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Letters 1899 from Ridgely Manor

Letters written from Ridgely Manor

(August to November)

To Miss Isabelle McKindley*

31st August ’99
MY DEAR ISABEL — read more

Letters 1899 en route to USA

Letters written en route to America

(July – August)

To Mr. E. T. Sturdy

14th July, 1899.
I got your letter all right just now. I have one from M. Nobel of Paris too. Miss Noble has several from America.
M. Nobel writes to me to defer my visit to him at Paris to some other date, from London, as he will have to be away for a long time. As you know sure, I shall not have many friends staying now in London, and Miss MacLeod is so desirous I should come. A stay in England under these circumstances is not advisable. Moreover, I do not have much life left. At least I must go on with that supposition. I mean, if anything has to be done in America, it is high time we bring our scattered influence in America to a head — if not organise regularly. Then I shall be free to return to England in a few months and work with a will till I return to India.
I think you are absolutely wanted to gather up, as it were, the American work. If you can, therefore, you ought to come over with me. Turiyananda is with me. Saradananda’s brother is going to Boston. . . . In case you cannot come to America, I ought to go, ought I not?
Yours, read more

Letters 1899 from Belur Math

Letters written from Belur Math

To Shrimati Mrinalini Bose

3rd January, 1899.
Some very important questions have been raised in your letter. It is not possible to answer them fully in a short note, still I reply to them as briefly as possible.
(1) Rishi, Muni, or God — none has power to force an institution on society. When the needs of the times press hard on it, society adopts certain customs for self-preservation. Rishis have only recorded those customs As a man often resorts even to such means as are good for immediate self-protection but which are very injurious in the future, similarly society also not unfrequently saves itself for the time being, but these immediate means which contributed to its preservation turn out to be terrible in the long run.
For example, take the prohibition of widow-marriage in our country. Don’t think that Rishis or wicked men introduced the law pertaining to it. Notwithstanding the desire of men to keep women completely under their control, they never could succeed in introducing those laws without betaking themselves to the aid of a social necessity of the time. Of this custom two points should be specially observed:
(a) Widow-marriage takes place among the lower classes.
(b) Among the higher classes the number of women is greater than that of men.
Now, if it be the rule to marry every girl, it is difficult enough to get one husband apiece; then how to get, in succession, two or three for each? Therefore has society put one party under disadvantage, i.e. it does not let her have a second husband, who has had one; if it did, one maid would have to go without a husband. On the other hand, widow-marriage obtains in communities having a greater number of men than women, as in their case the objection stated above does not exist. It is becoming more and more difficult in the West, too, for unmarried girls to get husbands.
Similar is the case with the caste system and other social customs.
So, if it be necessary to change any social custom thenecessity underlying it should be found out first of all, and by altering it, the custom will die of itself. Otherwise no good will be done by condemnation or praise.
(2) Now the question is: Is it for the good of the public at large that social rules are framed or society is formed? Many reply to this in the affirmative; some, again, may hold that it is not so. Some men, being comparatively powerful, slowly bring all others under their control and by stratagem, force, or adroitness gain their own objects. If this be true, what can be the meaning of the statement that there is danger in giving liberty to the ignorant? What, again, is the meaning of liberty?
Liberty does not certainly mean the absence of obstacles in the path of misappropriation of wealth etc. by you and me, but it is our natural right to be allowed to use our own body, intelligence, or wealth according to our will, without doing any harm to others; and all the members of a society ought to have the same opportunity for obtaining wealth, education, or knowledge. The second question is: Those who say that if the ignorant and the poor be given liberty, i.e. full right to their body, wealth, etc., and if their children have the same opportunity to better their condition and acquire knowledge as those of the rich and the highly situated, they would become perverse — do they say this for the good of society or blinded by their selfishness? In England too I have heard, “Who will serve us if the lower classes get education?”
For the luxury of a handful of the rich, let millions of men and women remain submerged in the hell of want and abysmal depth of ignorance, for if they get wealth and education, society will be upset!
Who constitute society? The millions — or you, I, and a few others of the upper classes?
Again, even if the latter be true, what ground is there for our vanity that we lead others? Are we omniscient? “— One should raise the self by the self.” Let each one work out one’s own salvation. Freedom in all matters, i.e. advance towards Mukti is the worthiest gain of man. To advance onself towards freedom — physical, mental, and spiritual — and help others to do so, is the supreme prize of man. Those social rules which stand in the way of the unfoldment of this freedom are injurious, and steps should be taken to destroy them speedily. Those institutions should be encouraged by which men advance in the path of freedom.
That in this life we feel a deep love at first sight towards a particular person who may not be endowed with extraordinary qualities, is explained by the thinkers of our country as due to the associations of a past incarnation.
Your question regarding the will is very interesting: it is the subject to know. The essence of all religions is the annihilation of desire, along with which comes, of a certainty, the annihilation of the will as well, for desire is only the name of a particular mode of the will. Why, again, is this world? Or why are these manifestations of the will? Some religions hold that the evil will should be destroyed and not the good. The denial of desire here would be compensated by enjoyments hereafter. This reply does not of course satisfy the wise. The Buddhists, on the other hand, say that desire is the cause of misery, its annihilation is quite desirable. But like killing a man in the effort to kill the mosquito on his cheek, they have gone to the length of annihilating their own selves in their efforts to destroy misery according to the Buddhistic doctrine.
The fact is, what we call will is an inferior modification of something higher. Desirelessness means the disappearance of the inferior modification in the form of will and the appearance of that superior state That state is beyond the range of mind and intellect. But though the look of the gold mohur is quite different from that of the rupee and the pice, yet as we know for certain that the gold mohur is greater than either, so, that highest state — Mukti, or Nirvâna, call it what you like — though out of the reach of the mind and intellect, is greater than the will and all other powers. It is no power, but power is its modification, therefore it is higher. Now you will see that the result of the proper exercise of the will, first with motive for an object and then without motive, is that the will-power will attain a much higher state.
In the preliminary state, the form of the Guru is to be meditated upon by the disciple. Gradually it is to be merged in the Ishta. By Ishta is meant the object of love and devotion. . . . It is very difficult to superimpose divinity on man, but one is sure to succeed by repeated efforts. God is in every man, whether man knows it or not; your loving devotion is bound to call up the divinity in him. read more

Letters 1898 Jul – Dec


Letters written between July and December 1898

To Mr. E. T. Sturdy

3rd July, 1898.
Both the editions had my assent, as it was arranged between us that we would not object to anybody’s publishing my books. Mrs. Bull knows about it all and is writing to you.
I had a beautiful letter from Miss Souter the other day. She is as friendly as ever.
With love to the children, Mrs. Sturdy, and yourself read more

Letters 1898 Jan – Jun

Letters written between January and June 1898

To Sister Christine

Jodhpur, Rajputana,
4th January 1898.
Love and greetings etc. to thee, dear Christina, and a happy New Year. May it find you younger in heart, stronger in body, and purer in spirit.
I am still travelling in season and out of season. Lecturing some, working a good deal.
Have you seen Mr. [Edward T.] Sturdy of England, who, I learn, has been to Detroit? Did you like him?
I am quite well and strong. Hope to meet you this blessed year again in America.
I am going to Calcutta in a few days, where I intend to be the rest of this cold weather. Next summer, I start for England or America most probably.
Yours ever in the Lord,
Vivekananda. read more

Letters 1897 Jul – Dec

Letters written between July and December 1897

To Sharat Chandra Chakravarti

3rd July, 1897. read more

Letters 1897 from Jan – Jun


Letters written between January and June 1897

To the Madras Committee

[After Swami Vivekananda Colombo on Friday, January 15, 1897, the Madras Committee, which was planning a reception for the Swami, sent the following message: “Motherland rejoices to welcome you back”. In reply, Swami Vivekananda sent a wire.] read more

Letters 1896 en route to India

Letters written after London en route to India

(December 1896 – January 1897)

To Alberta Sturges read more

Letters 1896 from England

Letters written from England

(September to December)

To Miss. Harriet Hale

17th Sept., 1896.
Your very welcome news reached me just now, on my return here from Switzerland. I am very, very happy to learn that at last you have thought it better to change your mind about the felicity of “Old Maids Home”. You are perfectly right now — marriage is the truest goal for ninety-nine per cent of the human race, and they will live the happiest life as soon as they have learnt and are ready to abide by the eternal lesson — that we are bound to bear and forbear and that life to every one must be a compromise.
Believe me, dear Harriet, perfect life is a contradiction in terms. Therefore we must always expect to find things not up to our highest ideal. Knowing this, we are bound to make the best of everything. From what I know of you, you have the calm power which bears and forbears to a great degree, and therefore I am safe to prophesy that your married life will be very happy.
All blessings attend you and your fiancé and may the Lord make him always remember what good fortune was his in getting such a wife as you — good, intelligent, loving, and beautiful. I am afraid it is impossible for me to cross the Atlantic so soon. I wish I could, to see your marriage.
The best I can do in the circumstances is to quote from one of our books: “May you always enjoy the undivided love of your husband, helping him in attaining all that is desirable in this life, and when you have seen your children’s children, and the drama of life is nearing its end, may you help each other in reaching that infinite ocean of Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss, at the touch of whose waters all distinctions melt away and we are all one!” (A reminiscence of Kalidasa’sShakuntalam, where Kanva gives his benedictions to Shakuntalâ on the eve of her departure to her husband’s place.)
“May you be like Umâ, chaste and pure throughout life — may your husband be like Shiva, whose life was in Uma!”
Your loving brother, read more

Letters 1896 from Switzerland

Letters written from Switzerland and Germany

(July to September)

To Mrs. Ole Bull

Saas-Grund, Switzerland,
25th July, 1896.
Dear Mrs. Bull,
I want to forget the world entirely at least for the next two months and practise hard. That is my rest. . . . The mountains and snow have a beautifully quieting influence on me, and I am getting better sleep here than for a long time.
My love to all friends.
Yours etc.,
Vivekananda. read more