Vivekananda on Impulsion and Restraint
Acts on the Impulse to Act
certain things occur before us, we have all a natural or trained
impulse to act in a certain manner towards them; when this
impulse comes, the mind begins to think about the situation.
Sometimes it thinks that it is good to act in a particular
manner under the given conditions; at other times it thinks
that it is wrong to act in the same manner even in the very
and Society Arises from Restraint
primitive man was a man of impulse. He did what occurred to
him, and tried to bring out through his muscles whatever thought
came into his mind, and he never stopped to judge, and seldom
tried to check his impulses....How can one man live with another
without having some time or other to check his impulses, to
restrain himself, to forbear from doing things which his mind
would prompt him to do? It is impossible. Thus comes the idea
of restraint. The whole social fabric is based upon the idea
of restraint, and we all know that the man or woman who has
not learnt the great lesson of bearing and forbearing leads
a most miserable life.
get Impelled, Battered yet will not Learn
we are with strong impulses and stronger cravings for sense-enjoyments,
but cannot satisfy them. There rises a wave which impels us
forward in spite of our own will, and as soon as we move one
step, comes a blow. We are all doomed to live here like Tantalus....Men
go out into the world and struggle and fight for money or
for any other thing to which they get attached. Ask them why
they do it. They say, `It is a duty.' It is the absurd greed
for gold and gain, and they try to cover it with a few flowers.
What is duty after all? It is really the impulsion of the
flesh, of our attachment.
every breath, every impulse of our heart asks us to be selfish.
At the same time, there is some power beyond us which says
that it is unselfishness alone which is good....There is one
impulse in our minds which says, do. Behind it rises another
voice which says, do not. There is one set of ideas in our
mind which is always struggling to get outside through the
channels of the senses, and behind that, although it may be
thin and weak, there is an infinitely small voice which says,
do not go outside. The two beautiful Sanskrit words for these
phenomena are Pravritti and Nivritti, `circling forward' and
`circling inward'. It is the circling forward which usually
governs our actions. Religion begins with the circling inward.
Religion begins with this `do not'. Spiritual begins with
this `do not'.
from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vols. 1:63,
II 108-109, 2:110/1,1:103,2:91, 2:108/9