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Analysis of Sansad TV Discussion : Philosophy of Swami Vivekananda


  • Swami Vivekananda is known for his Practical Vedanta. Swami Vivekananda declared that he had come to prove the great Vedanta ideal in practical life and to herald it before the workaday world and society.
  • He believed in the basic oneness of existence seen through different constitutions such as earth, heavens, gods, hell, ghosts, men, etc. and advocated strongly the eternal sameness or homogeneity beyond all differentiation, the unity of all personalities.
  • Vedanta meant that all power, glory, divinity, and purity of the divine were already within the soul, within each creature in the universe

How he is an Idealist?

  • Swami Vivekananda is an idealist as he believes the ultimate reality to be spiritual.
  • According to him, Reality is one absolute Brahman. Real is a ‘whole’ implies that there must be parts. But absolute is perfect unity, and therefore the distinction between parts and whole completely vanishes.
  • The absolute Brahman is also beyond space, time and causation, and thus changeless.
  • The changeless absolute is indeterminate without any attribute. However, the absolute can be described as satchit-ananda.
  • Metaphysically speaking, the reality is absolute Brahman, and the same reality viewed from the religious point of view is God who is all-pervasive, present everywhere and in everything.

What is Swami Vivekananda’s Philosophy on God?

  • According to him, God is personal. We find two currents flowing in the philosophy of Vivekananda, one that resembles the Advaita Vedanta and the other one that reminds us of the theism of the Bhakti cult.
  • He who is supremely real is also the object of our devotion and worship.
  • An outright rejection of God is impossible as God is presupposed as the necessary support and ground of both the world and the soul.
  • Arguments for the existence of God from the teachings of Vivekananda:

(1) Argument from Design: The vastness, harmony and grandeur of the world lead us to suppose that there must be an architect, an intelligent designer of the universe.
(2) Argument from Causality: Everything in the universe is by turn a cause and an effect. This causal series leads to an ultimate cause, which is the Uncaused Cause, the Absolute Being, God.
(3) Argument from Unity: The universe expresses an essential unity of all things. The things that look very different from each other are really and basically one and the same. This fact of unity reveals the most underlying and unifying principle of all things, namely, God.
(4) Argument from Love: Love consists in discovering oneself in the object of love. In the act of love, the distinction between ‘me’ and ‘thou’ would vanish. The conclusion is that the reality behind everything is just one, supreme principle of love: God.
(5) Argument from Authority of Scriptures: So long as we have not been able to know and realize God, we can base ourselves on the authority of the scriptures. From the point of view of existence and reality, God alone is there, but from the point of view of our finite knowledge, scriptures appear to be prior, and we can rely on their authority in teaching about God. (6) Argument from Analogy: He takes up the 3 analogies of a beautiful picture. That person enjoys a picture who looks at it without the intention of buying and selling. Similarly, the whole universe is the picture of God, which would be enjoyed by humans when all their desires have vanished.
(7) Argument from Necessity of Notion: The notion of God is a necessity on various grounds. It is necessary because God is the Truth and Truth is necessary. In the same way, God is necessary because God is freedom. The fact of human freedom presupposes the ideal of absolute freedom which is Divine Freedom. Again God is necessary because the very condition of existence involves God.
(8) Argument from Intuition: Every human has the capacity to experience God directly through intuition if one is prepared to follow the path of rigorous religious discipline and meditation. The rational ‘proofs’ are needed only so long as the capacity to have a direct vision (intuition) is not developed.

What is Samsara(World)?

  • According to him there was neither time, nor space, nor causation since space, time, and causation are not metaphysical realities, but mere forms through which God makes creation possible.
  • Although a form is not a metaphysical reality, it is neither real nor false. The forms are like waves in an ocean. The waves are the same as the ocean, yet different. Similarly, the world is as real as the waves.
  • Jagat mithya of Sankara, according to Vivekananda, does not mean mere illusion, but that which has no reality of its own, without any permanent value. It means that which is constantly changing. Creation is timeless. God is eternally creating. So, Creation and evolution go together.

What is Maya?

  • In Advaita Vedanta, Maya is the power that creates illusion; it is that Divine Sakti that has the capacity of deluding humans into believing that the world is real. Vivekananda disagrees with this position.
  • For him, Maya reflects the fact of contradiction that the universe so clearly exhibits. For instance, wherever there is good, there is evil; wherever there is life, there is death, and so forth.
  • Maya is neither existence nor non-existence, but something in between Absolute Being and non-being.

What is the Nature of the Human Atman?

  • The picture of humans that emerges in the philosophy of Vivekananda is an organized unity of the physical and the spiritual.
  • Human is physically superior to all other animals because human’s physical nature is better organized and exhibits greater unity. This uniqueness of a human’s physical nature is also due to the presence of spirituality in the person.
  • The true nature of atman is identical with Brahman. The two are basically identical and their difference is only apparent. Normally we do not have an awareness of this identity, but certain experiences and realizations 4 can be taken as pointers towards this. The most usual example is the feeling that one is capable of such an identity.

What are Freedom and Karma?

  • According to him, freedom does not mean the absence of all kinds of determining factors. It does not mean ‘no-determination’ at all, but it means self-determination in which the free agent is not determined by anything else but by himself.
  • In this way, freedom and karma no longer remain incompatible with each other. Karma determines human’s nature, but it is human’s karma.
  • One’s own actions create tendencies that bear fruit for the future. Secondly, karma does not contradict human’s freedom. It is because the final escape rests ultimately with one’s own actions. By one’s own good deeds, one can win over one’s ignorance and suffering. That shows that human is basically free.

Is Soul Immortal?

  • According to him, the soul, in fact, survives death. This survival assumes the form of rebirth and finally the realization of immortality.
  • True immortality can be attained only when the ‘cycle’ of birth and rebirth is stopped. The following are some of the evidence for immortality: Simplicity of Soul, Infinite Potentialities, Yearning for Liberation.

What is Mukti(Liberation)?

  • One of the most important concepts of Hinduism is that of Mukti (liberation). The liberation can be attained through the practice of yoga.
  • Of the numerous yogas, Swami Vivekananda proposes the following four:

(1) Karma-Yoga: In Karma-Yoga, work is not done due to compulsion, but out of a sense of duty. The karma-yogi works as a free being, unattached to all self-interest. Such work leads to knowledge, which in turn brings liberation.

(2) Bhakti-Yoga: Bhakti-yoga is a genuine search for the Lord in love. Love of God grows and assumes parð[1]bhakti or supreme devotion in which all forms and rituals vanish. In bhakti-yoga, one trains to control one’s feelings and emotions and gives the soul a higher and higher direction towards God.
(3) Jnana-Yoga: Jnana-Yoga explains the meaning of ‘Thou art that’ and tells humans that one is essentially divine. In jnana-yoga, the entire energy of the body can be concentrated in the direction of knowledge. In course of time this concentration will become more intense, and the individual may attain the stage of complete concentration or samadhi. At this stage, even the distinction between the Self and Brahman will vanish. It is a stage of perfect unity.
(4) Raja-yoga: Raja-yoga is the method of realization through the mystic union of the Lower Self with the higher Self. It restrains 5 the activities of the mind, and with the cessation of the activities of the mind, attachment and bondage disappear. It produces certain super-normal powers, which the aspirant should ignore so as to attain liberation. When a person goes into the samadhi or superconscious stage, one comes out as a sage and attains metaphysical and transcendental knowledge.

What is Religion?

  • According to him, religion is inevitable, and it cannot be given up. The historical fact of the survival of religion itself – unlike politico-social institutions – is evidence of its necessary character.
  • Religion originates in human’s attempt to go beyond the senses. Human experiences uneasiness when certain phenomena appear beyond one’s ordinary perception and understanding.
  • The nature of religion can be known by analyzing the religious sense, which is universally present with all the three elements in it: the cognitive elements, the feeling elements and the conative elements.
  • These elements are never present in equal proportion or degree, but the nature of religion is determined by the preponderance of this element or that. For example, where there is a preponderance of feeling, religion tends to be mystical; where there is an emphasis on knowledge, religion is intellectual and abstract; and where there is a predominance of volitional elements, religion becomes practical and ritual. But true religious consciousness harmonizes all these aspects into a unity.

What is the difference between Philosophy, Mythology & Ritual?

Philosophy underlies the whole scope of religion, setting forth its basic principles, the goal and the means for reaching it. Mythology consists of legends and stories, which concretize philosophy. Ritual is made up of forms and ceremonies that keep men engaged religiously and provide them with structural and organizational unity.

What is Universal Religion?

  • According to him, a universal religion has the following features:
    (1) It must open its door to every individual who is free to decide one’s religion.
    (2) It must be inclusive of all sects superseding conflicts and tensions that often occur among the various sects.
    (3) The spirit of universal religion implies acceptance. Acceptance is not just tolerance, which is negative in its import, but positive acceptance in which respect is shown to everyone. God is the essence and ideal of universal religion.
    (4) Universal religion has to be acceptable to all minds satisfying the largest possible proportion of humankind. Universal religion must harmoniously balance all the aspects of religion namely, philosophy, emotion, work, and mysticism.

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