By R.K. Bhatnagar
SWAMI Vivekananda was a man among men and a monk among monks. In the words of the former President, R. Venkataraman, ?His flashing eyes, booming voice and giant strides transfused a unique energy into India'sveins. From Kashmir to the last rocks of India, south of Kanyakumari, the country felt his presence and was strangely stirred. Ever since then, the words of this monk have pulsated with the pulse of our nation and have kept time with the heartbeat of our people. He was, however, much more than a monk; he was an Occurrence of millennial proportions. The orthodox as well as the heterodox, the old as well as the young, the rich as well as the poor, seemed to have found a teacher in him.?
Swami Vivekananda was born on January 12, 1863, in Calcutta. His parents nicknamed him ?Naren?. He had his early education in Calcutta. In 1897, he left home to live in a monastery. Before this, he got his arts degree in education and acquired sound knowledge of English, Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi and French. He also absorbed himself in the study of Vedanta, understood spiritualism and achieved recognition and self-realisation.
He studied the works of the leading thinkers of his time, such as Mill, Spencer and Hume; but still dissatisfied in his quests, he sought to find Truth and, after many encounters, finally met the master of masters, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Swami Vivekananda asked Shri Ramakrishna the same question he had asked without success to so many other holy men: ?Have you seen God, sir?? To his utter surprise, came the immediate answer: ?Yes, I see Him just as I see you here, only more intensely. God can be realised; one can see and talk to Him as I am doing with you.?
Before this great seer and monk breathed his last on July 4, 1902, he set in motion social reforms and cleaning of the Hindu religion of its archaic practices.
Swami Vivekananda was conscious of the social issues of the time. He did not wish to offer religion as a palliative to a humanity steeped in poverty and misery. He declared: ?I do not believe in a God or a religion which cannot wipe the widow'stears or bring a piece of bread to the orphan'smouth. Where should you go to seek God?are not all the poor, the miserable, the weak, gods? Why not worship them first? I believe in God and I believe in man. I believe in helping the miserable. I believe even in going to hell to save others.?
In 1893, Swami Vivekananda earned international recognition as he represented Hinduism at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He founded Brooklyn Naitik Sabha and Vedanta Society in New York. He also penned discourses on different aspects of Yoga. These have been published in three different volumes, entitled Rajyoga, Karmayoga and Jnanayoga.
Like Lord Buddha and the Great Ashoka, Swami Vivekananda was a strict renouncer. He renounced, but he also took on. He renounced the personal to take on the public interest. ?Every night when I went to bed,? he used to recall, ?two ideals of life appeared before me. One of them was to be a man of great wealth, and enjoy high rank and immense power, and I certainly had the necessary ability in me in fulfill that ambition. But then, the very next moment, I would picture myself as having renounced everything in the world, wearing nothing but a loin-cloth, eating whatever food came my way, sleeping under a tree and living in complete reliance on God'swill. I knew it was within me to lead this life of the sages and ascetics, if I should choose to do so. These two pictures of the two directions in which I could bend myself kept appearing before me: but I always ended by choosing the latter.?
He left a deep impression on all those who came in touch with him. Prof. Sundararaman Iyer, Swamiji'shost at Trivandrum, and his son, Ramaswami Sastri, have left us their reminiscences of his visit to their house in December 1892. ?One morning,? says Sastri, ?while I was in my house, he came unexpectedly. I found a person with a beaming face and a tall, commanding figure. He had an orange-coloured turban on his head and wore a flowing, orange-coloured coat, which reached down to his feet and around which he wore a girdle at the waist. Swamiji asked me, ?Is Prof. Sundararaman here? I have brought a letter to be delivered to him.? His voice was rich and full and sounded like a bell.? He adds that he ran up to his father and told him that a Maharaja had come. His father said that a Maharaja was not likely to come to houses such as theirs, but after he had received the Swami and talked to him for a little while, he came to him and said that he was right. Only, said his father to him, he is not a ruler of a small territory but ?of the boundless and supreme domain of the soul?.
The famous ?gems? from his life and work include:
* Do not care what be your colour?green, blue or red. Mix up all the colours and produce that intense glow of white, the colour of love.
* Arise! Awake! Stop not till the goal is reached.
* Truth, purity and unselfish-ness?whenever these are present, there is no power below or above the sun to crush the possessor thereof.
* As you have come into this world, leave some marks behind. Otherwise, there is no difference between you and the stones and the trees.
* Anything that makes you intellectually, spiritually and physically weak must be rejected as poison.
Before this great seer and monk breathed his last on July 4, 1902, he set in motion social reforms and cleaning of the Hindu religion of its archaic practices. We need to ponder if we wish to follow the message of Swami Vivekananda in our lives.