IF there is a question as to who is the greatest inspirator of modern India, I don’t think there would be two answers. Just like a thunderbolt, Swami Vivekananda appeared among the comity of Indian great men to shred light for the benefit of the whole world, and left the stage without completing even 40 years. Still he left behind enough energy and inspiration for so many generations to come.
He lived among us at a time when India was preparing for the final push against the foreign rulers towards the end of the millennium long slavery. At that time, vast majority of the people were living under the grip of superstitions and gross poverty. It looked as if weakness and slavery have become part of their blood. People lived cursing their fate. For most of them, anything foreign was great. There were no original leaders to be seen. It was at this juncture, Swami Vivekananda rose like a Sun from India’s east horizon. The clouds generated by that Sun rained down the much needed nectar of spiritual inspiration across the vast barren lands of India. Thousands of hearts blossomed by the touch of his gentle rays. The land which was being looked down upon as a wasteland by the world, all of a sudden turned into a beautiful garden. Thousands of seeds which were lying hidden under it’s soil, sprouted and grew to become fruit bearing trees. Once as he himself described about incarnations, a great tidal wave of spirituality, a spiritual tsunami hit the Indian shores and filled the dried ponds, wells and all water bodies to their brims. When we study the lives of the leaders of freedom movement, we understand that it was none other than Swami Vivekananda who was the real inspiration behind them. From Subhas Chandra Bose and Gandhiji to Dr Hedgewar and Arobindo Ghosh. From Swami Rama Thirtha to Swami Chinmayananda. From C V Raman to Jamshedji Tata. That unparalleled inspiration keeps flowing like a continuous stream and touches thousands of hearts even today.
His magnificent personality was a right mix of the greatness and depth of India’s ancient wisdom, and the creative energy of modern day youth. The rest of the world at that time was in a state of ‘shock and awe’ at the sight of the materialistic advancement and military prowess of the west. Swamiji stood like a lighthouse in front of them holding the eternal promise of the Vedic wisdom of India. His personality was akin to those wise men from Puranas and epics. Great thinkers and intellectuals felt themselves like dwarfs in front of this giant.
Budhism was the first missionary driven religion in the world. But because of the millennium long foreign slavery and the indifference towards self propagation, there were no serious and organised efforts from India to spread it’s religion and philosophy after Budhism. At the same time foreign missionary driven religions engulfed the world within the short time span of few centuries. While proclaiming about god as the ‘ultimate truth’ and ‘ever blissful consciousness’ etc, infact Hinduism as a religion had actually forgotten its basic duty of providing love and care to the large sections of its followers. Swami Vivekananda made up for that deficiency by establishing the spiritual oriented service organisation called Sri Ramakrishna Mission. This Hindu missionary organisation was successful in distributing the much needed spiritual solace to those unfortunate, poor and illiterate masses.
‘Service to Man is Service to God” became the national mantra of India. Thousands of similar social initiatives were founded following this. That trend continues even today. We saw great humanitarians like Baba Amte, Nanaji Deshmukh and Eknath Ranade being nurtured by this life giving flow of inspiration. Today we see that Vivekananda Kendra in one of the few nationalist organisations working to connect those Indians living in the North Eastern states to our national main stream. While being addressed as a “Yogaarooda’ and ‘Brahmajnani’ etc, even the adjective “Patriot Saint of India’ was equally befitting for his personality. Even while teaching the deeper truth that, this worldly life is nothing but an eternal flow to merge with the absolute, he consistently upheld the importance of three milestones in that progress of human life – the Individual, Family and Nation.
Today, a century after his demise the world look at India with awe and respect. It is considered as the invaluable treasure house of spiritual knowledge. People all over the world move towards a path of sustainable development which gives equal importance to spiritual well being along with material prosperity. Everywhere we see the enthusiasm to learn the techniques of inner world – ayurveda, yoga, meditation and so on. The message of east has found its place in the western minds. He had gatecrashed into their fortresses of ego by his famous speech delivered at the Parliament of Religions on September 11, 1893. His success in the west triggered a great flow of seekers from west to east in search of great masters. Even today ripples of that flow reaches upto the remotest and inaccessible caves of Himalayas. About a century later on another September 11, another group of youths visited the west and delivered the message of their belief. It was another face of religious indoctrination. Again it triggered a flow of humans from west to east. But this time it was armed combatants searching for the master minds of terror in the remotest caves of Hindukush ranges. These two events in contrast reminds us the importance of India’s culture and civilization for the peaceful existence of the humanity as a whole.
India celebrates his birth day on Jan 12 as National Youth Day. We don’t see a greater ambassador to represent India’s youth. His 150th birth anniversary is in 2013. Year long programme are being planned by various organisations including central and state governments to commemorate this event in a grand manner. Sri Ramakrishna Mission is celebrating it as a four-year programme starting from January 12. Some of the ambitious programmes being envisioned are establishing study centers at 150 universities, adopting 150 villages for overall development, movies and tv serials in multiple languages aiming international audience, making available lakhs of copies of books on Swamiji’s life at subsidised price and so on. His birth centenary celebrations gave us a world class memorial at Kanyakumari and lead to the founding of a nationalist service organisation like Vivekananda Kendra. Millions of people across India participated in that effort at that time by making contributions from one rupee onwards. If a proper vision is presented and people come forward with the same enthusiasm, we will be able to offer a much greater token of respect at his lotus feet this time too. We have enough time to plan for this event. Will we do that?