Brij Mohan Sharma
The importance of Swami Vivekanandaji’s message for the welfare of humanity is now widely appreciated and recognized. Though Swami ji lived a short life in the later half of the 19th century, the effect of the work he did during that period and the legacy he has left behind will survive through ages. (Swamiji was born on 12th January 1863 and wound up his earthly career on 4th July 1902, when he was just thirty-nine years, five months and twenty one days old).
A world teacher that he was, he has given enough, as per his own version for fifteen hundred years. With the roll of years, his message of peace and goodwill has been gathering momentum and a foothold in the citadel of human thought and action.
We also look upon him as the patriot-monk of India, whose clarion call helped our motherland to wake up from her deep slumber of age-old drudgery, and struggle for her freedom.
Vivekanandaji always asserted that he did not “believe in any politics”, and as such”no political significance be ever attached falsely to any of his writings or sayings.” Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, however, has recorded that even though Vivekananda “was no politician in the ordinary sense of the word and yet he was I think one of the great founders.. of the national modern movement of India and a great number of people… drew inspiration from Swami Vivekananda…. Directly or indirectly, he has powerfully influenced India of today..” Panditji vehementally advised our younger generation to “take advantage of this fountain of wisdom, of spirit and fire, that flows through Swami Vivekananda.”
While paying tributes to Vivekananda, Mahatama Gandhi has said : “I have gone through his works very thoroughly … and the love that I had for my country became a thousand-fold.”
Some of our countrymen describe Swami Vivekanandaji as the Hindu monk and a representative of Hinduism. No doubt, he was a ‘proud Hindu’, but his message throughout his life, reflects realization of the spiritual oneness of mankind. Swamiji proclaimed : “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance… but we accept all religions as true”. Throughout his life, he asserted “all religions are different forces in the economy of God working for the good of mankind”. He usually quoted the wonderful doctrine preached by Gita: “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatever form, I reach him; All men are struggling through path which in the end lead to Me.”
So, if a total view of his utterances and writings is taken into consideration, it would be seen that what he taught was not everything that passes under the name of Hinduism, but the essense of it, which he called Vedanta and which happens to be the essence partially or wholly of the teachings of all Messengers of Light whether in India or abroad.
He was deadly against conversions. In one of his forceful speeches in the Parliament of Religions delivered a October 11, 1893, he said “Christian missionaries come to offer life but only on condition that Hindus become Christians, abandoning the faith of their fathers or forefathers. Is it right ? He appealed to the audience “If you wish to illustrate the meaning of ‘brotherhood’, treat Hindus more kindly… Send missionaries to teach them how better to earn a piece of bread, and not to teach them metaphysican. Religion has no meaning for an empty stomach.
Almost all the American papers had a word of praise for Vivekananda. All of them were of the unanimous opinion that “Vivekananda was the most favourite… His lectures were interesting, and contained much of sound philosophy and good religion.”
It may not be wrong to say that Vivekananda was a great champion of religious unity. While making a grand appeal for the harmony of religions in the final session of the Parliament of Religions in America he said : “The Christian is not to become Hindu or Buddhist, or a Hindu to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth.. Purity and Charity are not the exclusive possessions of any Church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character.. If anybody dreamed of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart”.
His mighty speeches made a tremendous appeal to the conscience of the people at large. The New York Herald editorially remarked: “He is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him, we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to his learned nation.”
Swami Vivekanandaji, throughout his life, repeatedly emphasized that the purpose of religion is the higher evolution of man and not a stagnation in animality. Since man is essentially divine, the human personality embodies in itself the potentiality of developing into a Divinity, and higher development of man including his religion. He always asserted that “the goal is to manifest this divinity within, by controlling nature, external and internal.. Do this either by work or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy by one, or more, or all of these… and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.”
Vivekanandaji, therefore, desired every soul to “Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached. None is really weak, the soul is infinite, omnipotent, omnicient. Stand up and assert yourself, proclaims God within you, do not deny Him! Teach yourselve teach every one his real nature, call upon the sleeping soul and se how it awakes…”
He always asserted “Truth is nobody’s property, no race, no individual can lay any exclusive claim to it. Truth is the nature of all souls. Who can lay any special claim to it. But it has to be made simple.. so that it any penetrate every pore of human society, and become the property of the highest intellect and the commonest minds, of the man, woman and child at the same time…”
Swamiji’s message also gives warning against the threat of being devoured by the demon of materialism or fanaticism. He always exhorted mankind to listen to the call of Divinity inherent in him. Opposition to materialism, he said, does not mean neglecting the improvement of the conditions of man’s material life, but when it is made an end itself the consequence is total denial of man’s basic nature and distortion in life arising from such denial.
Speaking about his often proclaimed ‘Universal Religion’, he says “it must be one which will have no location in place or time; which will be infinite, like the God it will preach, and whose sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and of Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahmanic or Buddhistic, Christian or Mohammedan but the sum total of all…. It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance.. whose whole force will be centered in aiding humanity to realize to own true, divine nature…”
In nutshell, born out of the principle of divinity in every individual was his great message of work and worship. He often said: “Where are you going to seek God ? Is not God present in the living beings around you ? God has come in the shape of poor and the miserable, the sick and the lowly, the suffering and downtrodden. Serve them sincerely and with humanity, work for them and that will be the real worship of God”.
Swami Vivekanandaji is no more with us in body, but his spirit and his message continues to inspire us. The message is as much for the world as for India and will continue to inspire millions of people for all ages to come.
(The writer is a former public servant)
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