Swami Vivekananda told—
• A rich man had a garden and two gardeners. One of these gardeners was very lazy and did not work; but when the owner came to the garden, the lazy man would get up and fold his arms and say, “How beautiful is the face of my master”, and dance before him. The other gardener would not talk much, but would work hard, and produce all sorts of fruits and vegetables which he would carry on his head to his master who lived a long way off. Of these two gardeners, which would be the more beloved of his master? Shiva is that master, and this world is His garden, and there are two sorts of gardeners here; the one who is lazy, hypocritical, and does nothing, only talking about Shiva’s beautiful eyes and nose and other features; and the other, who is taking care of Shiva’s children, all those that are poor and weak, all animals, and all His creation. Which of these would be the more beloved of Shiva? Certainly he that serves His children. He who wants to serve the father must serve the children first. He who wants to serve Shiva must serve His children — must serve all creatures in this world first. It is said in the Shâstra that those who serve the servants of God are His greatest servants. So you will bear this in mind.
• Among the Shaivas, another dualistic sect, the story is told of a devotee by the name of Ghantâkarna or the Bell-eared, who was so devout a worshipper of Shiva that he did not wish even to hear the name of any other deity; so he wore two bells tied to his ears in order to drown the sound of any voice uttering other Divine names. On account of his intense devotion to Shiva, the latter wanted to teach him that there was no difference between Shiva and Vishnu, so He appeared before him as half Vishnu and half Shiva. At that moment the devotee was waving incense before Him, but so great was the bigotry of Ghantakarna that when he saw the fragrance of the incense entering the nostril of Vishnu, he thrust his finger into it to prevent the god from enjoying the sweet smell. . . .
• At one time, in India, representatives of different sects met together and began to dispute. One said that the only God was Shiva; another said, the only God was Vishnu, and so on; and there was no end to their discussion. A sage was passing that way, and was invited by the disputants to decide the matter. He first asked the man who was claiming Shiva as the greatest God, “Have you seen Shiva? Are you acquainted with Him? If not, how do you know He is the greatest God?” Then turning to the worshipper of Vishnu, he asked, “Have you seen Vishnu?” And after asking this question to all of them, he found out that not one of them knew anything of God. That was why they were disputing so much, for had they really known, they would not have argued. When a jar is being filled with water, it makes a noise, but when it is full, there is no noise. So, the very fact of these disputations and fighting among sects shows that they do not know anything about religion. Religion to them is a mere mass of frothy words, to be written in books. Each one hurries to write a big book, to make it as massive as possible, stealing his materials from every book he can lay his hands upon, and never acknowledging his indebtedness. Then he launches this book upon the world, adding to the disturbance that is already existing there.
• He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Shiva; and if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary. He who has served and helped one poor man seeing Shiva in him, without thinking of his caste, or creed, or race, or anything, with him Shiva is more pleased than with the man who sees Him only in temples.
• I am well, very well mentally. I feel the rest of the soul more shall that of the body. The battles are lost and won, I have bundled my things and am waiting for the great deliverer. “Shiva, O Shiva, carry my boat to the other shore.”
• It is not that Shiva is superior to Vishnu, not that Vishnu is everything and Shiva is nothing, but it is the same one whom you call either Shiva, or Vishnu, or by a hundred other names.
• It was Shiva who made stern and earnest workers, and to Him the labourer must be dedicated.
• O Shiva, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead unto These.” Though they may take various roads, all are on the ways. Some may run a little crooked, others may run straight, but at last they will all come unto the Lord, the One. Then and then alone, is your Bhakti of Shiva complete when you not only see Him in the Linga, but you see Him everywhere. He is the sage, he is the lover of Hari who sees Hari in everything and in everyone. If you are a real lover of Shiva, you must see Him in everything and in everyone.
• Shiva is the sublime aspect of God, Krishna the beautiful aspect of God. Love crystallises into blueness. Blue colour is expressive of intense love. Solomon saw “Krishna”. Here Krishna came to be seen by all.
• Shiva! Shiva! Where is the right kind and where is the bad, mother? It is all He! In the tiger and in the lamb, in the saint and sinner all He! In Him I have taken my refuge, body, soul, and Atman. Will He leave me now after carrying me in His arms all my life? Not a drop will be in the ocean, not a twig in the deepest forest, not a crumb in the house of the god of wealth, if the Lord is not merciful. Streams will be in the desert and the beggar will have plenty, if He wills it. He seeth the sparrow’s fall. Are these but words, mother, or literal, actual life?
• Shiva-worship, in various forms, antedated the Buddhists, that the Buddhists tried to get hold of the sacred places of the Shaivas but, failing in that, made new places in the precincts just as you find now at Bodh-Gayâ and Sârnâth (Varanasi).
• The world has not gone one step beyond idolatry yet. They cannot act from ideas, they cannot be led by ideas. But they want the person, the man. And any man that wants to do something must pay the penalty — no hope. This nonsense of the world. Shiva, Shiva, Shiva.
• Unless a man is pure in body and mind, his coming into a temple and worshipping Shiva is useless. The prayers of those that are pure in mind and body will be answered by Shiva, and those that are impure and yet try to teach religion to others will fail in the end. External worship is only a symbol of internal worship; but internal worship and purity are the real things. Without them, external worship would be of no avail. Therefore you must all try to remember this.
• We are Shiva, we are immortal knowledge beyond the senses.
• You must be pure and help any one who comes to you, as much as lies in your power. And this is good Karma. By the power of this, the heart becomes pure (Chitta-shuddhi), and then Shiva who is residing in every one will become manifest. He is always in the heart of every one. If there is dirt and dust on a mirror, we cannot see our image. So ignorance and wickedness are the dirt and dust that are on the mirror of our hearts. Selfishness is the chief sin, thinking of ourselves first. He who thinks, “I will eat first, I will have more money than others, and I will possess everything”, he who thinks, “I will get to heaven before others I will get Mukti before others” is the selfish man. The unselfish man says, “I will be last, I do not care to go to heaven, I will even go to hell if by doing so I can help my brothers.” This unselfishness is the test of religion. He who has more of this unselfishness is more spiritual and nearer to Shiva. Whether he is learned or ignorant, he is nearer to Shiva than anybody else, whether he knows it or not. And if a man is selfish, even though he has visited all the temples, seen all the places of pilgrimage, and painted himself like a leopard, he is still further off from Shiva.
From Complete Works, (of Swami Vivekananda) Volume IX—
There is an old story of a man who was a worshipper of Shiva. There are sects in our country who worship God as Shiva, and others who worship Him as Vishnu. This man was a great worshipper of Shiva, and to that he added a tremendous hatred for all worshippers of Vishnu and would not hear the name of Vishnu pronounced. There are a great number of worshippers of Vishnu in India, and he could not avoid hearing the name. So he bored two holes in his ears and tied two little bells onto them. Whenever a man mentioned the name of Vishnu, he moved his head and rang the bells, and that prevented his hearing the name.
But Shiva told him in a dream, “What a fool you are! I am Vishnu, and I am Shiva; they are not different—only in name. There are not two Gods”. But this man said, “I don’t care. I will have nothing to do with this Vishnu business”.
He had a little statue of Shiva and made it very nice, built an altar for it. One day he bought some beautiful incense and went home to light some of the incense for his God. While the fumes [smoke] of his incense were rising in the air, he found that the image was divided into two: one half remained Shiva, and the other half was Vishnu. Then the man jumped up and put his finger under the nostril of Vishnu so that not a particle of the smell could get there.
Then Shiva became disgusted, and the man became [was turned into] a demon. He is [known as] the father of all fanatics, the “bell-eared” demon. He is respected by the boys of India, and they worship him. It is a very peculiar kind of worship. They make a clay image and worship him with all sorts of horrible smelling flowers. There are some flowers in the forests of India which have a most pestilential smell. They worship him with these and then take big sticks and beat the image. He [the “bell-eared” demon] is the father of all fanatics who hate all other gods except their own.
From a letter of Vivekananda sent from New York, dated 25 September 1894—
Give up the identification with the body, and stand up! Say, “Asti, Asti”—”Everything is!”—cherish positive thoughts. By dwelling too much upon “Nâsti, Nâsti”—”It is not! It is not!” (negativism), the whole country is going to ruin! “So’ham, So’ham, Shivo’ham”—”I am He! I am He! I am Shiva!” What a botheration! In every soul is infinite strength; and should you turn yourselves into cats and dogs by harbouring negative thoughts? Who dares to preach negativism? Whom do you call weak and powerless? “Shivo’ham, Shivo’ham”—”I am Shiva! I am Shiva!” I feel as if a thunderbolt strikes me on the head when I hear people dwell on negative thoughts. That sort of self-depreciating attitude is another name for disease—do you call that humility? It is vanity in disguise! “न लिङ्गम् धर्मकारणं, समता सर्वभूतेषु एतन्मुक्तस्य लक्षणम्—The external badge does not confer spirituality. It is same-sightedness to all beings which is the test of a liberated soul.” “अस्ति अस्ति” (It is, It is), “सोऽहं सोऽहं”, “चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहं”—”I am He!”, “I am Shiva, of the essence of Knowledge and Bliss!” ” निर्गच्छति जगज्जालात् पिञ्जरादिव केशरी—He frees himself from the meshes of this world as a lion from its cage!” “नायमात्मा बलहीनेन लभ्यः— This Atman is not accessible to the weak”. . . . Hurl yourselves on the world like an avalanche—let the world crack in twain under your weight! Hara! Hara! Mahâdeva! उद्धरेदात्मनात्मानम्—One must save the self by one’s own self”—by personal prowess.
. . . Will such a day come when this life will go for the sake of other’s good? The world is not a child’s play—and great men are those who build highways for others with their heart’s blood. This has been taking place through eternity, that one builds a bridge by laying down his own body and thousands of others cross the river through its help. “एवमस्तु, एवमस्तु, शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहं— Be it so! Be it so! I am Shiva! I am Shiva!”