C. Rajagopalachari once said, ‘’Swami Vivekananda saved Hinduism and saved India. But for him we would have lost our religion and would not have gained our freedom. We therefore owe everything to Swami Vivekananda. May his faith, his courage and his wisdom inspire us so that we may keep safe the treasure received from him.’’ There was a time when Bharat was being degraded and looked down upon in the world. Hence the Bharateeyas began to suffer from inferiority complex, lack of self-respect self-confidence and self-reliance. And then appeared on the scene Swami Vivekananda, loved and revered in east and west alike, as the redeemer of mankind through the eternal truth of Hinduism and as a brand ambassador of Bharat to the world.
After reaching Chicago in 1893, Vivekananda started giving talks at churches, lecture halls and private salons. A prominent person Mr. Wright, in a letter to the chairman of the Parliament of Religions, wrote ‘Vivekananda is more learned than all our learned professors put together’. After six weeks the Parliament started, where he began his speech with magnetic words ‘’Sisters and brothers of America’’. He received a big ovation lasting 3 minutes. He went on to say, ‘’I am proud to belong to a religion that has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and refugees of all religious and all nations of the earth. In India there never was any religious persecution.” Thus, Swamiji corrected the wrong image of Hinduism in the West. Vivekananda spoke several times for the next sixteen days in the Parliament.
Vivekananda toured whole of America to spread the knowledge of Vedanta, Bharateeya culture, yoga and wisdom of the Rishis making Hinduism a great world religion. In 1896 Vivekananda returned to his homeland by way of Europe summoning from Calcutta two fellow disciples to carry on his work in America. He had left Bharat as a nameless Sanyasi, but upon his return he was welcomed as a triumphant hero inculcating self-respect and self-confidence throughout Bharat.
In 1899, Vivekananda returned to the West again spending time in London and New York before heading to California. He started a Vedanta Society in ‘San Francisco, winning the West with the spirituality of Bharat, wonderfully improving the image of Bharat and its religion. The burning thoughts of Vivekananda filtered to the second and third generation of great men like Tilak and Gandhi and inspired them to struggle for the freedom of their motherland, to throw off the yoke of slavery from the minds of the people. Swamiji preached that ‘all power and all knowledge is within you.
Swami Vivekananda had the greatest concern for the moral, material and educational, uplift of the poor, weak, uneducated women and the youth, who is the future of this country and make them fearless and bold. He said, ‘’India needs a hundred thousand young powerful men and women fired with the zeal of holiness and sympathy for the poor, fallen and downtrodden go over the length and breadth of the country preaching the gospel of help and equality.’’ Swamiji further said ‘the fate of the nation depends upon the condition of the masses. Can you raise them? In religion lies the vitality of India and so long as the Hindu race dose not forget the inheritance of their fore fathers, these is no power on earth to destroy them. Ay, when a man has begun to be ashamed of his forefathers then the last blow has come. Here am I proud to call myself a Hindu.’’
Swamiji warned against the consequence of making politics as a means of national salvation. Today we are facing a dire fate in which polities is corrupting the society at all levels. It is unfortunate that we are today what Vivekananda wanted us not to be, a nation led by a combined group of political parties, who can play with the destiny of a whole people for money and power. Hence, following the advice of Vivekananda we should go back to our cultural and spiritual roots. –Anandshankar Pandya