Átmano mokshártham jagad hitáya cha, 'For one's own salvation and for the welfare of the world'




Swami Vivekananda‘s grip over meditation (dhyana) was visible from his early childhood. In his childhood, he observed the elder members of his family worshipping and meditating. He too used to spend time worshipping and meditating in front of idols of Hindu gods and goddesses such as Shiva, Rama, Krishna.

Ramakrishna found his disciple Narendranath (Pre-monastic name of Vivekananda) a dhyana-Siddha (expert in meditation). Narendra’s grip over meditation amazed Girish Chandra Ghosh, who recounted—

One evening Narendra and I were meditating under a mango tree at the Cossipore garden house. I was about to enter into a deep concentration when the mosquitoes began to disturb me. I tried to slap them away, but they continued attacking me. I opened my eyes and found Narendra in a lotus posture. I did not want to leave the place without him. I called him but got no response; then I gently touched him, with no response either. I noticed his body was covered with mosquitoes like a blanket. I was amazed by his lack of body consciousness, but frightened because he did not respond.

We have  seen Vivekananda had an interest in meditation in his childhood. Actually, he had the same interest in meditation throughout his life. He meditated for few hours on 4 July 1902 too, the day he died.

Vivekananda’s observation and the suggestion were— “Meditation is the one thing. Meditate! The greatest thing is meditation. It is the nearest approach to spiritual life — the mind meditating. It is the one moment in our daily life that we are not at all material — the Soul thinking of Itself, free from all matter — this marvelous touch of the Soul!”

Swami Vivekananda stressed practicing meditation as it brings one closer to another and increases the power of the mind. He understood the prominent role of concentration of mind in the acquisition of wisdom. He said— “concentration is the essence of all knowledge”. He was responsible for introducing the Western world to meditation and Yoga.

In a lecture delivered at Alameda, California, on 18 April 1900, Vivekananda told—

What is meditation? Meditation is the power that enables us to resist all this. Nature may call us, “Look there is a beautiful thing!” I do not look. Now she says, “There is a beautiful smell; smell it! ” I say to my nose, “Do not smell it”, and the nose doesn’t. “Eyes, do not see!” Nature does such an awful thing – kills one of my children, and says, “Now, rascal, sit down and weep! Go to the depths!” I say, “I don’t have to.” I jump up. I must be free. Try it sometimes. … [In meditation], for a moment, you can change this nature. Now, if you had that power in yourself, would not that be heaven, freedom? That is the power of meditation"

Controlling the mind

From Swami Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga, Chapter: Pratyahara And Dharana - How hard it is to control the mind! Well has it been compared to the maddened monkey? There was a monkey, restless by his own nature, as all monkeys are. As if that were not enough someone made him drink freely of wine so that he became still more restless. Then a scorpion stung him. When a man is stung by a scorpion, he jumps about for a whole day; so the poor monkey found his condition worse than ever. To complete his misery a demon entered into him. What language can describe the uncontrollable restlessness of that monkey? The human mind is like that monkey, incessantly active by its own nature; then it becomes drunk with the wine of desire, thus increasing its turbulence. After desire takes possession comes the sting of the scorpion of jealousy at the success of others, and last of all the demon of pride enters the mind, making it think itself of all importance. How hard to control such a mind!