What is the goal of mankind, Swami Vivekananda asks
Is pleasure your goal?
The goal of mankind is knowledge. That is the one ideal placed before us by Eastern philosophy.
Pleasure is not the goal of man, but knowledge. Pleasure and happiness come to an end. It is a mistake to suppose that pleasure is the goal.
The cause of all the miseries we have in the world is that men foolishly think pleasure to be the ideal to strive for.
After a time man finds that it is not happiness, but knowledge, towards which he is going, and that both pleasure and pain are great teachers, and that he learns as much from evil as from good.
The making of character…
As pleasure and pain pass before his soul they have upon it different pictures, and the result of these combined impressions is what is called man's "character".
If you take the character of any man, it really is but the aggregate of tendencies, the sum total of the bent of his mind; you will find that misery and happiness are equal factors in the formation of that character.
No knowledge comes from outside; it is all inside.
Good and evil have an equal share in moulding character, and in some instances misery is a greater teacher than happiness.
In studying the great characters the world has produced, I dare say, in the vast majority of cases, it would be found that it was misery that taught more than happiness, it was poverty that taught more than wealth, it was blows that brought out their inner fire more than praise.
If knowledge is the goal, then how do you find knowledge?
Now this knowledge, again, is inherent in man. No knowledge comes from outside; it is all inside.
What we say a man "knows", should, in strict psychological language, be what he "discovers" or "unveils"; what a man "learns" is really what he "discovers", by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge.
The Law of Gravitation was in Newton’s mind, waiting to be discovered, unveiled…
We say Newton discovered gravitation. Was it sitting anywhere in a corner waiting for him? It was in his own mind; the time came and he found it out. All knowledge that the world has ever received comes from the mind; the infinite library of the universe is in your own mind. The external world is simply the suggestion, the occasion, which sets you to study your own mind, but the object of your study is always your own mind.
The falling of an apple gave the suggestion to Newton, and he studied his own mind. He rearranged all the previous links of thought in his mind and discovered a new link among them, which we call the law of gravitation. It was not in the apple nor in anything in the centre of the earth.
Newton’s apple tree at Trinity College
All knowledge is already in the mind, you say?
All knowledge, therefore, secular or spiritual, is in the human mind.
What does ‘learning’ mean?
In many cases it (knowledge) is not discovered, but remains covered, and when the covering is being slowly taken off, we say, "We are learning," and the advance of knowledge is made by the advance of this process of uncovering.
Unveil knowledge within the mind
The man from whom this veil is being lifted is the more knowing man, the man upon whom it lies thick is ignorant, and the man from whom it has entirely gone is all-knowing, omniscient.
There have been omniscient men, and, I believe, there will be yet; and that there will be myriads of them in the cycles to come.
Like fire in a piece of flint, knowledge exists in the mind; suggestion is the friction which brings it out.
So with all our feelings and action — our tears and our smiles, our joys and our griefs, our weeping and our laughter, our curses and our blessings, our praises and our blames — every one of these we may find, if we calmly study our own selves, to have been brought out from within ourselves by so many blows.
The result is what we are. All these blows taken together are called Karma — work, action. Every mental and physical blow that is given to the soul, by which, as it were, fire is struck from it, and by which its own power and knowledge are discovered, is Karma, this word being used in its widest sense.
~ Swami Vivekananda
An excerpt from The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda; Volume 1, Chapter 1, Karma in its effect on Character