Tesla was greatly impressed by the Vedantic knowledge propounded by the Swami on the relationship between force, matter and energy and underlined its similarity with the ideas of modern science
The analogy of Parasmani (also known as Philosopher's Stone) truly fits the personality of Swami Vivekananda. Similar to the said capability of Parasmani to convert iron into precious gold, the magnetic personality of this young Hindu monk, who completed his innings at a young age of merely 39, has transcended the lives of ordinary devotees as well as the lives of the eminent people in his contact. Let's talk about some of such names, whose personality is clearly refined by motivation from Swamiji's philosophy.
Coming to the famous personalities outside India, one of them is – Nicola Tesla. Swami Vivekananda and renowned scientist Nicola Tesla first met in a show by Sarah Bernhardt, a French stage artist, which led to a profound discussion between two giants of the 19th century. Tesla was greatly impressed by the Vedantic knowledge propounded by the Swami on the relationship between force, matter and energy and underlined its similarity with the ideas of modern science. A letter from Swami Vivekananda describes – "Mr. Tesla thinks he can demonstrate mathematically that force and matter are reducible to potential energy. I am to go and see him next week to get this new mathematical demonstration. In that case, the Vedantic cosmology will be placed on the surest of foundations. I am working a good deal now upon the cosmology and eschatology of the Vedanta. I clearly see their perfect union with modern science, and the elucidation of the one will be followed by that of the other." (Complete Works, Vol. V, Fifth Edition, 1347, p. 77)”. Toby Grotz, president of the International Tesla Society, explained the whole incident in his article "Nikola Tesla and Swami Vivekananda”. This article mentions the words Akash and Prana from Vedanta for matter and energy. Swamiji-inspired Nicola Tesla presented books on Indian spirituality to his friend Lord Kelvin, who was another great scientist. It was Albert Einstein who combined energy and matter through his theory of relativity confirming the long-held basic tenants of Vedanta.
In a speech during his stay in London in 1895, Swami Vivekananda said, "I don't expect everyone, I want selected 20 people who can devote their entire lives to the service of the world". The very next morning, a young woman meets Swamiji and says that yesterday you spoke about the requirement of 20 people. I don't know of the 19 but one is in front of you. And she was Irish-born Margaret Elizabeth Nobel, who was so impressed by Swamiji's sublime attitude and affection that she accepted India as her karma-bhoomi. Later on, she became one of the leading carriers of the Indian Renaissance and was known as Sister Nivedita.
The famous French singer Emma Calvé had suffered from deep depression after her only daughter died in a fire accident in Chicago, which led to four suicides attempted by her. After meeting Swami Vivekananda, she found a new direction of life, started singing again and remained in the refuge of spirituality till her last breath. Calvé wrote of Swami Vivekananda in her autobiography: "[He] truly walked with God, a noble being, a saint, a philosopher and a true friend. His influence upon my spiritual life was profound … my soul will bear him eternal gratitude". She also visited Belur Math and wrote: "The hours that I spent with these gentle philosophers have remained in my memory as a time apart. These beings – pure, beautiful and remote seemed to belong to another universe, a better and wiser world".
When John Davison Rockefeller, one of the richest men in modern history and the world's first billionaire, visited Swamiji with arrogance for the first time in Chicago in 1893, Swamiji urged him to see this wealth as an opportunity to serve humanity instead of boasting of his wealth. Angered by this unexpected advice, Rockefeller went back. A week later, he returned, but this time there was a newspaper in his hand in which news of Rockefeller's first big donation was published. Such was Swamiji's inspiration that later he started putting the minimum tenth of his income for the interest of society and who wrote in his diary before his death that "the happiness of giving is the happiness of living".
Immediately following the Chicago event of 1893, Swamiji met numerous leading personalities of the west (kindly visit https://chicagovedanta.org/). In one such event, he was invited to the house of Ms. Elisha Gray. The guests at the vegetarian dinner, given in Swamiji's honour, were some very illustrious scientists and engineers. The British physicist Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Prof. Hermann Von Helmholtz, Prof. Edourd Hospitalier were all there along with other distinguished people.
Let us now talk about some of the great personalities of India whose lives are deeply influenced by Swamiji.
Swami Vivekananda met a Parsi businessman Jamshedji Nusarwanji Tata on a 12-days ship trip to Yakahoma-Vancouver on his way to Chicago. After a brief introduction, Tata talked about the plan to import steel from Japan in India and then trade it. Swamiji then suggested that instead of this, he should learn the technology from Japan and should produce steel in India itself, the Indian people would get employment and India would be self-reliant. When Japan and Britain refused to transfer technology to Jamshedji, he went to the US and sighed technology transfer contract with industrialists and this led to the foundation of the first factory of Tata Steel in Jamshedpur. This incident is available on Tata Steel's website. Swamiji too wrote about this entire meeting to his brother Mahendra Nath Dutta. Five years after this visit, Jamshedji wrote a letter to Swami Vivekananda on November 23, 1898 “I am sure you remembered me as a fellow passenger of the ship on the way from Japan to Chicago. You must have heard or read about my plan to set up a Scientific Research Centre in India. I remember your thoughts in this regard.” Swamiji's motivation stimulated India's industrial revolution through Tata Steel. At the same time, due to the great efforts of Sister Nivedita, the Indian Institute of Science was established in Bengaluru.
Renowned scientist Jagdish Chandra Basu conducted research on radio waves but his research paper disappeared abroad and after some time Marconi patented a similar kind of research. Jagdish Chandra Basu was deeply depressed by the incident. Sister Nivedita, who herself was a physicist and a good friend of Jagdish Chandra Basu's wife Abla Basu arranged a meeting of Jagdish Chandra Basu with Swami Vivekanandaji. Swamiji called upon him to prove the Indian Vedanta's formula, "There is life in vegetation" on which Jagdish Chandra Basu worked diligently and proved this truth to the world. Basu later became the first Indian to receive an American patent and is also known as one of the finest Indian Scientists.
When Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore visited France, he was asked by world-famous litterateur Romarola (Romain Rolland) the way to know India. Gurudev replied that if one wants to know India, then he/she would have to understand Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa can be understood by knowing only Swami Vivekananda. Due to Gurudev's reply, Romarola wrote three books without even visiting India – on Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (Vie de Ramakrishna or Life of Ramakrishna), on Vivekananda (Vie de Vivekananda or Life of Vivekananda) and on Gandhiji. Romarola's words are – "Blessed are those who live in country where Ramakrishna lived. Double blessed are those who saw Ramakrishna and triple blessed are those who are working on the path shown by Ramakrishna”. About Vivekananda ji, Romarola says, "It is impossible to imagine him being the second, wherever he went, he was the first. Everyone used to find their leader in him. He was a representative of God and his uniqueness was to dominate everyone”.
Swamiji also influenced the life of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the revolutionary man of the Indian freedom struggle. When Swamiji was travelling all over India with different names, he once visited to Puna during which he stayed with Tilak ji. During his stay, these two scholars had extensive discussions on subjects like Vedas, Vedanta and Gita. Seeing the prevailing of purdah in the women of Maharashtra, Swamiji had hoped that it would be great if some of the elite class women could dedicate their lives to propagate religion and spirituality similar to that of the Buddhist era. Tilak ji took Swamiji along at a weekly seminar to be held at Deccan Club in Poona. At that seminar organised in English, Kashiram Govind Natu gave a beautiful lecture on a philosophical subject that day. Now, as per the prevailing practice, another member had to express his views on the same subject, but no one stood up because the subject of the lecture was a little esoteric. Swamiji then stood up and gave a glittering lecture on the other sides of the same subject. Everyone present was mesmerized by such a beautiful interpretation of the subject. It is assumed that both Tilak and Swamiji decided that Tilak would work towards a national resurgence in the "political" field, while Vivekananda would work for the national resurgence in the "religious" field. Paying homage to Swamiji on his demise in his newspaper Kesari, Tilak ji wrote: “No Hindu, who has Hindu interests in his heart, can help but to feel mourning at Vivekananda's Samadhi. In short, Vivekananda had taken the task of furling the banner of Advaita philosophy among all the countries of the world forever and made them realize the real greatness of Hinduism and Hindus. He had hoped that he would achieve the crown of his achievement with the fulfilment of this task on the basis of his education, eloquence, enthusiasm and honesty, as he had laid a safe foundation for that. But with swami's samadhi, these hopes went away. Thousands of years ago, another saint, Shankaracharya, showed the world the glory and greatness of Hinduism. Vivekananda is the second Shankaracharya of the 19th century to show the world the glory of Hinduism. Their work is yet to be completed. We have lost our pride, our freedom, everything”.
The mathematics Professor of FC College in Lahore Tirthram Goswami met Swamiji and was deeply impressed by Swami Vivekananda's powerful views on Vedanta. When Tirthram presented Vivekananda ji with a golden watch, Swamiji put the watch back in Tirthram's pocket and said that he would continue to use this watch from his pocket only. Under the influence of Swamiji's bright personality, Tirthram later became Swami Ramtirtha.
In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi writes – “At the Calcutta Congress session of 1901, I was so eager to see Swamiji that I walked to the Balur Math, but unfortunately, due to Swamiji's ill health, I could not meet him.” Speaking on the occasion of Swamiji's birth anniversary at Belur Math in 1921, Gandhiji said that by reading Swami Vivekananda, patriotism has increased a thousand times within him. Speaking at another place, he said that he considered Swamiji's gross criticism of caste discrimination to be absolutely correct.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, who gave an effective mantra of "You give me blood, I will give you freedom", was a dedicated devotee of Vivekananda ji since childhood and considered him as his spiritual guru. Swamiji's literature acted as a guide to him in moments of dilemma. That is why even during the busy days of the formation of the Azad Hind Fauj in Japan and Singapore, he had the book of Vivekananda along with the Gita. On one such occasion, Netaji asked one of his colleagues to buy a rosary from the Ashram of Ramakrishna Mission in Singapore. Regarding Swamiji's powerful words, Subhash Babu used to say, "His words have the ability to make the lying one to sit up and the one sitting up to stand, and the one who stands up to move on.” In another place, he says, "Swamiji coordinated the east and the west, religion and science, the past and the present, and therefore he is great. Our countrymen have achieved unprecedented self-esteem, self-confidence and self-expression through his teachings.”.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wrote about Swamiji in his book Discovery of India, 'He explained vedanta's advaitism, which was not only spiritual but also rational and whose association was similar to scientific research of nature.'
Swami Vivekananda was also an inspiration for the revolutionaries who laid down their lives for the country's independence. Swami Vivekananda's brother Bhupendra Nath Dutt, who was the founder of revolutionary organizations like Yugantar and Anushilan Samiti, himself wrote a book on Vivekananda titled "Swami Vivekananda Patriot-Prophet". When Hemchandra Ghosh, the founder of the revolutionary formation called Dhaka Mukti Sangha, who brought many revolutionaries on the path of revolution, met Swami Vivekananda ji in Dhaka in 1901, Swamiji told him that India's political freedom was the first necessity and no power in the world could stop this truth. He also urged to be characterful for the freedom of Mother India and be powerful and fearless.
Thus we see how many big personalities, foreigners and indigenous people from different regions, have an imprint of Swamiji's life, his speeches and that of his literature on their life. The selection of his birthday as National Youth Day to inspire the youth of the country having the largest number of young people in the world is indeed very relevant and accurate.
(Translated by Dr. Ranjeet Singh, Assistant Professor of Physics in Guru Jambheswar University of Science & Technology and Mentor of Vivekanand Vichar Manch in university.)