I have not the least doubt that if we had done that in India, India would have risen much earlier strong with an unaccustomed strength. His message was not the message of non -violence, which is negative and confusing. His message was the message of strength. Unfortunately, we did not receive that message as we ought to have done when he gave it. By we’ I mean the masses of the Hindus. We shall have to listen to that message again and recognize that it is the only thing. Only then will India stand upon her own feet, glorified with a glory yet undreamt of by mankind. Swami Vivekananda often used to say, I see three hundred years of India’s future before my eyes.’ And he also said, The glory of India that is yet to be is so great that nothing of her past glory can come near it. You cannot even imagine the glorious India that is ahead of you.’
But this future is based on strong men, strong with the strength of the Spirit. Not aggressive, brutal men, most of whom are strong because they have some weapon in their hands. Such are not strong people even if they have physical courage, for, after all, they have that courage only as long as they have a strong body. There is an other strength the strength of the Spirit, and that is an innocent strength. However, let me say here parenthetically that even if you pursue physical strength with the idea that your true nature is divine, your strength rarely becomes brutalized. Well, that is another subject.
What Swami Vivekananda taught was the strength of the Spirit, and he envisioned the man of the future as spiritually strong with responsibilities to all men. Now, I do not want to be dogmatic, and so I say again that I do not mean that Swami Vivekananda did not endorse practices of meditation or worship or prayer or singing, as such. There is no contradiction between these practices and the worship of man as God. But the latter, which has not been generally recognized as a most excellent spiritual practice but which has, rather, been ignored by most people that is the teaching he emphasized, and it is high time we recognized it.
Remember this, as we grow in our inner stature our responsibility does not lessen, it increases. Have you found any great soul who did not feel responsible for more things and more people than does a common, ignorant person? While we are bound by worldliness we feel that our responsibility is only to a few people who are related to us by certain worldly ties. But when we become strong with the strength of the Spirit, we feel responsible for all men. That’s the difference. We are part of the One. Do you think you can escape it? You cannot escape it. Moreover, this is the age in which the majority of people will have to think of others.
If you take a common-sense view of the situation, can you escape the fact that you have to give a great deal of time and attention to other human beings? In one form or another, you will have to do it. Either you do it from the depth of your own spiritual consciousness, or you do it under the compulsion of law. Why will you have to do it? Your country is close-knit. You don’t like your children to grow up feeling that they are not involved with their fellow beings. You have to instil into the minds of your children as they grow that they owe duties to their neighbours. You may call it neighbourliness’, but the word neighbour is sometimes interpreted in such broad terms that it loses its specific meaning and comes to mean all men, if not also extraterrestrial beings, who are supposed to come and annoy us with their saucers and things like that. You see, that is where your neighbourliness has extended. Can you ever think of people in this age saying, Oh, forget the whole thing, just go and contemplate and meditate and don’t bother about others’. To a few select individuals you might give this advice, but not to the generality of people.
No, in this age we shall have to do a lot of work. A lot of work! The question is, in what spirit are we going to do that work? And here comes Sri Krishna’s teaching in the Gita. It’s a most profound teaching karma yoga, the practice of detachment. And here also comes Swami Vivekananda’s teaching of the worship of man as God: God Himself has appeared as man; kneel down before Him and offer Him worship.’ Every action, therefore, will have to be conceived as a form of worship. And it is this teaching I am thinking of when I say, Meditate while you work’. Because, friends, if you really want to do anything in this spirit, then there has to be a continuous meditation on the truth of yourself and the truth of others. Only when I keep within myself a consciousness of my own true being that I am not this body, not this mind, but the infinite, eternal Spirit only then can I look upon you as Spirit. The moment I think of myself as a body, I think of you as a body. The moment I think of myself as a mind, I consider you as a mind, and then I say, Oh, what a dull person that is! Oh, what a clever person that is!’ You see, that is how the mischief takes place. Don’t you forget it. The form of the external world is a reflection of your own thought. As Swami Vivekananda said, The world is you yourself mirrored, your reflection in the mirror, that is all.’ If you cry, the world cries; if you smile, the world smiles. If you are wicked the world will look wicked to you; if you are pure, the world is pure. That’s all there is to it. I will not be able to recognize you as the Spirit and serve you as such if I do not maintain the consciousness that there is only Spirit. You are Spirit, I am Spirit; that consciousness should be continually present. That is what I mean by meditating while you work.