You may remember, for those who don’t know his life that Swami Vivekananda went to America in 1893. He attended the Parliament of Religions. It was the first Parliament of Religions. When he went from India to America he was only told that there is a Parliament of Religions and his friends said: “Why don’t you go and address it there?” He had no warm clothes. The king of Khetri gave him a shawl as a gift. It was the only woolen thing that he had with him. He had no pass to present himself at the Parliament of Religions. He was not sent by any Institution in India. He went on his own, he even did not enquire that how he will be able to speak there. He was so innocent. In America he had to sleep the first night in a small box on a pavement because he had no house, no place to go to, in that cold. Later on some professor came to know him and then he took him to the Parliament of Religions’ office for registration. And the man who was registering said: “What are your credentials? On whose behalf do you want to address in the Parliament of Religions?” In the meantime the professor was so impressed by Vivekananda that he said: “To ask credentials from this man is to ask the sun to give credentials for its light.” It is a tremendous tribute that was paid to Vivekananda, a young man, by this man. That is how he was allowed to enter into the Parliament of Religions. And the lectures began. One by one the speakers spoke and finally somebody asked him to speak. And he was so shy that he could not even get up and speak a word. Only five minutes were left for the time to close the day’s session. And he was summoned: “Now you speak.” He stood up and he spoke only three words: “Sisters and brothers of America.” Just three words he spoke and the entire audience was so surcharged that they all stood up and gave a standing ovation, they clapped only on hearing these three words. He spoke only for five minutes, but the next day in all, the papers in America he was in the headlines. None other, only this young man. This proves the truth of what he himself says here, that a man comes, speaks only a few words and the whole mass becomes influenced. This is the power. It is because when one speaks it is not the mouth that speaks, it is not the words that speak, it is the man who speaks, the spirit that is there: the tapasya that he has done — so much tapasya he had done. He had walked round the whole of the country absolutely without any possession — aparigraha. And all the time moving up and down with only one thing: let my country awake, let my country be great. All the time offering his country to the feet of the Lord. There was nothing else in his life. It is this tapasya. And the words that came out were not incidental words. The formula: “Sisters and brothers of America…” All of India is in the sense of universality. And that universality was born on his tongue as it were. When he said “Sister and brothers of America” there was no difference between Indians and Americans so that universality manifested in three words. It is that which produced a tremendous effect. In fact one of the greatest events of the last century was the visit of Vivekananda to America. He went as a young man, without any possessions, without knowing how to present himself to the Parliament of Religions and he was turned into the greatest orator, the best representative of the Parliament of Religions.
This is the proof of what he says here.
In our families there are the heads; some of them are successful, others are not. Why? We complain of others in our failures. The moment I am unsuccessful I say, so-and-so is the cause of the failure. In failure, one does not like to confess one’s own faults and weaknesses. Each person tries to hold himself faultless and lay the blame upon somebody or something else, or even on bad luck. When heads of families fail, they should ask themselves, why it is that some persons manage a family so well and others do not. Then you will find that the difference is owing to the man, - his presence, his personality.
Coming to great leaders of mankind, we always find that it was the personality of the man that counted. Now, take all the great authors of the past, the great thinkers. Really speaking, how many thoughts have they thought? Take all the writers that have been left to us by the past leaders of mankind; take each one of their books and appraise them. The real thoughts, new and genuine, that have been thought on this world up to this time, amount to only a handful. Read in their books the thoughts they have left to us. The authors do not appear to be giants to us, and yet we know that they were great giants in their days. What made them so? Not simply the thoughts they thought, neither the books they wrote, nor the speeches they made, it was something else that is now gone, that is their personality. As I have already remarked, the personality of the man is two-thirds, and his intellect, his words, are but one-third. It is the real man, the personality of the man, that runs through us. Our actions are but effects. Actions must come when the man is there; the effect is bound to follow the cause.
The ideal of all education, all training should be this: man-making. But, instead of that, we are always trying to polish up the outside. What use in polishing up the outside when there is no inside? The end and aim of all training is to make the man grow. The man who influences, who throws his magic, as it were, upon his fellow-beings is a dynamo of power, and when that man is ready, he can do anything and everything he likes; that personality put upon anything will make it work.
Now, we see that though this is a fact, no physical laws that we know of will explain this. How can we explain it by chemical and physical knowledge? How much of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, how many molecules in different positions, and how many cells, etc., etc. can explain this mysterious personality? And we still see, it is a fact, and not only that, it is the real man; and it is that man that lives and moves and works, it is that man that influences, moves his fellow-beings, and passes out, and his intellect and works are but traces left behind. Think of this. Compare the great teachers of religions with the great philosophers. The philosophers scarcely influenced anybody’s inner man, and yet they wrote most marvellous books. The religious teachers, on the other hand, moved countries in their lifetime. The difference was made by personality. In the philosophers it is a faint personality that influences; in the great prophets it is tremendous. In the former we touch the intellect, in the latter we touch life. In the one case, it is simply a chemical process, putting certain chemical ingredients together which may gradually combined and under proper circumstances bring out a flash of light or may fail. In the other, it is like a torch that goes round quickly, lightening others.
The science of Yoga claims that it has discovered the laws which develop this personality, and by proper attention to those laws and methods, each one can grow and strengthen his personality. This is one of the great practical things, and this is the secret of all education. This has a universal application. In the life of the householder, in the life of the poor, the rich, the man of business, the spiritual man, in every one’s life, it is a great thing, the strengthening of this personality. There are laws, very fine, which are behind the physical laws, as we know. That is to say, there are no such realities as a physical world, a mental world, a spiritual world. Whatever is, is one. Let us say, it is a sort of tapering existence; the thickest part is here, it tapers and becomes finer and finer. The finest is what we call spirit; the grossest the body. And just as it is here in microcosm, it is exactly the same in the macrocosm. The universe of ours is exactly like that; it is the gross external thickness, and it tapers into something finer and finer until it becomes God.
We also know that the greatest power is lodged in the fine, not in the coarse. We see a man take up a huge weigh, we see his muscles swell, and all over his body we see signs of exertion, and we think the muscles are powerful thing. But it is the thin thread-like things, the nerves, which bring power to the muscles; the moment one of these threads is cut of from reaching the muscles they are not able to work at all. These tiny nerves bring the power from something still finer, and that again in its terms brings it from something finer still -- thought, and so on. So, it is the fine that is really the seat of power. Of course we can see the movements in the gross; but when fine movements take place, we cannot see them. When a gross thing moves, we catch it, and thus we naturally identify movements with things which are gross. But all the power is really in the fine. We do not see any movement in the fine, perhaps, because the movement is so intense that we cannot perceive it. But if by any science, any investigation, we are helped to get hold of these fine forces which are the cause of the expression, the expression itself will be under control. There is a little bubble coming from the bottom of a lake; we do not see it coming all the time, we see it only when it bursts on the surface; so, we can perceive thoughts only after they develop a great deal, or after they become actions. We constantly complain that we have no control over our actions, over our thoughts. But how can we have it? If we can get control over the fine movements, if we can get hold of thought at the root, before it has become thought, before it has become action, then it would be possible for us to control the whole. Now, if there is a method by which we can analyse, investigate, understand, and finally grapple with those finer powers, the finer causes, then alone it is possible to have control over ourselves, and the man who has control over his own mind assuredly will have control over every other mind. That is why purity and morality have been always the object of religion; a pure, moral man has control of himself. And all minds are the same, different parts of one Mind. He who knows one lump of clay has known all the clay in the universe. He who knows and controls his own mind knows the secret of every mind and has power over every mind.