Swami Ranganathananda (1908-2005) was the 13th President of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. During his long
monastic career of eight decades, the swami traveled all over the world as a cultural and spiritual ambassador of India. He is
recognised all over the world for his astounding contributions in the fields of spirituality, philosophy, religion, culture,
and global integration. An enlightened proponent of Vedanta, he declined the Padma Vibhushan as it was conferred on him in his
individual capacity but accepted the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration in 1987 and the Gandhi Peace Prize in February 1999
as both were conferred on the Ramakrishna Mission. His books, Universal Message of Bhagavad Gita (Vol I to III) and The Message of
Upanishads are a must read for seekers of Self, as are the four volumes of Eternal Values for A Changing Society. Many other important
books and lectures by the swami can be purchased from Advaita Ashrama
or Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.
Following are few quotations from Swami Ranganathananda. These quotations are from his various books; relevant volume number/page
number is mentioned below each quotation. (Please find few talks by Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj at the bottom of this page.)
Ø When science insists on studying things from the point of view of the objects themselves by eliminating the personal equation, it is
in effect, emphasizing the sakshi-bhava or sakshi point of view (witness attitude); for, the limited and circumscribed vision of the
ego gives place to the unlimited and universal vision of the sakshi, by the practice of scientific or intellectual detachment.
-Eternal Values for a Changing Society, Vol I, P20
Ø To do honor to an infinite God in an infinite way is to practice active toleration and fellowship.
Ø In seeking for the immortal, the sages (Upanishadic Seers) conferred immortality on the literature which conveyed it and the culture
which embodied it.
Ø In the Gita, ..., God is face to face with Man – Narayana with Nara – and this is what constitutes its solemn and sublime setting.
Ø Whatever you do, do not destroy another’s self-regard, for by that we pave the way for his ruin. This maxim is a sure and wise
guide in all social relationships.
Ø The Gita places ethics under the guidance of a metaphysics which deals with life in its totality.
Ø When science insists on studying things from the point of view of the objects themselves by eliminating the personal equation, it
is in effect, emphasizing the sakshi-bhava or sakshi point of view (witness attitude); for, the limited and circumscribed vision of
the ego gives place to the unlimited and universal vision of the sakshi, by the practice of scientific or intellectual detachment.
Ø Theirs (avataras) is a standing example which validates the ethical truth that the height of a personality is directly proportional
to the depth of its impersonality; to find life, we have to lose it first (Matthew, XVI.25).
Ø Being is not identical with consciousness; consciousness is only one part of Being; conscious being is therefore only surface
being, limited and circumscribed. The greatness and forcefulness of a personality derive from its capacity to appropriate more and
more of its Being to consciousness, thus the expansion of consciousness is also the enrichment of personality; and the highest
development of personality is when consciousness becomes coextensive and identical with Being.
Ø The real Self of man, says India’s adhyatma-vidya, science of man as Atman, is inaccessible to the sense organs and to the
sense-bound mind, but accessible to buddhi, or reason, when it becomes subtle and pure – buddhi-grahyam, atindriyam,
as the Gita (VI.21) expresses it.
Ø Indian spiritual tradition refers to dharma, artha, and kama, as the trivarga, the inseparable group
of three, treats them as the universal warp and woof of all ordered human society, theistic, atheistic, or agnostic, and presents
moksha, absolute freedom of the spirit, as the fourth purushartha, which is an optional trans-social pursuit meant
for those few who desire, and who dare, to dive deeper into the spiritual dimensions of reality and realize one’s true nature in
all its glory. For all the rest, this moksha experience comes within the limitations of the social context, as dharma.
Dharma, thus, is the confluence of the secular and the spiritual, of the social and the trans-social, … …
Ø Brahman as the Self of all, as the pratyagatman, is the only rational sanction for ethics and morality. It is an ever-present
Reality, as the knower behind all acts of perception and knowledge, who can not be made an object of knowledge, but yet whose negation
also is an impossibility; for, He or It is the very Self of him who does the negation: ya eva niraakartaa tasaiva aatmatvaat,
Ø Vedanta discovered the drk as chit, or Pure Consciousness, and as the unity of all drks and all dryshyam
– behind the separate and diverse phenomenon of the material world outside, and all manifestations of consciousness centered in the
ego of the individual drks within.
Ø The swapna reveals the unity of drk and dryshyam as the one chitta, but this not while in swapna
… … but only on waking. And in sushupti, or deep sleep state, all dryshyam disappears altogether into the void and
appears again on waking. Vedanta speaks of that Void as the unity of all dryshyam, of all waking and dream presentations.
This is the supreme truth of the Atman; and this is realized in a new jagrat, or waking state, called the turiya,
or the fourth, or the transcendental.
Ø When our people (i.e. Indians) understand religion correctly, that it is a science and, as a science, it is based on both reason
and faith, just like any physical science, we shall see the flowering, more and more, in our country, of true religion as dynamic
spirituality, and the withering away, more and more, of the current noisy, showy static piety, or piety-fringed worldliness, mistaken
as religion by many people.
Ø The only condition for the realization of God is purity of heart; and not adopting a particular profession or mode of life. These
latter are mere individual preferences; but the former is universal.
Ø We should bear in mind … … the nature of God as Pure Chit or Consciousness, infinite, and non-dual, and Its being the very Self
of our self, and not any external object or any extra-cosmic deity.
Ø External and internal are only formal expressions. Life or Reality knows no separation like this. What is external is also internal.
‘Narayana, the indwelling divine’, says the Narayan Upanishad, ‘exists filling the inside and the outside of man and the universe.’
‘अन्त: बहिश्च तत् सर्वम् व्याप्य
नारायण: स्थित: |
(antah bahishcha tat sarvam vyapya narayanah sthitah|)’
Ø Mysticism, studied seriously, challenges basic tenets of Western Cultures: a) the primacy of reason and intellect; b) the separate,
individual nature of man; c) the linear organization of time. Great mystics, like our own great scientists, envision the world as
being larger than those tenets, as transcending our traditional views.(from ‘Consciousness: The Brain, States of Awareness, and Alternate Realities’ by G.A.P P192-94)
Ø The Shrimad Bhagavatam, in a majestic utterance conveying a synoptic vision, describes the ultimate Reality as advayam jnaanam,
non-dual Pure Consciousness (1.2.11):
‘वदन्ति तत् तत्वविद: तत्वं
यत् ज्ञानम् अद्वयम्|
ब्रह्मेति परमात्मेति भगवान
vadanti tat tatvavidah tatvam yat jnaanam advayam |
brahmeti paramaatmeti bhagawaan iti shabdyate’||
‘Knowers of Truth declare that the Truth of one and the same non-dual, jnaanam, Pure Consciousness, is spoken of as Brahman,
the Impersonal Absolute (by jnaanis or philosophers), as Paramaatman, the Supreme Self (by the yogis or mystics), and as Bhagawaan,
the All-loving God (by the bhaktas or devotees).
Pure Consciousness is known as Brahman or Shiva, in Its impersonal quiescent aspect and as Maya or Shakti, in Its immanent dynamic
aspect; and both are one, like the unity of physical energy in its two aspects of bottled up and released states. Shankaracharya
presents ‘the goal of all Vedanta as the realization of the unity and infinitude of the Atman as Pure Consciousness’ – आत्मैकत्व विद्या प्रतिपत्तये
सर्वे वेदान्त: आरभ्यते
atmaikatva vidya pratipattaye sarve vedantah aarabhyate’ in his Brahma-Sutra commentary (Sutra 4).
Ø The search for the Self must leave them [body, senses, mind, ego] behind and proceed deeper. If nothing is discovered beyond these
changing not-self elements, man is right in resigning himself to nihilism in philosophy and pragmatism in life. Vedanta, however,
finds in the facts of experience enough intimations of a changeless reality, which justify a more penetrating investigation of
experience by reason. Reason is confronted by the puzzling fact that the diverse experiences of man form a unity; and there is also
the fact of memory. These presuppose a changeless centre in man; without such a changeless centre, the perception of change, the
experience of memory and their attributions to the one and the same knowing subject will become inexplicable. Such a scrutiny of
experience revealed to Vedanta the presence of a changeless subject or knower at the centre of the knowing process, at the core of
human personality. As affirmed by Shankaracharya in his Vivekachudamani (verses 125 and 126):
अस्ति कश्चित् स्वयम् नित्यम्
'There is some entity, eternal by nature, the basis of the experience of ego-sense, the witness of the three states (of waking, dream
and deep-sleep), and distinct from the five sheaths.'
यो विजानाति सकलम्
बुद्धि तदवृत्ति सद्भावं
अभावं अहं इत्ययं ||
'Who knows everything that happens in the waking, dream, and deep-sleep states; who is aware of the presence or absence of the mind
and its functions; and who is the basis of the ego-sense.'
- ibid P454-455
Ø As the eternal subject or knower, it [Atman] is an ever-present datum of experience and not a mere logical construction; but it does
not reveal itself as such to one and all. Not to speak of ordinary people, even great scholars fail to comprehend the Atman. The verse
[Kathopanishad 3.12] gives the reason: gudah - 'it is subtle, hidden'. It is mysterious presence … … and therefore 'na prakashate'
- 'it is not manifest': asamskrtabuddeh avijneyatvat - 'since (it is) unknown to him whose buddhi or reason is not refined
or purified; comments Shankaracharya. It is not present on the surface of experience; it is hidden in its depth.
- ibid P456
Ø If the innermost Self is all peace, the outermost sheath, the annamaya, or the physical sheath is all noise and distraction.
The farther we are from our centre in the Atman, the more become the noise and distraction in our lives. Peace is not in things outside,
says Vedanta, but in man himself. This peace has to be realized by the development of the capacity for inner penetration through inner
discipline. The structure of human life becomes steady when it is founded on the rock of the eternal Atman within, on the indwelling God
in every being.
- ibid P458-59
Ø The Atman as the immutable and eternal Consciousness is presented by the Upanishads as the sakshi or witness of the changing
subjects and objects of the states of waking and dream and of the total voidness of deep-sleep.
- ibid P461
Ø Lokottara means trans-sensory. The word 'transcendental' in English will be its nearest exact equivalent. The capacity to
rise to the Lokottara level comes from the fulfillment of ethical demands at the loka level [sensory level]. This is
why we say, in the language of our world religions that ethical and moral basis is necessary to higher spiritual growth. Sila
or morality is the basis for the higher spiritual development into Samadhi and prajna, in the words of Vedantic and Buddhist
- ibid P476
Ø To the sensory vision, we appear to ourselves and others as finite, limited, and subject to death; but when we transcend our sensory
limitations, we realize our true nature as the immortal, infinite, non-dual, Pure Consciousness. This is an ever-present truth about
man, proclaims Vedanta, that can be realized by every one by the steady raising of consciousness beyond all genetic and other limitations.
This is not a matter of mere belief, but of realization, of experience, says Vedanta.
- ibid P484
Ø The stark fact of felt bondage and un-fulfillment, against the ever-present truth of inborn freedom and perfection, converts the human
heart into a battlefield of forces, and makes the human being the only restive pilgrim in God's creation.
- ibid P489
Ø We have to reduce them [vasanas, samskaras]; this is the meaning of renunciation in its purest sense - a joyous and spontaneous
giving up of something less valuable, with a view to getting something more valuable.
- ibid P502
Ø You are already hypnotized into thinking that you are a limited finite being, that you are white, you are black, you are a man or a
woman; but the ever-present truth is that you are infinite Atman, ever-free, ever-pure. This is the truth about you, and not an opinion,
the truth expressed by that Upanishadic equation: 'Tat Tvam Asi', 'That Thou Art'.
- ibid P502
Ø The Vedanta therefore speaks of two levels of spirituality, namely, the spirituality of the secular ethical dimension, referred to
as dharma, and the spirituality of the mystical dimension, referred as amrita, in the Upanishad and the Gita.
Ø The teaching of Vedanta is that we are essentially divine; that God is present in the heart of all. But the evil samskaras entering
the mind from outside hide this truth from us; and by achieving purity of the mind, this truth becomes a constant experience. ‘Blessed
are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,’ assures Jesus.
Ø The finite, separate individual is the focus of tension and strain; the world and the soul are in their essential nature the
Sat-Chit-Ananda Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute; cut off from that ocean of being, the finite separate individual becomes
a zero, and yet fears to become a zero, and fears still more to shed its finitude.
- Eternal Values for A Changing Society, Vol II, ibid P44
Ø Buddha took this finite individual for his theme – the human soul subject to ignorance, desire, delusion, grief and death. And his
compassion went out to steady his feet, illumine his mind, and fill his heart with wisdom, peace and joy; hence his stress on psychology
and ethics and not on metaphysics.
Ø The self-transcending ethics of unselfish love and compassion of Buddha and his movement, united to the philosophy of the transcendent
Self of Shankara’s Vedanta, is the new though – the New Vedanta which is energizing and stimulating India’s mind and heart today.
Ø Man, as spiritual seeker, transcends the sphere of law and commandments of a religion. Whereas law and commandments relate him to
parochial and temporal interests, spirituality relates him to the eternal and the infinite.
Ø Sri Ramakrishna came to bridge that gulf (i.e. between life and religion) and to teach us that life is itself religion. He exhorts
us to see life in its unity and wholeness. This is the vyavasayatmika buddhih (one pointed intellegence) spoken of in the Bhagawad Gita,
where there is a unity of vision and unity of purpose and endeavor, external and internal.
Ø Vedanta presents God as the central thread of unity. He is the Antaryaamin, the Antaraatman of the theists and the atheists,
of the Hindu, Muslim and Christian. He is the divine thread that unites all the pearls in a garland, as expressed by Sri Krishna in Gita:
mayi sarvamidam protam sutre maniganiva … … … we (i.e. Indians) failed to treat the millions of our common people as brothers
and fellow humans, as demanded by this vision. And this is our special task in the modern age; and Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda
and Holy Mother Sarada Devi provide us with the necessary inspiration to implement this vision in our political, social, cultural and
educational fields. This is the message of what Swami Vivekananda calls Practical Vedanta.
Ø The moral and ethical demands of a spiritual religion are far more exacting than those of a socio-political faith.
Ø The successful synthesis of thought elements, each one of which is vital and powerful, flowering as they do from human experience at
various levels … … … calls for the guidance of a philosophy or world-view such as that of Vedanta, which is not afraid of any aspect
of experience, but seeks truth in all of them with zestful detachment and devotion.
-ibid P82 (Christ We Adore)
Ø If Swami Vivekananda exerted so much influence on the contemporary world, and continues to exert that influence in ever increasing
measure in the East and the West, it is because he realized the eternal imperishable truth in his own being.
Ø To the earnest, seeking, storm-tossed souls of the modern world, a study of Swami Vivekananda's Vedanta has been, and is bound to be,
like a bath in the Ganga for a weary pilgrim, a refreshing experience, a spiritual re-birth.
Ø The endeavors and conclusions of the sense-bound intellect can not be the last word in man’s search for truth. An intellectual approach
to truth will end only in agnosticism; and often in cynicism. But the whole being of man seeks to experience truth, to realize it. … This
rising above rationalism to direct experience and realization, this growth of man from the sensate to the super-sensual dimension, is
the special message of Indian spiritual tradition.
Ø One sidedness has been the most serious drawback of the Indian character, proceeding from the limitations of the prevailing religious
outlook of her people.
Ø He (Swami Vivekananda) traced the downfall of India to the forcing down the throats of one and all the mystical heights of religion
with its neglect of social feeling and action and emphasis only on renunciation and contemplation.
Ø What we see as the beggar problem in modern India, and the general lack of public spirit in our people as a whole are largely the
long-term legacy of indigestion of so lofty an ideal by our people.
Ø While living in the world, man has to strive to achieve awareness of his true spiritual nature. If this is not done, his life becomes
a false life and his living in the world becomes his living in worldliness. The so called ‘normal’, ‘adjusted’ life is truly the
abnormal and false life.
Ø Secular education continued to our deeper dimensions is spiritual education, says Vedanta. That is how Vivekananda defines the roles
of the physical sciences, politics, and economics, on the one side, and of art, ethics, and religion on the other.
Ø The Marxist humanism goes far, but not far enough, to ensure human fulfillment. Vedanta helps Marxism to carry its study of man into
the depth of the human spirit and to base its undoubtedly promising human experiment on the rock of the divine in man and not on the
sands of his physical and organic system.
Ø The humanism expounded by Vivekananda is intensely human and universal. But it is also something more than human; for it derives its
strength and sanction … from the ever-present and inalienable divine spark in all men and women. And that constitutes its uniqueness.
Ø A humanism that is strengthened and sustained by the religion of the divine spark in man is far different from the current humanism of
the West, including its scientific humanism. There is a universality and dynamism in the former, and its energies are entirely positive
and never negative.
Ø … … in contrast to the speculative and belief-based extra-cosmic god of all speculative philosophies and Semitic religions, he (Swami Vivekananda)
presents the Vedantic vision of God as the Atman, as a truth given in experience itself: ‘In worshipping God, we have been always
worshipping our own hidden Self.’
Ø Spirituality, says Vivekananda, is the privilege, not only of sages and saints and ascetics in the monasteries and forests, but of
one and all. It is the birth-right of every human being. The Upanishads or Vedanta also proclaims that nature has provided man with
the organic capacity to realize this truth. Only we must have faith in ourselves, utilize this capacity, and so live our life that,
year by year, we grow spiritually.
Ø Vivekananda saw the supreme necessity for man, in this highly technological age, to grow beyond the physical-intellectual dimension
and to unfold, to manifest, the ever-present Divine within, so that modern man would be able to digest, and properly direct to human
ends, the vast powers that modern science and technology have placed in his hands.
Ø … ‘unripe I’ must be transformed into the ‘ripe I’. How? By making it the ‘daas aami’, the ‘devotee I’, says Sri Ramakrishna …
… It is on this basis that Swami Vivekananda presented the universality of Practical Vedanta, its being the basis of all religions
and relevant to all peoples.
Ø If there is any truth in calling Indian culture spiritual, it is not because all or most of the Indians are more spiritual than other
people; but it derives from the fact that the most admired hero of the Indian people has been, and is, the man of God; and that the deep-felt
aspiration of the Indian people is to be spiritual themselves.
-Eternal Values for A Changing Society, Vol III, P9
Ø This [neglecting outer for inner] is the one single cause behind almost all the maladies afflicting modern Indian society, not only its
poverty and ignorance, but also its piety-fringed worldliness and social harshness. A policy that produced a few spiritual giants, produced
also millions of arrested and stunted personalities and any number of crooks in between.
Ø We failed to stress this whole gamut of social virtues and graces, and to impart the relevant secular education which is the source
of them. Instead we stressed an other-worldly excellence with its passive virtues, with inaction as its watchword; we failed to
understand that social welfare comes from an activist ethics in the context of interaction with other members in society. The result
was that we failed to achieve the more attainable ideals of character, work-efficiency, public spirit, and general well-being, while
equally failing to achieve the high ideal of mukti and the virtues and graces associated with so great an ideal. The high
spiritual inaction of the mukti path and ideal became deformed into laziness, inertia, and human unconcern, along with a type
of worldliness, or “a piety-fringed worldliness” as I prefer to call it, more harmful than the worldliness of the modern Western type,
which has at least character-efficiency and human concern to enrich it.
Ø That, ethical and social values are but the by-products of man’s spiritual growth, is the teaching of the Upanishads. It is the
manifestation of his inherent divine nature.
Ø … Vedanta speaks of one and the same reality as Brahman in its metaphysics, as Atman in its epistemology and mysticism and as Ishwara
or Bhagavan in its religion.
-PB September 1950, P357
Ø The brooding of the Spirit over the waters of Life produces social and political upheavals as much as scientific discoveries, moral
achievements and spiritual realizations. This is the meaning of history in its comprehensive sense, the stirring of the universal in
the particular, the vibrations of the infinite in the finite, the struggle of eternity in the meshes of time.
-PB September 1950, P358
Ø The capacity to withstand the non-sense of life is an important capacity. Therefore Krishna said, tan titikshaswa Bharata,
‘bear with them’.
-Universal Message of the Bhagawad Gita, Vol I P116
Ø We have to build up our higher personality on the given personality. That is what true education means, which is not confined to
school and college or an institution, but life itself is the center for that education. That is the real teaching of the Gita. You
erect yourself above yourself. … This human body-mind complex, when we are young, is a raw material. We have to transform it. But
the whole transformation process is education, of which, religion understood as spiritual development, is only a higher part. But it
is a continuous education. That is everybody's privilege and responsibility.
Ø The human being cannot be made moral by an Act of Parliament. That is a great lesson we have to learn. There is such a thing as
human spiritual growth. Education is meant to help us to start that spiritual growth and become decent citizens who can live at peace
with other citizens in society. That doesn’t come from an Act of Parliament. It comes from education. Education actually means, in
the language of Vivekananda, ‘manifestation of the perfection already in the human being’. We are to unfold those beautiful
possibilities hidden within ourselves so that peacefulness, humanist concern, a spirit of dedication and service, all these can come
from within ourselves, if only we know how to handle this wonderful thing called the human mind. All education is, therefore, the
training of the mind and not stuffing of the brain.
Ø A democratic state becomes weakened day by day by the increase of injustice in society. There may be poverty, there may be ignorance,
that won't weaken it. But if there is injustice, and it increases, that will weaken the fabric of a democratic society. This injustice
comes because those who hold power misuse it. There is no spiritual strength in the person to digest that power and to make it useful
to the people. To help the democratic processes so as to strengthen our infant democratic state, and solve the problems of the millions,
we need a philosophy. That philosophy is what Sri Krishna is giving here [i.e. in Bhagawad-Gita].
Ø If you want democracy to succeed, this element of ethical, moral and spiritual growth must come to the people. So, in Vedanta you
will find, in the context of modern science, modern techniques, modern socio-political processes, this great spiritual orientation given
to human life and human development.
-Universal Message of Bhagawad-Gita, Vol II P15
Following are few popular talks by Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj:
Swami Vivekananda and Human Excellence
The Meeting of East and West in Swami Vivekananda
Science and Religion
Enlightened Citizenship and Our Democracy
Adi Shankaracharya and An Untouchable
Q & A at Chicago Vedanta Center Part I
Q & A at Chicago Vedanta Center Part II
The Approach to Truth Through Science & Vedanta
The Charm and Power of the Upanishad