture delivered Saturday, May 26, 1900, in San Francisco, California]
The Gitâ is to the Hindus what the New Testament is to the Christians. It is about five thousand years old, and the day of religious celebrations with the Hindus is the anniversary of the Battle of Kurukshetra about five thousand years ago. As I said, the Vedas are divided into two great divisions, the philosophical and the Karmakânda, or work portion.
Between the kings, who promulgated the philosophic portion, and the priests
a great conflict arose. The priests had the people on their side because
they had all the utility which appealed to the popular mind. The kings had
all the spirituality and none of the economic element; but as they were
powerful and the rulers of the nation, the struggle was a hard and bitter
one. The kings gradually gained a little ground, but their ideas were too
elevated for the masses, so the ceremonial, or work portion, always had the
mass of the people.
Always remember this, that whenever a religious system gains ground with the people at large, it has a strong economic side to it. It is the economic side of a religion that finds lodgement with the people at large, and never its spiritual, or philosophic, side. If you should preach the grandest philosophy in the streets for a year, you would not have a handful of followers. But you could preach the most arrant nonsense, and if it had an economic element, you would have the whole people with you.
None knows by whom the Vedas were written; they are so ancient. According to
the orthodox Hindus, the Vedas are not the written words at all, but they
consist of the words themselves orally spoken with the exact enunciation and
intonation. This vast mass of religion has been written and consists of
thousands upon thousands of volumes. Anyone who knows the precise
pronunciation and intonation knows the Vedas, and no one else. In ancient
times certain royal families were the custodians of certain parts of the
Vedas. The head of the family could repeat every word of every volume he
had, without missing a word or an intonation. These men had giant
intellects, wonderful memories.
The strictly orthodox believers in the Vedas, the Karmakanda, did not believe in God, the soul or anything of the sort, but that we as we are were the only beings in the universe, material or spiritual. When they were asked what the many allusions to God in the Vedas mean, they say that they mean nothing at all; that the words properly articulated have a magical power, a power to create certain results. Aside from that they have no meaning.
Whenever you suppress a thought, you simply press it down out of sight in a coil, like a spring, only to spring out again at a moment's notice with all the pent up force as the result of the suppression, and do in a few moments what it would have done in a much longer period.
Every ounce of pleasure brings its pound of pain. It is the same energy that
at one time manifests itself as pleasure and at another time as pain. As
soon as one set of sensations stops, another begins. But in some cases, in
more advanced persons, one may have two, yes, or even a hundred different
thoughts enter into active operation at the same time. When one thought is
suppressed, it is merely coiled up ready to spring forth with pent up fury
at any time.
"Mind is of its own nature. Mind activity means creation. The thought is
followed by the word, and the word by the form. All of this creating will
have to stop, both mental and physical, before the mind can reflect the
"My old master (Shri Ramakrishna.) could not write his own name without
making a mistake. He made three mistakes in spelling, in writing his own
"Yet that is the kind of man at whose feet I sat."
"You will break the law of nature but once, and it will be the last time.
Nature will then be nothing to you."