Vivekananda: The Great Circle


From the writings of Swami Vivekananda:

… we are the outcome and manifestation of an absolute condition, back of our present relative condition, and are going forward, to return to that absolute.

Before going into the Yoga aphorisms I shall try to discuss one great question, upon which rests the whole theory of religion for the Yogis. It seems the consensus of opinion of the great minds of the world, and it has been nearly demonstrated by researches into physical nature, that we are the outcome and manifestation of an absolute condition, back of our present relative condition, and are going forward, to return to that absolute. This being granted, the question is: Which is better, the absolute or this state? There are not wanting people who think that this manifested state is the highest state of man. Thinkers of great calibre are of the opinion that we are manifestations of undifferentiated being and the differentiated state is higher than the absolute. They imagine that in the absolute there cannot be any quality; that it must be insensate, dull, and lifeless; that only this life can be enjoyed, and, therefore, we must cling to it. First of all we want to inquire into other solutions of life. There was an old solution that man after death remained the same; that all his good sides, minus his evil sides, remained for ever. Logically stated, this means that man’s goal is the world; this world carried a stage higher, and eliminated of its evils, is the state they call heaven. This theory, on the face of it, is absurd and puerile, because it cannot be. There cannot be good without evil, nor evil without good. To live in a world where it is all good and no evil is what Sanskrit logicians call a “dream in the air”. Another theory in modern times has been presented by several schools, that man’s destiny is to go on always improving, always struggling towards, but never reaching the goal. This statement, though apparently very nice, is also absurd, because there is no such thing as motion in a straight line. Every motion is in a circle. If you can take up a stone, and project it into space, and then live long enough, that stone, if it meets with no obstruction, will come back exactly to your hand. A straight line, infinitely projected must end in a circle. Therefore, this idea that the destiny of man is progressing ever forward and forward, and never stopping, is absurd.

A straight line, infinitely projected must end in a circle.

Although extraneous to the subject, I may remark that this idea explains the ethical theory that you must not hate, and must love. Because, just as in the case of electricity the modern theory is that the power leaves the dynamo and completes the circle back to the dynamo, so with hate and love; they must come back to the source. Therefore do not hate anybody, because that hatred which comes out from you, must, in the long run, come back to you. If you love, that love will come back to you, completing the circle. It is as certain as can be, that every bit of hatred that goes out of the heart of a man comes back to him in full force, nothing can stop it; similarly every impulse of love comes back to him.

On other and practical grounds we see that the theory of eternal progression is untenable, for destruction is the goal of everything earthly. All our struggles and hopes and fears and joys, what will they lead to? We shall all end in death. Nothing is so certain as this. Where, then, is this motion in a straight line — this infinite progression? It is only going out to a distance, and coming back to the centre from which it started. See how, from nebulae, the sun, moon, and stars are produced; then they dissolve and go back to nebulae. The same is being done everywhere. The plant takes material from the earth, dissolves, and gives it back. Every form in this world is taken out of surrounding atoms and goes back to these atoms. It cannot be that the same law acts differently in different places. Law is uniform. Nothing is more certain than that. If this is the law of nature, it also applies to thought. Thought will dissolve and go back to its origin. Whether we will it or not, we shall have to return to our origin which is called God or Absolute. We all came from God, and we are all bound to go back to God. Call that by any name you like, God, Absolute, or Nature, the fact remains the same. “From whom all this universe comes out, in whom all that is born lives, and to whom all returns.” This is one fact that is certain. Nature works on the same plan; what is being worked out in one sphere is repeated in millions of spheres. What you see with the planets, the same will it be with this earth, with men, and with all. The huge wave is a mighty compound of small waves, it may be of millions; the life of the whole world is a compound of millions of little lives, and the death of the whole world is the compound of the deaths of these millions of little beings.

“From whom all this universe comes out, in whom all that is born lives, and to whom all returns.”

Now the question arises: Is going back to God the higher state, or not? The philosophers of the Yoga school emphatically answer that it is. They say that man’s present state is a degeneration. There is not one religion on the face of the earth which says that man is an improvement. The idea is that his beginning is perfect and pure, that he degenerates until he cannot degenerate further, and that there must come a time when he shoots upward again to complete the circle. The circle must be described. However low he may go, he must ultimately take the upward bend and go back to the original source, which is God. Man comes from God in the beginning, in the middle he becomes man, and in the end he goes back to God. This is the method of putting it in the dualistic form. The monistic form is that man is God, and goes back to Him again. If our present state is the higher one, then why is there so much horror and misery, and why is there an end to it? If this is the higher state, why does it end? That which corrupts and degenerates cannot be the highest state. Why should it be so diabolical, so unsatisfying? It is only excusable, inasmuch as through it we are taking a higher groove; we have to pass through it in order to become regenerate again. Put a seed into the ground and it disintegrates, dissolves after a time, and out of that dissolution comes the splendid tree. Every soul must disintegrate to become God. So it follows that the sooner we get out of this state we call “man” the better for us Is it by committing suicide that we get out of this state? Not at all. That will be making it worse. Torturing our. selves, or condemning the world, is not the way to get out. We have to pass through the Slough of Despond, and the sooner we are through, the better. It must always be remembered that man-state is not the highest state.

We have to pass through the Slough of Despond, and the sooner we are through, the better.

The really difficult part to understand is that this state, the Absolute, which has been called the highest, is not, as some fear, that of the zoophyte or of the stone. According to them, there are only two states of existence, one of the stone, and the other of thought. What right have they to limit existence to these two? Is there not something infinitely superior to thought? The vibrations of light, when they are very low, we do not see; when they become a little more intense, they become light to us; when they become still more intense, we do not see them — it is dark to us. Is the darkness in the end the same darkness as in the beginning? Certainly not; they are different as the two poles. Is the thoughtlessness of the stone the same as the thoughtlessness of God? Certainly not. God does not think; He does not reason. Why should He? Is anything unknown to Him, that He should reason? The stone cannot reason; God does not. Such is the difference. These philosophers think it is awful if we go beyond thought; they find nothing beyond thought.

There are much higher states of existence beyond reasoning. It is really beyond the intellect that the first state of religious life is to be found. When you step beyond thought and intellect and all reasoning, then you have made the first step towards God; and that is the beginning of life. What is commonly called life is but an embryo state.

The next question will be: What proof is there that the state beyond thought and reasoning is the highest state? In the first place, all the great men of the world, much greater than those that only talk, men who moved the world, men who never thought of any selfish ends whatever, have declared that this life is but a little stage on the way towards Infinity which is beyond. In the second place, they not only say so, but show the way to every one, explain their methods, that all can follow in their steps. In the third place, there is no other way left. There is no other explanation. Taking for granted that there is no higher state, why are we going through this circle all the time; what reason can explain the world? The sensible world will be the limit to our knowledge if we cannot go farther, if we must not ask for anything more. This is what is called agnosticism. But what reason is there to believe in the testimony of the senses? I would call that man a true agnostic who would stand still in the street and die. If reason is all in all, it leaves us no place to stand on this side of nihilism. If a man is agnostic of everything but money, fame, and name, he is only a fraud. Kant has proved beyond all doubt that we cannot penetrate beyond the tremendous dead wall called reason. But that is the very first idea upon which all Indian thought takes its stand, and dares to seek, and succeeds in finding something higher than reason, where alone the explanation of the present state is to be found. This is the value of the study of something that will take us beyond the world. “Thou art our father, and wilt take us to the other shore of this ocean of ignorance.” That is the science of religion, nothing else.

Kant has proved beyond all doubt that we cannot penetrate beyond the tremendous dead wall called reason. But that is the very first idea upon which all Indian thought takes its stand, and dares to seek…

~ Swami Vivekananda


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  • vinaire  On June 15, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    From Wikipedia

    The Slough of Despond (/ˈslaʊ əf dɨˈspɒnd/; “swamp of despair”) is a deep bog in John Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, into which the character Christian sinks under the weight of his sins and his sense of guilt for them.

    It is described in the text:

    ‘This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.’

    Bunyan likely derived some of his images in The Pilgrim’s Progress from his own world. In this instance the “Slough of Despond” may have been inspired by Squitch Fen, a wet and marshy area near his cottage in Harrowden, Bedfordshire, which he had to cross on his way to church in Elstow, or “The Souls’ Slough” on the Great North Road between Tempsford and Biggleswade.



  • vinaire  On June 15, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    SPACE and TIME represent relativity of existence. It is a set of location and duration relative to each other.

    Relativity implies associations. Associations imply logic. Then space-time (relativity of existence) is the basis of all logic.

    It is this relative association that also forms awareness. Then space-time is the basis of all awareness.

    A person is, therefore, a product of space-time in his present relative condition. This relative condition is the Slough of Despond!



  • Chris Thompson  On June 15, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    I find a parallel trajectory to my own spiritual path in these writings.


    • vinaire  On June 15, 2013 at 4:25 PM

      Same here. Isn’t that uncanny!



      • Chris Thompson  On June 15, 2013 at 4:30 PM

        It seems in support of my ideas that: 1. Mankind figures these mysteries out over and over, and 2. Mankind’s preoccupation with this subject speaks to there being both a purpose, and what that purpose is for man.


        • vinaire  On June 15, 2013 at 4:34 PM

          On a cosmic scale it seems that a cosmic puzzle is created and then it is solved. This happens again and again as in an oscillation.



        • Chris Thompson  On June 15, 2013 at 5:27 PM

          Yes, or as in recursive and self-similar.

          The major clue in this is the “myth of duplication” and the never quite identical physics in Nature.


        • vinaire  On June 16, 2013 at 6:57 AM

          In an oscillation, the seed of re-appearance lies in disappearance. Everything in this universe is conditioned by everything else in this universe. That is at the heart of relativity of existence.

          There is relativity of motion, which Einstein investigated.

          But, there is also the relativity of existence, which we are investigating at the moment. Oscillation, or wave function, is the fundamental expression of relativity of existence.



        • Chris Thompson  On June 16, 2013 at 1:16 PM

          Yes this is a good statement. I am trying to be sure to be mindful that oscillation doesn’t quite cover the eccentricity that I see. This is my point.

          The various fractal equations and simplerules of cellular automata may be of some help with this.


      • Chris Thompson  On June 15, 2013 at 5:32 PM

        It is strikingly recursive and self-similar.


  • vinaire  On June 15, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    There is an inherent sense of consistency, which is based on the consistency of space and time.

    Fundamental intuitions in mathematics are said to have come first before they were proven, as in the case of Archimedes.



  • vinaire  On June 16, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    The notion that thought generates matter, or matter generates thought is incorrect both ways. Neither God create this universe, nor this universe create God. That view is based on the “cause-effect” model. That model is obsolete. A better model is “manifestation-filter-perception,” which is based on the relativity of existence.

    There is nothing absolute that exists all by itself, whether it is cause, God, or life force. Everything in this universe is conditioned by everything else. That is at the heart of the relativity of existence.

    Cause and effect, God and its creation (the universe), Life force and motion, are all part of this relativity of existence. None of these things are absolute in themselves. Each is conditioned by the other.

    Buddha nailed it when he said,

    “The Absolute Truth is that there is nothing absolute in the world, that everything is relative, conditioned and impermanent, and that there is no unchanging, everlasting, absolute substance like Self, Soul, or Ātman within or without.”



  • freebeeing  On June 18, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    If that is what Buddha said then he is half right. There is the eternal timeless All-That-Is the one that is many. If you meditate long enough you will see.


    • vinaire  On June 18, 2013 at 8:44 PM

      OK. I’ll keep my mind open.



      • freebeeing  On June 19, 2013 at 4:41 PM

        stillness of mind. You not your mind or thought package aka “me” is what will experience this.


        • vinaire  On June 19, 2013 at 5:06 PM

          Stillness of mind comes from removal of inconsistencies, and not from wish or intention.



  • freebeeing  On June 18, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    Though it has no substance, so perhaps it is merely the words that fail to express it.

    Truth to be truth must be perfect truth, always, forever and that means at this very moment. It is here now for you to experience.



    • vinaire  On June 19, 2013 at 5:08 PM

      My mantra is, “Spot and level (resolve) inconsistencies.” The rest will take care of itself.



  • Christina  On March 28, 2017 at 2:54 AM

    Hi did you make this image? The Brahma Lotus one? If so please email me. 🙂


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