About a century and a quarter ago, a three-word prelude, followed by a three-minute long thunder-sound of applause marked as the knock of Bharatiya presence amidst the appropriators of the Industrial revolution, in that part of the globe which was drowned in materialism. It was the registration of a neo-renaissance, thereby transcending the human civilization to something greater. Those who dreamt to conquer the world were all conquered by the ‘sisters and brothers…’ of Vivekananda. All that was compartmentalized was withered, the dogmas, sectarianism, fanaticism, bigotry and superiorism was thrashed just by these handful letters of this monk from India. What the mightiest swords couldn’t achieve was achieved by this all inclusive approach of this revolutionary saint.
Today, after 125 years, when we commemorate this historic event, and when auditorium has only half a dozen of students that too in lieu of attendance, or a group of people creating havoc in the national level celebration of the same, we need to introspect, can India deliver the same soul stirring strength to the world even today?
Unlike many of acquaintances, the thirst for truth was responsible for restlessness in Narendranath, all the while. Despite the severe circumstances back at home, he asked for the path of knowledge from Kali, and even on the insistence of his master, he couldn’t ask for the boon of material wealth.
Measuring the dimensions of India, he had accumulated such a tremendous strength which had the potential to shake the conscience of humankind. But Alas! The spirituality and philosophy were of no good to the empty stomach of his brethren. The monk was well-aware of the divinity of each being, at the same time hunger and poverty were also not a delusion on a worldly plane. He saw Narayana in Nara and wished to serve this Lord. The Swami wanted the wealth of the West to aid in uplifting the masses of India, in exchange for the eternal spiritual wealth of this land to add value to the lives in the West. The process of arranging the money through donations to visit the West and later distributing it among the poor continued for a while until the instructions to depart were received from Maa Sarda, the holy consort of his master Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa Dev. The young monk started his voyage in the early 1893 to the west, becoming the first sanyasin of modern times to cross the oceans and thus breaking a ‘taboo-superstition’ of that era.
As this young lad of 30, a strongly built gentleman in saffron robes stepped on the foreign land, the troubles followed him like shadows. After a struggle for about a couple of months, on the eleventh day of September1893, he found himself standing amidst the audience of 7000, and the panelists coming from all the corners of the globe, representing all the major religions and sects. All nervous was he, with sweaty palms and dry throat, for it was his first ever public address that too before a foreign audience and seasoned speakers, in a language foreign to him. After postponing his slot twice,this young man in red long coat and saffron turban stood, bowed before the goddess Saraswati and what followed next was the moment that quaked the human mind.
Seldom does it happens that we celebrate a speech or a lecture for long, but even after 124 years, each and every word of that speech is transcending-guiding force for the mankind in general and this part of land in particular. One reason could be that it wasn’t just a speech but a monk’s experience of exploring India for Six straight years, or maybe it was the experience of the ascetic-saint Sri Ramakrishna who followed all the major religions reached the same goal that was speaking through this monk, or maybe it was the manifestation of voice of Bharata canvassing the treasures accumulated over the ages. Whatsoever it was, the scenario wasn’t just a preacher lecturing his counterparts, but was way above from it.
Taking pride in his own religion and in the same breath showcasing the unity of all the religions required courage, which was well-showcased by Swamiji. The message was bold and clear; there is no exclusive right with any faith or belief to call itself sole truth. This manner of sectarianism, bigotry and fanaticism is meant to be condemned and discarded off.
Those six minutes, which included a three-minute long applause at its inception, was the reflection of the philosophy of this land called India to the world, by one of its most competent flag-bearers; the patriotic saint. As Sister Nivedita mentions ‘Whenever Swamiji used to utter the 5 letter word INDIA, in that marvelous voice of his, it seemed incredible that so much could have put in this small word. There was love, passion, pride, longing, adoration, tragedy, chivalry, and again love. Whole volumes could not have produced such feelings in others. It had the magic power of creating love in those who heard it.’ Vivekananda, was indeed the India manifested; the idea called India in flesh and bones.
When the world was not ready, even to tolerate the difference of opinion, when the sects were suffering from the phenomenon of superiority complex, Swamiji endorsed the Bharatiya philosophy of Universal acceptance. Accept everything which is good, which assists the expansion of soul, and reject it as poison what weakens you. At the juncture when any criticism was unwelcoming, this young monk showed the courage of criticizing whatever was irrational, whether foreign or in our own culture. The AdiShankar’s conquest was through reasoning and Buddha’s through love, but Vivekananda was the mind of Shankara and the heart of Buddha. The arbitrary, illogical and superstitious had no place in him, at the same time intense faith and love have always been the spirit of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda tradition. ‘If you want to know India, know Vivekananda’ said Tagore, while Swamiji himself said ‘you need another Vivekananda to understand Vivekananda.’
The ‘Viveka’ of Vivekananda is a sine-qua-non to understand the philosophy of India, which is far more than what we see in contemporary scenario And the spiritual-nationalism of Vivekananda is, in modern times, the most appropriate way to reach the same.