In 1896, Swami Vivekananda delivered four lectures on “Practical Vedanta” in London. Margaret Noble heard these lectures and became Vivekananda’s ardent disciple and follower. She changed her name to Sister Nivedita, and came to India to start colleges and schools for women. This article summarizes Vivekananda’s description of practical vedanta.
The seers of India discovered that each soul is divine. However, we identify too much with the body and mind. Therefore, we see a multifarious world, with some forms seeming favorable, while others are antagonistic. But, when one starts to become aware of one’s divinity, one’s worldly perception changes qualitatively. Then, alienation and fear change to unity and love. Practical vedanta aims to help us realize our divine nature, to see the unity behind diversity and to convert hatred into love.
Paths to Self-Realization
There are many paths to self-realization. One is bhakti yoga, or the path of devotion. In this path, we devote ourselves with faith to our guru and God. Another effective path is karma yoga, in which a person acts unselfishly for the good of all. Such selfless action dissipates the ego. Jnana yoga helps us discriminate between the real and unreal, and renounce the transitory. Finally, there is raja yoga, in which one takes up meditation and chanting mantras, to control the monkey mind.
Aim of Vedanta
Thus, practical vedanta consciously and deliberately leads to the realization of our divine inner nature. Vedanta followers have well-developed personalities. Therefore, the practice of vedanta is beneficial to the whole human race. It leads one from mortality to immortality, falsehood to truth and darkness to light. One should be able to see the real divine self even in the vilest of humans. This is the ultimate aim of vedanta.
Inadequacy of Science
Science serves the purpose of establishing a culture of rationality and reason, which can wean people away from fraud and superstitions. However, many scientists miss the concept of the soul’s innate divinity. Besides, science benefits only the elite classes, and the poor have to subjugate themselves to the scientific exploits of a few.
Vedanta is the Answer
Vedanta supports rationality and reason. Moreover, it does not allow exploitation of others. Spiritual practice enables us to attain a higher consciousness, after which we perceive divinity everywhere and in everyone. A realized person sees worship and love as the inseparable and natural attributes of the whole world.