Swami Vivekananda and his inclusive vision for India
Special on Vivekananda birth anniversary – 12th January
The journey of Naren Dutta, now revered as Swami Vivekananda, in his sincere quest for knowing God, providentially brought him face to face with Ramkrishna Parmahansa, the mad monk, as Naren would call him, for the very mad monk, bitterly cried on seeing a young boy, who raised the question before him, as he did to Dwarkanath Thakur, the grandfather of Rabindranath Tagore, in the past: whether the former had seen god; hearing the answer in negation, his conundrum of some real-life testimony pertaining to the existence of god, invariably prolonged. No wonder, the mad monk, stunningly though, especially when the stereotypical answer ‘ no’ was expected, enthusiastically burst forth, ‘ Yes, I see Him, the way I see you’. Thus began the journey of Naren, on to the resplendent path of unravelling the priceless treasure of Bharatvarsha, along with paving the path towards her regeneration. Small wonder then, British raiding Belur Math in 2004, soon after Swami Vivekananda’s leaving for heavenly abode, is the vindication of his writings smouldering the hibernating national consciousness for over a millennium.
Swami Vivekananda was the precursor, in many ways, for rejuvenating the priceless wisdom of Bharatvarsha: his writing evocatively about the non-dualism philosophy of Adi Shankaracharya, opened the door for many people to have an insight into the philosophical depth of non- dualism philosophy, apart from propagating Adi Shankara as the greatest mind whose contribution was, pathetically though, rendered inaccessible to masses. Moreover, on being earnestly beseeched to say something on religion in erstwhile East Bengal, present-day Bangladesh, Swami Vivekananda said, ‘”For the colonised race, the only religion is independence”. His famous exhortation upon the youth to wake up, saying, “You are Amrtashya Putra, an immortal bliss; you have been asleep for a millennium wake up now! Giant India is on her feet, the world will witness the rise of India to lead the world community”. His most popular quote, “Arise, awake and stop not, till your goal is reached”, was meant for re-awakening the youth to liberate Mother India. He was a prophet of a new age and era; a harbinger of a new dawn, the monk who rejected renunciation of materialism which was hitherto the institutionalised belief of being the sole means to liberation from the cycle of birth and death; in fact, he was the prophet who significantly renewed the philosophy of Krishna when he had said, “I am the cause for materialism”. Small wonder then, his pioneering contribution towards the national renaissance in such times when India was condescendingly referred to as the nation of half-naked saints and snake charmers, tells its own glorious tales of his being the giant who sought to awaken the national consciousness which always remained in suspended animation.
Unequivocally, before going to the United States of America to participate in the World Parliament of Religions, Swami Vivekananda, despite Raja of Khetri, his close friend who had collected a donation of rupees five thousand for his going to the USA, had the serious qualms and deep sense of compunction as to how he could afford the luxury of his US visit when his fellow brethren back were starving? However, his meditation for three days and three nights at Kanyakumari, now Swami Vivekananda Rock, so assiduously built into a memorial by Eknath Ranade, his guru Ramakrishna Parmahansa appeared in his vision to give him a direction to visit westward. Finally, an incognito face then, embarked upon a journey towards the USA, which providentially had a divine mission carved out for him: he re-established the glory of Sanatan Dharma. But then, even the moments of reckoning were not easy to come by; having exhausted all his means, when he resigned himself to the will of God, a miracle happened: an elegant lady appeared to take him to her house, where he had historic discussions with her husband, Professor Wright who, when Vivekanand sought credentials for participating in the World Parliament of Religions, had famously said, “To ask you Swami for your credentials, is like asking the sun about his right to shine”.
Finally, when the moments of reckoning came: he delivered the finest speech ever in the USA on the glory of Sanatan Dharma, calling it the mother of all religions. ‘Ekang sad-vipra bahuda vadanti‘, the doctrine of equality of all religions as Vedas propagate, was so prominently showcased to the American intelligentsia. No wonder, the grand and lofty vision of Hinduism which the great monk had showcased at the World Parliament of Religions, contributed to the global understanding of the unfathomable depth of Hinduism. Unequivocally, American intelligentsia which considered India as a colonised nation steeped in utter poverty and obscurantism, had a mind metamorphosis, as a famous newspaper wrote, “The nation we considered so backward and regressive, the monk from there stood up today to teach us –the so-called advanced race — that we need to learn a lot from India”. While referring to the audience as ‘Sisters and Brothers, a customary, yet much-desired deviation from the stereotypical address of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’, which struck an instant chord with the elite audience there, Swami Vivekananda had directly riveted the attention of one and all. The deafening applause followed for almost two minutes before the audience sat to hear him with profound attention.
By designating Swami Vivekananda ‘as the collective consciousness of Bharatvarsha’, Rishi Aurobindo was only suggesting the obvious: none in centuries espoused the vision of the national glory, in such loftiest of terms as Swami Vivekananda did. Not only the great Swami had sought to awaken the hibernating national consciousness for a millennium, but he electrified the sleeping Indians towards their nationalistic goal. ‘Vedantist mind and Islamic body’ shall constitute Bharatvarsha‘, a vision of Swami Vivekananda appears to be in tatters, as the fragility of Indian polity today bears a striking resemblance to the same. With the communal polarisation today reaching a crescendo, it is the most opportune time that the nation revisits Swami Vivekananda’s inclusive vision for India on his birth anniversary today.
*Author, Academician and Public Intellectual