How are we to understand the phrase, “whom all men love”?

In our Summer Edition 2008, readers were invited to answer this question:
The opening lines of “Breaker of this World’s Chain” by Swami Vivekananda read:

Breaker of this world’s chain,
We adore Thee, whom all men love…

How are we to understand the phrase, “whom all men love”? On the face of it, Vivekananda’s statement seems to contradict our everyday experience of the world we live in.


Bill Davis responded:

1. Sri Ramakrishna is none other than the supreme Brahman.

2. Everything in this world is dear because of and only because of Brahman. E.g. “It is not for the sake of the husband, my beloved, that the husband is dear, but for the sake of the Self.” — Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

3. Therefore everyone is unconsciously loving Brahman.

4. If Brahman is being loved, Sri Ramakrishna is being loved because of the identity of Brahman and Sri Ramakrishna.

Amal Gupta wrote:

In Swami Vivekananda’s rendering of the vesper hymn (CW, Vol. 4, p. 504), the phrase “whom all men love” is “adored of the world (Jaga Bandana).”

Dictionary meaning of “love” is: deep tender feeling of affection and solicitude towards a person; feeling of intense desire and attraction; passion, etc. Depending on the context, love also means many different things, for example, love of family or children, love of wealth or power, love of art or music love of country. In the path of Bhakti, however, “love” means “prema.” Sri Ramakrishna said:

Nishtha (firm faith or trust) leads to bhakti (devotion); bhakti, when mature, becomes bhava (emotion or sentiment), bhava when concentrated, becomes mahabhava (super-consciousness); and last of all is prema (love)… An ordinary man at best can achieve bhava. (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 680.)

For this discussion, the correct word, therefore, is “prema,” which “love” cannot fully represent. Indeed “prema”, or “the kind of love” we are talking about is rare.

Considering Vivekananda’s version, the dictionary meaning of “adore” is: “to worship as God or a god; to regard with deep often rapturous love; to revere, etc. Vivekananda composed the vesper as adoration to Ramakrishna. So the phrase “all men love” wouldn’t be contradictory if we simply substitute “love” with “adore.”

Not everyone adores, or even is expected to adore Ramakrishna. But most people worldwide including all primitive tribes (excluding 4% atheists as per Google search), do adore someone or something—Christians adore Jesus Christ, Buddhists adore Buddha, Moslems adore Muhammad, and Hindus adore Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Ganesha, and other deities. So, as Vedantists, if we accept that all people (96 % worldwide) adore God in some form or the other, there should not be any objection to “all”.

I find, however, “all men” inappropriate. What about “all women?” Instead, Vivekananda’s rendering “adored of the world, (Jaga Bandana) seems to be more appropriate.

Julie Erickson replied:

I am a member of the Hollywood temple. I would like to give you my take on Vivekananda’s quote. I am responding to the two lines in front of me: “Breaker of this world’s chain, We adore Thee, whom all men love…” and I have not read further into Vivekananda’s passage to get a larger context. The meaning of Vivekananda’s words jumped out at me. I believe that he is referring to the MOTHER of us all.

Paramahansa Madhavanand (M. Wirthensohn, Berlin, Germany) said:

Not everything what a master says is true — if it would be so, it’s too easy for pupils to shift responsibility. Sometimes pupils take this in order not to tackle with a content the master says. What can the pupil do? Nothing else than what s/he did so far.

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