Timeless Mystics

Soul Food from the Banquet Table of Mystics
Note: Emphasis (boldface, caps or italics) in quotes or portions thereof may have been supplied.

Christian Mystics of the Pre-modern Era

Meister Eckhart

We are all called to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.

What are we to understand by God? That he is the one power. Let us therefore unify ourselves so that this one power may energize in us.

Where one finds God there one finds the soul, and where the soul there God. The soul is much more closely knit to God than body is to soul in the making of a man. The union is more intimate than when a drop of water is poured into a vat of wine; that would be wine and water, but the other is transformed into the same so that no creature can detect a difference.

Why did he [God] say no more than one word? Because all things are present in his mind. If I could grasp in one idea all the thoughts I ever had or ever shall have, then I should have one word, no more, for the mouth utters what is in the heart.

God and the soul are so entirely one that God has not a single thing to tell him from the soul, nor is he any other than the soul.

Three things prevent a man from knowing God at all. The first is time, the second body, and the third is multiplicity or number.

The best work we can do is to prepare for union with God and wait for this with fixed intention.

Blessed, supremely blessed, are they who are installed in the eternal now, transcending time and place and form and matter, unmoved by weal and woe or health or want, for insofar as things are motionless they are like eternity.

Once gotten beyond time and temporalities we are free and joyous all the time; then is the fullness of time, then the Son of God is born in you.


Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which to look at Christ’s compassion to the world, yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now. (St. Teresa of Avila)


Do not look with fear on the changes and chances of this life. Rather look to them with full faith that as they arise, God — whose you are — will deliver you out of them… Do not anticipate what will happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations. (St. Francis de Sales)



Mystics from the Early Modern Period to Contemporary Times  

Joel S. Goldsmith (“The Infinite Way”)
Note: Book sources are cited whenever available.  For more of Joel’s teachings please go to our “Infinite Way” Principles page.

As long as we are living in a material sense of world, we will think of supply as purely material, which always consists of something external to us to be acquired: money, a home, automobiles. But in the real world of Spirit, supply is not external to us, nor is it ever to be acquired, attained, or sought after, because in the spiritual realm supply is what I am: I am the bread; I am the meat, I am the water.

These things we perceive with the five senses are objects of mind, with no relationship to Truth.
All appearances are sense-objects — not of God, or Truth.

All that is objectively witnessed must be understood to be mental images or mind projections — never spiritual reality.

When you stop being frightened by the appearance of sin, disease, death, lack, or limitation, it does not frighten you. You know now that it does not exist out there. It exists in human belief, and if you want to nullify it you had better not accept it.




Eknath Easwaran

The secret of meditation is simple: you become what you meditate on. When you use an inspirational passage every day in meditation, you are driving the words deep into your consciousness. Eventually they become an integral part of your personality, which means they will find constant expression in what you do, what you say, and what you think. (Passage Meditation)

Video of Eknath Easwaran lecture on “Swimming Against the Current.”  



Abbot Thomas Keating

The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from Him. If we get rid of that thought, our troubles will be greatly reduced. (Open Mind, Open Heart)

All true prayer is based on the conviction of the presence of the Spirit in us and of the Spirit’s unfailing and continual inspiration. (Open Mind, Open Heart)

Rest refers to interior quiet, tranquility, peace, rootedness of being one with the Divine Presence.  Rest is our reassurance at the deepest level that everything is okay.  The ultimate freedom is to rest in God in suffering, as well as in joy. God was just as present to Jesus on the cross, as on the mountain of the Transfiguration. (Reawakenings)

One of the things that contemplative prayer will affect is the intuition of the oneness of the human family, and indeed, the oneness of all creation. As we move into our own inmost being… We come into contact with what is the inmost being of every member of the human race and indeed the whole of creation. …This mystery of oneness enables us to develop a refined inward eye, and invites us to perceive the mystery of the Divine everywhere and in everything. …That which is hidden from our senses and intellect becomes more and more transparent as our consciousness is being transformed. (Thomas Keating)

All methods that lead to contemplation are more or less aimed at bypassing the thinking process.  The reason is that our thinking process tends to reinforce our addictive process – our frenzy to “get something” from the outer world to fuel our compulsions or to mask our pain.  If we can just rest on a regular basis for 20 to 30 minutes without thinking, we begin to see that we are not our thoughts.  We have thoughts, but we are not our thoughts.  Most people suffer because they think that they are their thoughts and if their thoughts are upsetting, distressing, or evil, they are stuck with them.  If they just stopped thinking for a while every day as a discipline, they would begin to see that they do not have to be dominated by their thoughts. (Intimacy with God)  



Marc of Contemplative Pathways

Absolutely nothing separates you from God.  Absolutely nothing separates you from all that God is, because God is indivisibly one.

This then is how I see the twofold mystical life: It has two intertwining aspects — that of (1) a winding road, which we refer to as the mystical path, over which (2) a purposeful journey is made, known as the spiritual journey. It is a journey of changing awareness the soul takes, along a path or road that seems clear only with respect to where it begins or takes off but remains nebulous as regards its end or final destination. Many, if not all, who embark on the spiritual journey, do not realize the magnitude and extent to which they will be transformed. The transformation is monumental in scope, cosmic in origin, and truly epic in its proportions as befits a God desperately in search of Itself.  (From Marc’s blog: “The Mystical Path of Life: The Self Contemplating Itself”)

There is definitely a relationship between our awakening to Truth and the dismantling of the false self system: Our deeper awakening to Truth brings about a further dismantling of the false self system; and the more we work at dismantling the false self system, the greater becomes the spiritual awakening.  (From Marc’s comment to a response posted by Grace Padilla on the blog page “Mystical Oneness”)

It is not in My Being, but in Our seeing.  (The Still Small Voice speaking within Me)

Our human fortunes are like wisps of smoke. Here one moment, then gone the next. The suchness of human existence.  (From an email to a friend)

There is nothing to comprehend in the Void.  No comprehension; only a knowingness.  We think we comprehend that which we choose to see and believe (the tale of the elephant and the blind men), never what truly is.  (From Marc’s comment to Josephine in the blog series: “No Reality to Darkness, Despite ‘Darkest Just Before the Dawn’”)  





Pray to Him with a yearning heart, and weep. That will purify your heart. You see the reflection of the sun in clear water. In the mirror of his “I-consciousness” the devotee sees the form of the Primal Energy, Brahman with attributes. But the mirror must be wiped clean. One does not see the right reflection if there is any dirt on the mirror.

As long as a man must see the Sun in the water of his “I-consciousness” and has no other means of seeing It, as long as he has no means of seeing the real Sun except through its reflection, so long is the reflected sun alone one hundred per cent real to him. As long as the “I” is real, so long is the reflected sun real—one hundred percent real. That reflected sun is nothing but the Primal Energy.

But if you seek Brahmajnana, the Knowledge of the attributeless Brahman, then proceed to the real Sun through Its reflection. Pray to Brahman with attributes, who listens to your prayers, and He Himself will give you full Knowledge of Brahman; for that which is Brahman with attributes is verily Brahman without attributes, that which is Brahman is verily Shakti. One realizes this non-duality after the attainment of Perfect Knowledge.

The Divine Mother gives Her devotee Brahmajnana too. But a true lover of God generally does not seek the knowledge of Brahman.

There is another path, the path of knowledge, which is very difficult… The jnani believes that Brahman alone is real and the world illusory as a dream. To him, the “I” and “you” are illusory as a dream.

God is our Inner Controller. Pray to Him with a pure and guileless heart. He will explain everything to you. Give up egotism and take refuge in Him. You will realize everything.

— Sri Ramakrishna —
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

This idea we have to understand:
“How to know the knower?”
The knower cannot he known,
because if it were known,
it will not be the knower.
If you look at your eyes in a mirror,
the reflection is no more your eyes.
But something else,
only a reflection.
Then if this Soul, this universal, Infinite Being
which you are,
is only a witness,
what good is it?
It cannot live, and move about,
and enjoy the world, as we do.
People cannot understand how
the witness can enjoy . . .
First of all, it is only the witness that can enjoy.
If there is a wrestling match, who enjoys it,
those who take part in it,
or those who are looking on—the outsiders?
The more and more you are the witness
of anything in life, the more you enjoy it.
And this is ananda [bliss];
therefore, infinite bliss can only be yours
when you have become the witness
of this universe;
then alone are you a mukta purusha [liberated soul].
It is the witness alone that can work without any desire,
without any idea of going to heaven,
without any idea of blame, without any idea of praise.
The witness alone enjoys, and none else.

— Swami Vivekananda —
“The Vedanta,” November 12, 1897


It is our privilege to be allowed to be charitable; for only so can we grow. The poor man suffers that we may be helped. Let the giver kneel down and give thanks, let the receiver stand up and permit. See the Lord back of every being and give to Him. When we cease to see evil, the world will end for us, because to rid us of that mistake is its only object. To think there is any imperfection creates it. Thoughts of strength and perfection alone can cure it. Do what good you can, some evil will inhere in it; but do all without regard to personal result. Give up all results to the Lord, and then neither good nor evil will affect you.

Doing work is not religion; but work done rightly leads to freedom. In reality all pity is ignorance, because who is there to pity? Can you pity God? And is there anything else? Thank God for giving you this world as a moral gymnasium to help your development; but never imagine that you can help the world. Be grateful to him who curses you; for he gives you a mirror to show what cursing is, also a chance to practice self-restraint. So bless him and be glad. Without exercise power cannot come out; without the mirror we cannot see ourselves. . . .

What we need today is to know that there is a God and that we can see and feel Him here and now.

— Swami Vivekananda —
Inspired Talks, July, 25, 1895


After every happiness comes misery; they may be far apart or near. The more advanced the soul, the more quickly does one follow the other. What we want is neither happiness nor misery. Both make us forget our true nature; both are chains—one iron, one gold. Behind both is the Atman, who knows neither happiness nor misery. These are states and states must ever change; but the nature of the Soul is bliss, peace—unchanging. We have not to get it; we have it. Only wash away the dross and see it.

Stand upon the Self; then only can you truly love the world. Take a very, very high stand. Knowing our universal nature, we must look with perfect calmness upon all the panorama of the world. It is but baby’s play, and we know that, so cannot be disturbed by it. If the mind is pleased with praise, it will be displeased with blame. All pleasures of the senses or even of the mind are evanescent, but within ourselves is the one true unrelated pleasure, dependent upon nothing. It is perfectly free. It is bliss. The more our bliss is within, the more spiritual we are. The pleasure of the Self is what the world calls religion.

The internal universe, the real, is infinitely greater than the external, which is only a shadowy projection of the true one. This world is neither true nor untrue, it is the shadow of truth. “Imagination is the gilded shadow of truth,” says the poet.

We enter into creation, and then for us it becomes living. Things are dead in themselves; only we give them life and then, like fools, we turn around and are afraid of them or run after them. But be not like certain fisherwomen, who, caught in a storm on their way home from market, took refuge in the house of a florist. They were lodged for the night in a room next to the garden, where the air was full of the fragrance of flowers. In vain did they try to rest, until one of their number suggested that they wet their fish baskets and place them near their heads. Then they all fell into a sound sleep.

The world is our fish basket We must not depend upon it for enjoyment Those who do are the tamasikas, or the bound. Then there are the rajasikas, or the egotistical, who talk always about “I,” “I.” They do good work sometimes and may become spiritual. But the highest are the sattvikas, the introspective, those who live only in the Self. These three qualities—tamas, rajas, and sattva—are in everyone, and different ones predominate at different times.

Creation is not a “making” of something, it is the struggle to regain equilibrium—as when bits of cork, thrown to the bottom of a pail of water, rise to the top, singly or in clusters. Life is and must be accompanied by evil. A little evil is the source of life. The little wickedness that is in the world is very good, for when the balance is regained the world will end, because sameness and destruction are one. As long as the world exists, good and evil exist with it; but when we can transcend this world, we get rid of both good and evil and have bliss.

There is no possibility of ever having pleasure without pain, good without evil. For life itself is just lost equilibrium. What we want is freedom—not life, nor pleasure, nor good. Creation is infinite, without beginning and without end, the ever-moving ripples on an infinite lake. There are, however, unreached depths in this lake, where equilibrium has been regained; but the ripples on the surface are always there; the struggle to regain the balance is eternal. Life and death are only different names for the same fact, the two sides of one coin. Both are maya, the inexplicable state of striving at one time to live, and a moment later having to die. Beyond this is our true nature, the Atman. What we call God is really only the Self, from which we have separated ourselves and which we worship as outside us; but it is our true Self, all the time, the one and only God.

— Swami Vivekananda —
Inspired Talks, June 25, 1895


It is easy to concentrate the mind on external things; the mind naturally goes outward. But not so in the case of religion or psychology or metaphysics, where the subject and object are one. The object is internal—the mind itself is the object—and it is necessary to study the mind itself, mind studying mind. We know that there is the power of the mind called reflection. I am talking to you. At the same time I am standing aside, as it were, a second person, and knowing and hearing what I am talking. You work and think at the same time, while a portion of your mind stands by and sees what you are thinking. The powers of the mind should be concentrated and turned back upon itself, and as the darkest places reveal their secrets before the penetrating rays of the sun, so will this concentrated mind penetrate its own innermost secrets. Thus will we come to the basis of belief, the real genuine religion. We will perceive for ourselves whether we have souls, whether life is of five minutes or eternity, whether there is a God in the universe or none. It will all be revealed to us.

This is what raja yoga proposes to teach. The goal of all its teaching is how to concentrate the mind, then how to discover the innermost recesses of our own minds, then how to generalize their contents and form our own conclusions from them. It therefore never asks the question what our religion is—whether we are deists, or atheists, whether Christians, Jews, or Buddhists. We are human beings; that is sufficient. Every human being has the right and the power to seek for religion; every human being has the right to ask the reason why and to have his question answered by himself—if only he takes the trouble.
— Swami Vivekananda —
From the book Raja Yoga


Salutations to all Prophets
whose teachings and lives we have inherited;
Salutations to all God-like men and women
presently working to help humanity;
Salutations to all those coming in the future—
living Gods—to work unselfishly for our descendants.

The Absolute cannot be worshipped; so we must worship a manifestation, such a one as has our nature. Jesus had our nature; he became the Christ. So can we, and so must we. Christ and Buddha were the names of a state to be attained; Jesus and Gautama were the persons to attain it. Mother is the first and highest manifestation of the Absolute; next, the Christs and Buddhas.

We divide ourselves into two to love God—myself loving my Self. God has created me and I have created God. We create God in our image. It is we who create Him to be our Master; it is not God who makes us His servants. When we know that we are one with God, that we and He are friends, then come equality and freedom. So long as you hold yourself separated by a hair’s breadth from this Eternal One, fear cannot go.

Never ask that foolish question: What good will our love of God do the world? Let the world go. Love and ask nothing; love and look for nothing further. Love and forget all the “isms.” Drink the cup of love and become mad. Say, “Thine, O Thine forever, O Lord!” and plunge in, forgetting all else. The very essence of God is love. Seeing a cat loving her kittens, stand and pray. God has become manifest there—literally believe this. Repeat, “I am Thine, I am Thine;” for we can see God everywhere. Do not seek Him; just see Him.

May the Lord—the Light of the world, the Soul of the universe—ever protect you!
— Swami Vivekananda —
             July 3, 1895


It is not good to speak to others about one’s spiritual experiences, especially to those who are incompatible by nature. It ruins the spiritual mood. Of course it benefits an aspirant if he talks about spiritual life with a person of similar nature. Fellow pilgrims can help each other. A person can escape danger on his journey if he gets acquainted with a traveler who already has followed that path and knows its problems. If you have a good guide, he will show you important things on the way and you will not have to face any troubles. Moreover, you reach your destination quickly. Man’s intellect has its limitations, so one should live with a good teacher. Life is short but there are many things to do. One should strive hard to reach the goal within this short span of life.

Human life is unpredictable. It may end after twenty years or today. Nobody knows when it will end, so it is better to acquire something soon for the journey. Who knows when the call will come? If you go to an unknown land empty-handed you will suffer. Because you were born, you must die. It is true, after death you will have to go to a different place. At any cost, collect all provisions for that journey and keep yourself ready. When the call comes, start your journey with a smiling face. There will be no fear or anxiety if you know definitely that you have what you need for the way.

When you have the noble desire to realize God and an opportunity to lead a good life, please use it whole-heartedly and attain the Truth. Hold the pole [God] firmly. Let the body go, but don’t give up the pole. Have faith in yourself. “I am a human being, and I can do everything”— have this kind of faith and move forward. You will reach the goal. Your life will be meaningful. Coming and going are painful. Stop this dreadful cycle of reincarnation. Be the Lord’s eternal companion.

— Swami Brahmananda —


The true teacher is one who can throw his whole force into the tendency of the taught. Without real sympathy we can never teach well. Give up the notion that every man is a responsible being; only the perfect man is responsible. The ignorant have drunk deep of the cup of delusion and are not sane. You, who know, must have patience with these. Have nothing but love for them and find out the disease that has made them see the world in a wrong light; then help them to cure it and see aright. Remember always that the free have free will; all the rest are in bondage and are not responsible for what they do. Will as will is bound. The water when melting on the top of the Himalayas is free, but becoming the river it is bound by the banks; yet the original impetus carries it to the sea and it regains its freedom.

Some imaginations help to break the bondage of the rest. The whole universe is imagination, but one set of imaginations will cure another set. Those which tell us that there is sin and sorrow and death in the world are terrible; but the other set, which says ever: “I am holy. There is a God. There is no pain” — these are good and help to break the bondage of the others. The highest imagination, which can break all the links of the chain, is that of the Personal God.

“Om Tat Sat” is the only thing beyond maya, but the Personal God exists eternally. As long as Niagara Falls exists, the rainbow will exist; but the water continually flows away. The Falls is the universe, and the rainbow is the Personal God, and both are eternal. While the universe exists, God must exist. God creates the universe and the universe creates God, and both are eternal. Maya is neither existence nor nonexistence. Both Niagara Falls and the rainbow are eternally changing — Brahman seen through maya. . . . Vedanta takes maya as a whole and sees beyond it the nondual Brahman.

     — Swami Vivekananda —
Inspired Talks, August 5, 1895


Master (to Vaidyanath): “All that you see is the manifestation of God’s power. No one can do anything without this power. But you must remember that there is not an equal manifestation of God’s power in all things. Vidyasagar once asked me whether God endowed some with greater power than others. I said to him: ‘If there are no greater and lesser manifestations of His power, then why have we taken the trouble to visit you? Have you grown two horns?’ So it stands to reason that God exists in all beings as the All-pervasive Power; but the manifestations of His power are different in different beings.”

Vaidyanath: “Sir, I have a doubt. People speak of free will. They say that a man can do either good or evil according to his free will. Is it true? Are we really free to do whatever we like?”

Master: “Everything depends on the will of God. The world is His play. He has created all these different things—great and small, strong and weak, good and bad, virtuous and vicious. This is all His maya, His sport. You must have observed that all the trees in a garden are not of the same kind.

“As long as a man has not realized God, he thinks he is free. It is God Himself who keeps this error in man. Otherwise sin would have multiplied. Man would not have been afraid of sin, and there would have been no punishment for it.

“But do you know the attitude of one who has realized God? He feels: ‘I am the machine, and Thou, O Lord, art the Operator. I am the house and Thou art the Indweller. I am the chariot and Thou art the Driver. I move as Thou movest me; I speak as Thou makest me speak.’

(To Vaidyanath): “It is not good to argue. Isn’t that so?”

Vaidyanath: “Yes, sir. The desire to argue disappears when a man attains wisdom.”

The Master, out of his stock of a dozen English words, said, “Thank you!” in a most charming way and all laughed.
     — The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna


Govinda: “Revered Sir, why does the Divine Mother have a black complexion?”

Master: “You see Her as black because you are far away from Her. Go near and you will find Her devoid of color. The water of a lake appears black from a distance. Go near and take the water in your hand, and you will see that it has no color at all. Similarly, the sky looks blue from a distance. But look at the atmosphere near you; it has no color. The nearer you come to God, the more you will realize that He has neither name nor form. If you move away from the Divine Mother, you will fmd Her blue, like the grass-flower. Is Shyama male or female? A man once saw the image of the Divine Mother wearing a sacred thread. He said to the worshipper: ‘What? You have put the sacred thread on the Mother’s neck!’ The worshipper said: ‘Brother, I see that you have truly known the Mother. But I have not yet been able to find out whether She is male or female; that is why I have put the sacred thread on Her image.’

“That which is Shyama is also Brahman. That which has form, again, is without form. That which has attributes, again, has no attributes. Brahman is Shakti; Shakti is Brahman. They are not two. These are only two aspects, male and female, of the same Reality, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.”

Govinda: “What is the meaning of yogamaya?”

Master: “It signifies the yoga, or union, of Purusha and Prakriti. Whatever you perceive in the universe is the outcome of this union. Take the image of Shiva and Kali. Kali stands on the bosom of Shiva; Shiva lies under Her feet like a corpse. Kali looks at Shiva. All this denotes the union of Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha is inactive; therefore Shiva lies on the ground like a corpse. Prakriti performs all Her activities in conjunction with Purusha. Thus She creates, preserves, and destroys.

“Who is the best devotee of God? It is he who sees, after the realization of Brahman, that God alone has become all living beings, the universe, and the twenty-four cosmic principles.”

     — The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna


Master: “God alone is real, and all else illusory—the garden and its owner, God and His splendor. But people look at the garden only. How few seek out the owner!”

A Devotee: “Sir, what is the way?”

Master: “Discrimination between the Real and the unreal. One should always discriminate to the effect that God alone is real and the world unreal. And one should pray with sincere longing.”

Devotee: “But, sir, where is our leisure for these things?”

Master: “Those who have the time must meditate and worship. But those who cannot possibly do so must bow down wholeheartedly to God twice a day. He abides in the hearts of all; He knows that worldly people have many things to do. What else is possible for them? You don’t have time to pray to God; therefore give Him the power of attorney. But all is in vain unless you attain God and see Him.”

Another Devotee: “Sir, to see you is the same as to see God.”

Master: “Don’t ever say that again. The waves belong to the Ganges, not the Ganges to the waves. A man cannot get rid of all such egotistic ideas as ‘I am such an important man’ or ‘I am so and so.’ Level the mound of ‘I’ to the ground by dissolving it with tears of devotion.”

Devotee: “Why has God put us in the world?”

Master: “To perpetuate His creation. It is His will, His maya. He has deluded man with lust and greed.”

Devotee: “Why has he deluded us? Why has He so willed?”

Master: “If but once He should give man a taste of divine joy, then man would not care to lead a worldly life. The creation would come to an end.”

     — The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna


8 July 1916

Dear Bihari Babu,

I was so happy reading your letter, and again I became sad noticing your old self-deprecating mood. You are a child of the Divine Mother. Why do you consider yourself so worthless? Please shun this negative feeling completely. The Master Sri Ramakrishna taught us to repeat, ‘I chant God’s name. Why should 1 worry?’ Truly, I feel pain when I hear your self-reproaching attitude. We have heard from the Master that this is an obstacle to spiritual progress. Knowing your strong relationship with God, you have to move towards him. Never forget that you are his child. Human relationships are casual and momentary, but the relationship with the Lord is eternal.

“The ever-free Atman [Self] takes a human birth in order to taste the bliss of liberation in life and not for the fulfillment of any worldly desires.” I can hardly convey to you what a wonderful joy and light dawned on me when l first read this verse of Shankara. Then the purpose of life shined forth before me, and all problems were solved automatically. I realized that the purpose of human birth is nothing but tasting the bliss of jivan-mukti or freedom while living. Truly there is no reason for the ever-free Atman to assume a human body, except that it likes to enjoy freedom while in the body.

You are that ever-free Atman; your expression of self-pity does not befit you. No doubt it is difficult to look directly into the sun, but it is easy to look at the reflected sun. Likewise, it may be difficult to realize the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute as ‘I am Brahman’ [the supreme reality]; but one can definitely identify oneself with him as ‘I am his child or part.’ One should not think oneself separate from God; it is not beneficial.

Whatever I may be, I belong to him and to none else. A son may be unworthy, but he is still a son. There is a song of Ram prasad: ‘Good or bad—whatever I may be, thou knowest everything. But does a mother discard her son because he is bad?’ Whether you are good or bad, you are the child of the Divine Mother. There is no doubt about it.

With love and best wishes,

     — Spiritual Treasures: Letters of Swami Turiyananda

(About Swami Turiyananda: A direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and brother monk of Swami Vivekananda, Swami Turiyananda was in charge of our Society from 1900 until 1902. In the spring of 1900, before leaving San Francisco, Swami Vivekananda said to the Vedanta students: “I have lectured you on Vedanta; in Turiyananda you will see Vedanta personified. He lives it every moment of his life. He is the ideal Hindu monk, and he will help you all to live a pure and holy life.”)


The innumerable gods and goddesses of the Hindu religion are the human aspects of the indescribable and incomprehensible Spirit, as conceived by the finite human mind. They understand and appreciate human love and emotion, help men to realize their secular and spiritual ideals, and ultimately enable men to attain liberation from the miseries of phenomenal life. The source of light, intelligence, wisdom, and strength is the One alone from whom comes the fulfillment of desire. Yet, as long as a person is bound by their human limitations, one cannot but worship God through human forms. One must use human symbols. Therefore Hinduism asks the devotees to look on God as the ideal father, the ideal mother, the ideal husband, the ideal son, or the ideal friend. But the name ultimately leads to the nameless, the form to the formless, the word to the silence, the emotion to the serene realization of peace in Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. The gods gradually merge in the one God. But until that realization is achieved, the devotee cannot dissociate human factors from his or her worship. Therefore the deity is bathed and clothed and decked with ornaments. He or she is fed and put to sleep, and propitiated with hymns, songs, and prayers. And there are appropriate rites connected with all these functions. For instance, to secure external purity, the priest bathes himself in holy water and puts on a holy cloth. He purifies the mind and the sense-organs by appropriate meditations. He fortifies the place of worship against evil forces by drawing around it circles of fire and water. He awakens the different spiritual centers of the body and invokes the supreme spirit in his heart. Then he transfers the supreme spirit to the image before him and worships the image, regarding it no longer as clay or stone, but as the embodiment of spirit, throbbing with life and consciousness. After the worship the supreme spirit is recalled from the image to its true sanctuary, the heart of the priest. The real devotee knows the absurdity of worshipping the transcendental reality with material articles—clothing that which pervades the whole universe and the beyond, putting on a pedestal that which cannot be limited by space, feeding that which is disembodied and incorporeal, singing before that whose glory the music of the spheres tries vainly to proclaim. But through these rites the devotee aspires to go ultimately beyond rites and rituals, forms and names, words and praise, and to realize God as the all-pervading consciousness.

     — Swami Nikhilananda —