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Monday, September 26 2022

Swami Vivekananda: Remembering the Great Philosopher

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“If you want to know India, read Vivekananda”, said Rabindranath Tagore. “His words are great music, stirring rhythms like I cannot touch his sayings without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero” said Romain Rolland.

July 4th 1902 marks the death anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. He was not even 40 when he died, but in that short span he changed the way Hindu philosophy and Hinduism was perceived both in India and outside. Today, on the occasion of his death anniversary, we look back with some of  the finest remembrances of the man who won the hearts and minds wherever he went.

Swami Vivekananda (12 January 1863 – 4 July 1902), born Narendra Nath Datta was an Indian Hindu monk and chief disciple of the 19th-century saint Ramakrishna. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He is perhaps best known for his inspiring speech beginning with “Sisters and Brothers of America,”  through which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the Worlds Religions in Chicago in 1893. Born into an aristocratic Bengali family of Calcutta, Vivekananda showed an inclination towards spirituality.  In India, Vivekananda is regarded as a patriotic saint and his birthday is celebrated as the National Youth Day.

Relevance of Vivekananda

The world today is passing through a very difficult period, characterized by a widespread feeling of insecurity caused by global terrorism unleashed by Al Qaeda. The volume of violence and unrest prevailing in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or Palestine, has cast dark shadows on the future of mankind. Even great advances in knowledge of science and technology, including the humanities have failed to arrest the social and economic confusion, leading to rapid decline of moral and ethical values.

Vasudhaiva Kudumbakam (the whole world is one family) was his credo. He had foreseen that a global situation is developing and that the time has come when even local problems have to be seen in the context of the global perspective and solutions to be sought from that point of view. “Think globally and act locally” was not a concept which was strange or unknown to him. In fact he followed that dictum.

Cyclonic Hindu Monk

Some of the most pressing problems of the day threatening the very survival of human civilization were foreseen by Vivekananda. Religious intolerance, cultural exclusiveness and blind fanaticism were identified by him as dangerous portents. In his famous Chicago address he very forcefully brought out that these dark forces had deluged the world with rivers of human blood and brought beautiful civilizations to extinction.

He told the Parliament of Religions, “I accept all religions that were in the past, and worship with them all, I worship God with every one of them, in whatever form they worship Him. I shall go to the mosque of the Mohammedan, I shall enter the Christians church and kneel before the crucifix, I shall enter the Buddhist temple, where I shall take refuge in Buddha and in his Law. I shall go into the forest and sit down in meditation with the Hindus, who is trying to see the Light which enlightens the heart of every one.”

Concern for lowly and poor

His heart ached at the plight of the poor and the downtrodden. He was upset at the fact that his people lacked physical vigor and mental energy and were weighed down by barren customs, sterile traditions, priest-craft and caste-ism. The crying evil in the developing world, he said, was not want of religion but want of bread. “It is an insult to a starving people to offer them religion, it is an insult to a starving man to teach him metaphysics.”

His message

He said,”In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written,Help and not fight, Assimilation and not Destruction, Harmony and Peace and not Dissension”. “You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.”,He said. If only people could follow this simple saying the world would be far better a place to live.Thus Swami Vivekananda and his beliefs have become more relevant for todays society which is under turmoil and suffering from social evils.


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