Swami Vivekananda was one of the first people from India to come to the United States and talk about Yoga. He showed up at the 1893 World Parliament of Religion in Chicago (yes, in 1893, that is not a typo) and was met with great curiosity and interest by many people there. He was invited to join various groups of Americans throughout the country and ended up traveling and giving talks for a couple of years before returning to India. He developed strong relationships with many people and there are letters and transcripts of his talks that have been published. He had an interesting history, having been taught as a child by many Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists in addition to being taught by some great yoga masters. His ability to understand the value in dialogue with the Western World is one of the main reasons many other teachers shared their teachings with the Western World. Gandhi read about Vivekananda and was inspired by him (among others). I figured his words might be useful study regarding competition.
Here are a few:
In a talk about duty he states:
We are all apt to think too highly of ourselves. Our duties are determined by our deserts to a much larger extent than we are willing to grant. Competition rouses envy, and it kills the kindliness of the heart.
In another talk, Vivekananda gives a great analogy:
Man is like a spring, coiled up in a small box, and that spring is trying to unfold itself; and all the social phenomena that we see, the result of this trying to unfold. All the competitions and struggles and evils that we see around us are neither the causes of these unfoldments, nor the effects. As one of our great philosophers says – in the case of the irrigation of a field, the tank is somewhere upon a higher level, and the water is trying to rush into the field, and is barred by a gate. But as soon as the gate is opened, the water rushes in by its own nature; and if there is dust and dirt in the way, the water rolls over them. But dust and dirt are neither the result of nor the cause of this unfolding…
Later Vivekananda states clearly
If the study [improvement?] of things in this world is possible, it is not by competition, it is by regulating the mind.
As I look through the myriad discussions that Vivekananda held regarding competition, it seems that he was really trying to say that competition is not the right way to direct the mind. Staying focused within one’s own experience and trying to make the mind better from within is more helpful. He describes why working within one’s own mind leads one to be more aware of how to be kind and helpful, aware of practicing ahimsa, satya, and the other yamas and niyamas can help to direct one toward one’s own development, allowing the great talents and gifts within to come forth.
Yoga Pose of the Day: Side Plank – Vasisthasana
Yogic Concept of the Day: Have I felt I needed to have competition in the mind to push myself forward?