Vande Mataram

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The cyclonic monk who saved a fainting nation

Twelfth of January every year is observed as Youth Day, since it is Swami Vivekananda's  Birth day. The nation celebrates the 150th Birthday of the Swami with a situation comparably similar to that of the days of the Swamiji. In those days people were accepting that the culture of the land was inferior and the way of life needed refinement to reflect that of the European which was considered civil enough and anything that didn't have a semblance to it was termed barbaric. Macaulay, taking a mammoth step towards asserting British supremacy, summarily brushed aside the ancient scriptures of our culture with a sweep of left hand as unworthy. Did he read those and have any reason to conclude? Hardly is the answer to the first part and arrogance is the answer to the second part of the question.

When the nation as a whole was about to be sucked in by the result of British arrogance, emerged one saint from Bengal. He took the brightness of Sanathanic Holy light to the whole world like the Sun. Born as Narendranath Dutta, he got his enlightenment through Saint Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Ramakrishna was a beacon of spiritual awareness at that time in Bengal. Sri Ramakrishna was instrumental in igniting the fire of independence in the mind of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. It is the legendary words of Sri Ramakrishna that Chatterjee bows in front of the Britishers since his name roughly meant curvy moon.

Sri Ramakrishna asserted to Narendra that he sees God as lively as he sees every one else. Narendra, a Brahmo Samaji opposed to idol worship, asked a lot of questions about the spiritual enlightenment. Sri Ramakrishna answered all the queries lucidly and with logic. This persuaded Narendra to stay with the saint and quench his spiritual thirst. After realizing the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Narendra practiced Raja Yoga with much vigor.  

After the Maha Samadhi of Sri Ramakrishna, devotees stopped visiting the Kasipur Math and hence the day-to-day affairs of the Math faced a situation of setback on the financial grounds. Narendra, along with other disciples, founded the order of Saints of Sri Ramakrishna popularly known as Sri Ramakrishna Mutt. He took the name of Swami Bibidishananda and continued his learning at the Mutt. 

Later on, Swami Bibidishananda traveled extensively through the nation for five years and exchanged knowledge with many other saints while observing the status of the people. He had sympathy for the suffering and was appalled at poverty of the masses and resolved to uplift the nation. He visited Varanasi, Himalayas and then went on journeying through the west of India.

Maharaja Ajit Singh Bahadur of Khetri requested the Swami Bibidishananda to assume the name Vivekananda instead of Sachchidananda. Swamiji set on his course of journey to the southern India as Swami Vivekananda then. 
Banhatti, G.S. (1995), Life and Philosophy of Swami Vivekananda, Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, p. 276

He then visited Mysore, Travancore, Ramanathapuram among other kingdoms in southern India. It was the King Bhaskara Sethupathi of Ramanathapuram who beseeched the Swamiji to attend the Swamiji to attend the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1893 at Chicago. With money collected from his disciples in Madras and the help from the Kings of Mysore, Ramanathapuram, Ketri and other Dewans Swamiji sailed to America to attend the Parliament of the World's Religions.

Braving many challenges the Swamiji reached United States of America. Vivekananda traveled through several cities in Japan, some places in China and Canada en route the United States of America. He arrived at Chicago in July 1893. To his dismay the Swamiji learnt that admission as a delegate to the Parliament of Religions is only through invitation, which will be accorded only those who came with bona fide credentials from recognized organizations. Swamiji had no recommendations nor any affiliation to any organization recognized. 

Swamiji came in contact with Professor John Henry Wright of Harvard University who invited him to speak at the university. On learning that Vivekananda lacked credential to speak at the Chicago Parliament, Wright is quoted as having said, "To ask for your credentials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine in the heavens." On the Professor, Vivekananda himself writes "He urged upon me the necessity of going to the Parliament of Religions, which he thought would give an introduction to the nation."

What the Swamiji spoke at the Parliament was history and the some of the reactions to that were kept in a very low profile. One of those is that of The New york Herald's.
"Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation", wrote The New York Herald. (Farquhar, J. N. (1915), Modern Religious Movements in India, London: Macmillan)

Swamiji then became a phenomenon in the Western world. He emphasized on the importance of what is now being practiced as 'giving back to the society'. His legendary advise to Rockefeller on 'sharing his wealth with others' was instrumental to the beginning of charity of the wealthy man. (

Swami Vivekananda was offered academic positions in two American universities—one for the chair of Eastern Philosophy at Harvard Universityand another similar position at Columbia University—which he declined since such duties would conflict with his commitment as a monk. (Isherwood, Christopher; Adjemian, Robert (1987), "On Swami Vivekananda", The Wishing Tree, Hollywood, California: Vedanta Press,)

He came back to India after completing his work enlightening the West. Vivekananda received an ecstatic welcome. In Colombo, he gave his first public speech in the East. He traveled from Colombo to Pamban, Rameswaram, Ramanathapuram, Madurai, and Madras delivering lectures. Common men and Maharajas gave him enthusiastic reception. During his train journeys, people were said to have squatted on the tracks to force stopping of the train to hear him. From Madras, he continued his journey to Calcutta and then to Almora. While in the West he spoke of India's great spiritual heritage, but on return to India he addressed social issues—uplift of the population, getting rid of the caste divide, promotion of science, addressing the widespread poverty, and the end of the colonial rule. These lectures, published as Lectures from Colombo to Almora, show his nationalistic fervour and spiritual ideology.

On 1 May 1897 at Calcutta, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission, the organ for social service with the governance carried out by the trustees of the Ramakrishna Math which he found earlier to carry out religious works. After brief visits to various religious places in India,  he settled at Belur Math from where he continued to coordinate the works of Ramakrishna Mission and Math

On 4 July 1902, the day of his death, Vivekananda woke up very early in the morning, went to chapel and meditated for three hours. He taught Shukla-Yajur-Veda, Sanskrit grammar, and yoga philosophy to pupils in the morning at Belur Math. He discussed with colleagues a plan to start a Vedic college in the Ramakrishna Math, and carried out usual conversation. At seven p.m. he went into his room and asked not to be disturbed. Swami Vivekananda attained Mahasamadhi at ten minutes past nine p.m. while he was meditating. Rupture of blood vessels in the brain was reported as a possible cause of the death. This is accounted for as the result of Kapalamoksha a rare and phenomenal way of attaining Mahasamadhi.

This year is 150th year of Swmiji's birth and the nation is celebrating with zeal the memories of a Son of Bharath Matha who made her proud worldwide and aroused her sons and daughters who were in the slumber of slavery and aping the West while ignoring the culture of countless of years that Governed the Bharath Varsha than any written law. Let us now stand united  to make His dream of making Bharath Matha proud come true.

Vande Matharam!!

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