SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: EXPAND, DON’T SHRINK

The whole art of spirituality lies in expansion. So expand, do not shrink expand at the level of heart, mind, spirit. What keeps people from expansion is simply fear. Being afraid to blossom to their uttermost. About his own life, Vivekananda used to say that he ‘burned the candle on both ends’. He always believed in uttermost expression of latent abilities. He believed in an expansion which meant giving of the maximum of himself. And thereby becoming enriched. Not only within, but also through relationships, through affecting people's lives, through reaching out and touching others in a manner which left a deep impression upon their hearts and  souls.

 

What is the secret of expansion? Vivekananda used to say that the problem with human beings is that they cling to things, they are attached to things and to people. This very clinging attitude and attachment is what creates unhappiness. And causes us to shrink. So essentially, it is the art of remaining a little detached, of not choosing or judging - and then you find yourself undergoing an automatic expansion of being. And through this expansion, you become deeply relaxed and strong within yourself. Then things don’t seem to affect you or weaken you. But rather, you are nourished by all experiences.

 

So it is not a question simply of being result-oriented. In fact, sometimes being too result-oriented shrinks us in our psycho-spiritual capacities. It is an expansion of consciousness and awareness that is the sum total of the mystic search. In expansion is abundance of every kind. In expansion is the ability to grow to the best of our human consciousness. It is the virtue of being able to flow into new areas. Vivekananda, throughout his life, continuously kept moving around the world. He did not believing in staying in one place. He could have done that and be hero-worshipped, become a very materialistic guru. Because people were automatically attracted to him. But he always realized that this is not the way to expand. Rather it creates a vicious circle, a ‘cult of personality’. So his way was one of continual flow. Of meeting new people. Of challenging himself to new things. And through these challenges of new things and new people, he was able to bring about natural growth not only in his own spiritual life but in all that he endeavoured. And till now - and in the future - his subtle influence will keep expanding in an endless cycle.

 

The idea is to expand the circumference of your being. But how do you do that? You do it simply with an attitude of openness. Of being completely available to actualize your hidden potentialities. Most people have actually touched only a small percentage of their self potential. And the basic problem is perhaps because we have not sought to expand our beings beyond our comfort zones. So sometimes, we have to be less concerned about results, and more concerned about simply expanding our circle of life. That way, we can move on to the new. That way, we can move beyond the limited conditioning of the mind.

 

Now Vivekananda underwent many hardships. He could have settled into an easier life, but his way was of continuing to create bliss for others: through his teachings, through his hidden powers of awakening others to a greater reality. And essentially that is what every good leader should be: a person who can catalyze others’ potential. Through his own expansion, and through the expansion of their psycho-spiritual beings. To make them open up to new ideas; to be creative.

 

In fact, being creative is the art of expanding. Otherwise, we remain very superficial. We remain content with what we are and what we have. But to move into new dimensions simply means a greater exploration. Now man is going to Mars, and even looking at the next planet to expand his material legacy. But it all begins with an inner attitude: about forgetting one's past, about being able to move on!

 

Vivekananda, the Upanishads and Gautam Buddha all taught that dynamism simply means to carry on walking on the path. That is the way of the warrior, and in fact of the leader. Through this act of carrying on – moving on - does expansion happen. Leave past things behind! Do not cling or be so attached. Do not hold all your energy within yourself: allow it to flow. Then even the stars are not far away!

 

It is said in the old books of Vedanta that spiritual realization is almost like a new sunrise. Where the light of the spiritual ‘sun’ expands one's inner being, and makes it full of light. So should be our own credo. Open your hands, and the universe fills them with its abundance! If you keep your hands closed, if you shrink yourself, you simply do not grow. Allow a reception of the greater power to flow through you. Expansion is life, said Vivekananda. Let go of what you know. Then do you become powerful. Then does your being spread into new areas. Then do you dissolve into a greater reality. And then does your energy explode into creative action! That is the very crux of the mystic search. But it also makes sense at a very practical material level. Because through expansion, you encounter that which you might not ordinarily have encountered.

 

So allow your heart and spirit to expand, and your mind circumference will automatically follow. People carry very limited ideas within themselves, and that keeps them closeted. We are our own limit makers. Go beyond all limits, says Vivekananda, and change your attitude from one which is parochial and inward to one which is all-embracing to the world! The old Indian mystics used to say that the whole universe is one's family, and that is what Vivekananda sought to create throughout his life. He tried to make the whole world into one family. One wherein ideas can flow into each other, and we do not remain institutionalized and closeted in our own ideas. In that sense, he presaged the ‘global’ age. That was his real challenge, that was his real mission.

 

It is the old Indian corollary of going to the Himalayas. To the open spaces where one's heart and mind can expand to the maximum. But it can also be done while living within the ordinary world. It just needs an attitude: that the whole sky is available for one. The Bauls in Bengal say that the whole sky is one's shelter and home! We are simply to look at it that way, and not just live under the shade of a very small and limited world which we call ‘home’. The whole universe is our real home! This is the secret, this very attitude expands one’s consciousness!  If you look at the whole universe as home, you expand. And that is the mystic secret which Vivekananda demonstrated throughout his life, and hence succeeded in being who he was. It is also one of his most enduring lessons for life, leadership, success.

 

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