07 April 2014

Willam James On Swami Vivekananda

William James (11 January 1842 – 26 August 1910) was an American philosopher educator, psychologist and a thinker. For his contribution and works he was honoured as "Father of American psychology".  In 1890, he published The Principles of Psychology, a twelve-hundred page that blended physiology, psychology, philosophy. His other notable works include The Will to Believe, and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1897), Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking (1907), A Pluralistic Universe (1909), Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912) Collected Essays and Reviews (1920) etc. He met Swami Vivekananda and Swami Abhedananda. A detailed biography of James is available at Wikipedia. In this article you'll find William James' quotes and comments on Swami Vivekananda.

Willam James told—

William James
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The paragon of all monistic systems is the Vedanta philosophy of Hindusthan, and the paragon of Vedantist missionaries was the late Swami Vivekananda who visited our land some years ago. The method of Vedantism is the mystical method. You do not reason, but after going through a certain discipline you see, and having seen, you can report the truth. Vivekananda thus reports the truth in one of his lectures here :
Where is there any more misery for him who sees this Oneness in the universe, this Oneness of life, Oneness of everything ?... This separation between man and man, man and woman, man and child, nation from nation, earth from moon, moon from sun, this separation between atom and atom is the cause really of all the misery, and the Vedanta says this separation does not exist, it is not real. It is merely apparent, on the surface. In the heart of things there is unity still. If you go inside you find that unity between man and man, women and children, races and races, high and low, rich and poor, the gods and men: all are One, and animals too, if you go deep enough, and he who has attained to that has no more delusion. ... Where is there any more delusion for him ? What can delude him ? He knows the reality of everything, the secret of everything. Where is there any more misery for him ? What does he desire ? He has traced the reality of everything unto the Lord, that centre, that Unity of everything, and that is Eternal Bliss, Eternal Knowledge, Eternal Existence. Neither death nor disease nor sorrow nor misery nor discontent is There. ... In the centre, the reality, there is no one to be mourned for, no one to be sorry for. He has penetrated everything, the Pure One, the Formless, the Bodiless, the Stainless, He the Knower, He the great Poet, the Self-Existent, He who is giving to everyone what he deserves. 
Observe how radical the character of the monism here is. Separation is not simply overcome by the One, it is denied to exist. There is no many. We are not parts of the One; It has no parts; and since in a sense we undeniably are, it must be that each of us is the One, indivisibly and totally. An Absolute One, and I that One,—surely we have here a religion which, emotionally considered, has a high pragmatic value; it imparts a perfect sumptuosity of security. As our Swami says in another place :
When man has seen himself as One with the Infinite Being of the universe, when all separateness has ceased, when all men, all women, all angels, all gods, all animals, all plants, the whole universe has been melted into that oneness, then all fear disappears. Whom to fear ? Can I hurt myself ? Can I kill myself ? Can I injure myself ? Do you fear yourself ? Then will all sorrow disappear. What can cause me sorrow ? I am the One Existence of the universe. Then all jealousies will disappear; of whom to be jealous ? Of myself ? Then all bad feelings disappear. Against whom shall I have this bad feeling ? Against myself ? There is none in the universe but me. ... Kill out this differentiation, kill out this superstition that there are many. He who, in this world of many, sees that One; he who, in this mass of insentiency, sees that One Sentient Being ; he who in this world of shadow, catches that Reality, unto him belongs eternal peace, unto none else, unto none else.

He [Vivekananda] ... is a man of genius, even though his Absolute be not the truth. ... I have been reading some of Vivekananda’s addresses. ... that man is simply a wonder of oratorical power. As for the doctrine of the One. I began to have some talk with that most interesting Miss Noble [Sister Nivedita] about it, but it was cut short, and I confess that my difficulties have never yet been cleared up. But the Swami is an honour to humanity in any case.

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