Swami Vivekananda on Work
Swami Vivekananda taught us how to do our work – any sort of work. He taught it not only in the little book, Karma Yoga, but in many other places throughout his recorded Works. In this special Provisions supplement, we have collected most of these pieces of advice, which we have classified into the following categories: general observations; our attitude towards the work itself; our conception of ourselves as workers; how to do our work; and our conception of our fellow workers.
By work alone men may get to where Buddha got largely by meditation or Christ by prayer.
Doing work is not religion, but work done rightly leads to freedom.
We have to work, for it is the only way to get out of maya.
Buddha is the ideal karma yogi, acting entirely without [personal] motive.
Our Attitude towards the Work
Ordinary mankind, driven everywhere by false desires, what do they know of work? He works who is not propelled by his own desires, by any selfishness whatsoever… He works who has nothing to gain from work. Who enjoys the picture, the seller or the seer?
If you want to help a person, never think what that person's attitude toward you should be.
Those who want to help mankind must take their own pleasure and pain, name and fame, and all sorts of interests, and make a bundle of them and throw them into the sea, and then come to the Lord.
Perfect sincerity, holiness, gigantic intellect, and an all-conquering will. Let only a handful of people work with these, and the whole world will be revolutionized.
One must learn, sooner or later, that one cannot get salvation if one does not try to seek the salvation of one's fellow beings. You work best when you work for others. There is no engine which can pull against the human heart. Feel, my children, feel; feel for the poor, the ignorant, the downtrodden; feel, till the heart stops and the brain reels and you think you will go mad. Constant defeat – let that not unnervethee. He who is the servant of all is their true master. Know for certain that he who will work will be he crown on my head! You [in India] may be astonished to hear that as practical Vedantins the Americans are better than we are.
All the work you do is subjective, is done for your own benefit. God has not fallen into a ditch for you and me to help him out. Try not to know that you work. The true man is he who is strong as strength itself yet has a woman's heart. Whether or not you know it, through all hands you work, through all feet you move.
How to Do Our Work
Every ounce of muscle in excess of what is beyond the needs of one's physical work is that much less of brain. Do not exercise too hard; it is injurious.
The best work is done by alternate repose and work.
The ideal person is one who, in the midst of the greatest silence and solitude, finds the most intense activity and in the midst of the most intense activity finds the silence and solitude of the desert.
Standing on Market Street [San Francisco], waiting for the street car, with all the rush going on around you, are you in meditation – calm and peaceful?
Our Conception of Ourselves
The great thing is to have faith in oneself. You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.
What makes the difference between an Englishman and you [Indians]? I have found the difference. The Englishman believes in himself and you do not.
Animals can do charitable work – bees, ants, dogs. People can be masters of themselves.
You have yourself manufactured your body, bit by bit. Nobody eats for you. All the responsibility for good or for evil is in you.
Say, "It is my nature;" never say "It is my duty."
Three things are necessary: purity, patience and perseverance.
Condemn none; if you can stretch out a helping hand, by all means do so.
If you want to reform John Doe, go and live with him. Don't try to reform him. If you have any of the divine fire, he will catch it.
Vedanta only preaches the principles and the method it leaves to you.
Please everyone without being a hypocrite and without being a coward.
Wisdom consists in carrying on the work by cleverly keeping all in good humour.
Many feel, but only a few can express. It is the power of expressing one's love and appreciation and sympathy for others that enables one person to succeed better in spreading the ideas than others.
Our teacher and Lord [Sri Ramakrishna] was so original, and each one of us will have to be original or nothing.
Even the greatest fool can accomplish a task if it is after his heart. But the intelligent one is he who can convert every work into one that suits his taste.
Get rid of the fundamental superstition that we are obliged to act through the body: we are not.
You will be able to work for the good of the world when you know for a fact that this work is all illusion. Be bold and face the truth! Be one with it/ Let visionscease/ Or if you cannot, dream, but truer dreams/eternal love and service free.
It is very difficult to superimpose divinity on human nature, but one is sure to succeed by repeated efforts; God is in every person whether he knows it or not; your loving devotion is bound to call up the divinity in him or her.
Do not pity anyone; look on all as your equal.
Our Conception of Our Fellow Workers
Have faith in man. If he is pursuing the false, it is because he cannot get the true. Put it in front of him and let him judge. He must see.
If you do good at all, you do it to yourself; feel that the receiver is the higher one. You serve the other because you are lower than he, not because he is low and you are high. Give as the rose gives perfume – because that is your nature.
A person should not be judged by the nature of his duties.
When you serve a ‘Jiva’ with the idea that he is a ‘Jiva’, it is ‘Daya’, compassion, not ‘Prem’, divine love. But when you serve him with the idea that he is the Self, it is ‘Prem’.
It is our privilege to be allowed to be charitable, for only so can we grow. The poor man suffers that we may be helped; let the giver kneel down and give thanks, let the receiver stand up and permit.
Do not create illusion by "helping" anyone.
Help another because you are in him and he is in you.
Learn to feel yourself in others' bodies.
The individual's life is in the life of the whole.
Love makes no distinction between person and person, between white and black, between brahmin and pariah, not even between a man and a woman. Love makes the whole universe one's own home.
I must tell you the truth: perhaps only half a dozen men and women will follow me in all my life; but they will be real men and women, pure and sincere.