The whole idea was to get at the basis to reach the fine parts of the thing. And some of them really showed most marvellous powers. Many of them were trying to float in the air or pass through it. I shall tell you a story which I heard from a great scholar in the West. It was told him by a Governor of Ceylon who saw the performance. A girl was brought forward and seated cross–legged upon a stool made of sticks crossed. After she had been seated for a time, the showman began to take out, one after another, these cross–bars; and when all were taken out, the girl was left floating in the air. The Governor thought there was some trick, so he drew his sword and violently passed it under the girl; nothing was there. Now, what was this? It was no magic or something extraordinary. That is the peculiarity. No one in India would tell you that things like this do not exist. To the Hindu it is a matter of course. You know what the Hindus would often say when they have to fight their enemies, “Oh, one of our Yogis will come and drive the whole lot out!” It is the extreme belief of the race. What power is there in the hand of the sword? The power is all in the spirit.
If this is true, it is temptation enough for the mind to exert its highest. But as with every science it is very difficult to make any great achievement, so also with this, nay more. Yet most people think that these powers can be easily gained. How many are the years you take to make a fortune? Think of that! First, how many years do you take to learn electrical science or engineering? And then you have to work all the rest of your life.
Again, most of the other sciences deal with things that do not move, that are fixed. You can analyse the chair, the chair does not fly from you. But this science deals with the mind, which moves all the time; the moment you want to study it, it slips. Now the mind is in one mood, the next moment, perhaps, it is different, changing, changing all the time. In the midst of all this change it has to be studied, understood, grasped, and controlled. How much more difficult, then, is the science! It requires rigorous training. People ask me why I do not give them practical lessons. Why, it is not a joke. I stand up upon this platform talking to you and you go home and find no benefit; nor do I. Then you say, “It is all bosh.” It is because you wanted to make a bosh of it. I know very little of this science, but the little that I gained I worked for thirty years of my life, and for six years I have been telling people the little that I know. It took me thirty years to learn it; thirty years of hard struggle. Sometimes I worked at it twenty hours during the twenty–four; sometimes I slept only one hour in the night; sometimes I worked whole nights; sometimes I lived in places where there was hardly a sound, hardly a breath; sometimes I had to live in caves. Think of that. And yet I know little or nothing; I have barely touched the hem of the garment of this science. But I can understand that it is true and vast and wonderful.
Now, if there is any one amongst you who really wants to study this science, he will have to start with that sort of determination, the same as, nay even more than, that which he puts into any business of life.
And what amount of attention does business require, and what a rigorous taskmaster it is! Even if the father, the mother, the wife, or the child dies, business cannot stop! Even if the heart is breaking, we still have to go to our place of business, when every hour of work is a pang. That is business, and we think that it is just, that it is right.
This science calls for more application than any business can ever require. Many men can succeed in business; very few in this. Because so much depends upon the particular constitution of the person studying it. As in business all may not make a fortune, but everyone can make something, so in the study of this science each one can get a glimpse which will convince him of its truth and of the fact that there have been men who realised it fully.
This is the outline of the science. It stands upon its own feet and in its own light, and challenges comparison with any other science. There have been charlatans, there have been magicians, there have been cheats, and more here than in any other field. Why? For the same reason, that the more profitable the business, the greater the number of charlatans and cheats. But that is no reason why the business should not be good. And one thing more; it may be good intellectual gymnastic to listen to all arguments and an intellectual satisfaction to hear wonderful things. But, if any one of you really wants to learn something beyond that, merely attending lectures will not do. That cannot be taught in lectures, for it is life; and life can only convey life. If there are any amongst you who are really determined to learn it, I shall be very glad to help them.”
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda –The Power of the Mind Talk delivered at Los Angeles, California, January 8, 1900
It is one of the great lectures of Vivekananda.
We are dealing with yoga and this is an introductory lecture on yoga: the powers of the mind that can be studied scientifically. You can learn something by practicing this with a great patience — as he said for thirty years even to touch the hem of the garment. Yoga is defined, what you can do in many, many years, by practice of yoga you can do in a short time. You can shorten, you can accelerate and you can attain to perfection. Therefore the book that we have started a few days ago, The Synthesis of Yoga, is such a tremendous thing. Very few people have the chance to read it and you are so fortunate that you are reading it.