Excerpts from the book ‘Complete Works of Swami Vivekanand’ By Swami Vivekanand
Karma in its effect on character is the most tremendous power that man has to deal with.
Man is, as it were, a centre, and is attracting all the powers of the universe towards himself, and in this centre is fusing them all and again sending them off in a big current.
Such a centre is the real man — the almighty, the omniscient — and he draws the whole universe towards him.
Good and bad, misery and happiness, all are running towards him and clinging round him; and out of them he fashions the mighty stream of tendency called character and throws it outwards.
As he has the power of drawing in anything, so has he the power of throwing it out.
All the actions that we see in the world, all the movements in human society, all the works that we have around us, are simply the display of thought, the manifestation of the will of man.
Machines or instruments, cities, ships, or men-of-war, all these are simply the manifestation of the will of man; and this will is caused by character, and character is manufactured by Karma.
As is Karma, so is the manifestation of the will. The men of mighty will the world has produced have all been tremendous workers — gigantic souls, with wills powerful enough to overturn worlds, wills they got by persistent work, through ages, and ages.
Such a gigantic will as that of a Buddha or a Jesus could not be obtained in one life, for we know who their fathers were.
It is not known that their fathers ever spoke a word for the good of mankind. Millions and millions of carpenters like Joseph had gone; millions are still living.
Millions and millions of petty kings like Buddha’s father had been in the world.
If it was only a case of hereditary transmission, how do you account for this petty prince, who was not, perhaps, obeyed by his own servants, producing this son, whom half a world worships?
How do you explain the gulf between the carpenter and his son, whom millions of human beings worship as God?
It cannot be solved by the theory of heredity. The gigantic will which Buddha and Jesus threw over the world, whence did it come?
Whence came this accumulation of power? It must have been there through ages and ages, continually growing bigger and bigger, until it burst on society in a Buddha or a Jesus, even rolling down to the present day. All this is determined by Karma, work.
No one can get anything unless he earns it. This is an eternal law.
We may sometimes think it is not so, but in the long run we become convinced of it.
A man may struggle all his life for riches; he may cheat thousands, but he finds at last that he did not deserve to become rich, and his life becomes a trouble and a nuisance to him.
We may go on accumulating things for our physical enjoyment, but only what we earn is really ours.
A fool may buy all the books in the world, and they will be in his library; but he will be able to read only those that he deserves to; and this deserving is produced by Karma.
Our Karma determines what we deserve and what we can assimilate. We are responsible for what we are; and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves.
If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions,
it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act.
You will say, “What is the use of learning how to work? Everyone works in some way or other in this world.” But there is such a thing as frittering away our energies.
With regard to Karma-Yoga, the Gita says that it is doing work with cleverness and as a science; by knowing how to work, one can obtain the greatest results.
You must remember that all work is simply to bring out the power of the mind which is already there, to wake up the soul.
The power is inside every man, so is knowing; the different works are like blows to bring them out, to cause these giants to wake up. Man works with various motives.
There cannot be work without motive. Some people want to get fame, and they work for fame. Others want money, and they work for money.
Others want to have power, and they work for power. Others want to get to heaven, and they work for the same.
Others want to leave a name when they die, as they do in China, where no man gets a title until he is dead; and that is a better way, after all, than with us.
When a man does something very good there, they give a title of nobility to his father, who is dead, or to his grandfather.
Some people work for that. Some of the followers of certain Mohammedan sects work all their lives to have a big tomb built for them when they die
. I know sects among whom, as soon as a child is born, a tomb is prepared for it; that is among them the most important work a man has to do, and the bigger and the finer the tomb, the better off the man is supposed to be.
Others work as a penance; do all sorts of wicked things, then erect a temple, or give something to the priests to buy them off and obtain from them a passport to heaven.
They think that this kind of beneficence will clear them and they will go scot-free in spite of their sinfulness. Such are some of the various motives for work. Work for work’s sake.
There are some who are really the salt of the earth in every country and who work for work’s sake, who do not care for name, or fame, or even to go to heaven.
They work just because good will come of it.
There are others who do good to the poor and help mankind from still higher motives, because they believe indoing good and love good.
The motive for name and fame seldom brings immediate results, as a rule; they come to us when we are old and have almost done with life.
If a man works without any selfish motive in view, does he not gain anything? Yes, he gains the highest.