Mind Acts on the Impulse to Act
When certain things occur before us, we have all a natural or trained impulse to act in a certain manner towards them; when this impulse comes, the mind begins to think about the situation. Sometimes it thinks that it is good to act in a particular manner under the given conditions; at other times it thinks that it is wrong to act in the same manner even in the very same circumstances.
Culture and Society Arises from Restraint
The primitive man was a man of impulse. He did what occurred to him, and tried to bring out through his muscles whatever thought came into his mind, and he never stopped to judge, and seldom tried to check his impulses....How can one man live with another without having some time or other to check his impulses, to restrain himself, to forbear from doing things which his mind would prompt him to do? It is impossible. Thus comes the idea of restraint. The whole social fabric is based upon the idea of restraint, and we all know that the man or woman who has not learnt the great lesson of bearing and forbearing leads a most miserable life.
We get Impelled, Battered yet will not Learn
Here we are with strong impulses and stronger cravings for sense-enjoyments, but cannot satisfy them. There rises a wave which impels us forward in spite of our own will, and as soon as we move one step, comes a blow. We are all doomed to live here like Tantalus....Men go out into the world and struggle and fight for money or for any other thing to which they get attached. Ask them why they do it. They say, `It is a duty.' It is the absurd greed for gold and gain, and they try to cover it with a few flowers. What is duty after all? It is really the impulsion of the flesh, of our attachment.
Pravritti and Nivritti
With every breath, every impulse of our heart asks us to be selfish. At the same time, there is some power beyond us which says that it is unselfishness alone which is good....There is one impulse in our minds which says, do. Behind it rises another voice which says, do not. There is one set of ideas in our mind which is always struggling to get outside through the channels of the senses, and behind that, although it may be thin and weak, there is an infinitely small voice which says, do not go outside. The two beautiful Sanskrit words for these phenomena are Pravritti and Nivritti, `circling forward' and `circling inward'. It is the circling forward which usually governs our actions. Religion begins with the circling inward. Religion begins with this `do not'. Spiritual begins with this `do not'.
Culled from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vols. 1:63, II 108-109, 2:110/1,1:103,2:91, 2:108/9