From Volume 8 of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, chapter -III, ‘Notes Of Class Talks And Lectures’
Report of a lecture delivered in Oakland on March 8, 1900, with editorial comments of the Oakland Tribune
Swami Vivekananda, the Hindu philosopher, delivered another lecture in Wendte Hall last evening. His subject was: “The Reality and The Shadow”. He said: “The soul of man is ever striving after certainty, to find something that does not change. It is never satisfied. Wealth, the gratification of ambition or of appetite are all changeable. Once these are attained, man is not content. Religion is the science which teaches us whence to satisfy this longing after the unchangeable. Behind all the local colours and derivations they teach the same thing — that there is reality only in the soul of man. “The philosophy of Vedanta teaches that there are two worlds, the external or sensory, and the internal or subjective — the thought world. “It posits three fundamental concepts — time, space, and causation. From these is constituted Maya, the essential groundwork of human thought, not the product of thought. This same conclusion was arrived at a later date by the great German philosopher Kant. “My reality, that of nature and of God, is the same, the difference is in form of manifestation. The differentiation is caused by Maya. The contour of the shore may shape the ocean into bay, strait, or inlet; but when this shaping force or Maya is removed, the separate form disappears, the differentiation ceases, all is ocean again.”
The Swami then spoke of the roots of the theory of evolution to be found in the Vedanta philosophy. “All modern religions start with the idea,” continued the speaker, “that man was once pure, he fell, and will become pure again. I do not see where they get this idea. The seat of knowledge is the soul; external circumstance simply stimulates the soul; knowledge is the power of the soul. Century after century it has been manufacturing bodies. The various forms of incarnation are merely successive chapters of the story of the life of the soul. We are constantly building our bodies. The whole universe is in a state of flux, of expansion and contraction, of change. Vedanta holds that the soul never changes in essence, but it is modified by Maya. Nature is God limited by mind. The evolution of nature is the modification of the soul. The soul in essence is the same in all forms of being. Its expression is modified by the body. This unity of soul, this common substance of humanity, is the basis of ethics and morality. In this sense all are one, and to hurt one’s brother is to hurt one’s Self. “Love is simply an expression of this infinite unity. Upon what dualistic system can you explain love? One of the European philosophers says that kissing is a survival of cannibalism, a kind of expression of ‘how good you taste’. I do not believe it. “What is it we all seek? Freedom. All the effort and struggle of life is for freedom. It is the march universal of races, of worlds, and of systems. “If we are bound, who bound us? No power can bind the Infinite but Itself.”
After the discourse an opportunity was afforded for asking questions of the speaker, who devoted half an hour to answering them.