Saturday, May 25, 2013

Swami Vivekananda: Cyclonic Monk of India

Swami Vivekanand
“Sisters and Brothers of America” a speech which changed the life of millions and still changing, that kind of grandeur, that kind of orator he was ("He is an Orator by divine right",As hailed by New York critique on September 11, 1893.) A man who learned and then believed the existence of God, a man who believed his religion and taught many others, why he followed, Swami Vivekanand.

Swami Vivekanand was born as Narendra Nath Datta in Calcutta, West Bengal on 12th Jan 1863 into a bengali family. His father Vishwanath Datta was a famous lawyer and mother Bhuvaneshwari Devi was deeply induced into spirituality.

He was the disciple of Ramakrishna and he learned lot from him. He learned that all living beings are the embodiment of divine self and service to god can be rendered by service to mankind.

Swami Vivekanand was the supreme teacher. He helped many, understand what life actually is, and comprised of, and provides an ideal way to live life and more importantly showed the way to God.

Fortunate is today’s generation who has many role models like Narain Karthikeyan, Sania Mirza, Priyanka Chopra, Amrapali Ambegaokar and many more amongst people who have managed to capture the attention of the world. But,there is something common among these personalities and i;e education. It was because they had the right quality education which helped them carve their niche in the world. And one of the prominent Guru who emphasized upon the importance of education was Narendranath Dutta or Swami Vivekananda.
For the progress of any country, education is the key. Importance of education gained impetus in India thanks to the philanthropic Swami Vivekanda.

Today’s generation is too selfish to bother about the other’s problems. But, Vivekanada was different. He was a man of vision. He had a dream of a better India which is indeed manifested into today’s reality. He was India's First Great Cultural Ambassador to the west.

Swami Vivekanada, then known as Narendra was an all rounder as a school pupil and excelled in studies,music as well as gymnastics. He graduated from University of Calcutta and was keenly interested in Western philosophy and history.  Another notable quality of Vivekanda was that he had a calm temperament. He used to practice meditation from his boyhood. He was also associated with Brahmo movement for sometime.

During his youth, being a student of philosophy he used to ask himself “Do God exists?If so,where is God?”,such questions bothered Vivekanda, whose questions were  answered by Sri. Ramakrishna. Sri. Ramakrishna was introduced to Vivekanda by one of his English professors. Under the canopy of Sri. Ramakrishna’s teaching,Vivekanda finally got answers to his question that God definitely exists and he exists within us.

Difficult situations come in the life of every being on earth and Swami Vivekanada was no exception.In 1884,after sudden demise of his father followed by poverty affecting his family,Narendra had to bear the burden of supporting his mother, brothers and sisters.If this was not enough then the illness of Sri Ramakrishna which was diagnosed to be cancer of the throat.  September 1885 saw Sri Ramakrishna moving to a house at Shyampukur, and a few months later to a rented villa at Cossipore.  In these two places the young disciples took care of the Master with devotion.  In spite of poverty at home as well as not able to seek a job for himself, Narendra joined the group as its leader.

Sri Ramakrishna imbibed in these young men brotherly love for one another.  He was distributing robes to them one day and sent them out to beg food. Thus,he laid the foundation for a new monastic order.  Sri Ramakrishna gave particular instructions to Narendra about the formation of the new monastic order.  On 16 August 1886,Sri Ramakrishna gave up his mortal body.After the Master’s passing, fifteen of his young disciples began to live together in an archaic building at Baranagar in North Kolkata.  Under the leadership of Narendra, they formed a new monastic brotherhood. In 1887, he formally vows to sannyasa, thus assuming new names.  It was now when Narendra was given the name Vivekananda.

After establishment of the new monastic order, Vivekananda heard the intuition for a greater duty in his life.  Although most of the followers of Sri Ramakrishna thought of him in relation to their own personal lives, Vivekananda thought of the Master in relation to India and the rest of the world which made him unique as compared to others. As the almighty of the present age, what was Sri Ramakrishna’s message to the modern world and to India in particular?  This question and the awareness of his own inherent powers forced Swamiji to go out alone into the world.  Mid 1890 saw Swamiji receiving the blessings of Sri Sarada Devi, the divine consort of Sri Ramakrishna, also known to the world as Holy Mother, who was then staying in Kolkata.Vivekanada left Baranagar Math and went ahead on a long journey of exploration and discovery of India.

Discovery of India led Swamiji’s travel all over India and he was deeply moved on looking at the shocking poverty and backwardness of the masses.What separated Swami Vivekanada from the rest of the Guru’s is that he was the first religious leader in India to understand and openly declare that the real cause of India’s downfall was simply banal, it was due to the negligence of the masses. He said that the immediate need was to provide food and other bare necessities of life to the hungry millions in India.  This could be possible with teaching about improved methods of agriculture, village industries, etc. In this milieu Vivekananda grasped the crux of the problem of poverty in India.And that was:Owing to centuries of oppression, the downcast masses had lost faith in their capacity to improve their lot. Hence it was a must to infuse into their minds faith in themselves. For this an inspiring message was required urgently. Swamiji found this message in the principle of the Atman which is the dogma of the potential divinity of the soul. He saw that, although poverty was unbearable and tyrannical, the masses adhered to religion.

The only problem was that they had never been taught the life-giving principles of Vedanta and how to apply them in practical life and make life better.
Thus the masses needed two kinds of knowledge:  secular knowledge and spiritual knowledge.Secular knowledge was to improve their economic condition.Spiritual knowledge was equally important as it was required to infuse in masses faith in themselves and strengthen their moral sense.  But the next question was, how to spread these two kinds of knowledge among the masses?  Swamiji finally found answer to this obscure question and that was EDUCATION.
Swamiji was perspicuous about carrying out his plans for the spread of education and for the uplift of the poor masses, and even women.This reuired an efficient organization of dedicated people. Swamiji later said, he wanted to set in motion mechanism which will bring righteous ideas to the doorstep of even the ragamuffin and the meanest.” The Ramakrishna Mission was founded few years later to serve  this ‘machinery’.

Swami Vivekananda had heard about the World’s Parliament of Religions to be held in Chicago in 1893.  His friends and admirers in India wanted him to attend the Parliament as he had the all what is required to represent our country. He too felt the same with the hope that the Parliament would provide the right forum to present his Master’s message to the world.This made him go to America.There was also another reason which prompted Swamiji to go to America.That reason was to seek financial help for his project of uplifting the masses.All through his life Swamiji just desired betterment of his people, his country.

However, Swamiji was desirous of having an inner certainity and divine call regarding his mission.  Both of these were reciprocated while he sat in deep meditation on the rock-island at Kanyakumari.This is evident with his gigantic statue built at Kanyakumari.With the funds partly collected by his Chennai disciples and partly with aid provided by the Raja of Khetri, Swami Vivekananda left for America from Mumbai on 31 May 1893.

If Swamiji was noted for something,it has to be his speeches which at the World’s Parliament of Religions he had given on September 11, 1893. That speech made him famous as an ‘orator by divine right’ and gave him an acclamation as ‘Messenger of Indian wisdom to the Western world’.  After the Parliament, Swamiji took nearly three and a half years in the teaching of Vedanta to the masses as lived and taught by Sri Ramakrishna, mostly in the eastern parts of USA and also in London.

On return to India in January 1897,Swamiji responded to the enthusiastic welcome that he received everywhere by delivering a series of lectures in different parts of India. His speeched certainly had a great stir to waken up the country.The significant observation throughout these inspiring lectures was that during these lectures Swamiji roused consciousness of the masses and create in them pride in their cultural heritage;his intelligence delivered through his speeches also brought about unification of Hinduism by showing the common bases of its sects;   attention of educated people was made predilected on the plight of the downtrodden masses, and to expand his plan for their upliftment by the application of the principles of Practical Vedanta.

Provenance of Founding of Ramakrishna Mission was evidentafter Swamiji’s return to Kolkata.During that time,Swamiji accomplished another important task of his mission on earth.On founding on  May 1 1897 a unique type of organization called as Ramakrishna Mission, in which monks along with lay people would together undertake promulgation of Practical Vedanta, and other forms of social service, such as running hospitals, schools,rural development centres etc, and conducting massive relief and help for victims of earthquakes, cyclones and other calamities, in different parts of India and other countries.

In early 1898 Swami Vivekananda took a big plot of land on the western bank of the Ganges at a place known as Belur to have a permanent home for the monastery and monastic.It was originally started at Baranagar, and got registered as Ramakrishna Math after certain years.  Swamiji established a new, ubiquitous pattern of monastic life here which adapts archaic spartan principles to the conditions of modern life, giving equal importance to personal illumination and social service.Another key factor was that this would be open to all men without any distinction of religion, race or caste.

It would not be wrong to say here that in the occident many people were predilected by Swami Vivekananda’s life and message.  Some of them became his disciples.Some even his devoted friends.  Amidst them the major names were of Margaret Noble (Sister Nivedita), Captain and Mrs Sevier, Josephine McLeod and Sara Ole Bull. Nivedita sacrificed her life to educating girls in Kolkata.It is also known that  Swamiji had many Indian disciples.Some of these disciples joined Ramakrishna Math and became sannyasins.
On his second visit In June 1899,Swamiji went to the West .This was the time he most spend in the West coast of USA which had seen him delivering many lectures.This was followed by his return to Belur Math in December 1900. Swamiji’s remaining time of life was spent in India.In this time too,he inspired and guided nation, both monastic and lay.  Persistent work,inspiring people and travel came along the way and told upon Swamiji’s health.  His health worsened and the end came quietly on the night of 4 July 1902.  Before his Mahasamadhi he had quoted to a Western follower the following words: “It may be that I shall find it good to get outside my body, to cast it off like a worn out garment.  But I shall not cease to work.  I shall inspire men everywhere until the whole world shall know that it is one with God.”

Author: Pooja Prabhu.
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