You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself

You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself, said Swami Vivekananda.

What did he mean by this? What God was he talking about? What belief was he talking about?

At the very onset let us be very clear of the context. A major reason why there is so much strife and conflict in our world is because people tend to take things out of context and react to such misunderstandings.

Swami Vivekananda was a maha-purusha who was on a mission of nation-building, and was a nationalist to the core. He was a practicing Hindu. He was also an Advaita Vedantin.

Let us take each point one by one and try to analyze what he could have meant when he said, “You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself“.

1. As a Practicing Hindu

Hindu Philosophy is quite different from Abrahamic theology.

Abrahamic religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam are those which are based on the Old Testament. Abrahamic faiths have 4 principles in common.You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself - Abrahamic Theology

  1. a monotheistic external (somewhat anthropomorphic human like) God.
  2. a founder prophet.
  3. one Holy Book.
  4. minimal tolerance for contrarian points of view.

God is therefore something external to Man as per Abrahamic theology and His views are propagated by One Prophet in One Book, and any opposition to this position is dealt with swiftly and often violently.

Hindu Philosophy on the other hand, espouses an All-Encompassing Truth (called “Brahman” or “Tat”) which some called God. All the philosophical schools (Vedanta or Samkhya etc) agree to this point, however their other details vary significantly, on how this One Truth becomes many in our world.

You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself - Hindu AumIn other words, God being the All-encompassing Truth is Perfection. Therefore God is the perfection we all strive to achieve.

When Swami Vivekananda mentions God, he talks about this God. The Truth. The omnipresent. The One who is manifest and un-manifest at the same time. The One who is beyond our comprehension, yet from whom we spring forth.

He talks about this omnipresent Reality, both outside and within us.

2. As an Advaita Vedantin

Advaita Vedanta is a theory of absolute monism. It believes in One all-inclusive Reality from which the world appears to have sprung forth.

In other words, we are a PART of the SYSTEM. As per Advaita, we are therefore the SYSTEM. The SYSTEM is GOD. Ergo we are GOD.

Aham Brahmasmi“, says the Vedic Rishi. I am Brahman. I am That Eternal Truth. I am non-different from the One Supreme Reality.

You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself - InfinitityWhen I believe in myself, I automatically believe in God. Because I am That God. I have God in me.

I have the Potential of the Infinite in me. I am infinitely capable.

Why should I care for inconsequential and limiting ideas like monotheism or polytheism?

The moment I realize who I really am, the moment I realize that I am the same Supreme Reality from which this vast and beautiful Universe has sprung forth, the movement I realize that hidden within the depths of my soul is the same Infinite Force, I start believing in myself.

I become CONFIDENT. I start believing in God.

You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.

Image Source : Top 10 Scientific Unsolved Mysteries

3. As a Nation Builder

After 800 years of terrifying Islamic rule and 200 years of horrific British rule, the Indian psyche was at the lowest. People had lost all confidence and had little or no self-respect. They had forgotten the old lofty ideals of One Reality and were instead trying to propitiate deities.

Swords and guns had replaced cultured debates.

At this juncture came Swami Vivekananda.

You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself - FireJust like fire burns everything in its path, so too the dynamic fire of Swami Vivekananda burnt and destroyed superstitions, weaknesses and fatigue, and instilled confidence, self-respect and self-knowledge.

He made people believe in themselves rather than believing deities or parroting what any book said.

Thus we see the greatness of Swami Vivekananda as he transformed and energized people wherever he went with his positive ideas and views, and helped ordinary people to at least strive to achieve excellence.

That’s it. Hope you enjoyed it.

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Thank you for reading “You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself”. I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave your comments in the comment box below and do share with your friends and family.

Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay

I am an independent Management Consultant. In my previous corporate career, I have worked in Banking, Private Equity and Software industry. I like doing equity research and financial analysis in my free time. I also enjoy reading and writing on history and current affairs related matters.

22 thoughts on “You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself

  • September 14, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Great post on Swami Vivekananda’s teachings. We need to believe in ourselves to believe in God, and only when we believe in ourselves can we strive to achieve excellence.

    • September 16, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      Thanks a lot. Very well summarized.

  • September 15, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Subhodeep, I just wish people would stop polarising themselves on the lines of religion, which is becoming a divisive force. I totally agree with what Swami Vivekananda said…it’s a universal truth. Would it be possible for the world to unite on the basis of this and not give that truth a name as in Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism or Hinduism?

    • September 16, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      You have hit the nail on the head.

      In one of his lectures in the US more than 100 years ago, Swami Vivekananda discusses exactly the same point – on how to move towards a Universal Religion.

      That’s why I appreciate Ramakrishna Mission a lot. If you visit any of their meditation temples you will see insignias of all religions in one room and people meditating there in silence.

      They are free to choose whichever God they want, as long as they meditate silently.

      For humans to progress as a race, such maturity is essential. We should focus more on spiritual development rather than skull-caps, crosses and white forehead markers.

      Thanks for sharing your views.

      • September 17, 2015 at 6:13 pm

        As long as we focus on our belief and don’t worry about others belief system we can all live with peace. The moment we start forcing our beliefs on others there is a problem and it leads to conflict…So best is to focus on our own belief system and try and understand it better…

        • September 18, 2015 at 4:13 pm

          Very well said. To each his own is the best policy. Unfortunately some people always try to impose.

          Thanks for your comment!

    • September 16, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Very true. Thanks!

  • September 15, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    You’ve explained it very subtly and effectively. We should understand that Swami Ji had some charisma because of which we are following him till today…and his teachings carry weight!

    • September 16, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      Well said. We should try to get a sense of what he is broadly saying rather than analyzing every syllable as many people are wont to do.

      Thanks for your views!

  • September 16, 2015 at 7:50 am

    Swami Vivekanand’s teachings hold so true more in today’s context. Believing in oneself and oneness is important to have faith and think it beyond religion.

    • September 16, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      Very true. Oneness is an ancient Indian concept which determines how we view each other, how we view society and how we view the world.

      Because of this ancient heritage, by our very nature we Indian’s are conservative and not prone to wastage like Western folks.

      In Atharva Veda there is a great thought where Earth is considered a living and reacting organism (somewhat similar to 1970’s GAIA theory) interlinked with us. By harming earth we are only harming ourselves.

      Our forefathers did not worship rivers and trees because they saw something supernatural there, but rather because rivers and trees are deeply interlinked with our lives and can impact our lives greatly.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • September 18, 2015 at 4:11 pm


  • September 19, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Very well said!! Unless one believes self one cannot believe in God. Sooner or later everybody believes in God!!!

    • September 20, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks for the appreciation.

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