If you wish to change the world, cultivate the boldness that does not quake, that does not budge one inch from the path of truth!
There are two sorts of courage. One is the physical kind – the courage to jump into the mouth of danger. Tigers and wolves in that case have been better than men. But there is another sort of boldness, one that is far rarer to find – spiritual courage.
An invading emperor, Alexander the Great, went to India. His teacher told him to go and see some of those sages of India. After a long search he found a very old man sitting on a block of stone. The Emperor talked with him a little and became very much pleased with the conversation of the man. He asked the sage to go with him to his country.
“No, I am quite satisfied with my forest here.” Said the Emperor, “I will give you money, position and wealth, for I am the Emperor of the world.”
“He indeed is the steady man who does not move one inch from the way of truth.”
- King Bharthari (1 BC)
“No,” replied the man, “I don’t care for those things.” The Emperor replied, “If you do not go I will kill you.”
The man burst into a laugh. “That is the silliest thing you ever said, Emperor. You cannot kill me. Me the sun cannot dry, neither fire can burn, neither instrument kill, for I am the birthless, the deathless, the omnipotent, omnipresent soul, ever living.” The Emperor returned greatly humbled.
There is another such story – In the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857 there was a Swami (holy man), a very great soul. A Mahommedan mutineer stabbed him and nearly killed him. The Hindu mutineers brought the Mahommedan to the Swami and offered to kill him. But the Swami turned and said; “Yet brother, thou art He (God), thou art He (God)!” and expired.
“The abiding cause of all misery is not in the lack of life’s furniture, but in the obscurity of life’s significance. An undue emphasis upon “me” and “mine”, which falsifies the perspective of truth.”
- Rabindranath Tagore
Today, the world once again requires such bold men and women! We need people like the sage who did not quake, not even in the face of death, for he believed in the truth that the soul is eternal; we need men and women like the Swami who had the courage to not only recognize the truth, that God resides in every soul, but who dared to put it into practice by forgiving even the one who caused the greatest harm.
For everywhere that we turn, we find a world fragmented by narrow walls of greed, hatred and sectarianism. There exists an immense deficit of moral and spiritual courage in almost every nation, especially in their political and intellectual leaderships.
What the world needs today is the kind of courage that listens to the inner voice of conscience and stands up to do the right thing even in the face of bitter consequences; the courage that realizes the truth of universal brotherhood – that we are all essentially one, and therefore chooses peace over war; the courage that takes less from this earth than what it is entitled to; the courage that does not hoard its possessions but shares; the courage that forgives even the worst enemies and above all the courage that loves unconditionally.
“Here is the test of truth: anything that makes you weak, physically, intellectually and spiritually, reject it as poison, there is no life in it – it cannot be true.”
- Swami Vivekananda
It is very hard to be so bold, but this unshakable spiritual courage we must all strive to cultivate – this immense boldness that accepts the highest truths of humanity and incorporates them into practical living.
So stand up, men and women, in the spirit, dare to believe in the truth, dare to practice the truth!
Practice that boldness which does not quake before death, which welcomes death, which stands there and knows it is the spirit and in the whole universe, no arms can kill it, not all the thunders can kill it. Not all the fire in the universe can burn it. Which dares know the truth, and shows the truth in life.
Realize your true nature. You are lions; you are souls, pure, infinite and perfect. The might of the universe is in you. “Why weepest thou, my friend? There is neither birth nor death for thee. Why weepest thou? There is neither disease nor misery for thee, but thou art like the infinite sky, clouds of various colours come over it, play for a moment, and then vanish. But it is the same eternal blue.”
This is the free man, this is the real soul. And this must be the practice in every society.
This essay has been built upon the teachings of Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) one of India’s greatest and most beloved spiritual teachers. Many of the lines in this essay have been borrowed directly from his book, Speeches & Writings of Swami Vivekananda. This book is a powerful collection of his most profound discourses on spirituality, given while on tour of the United States. For those desiring to know more about what spirituality really is, this is one book that is sure to leave you spell-bounded!
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