Sister Nivedita

Scots-Irish social worker, author, teacher and disciple of Swami Vivekananda

Sister Nivedita (28 October 1867 – 13 October 1911), born Margaret Elizabeth Noble, was a Scots-Irish social worker, author, teacher and disciple of Swami Vivekananda.

Photo of Sister Nivedita
Sister Nivedita


  • India, as she is, is a problem which can only be read by the light of Indian history. Only by a gradual and loving study of how she came to be, can we grow to understand what the country actually is, what the intention of her evolution, and what her sleeping potentiality may be.
    • Sister Nivedita, Footfalls in Indian History (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1990), p. 6. quoted in The Problem of Indian History by Michel Danino* (Published in Dialogue, April-June 2012, vol. 13, no. 4)
  • Again and again he (Swami Vivekananda) would return upon the note of perfect rationality in his hero. Buddha was to him not only the greatest of Aryans but also 'the one absolutely sane man' that the world had ever seen. How he had refused worship! (...) How vast had been the freedom and humility of the Blessed One! (...) He alone was able to free religion entirely from the argument of the supernatural, and yet make it as binding in its force, and as living in its appeal, as it had ever been.
    • Sister Nivedita, The Master as I Saw Him, p. 210-215., quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • The whole history of the world shows that the Indian intellect is second to none. This must be proved by the performance of a task beyond the power of others, the seizing of the first place in the intellectual advance of the world. Is there any inherent weakness that would make it impossible for us to do this? Are the countrymen of Bhaskaracharya and Shankaracharya inferior to the countrymen of Newton and Darwin? We trust not. It is for us, by the power of our thought, to break down the iron walls of opposition that confront us, and to seize and enjoy the intellectual sovereignty of the world.
  • I believe that India is one, indissoluble, indivisible.
    • Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture (2002), Nivedita of India, Kolkata (Calcutta, India ): Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, p. 82, ISBN 978-81-87332-20-6 
  • Our whole past shall be made a part of the world’s life. That is what is called the realization of the national idea. But it must be realised everywhere,

in the world idea. In order to attain a larger power of giving, we may break through any barrier of custom. But it is written inexorably in the very nature of things, that if we sacrifice custom merely for some mean and selfish motive, fine men and women everywhere will refuse to admit us to their fellowship.

    • Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture (2002), Nivedita of India, Kolkata (Calcutta, India ): Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, p. 82, ISBN 978-81-87332-20-6 
  • Our daily life creates our symbol of God. No two ever cover quite the same conception.
  • "Hinduism would not be eternal were it not constantly growing and spreading, and taking in new areas of experience. Precisely because it has this power of self addition and re-adaptation, in greater degree than any other religion that the world has even seen, we believe it to be the one immortal faith."
    • (source: The Complete Works, Vol III). [1]
  • The book is nowhere a call to leave the world, but everywhere an interpretation of common life as the path to that which lies beyond. "Better for a man is his own duty, however, badly done than the duty of another, though that be easy. "Holding gain and loss as one, prepare for battle." That the man who throws away his weapons, and permits himself to be slain, unresisting in the battle, is not the hero of religion, but a sluggard and a coward; that the true seer is he who carries his vision into action, regardless of the consequences to himself; this is the doctrine of the "Gita" repeated again and again....Not the withdrawn, but the transfigured life, radiant, with power and energy, triumphant in its selflessness, is religion. "Arise!" thunders the voice of Sri Krishna, "and be thou an apparent cause!"
  • "We must create a history of India in living terms. Up to the present that history, as written by the English, practically begins with Warren Hastings, and crams in certain unavoidable preliminaries, which cover a few thousands of years...The history of India has yet to be written for the first time. It has to be humanized, emotionalized, made the trumpet-voice and evangel of the race that inhabit India."
  • "Beauty of place translates itself to the Indian consciousness as God's cry to the soul. Had Niagara been situated on the Ganga, it is odd to think how different would have been its valuation by humanity. Instead of fashionable picnics and railway pleasure-trips, the yearly or monthly incursion of worshipping crowds; instead of hotels, temples; instead of ostentatious excess, austerity; instead of the desire to harness its mighty forces to the chariot of human utility, the unrestrained longing to throw away the body, and realize at once the ecstatic madness of Supreme Union. Could contrast be greater?"

The Web of Indian Life (1904)

  • For thousands of years must Indian women have risen with the light to perform the Salutation of the Threshold. Thousands of years of simplicity and patience, like that of the peasant, like that of the grass, speak in the beautiful rite. It is this patience of woman that makes civilisations. It is this patience of the Indian woman, with this her mingling of large power of reverie, that has made and makes the Indian nationality.
  • For the attention of the poet-chronicler is fixed on the invisible shackles of selfhood that bind us all. He seems to be describing great events; in reality he does not for one instant forget that he is occupied with the history of souls, depicting the incidence of their experience and knowledge on the external world.
  • In the sublime imagination of the Beatific Vision, he catches a hint of a deeper reality, but why, he asks, this distinction between time and eternity? Can the apprehension of the Infinite Good be conditioned by the clock? Oh, for a knowledge undimensioned, untimed, effect of no cause, cause of no effect!

Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists (1913)

  • a single generation enamoured of foreign ways is almost enough in history to risk the whole continuity of civilization and learning. Ages of accumulation are entrusted to the frail bark of each passing epoch by the hand of the past, desiring to make over its treasures to the use of the future. It takes a certain stubbornness, a doggedness of loyalty, even a modicum of unreasonable conservatism maybe, to lose nothing in the long march of the ages; and, even when confronted with great empires, with a sudden extension of the idea of culture, or with the supreme temptation of a new religion, to hold fast what we have, adding to it only as much as we can healthfully and manfully carry.

About Sister Nivedita

  • [Sister Nivedita] is a lady Hindus are proud of. She helped India by helping it to rediscover itself. No higher service could be rendered to a nation in the grip of self-forgetfulness... This explains why Sister Nivedita is Hindu India's hero.
    • Ram Swarup, Hinduism and monotheistic religions
  • Our patriotic and noble-minded sister had adopted our land from Sindu to the seas as her Fatherland. She truly loved it as such, and had our nation been free, we would have been the first to bestow the right of citizenship on such loving souls. So the first essential may, to some extent, be said to hold good in her case. The second essential of common blood of Hindu parentage must, nevertheless and necessarily, be absent in such cases as these. The sacrament of marriage with a Hindu, which really fuses and is universally admitted to do so, two beings into one, may be said to remove this disqualification. But although this second essential failed, either way to hold good in her case, the third important qualification of Hindutva did entitle her to be recognized as a Hindu. For, she had adopted our culture and come to adore our land as her Holyland [sic]. She felt, she was a Hindu and that is, apart from all technicalities, the real and the most important test. But we must not forget that we have to determine the essentials of Hindutva in the sense in which the word is actually used by an overwhelming majority of people. And therefore we must say that any convert of non-Hindu parentage to Hindutva can be a Hindu, if bona fide, he or she adopts our land as his or her country and marries a Hindu, thus coming to love our land as a real Fatherland, and adopts our culture and thus adores our land as the Punyabhumi. The children of such a union as that would, other things being equal, be most emphatically Hindus.
    • V. D. Savarkar, quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
Modern Hindu writers 19th century to date
Religious writers Mirra AlfassaAnirvanAurobindoChinmoyEknath EaswaranNisargadatta MaharajRamana MaharshiMaharishi Mahesh YogiNarayana GuruSister NiveditaSrila PrabhupadaChinmayananda SaraswatiDayananda SaraswatiSivanandaRavi ShankarShraddhanandVivekanandaYogananda
Political writers AdvaniDeepakGandhiGautierGopalJainKishwarMunshiRadhakrishnanRaiRoySardaSastriSavarkarSenShourieShivaSinghTilakUpadhyayaVajpayee
Literary writers BankimGundappaIyengarRajagopalachariSethnaTagoreTripathi
Scholars AltekarBalagangadharaCoomaraswamyDaniélouDaninoDharampalFeuersteinFrawleyGoelJainKakKaneMukherjeeNakamuraRambachanRosenMalhotraSampathSchweigSwarup
Non-Hindus influenced by Hinduism BesantBlavatskyChopraCrowleyDassDaumalDeussenEliadeEliotElstEmersonGinsbergGuénonHarrisonHuxleyIsherwoodKrishnamurtiLynchMalrauxMillerMontessoriMüllerOlcottOppenheimerRoerichRollandSchopenhauerSchrödingerThoreauTolstoyVoltaireWattsWilberYeats