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“VIVEKANANDA – HIS GOSPEL OF MAN-MAKING” Recent Reviews (6th Edition)

Swami Vivekananda was a multifaceted genius. At times each of the facets had behind them the entire weight of his unique personality. His luminous and critical mind never failed to shed new light on any subject it chose to dwell upon. He was a guru, a teacher, and a leader par excellence. Besides being a stern ascetic and a yogi, he was a poet and an artist endowed with keen insight into the mysteries and beauties of nature. Swamiji combined in him mysticism and philosophy, yet was an engaging conversationalist. Towering above all these facets, and imparting a divine touch to them, was his spirituality. He harmoniously united in himself faith and reason, religion and science, ethos of the East and the West, as well as ancient and modern culture. Every faculty of human mind – be it intellectual, emotional, or active – found their fullest expression in his grand personality. In short, he is to the present age the epitome of all that is good and desirable for modern humankind. Perhaps this is the reason why Sri Ramakrishna called him the incarnation of ‘Nara’, man, which is also the name of an ancient sage. It is no wonder therefore that such a gigantic personality and his thoughts 1


should exert a powerful influence on society, both during his lifetime and several centuries later. Such far-reaching influence, we must note, is not possible unless the message it embodies has its roots in the collective aspirations of the human psyche. To Swamiji the progress human society had achieved in every department of life was an open book, and he turned a new leaf of that book. To arrive at a true estimate of his contribution it is essential to read his works conjointly with the then prevailing thought currents – in assessing the significance of Swamiji’s message the role of society in shaping that message cannot be ignored. This book is an encyclopedic study of both these aspects – Swamiji’s influence on society and the impact of society on him. What sets this work apart from others of the same genre is the commendable effort by its editor to place Swamiji in the matrix of the socio-cultural milieu of the second half of the nineteenth century. The second part of the book, making up one-third of the entire work, presents a very interesting and comprehensive chronicle that puts the clock back by a century and half. The reader is taken through a fascinating journey from the time of Swamiji’s appearance on the world scene until his form disappeared from our mortal gaze. We live with Swamiji, taking note of every significant event in his life and, at the same time, observing major developments in every sphere of human activity – as Swamiji himself might have done, for he was very much alive to the happenings around him. We are brought face to face with political and religious leaders, savants, scientists, and so on, and weighty happenings in their lives that had hit headlines in those days. It must be admitted, however, that the task of spinning a backdrop to Swamiji’s role in the world from these diverse bare facts is left to the reader. Appended to the chronicle is the reaction of the civilized world to the untimely death of Swamiji, which came out in the form of beautiful and soul-stirring obituaries and elegies in various Indian and foreign newspapers and periodicals. On 20 July 1902 ‘The Gujarati’ commented: ‘Swami Vivekananda is no more. Like a meteor he suddenly 2


appeared on the horizon full of brilliance and glory and in a short time vanished into infinite space. ... To India he has done invaluable service by showing to the Western nations what she is capable of achieving in the higher spheres of religion and philosophy. He rose like a resplendent star and has set with all his effulgence’ (676). Divided into three sections, the first part of the book begins with a neatly classified and captioned compilation of Swamiji’s teachings on the Divinity of humankind, fundamentals of religion, the great heritage of India, and his exhortations to people the world over to wake up. Though briefly, this section gives the quintessence of Swamiji’s message and orients the reader to a thorough study of the subject in the pages to follow. A host of articles by distinguished scholars like Arnold Toynbee, S S Raghavachar, Swamis Prabhavananda and Vireswarananda, and so on are included. Evaluating the thoughts of Swamiji follows next. These articles, written on different occasions, are of great help in unearthing the deep significance of Swamiji’s teachings. Rabindranath Tagore says Swamiji’s call was ‘a call of awakening to the totality of the manhood of man. Like the ever-rolling waves of the ocean the call goes on ceaselessly sounding and resounding all over the world, bringing out a variety of responses and the resultant regeneration’ (732). In the next section of the first part, the reader is treated to a vast vista of this ocean with unremitting waves of tributes to Swamiji. Here we have more than one hundred and fifty testimonies to the greatness of Swamiji by savants, swamis, saints, statesmen, and scientists. Swamiji gave America, as one author puts it, a spiritual jolt (170). The far-reaching and ever-widening ramification of this ‘jolt’ is the subject of study of the third and fourth parts of the book. Taking his stand on the platform of the august Parliament of Religions, Swamiji proclaimed his message of the inherent Divinity and harmony of religions, which fell irresistibly on the prevalent religious bigotry and fundamentalism. The aftershocks of that jolt were felt on the 3


Indian subcontinent too, forcing Indians to shake off their age-old slumber. It reminded Indians of their glorious religious culture and made them aware of the challenges that were out to undermine it. The fourth part, ‘Winds of Change: Vivekananda and His Impact on the Western Mind’, is the latest valuable supplement to the present sixth edition. Drawing heavily from the recently published Philip Goldberg’s American Veda, this part presents an illumining account of some of the Western intellectual stalwarts’ encounter with Vedanta. Romain Rolland, William James, Arnold Toynbee, Will Durant, Christopher Isherwood, Huston Smith, Gerald Heard, Joseph Campbell, Aldous Huxley, and many others were much influenced by the principles of Vedanta – later their extensive writings played a significant role in furthering the cause of Swamiji and Vedanta in the West. Brought out in commemoration of Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary, this enlarged edition is a valuable addition to all personal and general libraries interested in Indian religion and culture. The compiler-editor-publisher deserves the appreciation of all the admirers of Vivekananda for his stupendous effort and dedication in bringing out this work. – BR. SHANTICHAITANYA, Belur Math, ‘Prabuddha Bharata’, July 2013. * * * January 12, 2013, marks the sesquicentenary centenary of probably the greatest Indian the country had given birth in the last two centuries and that, let it be said, includes Mahatma Gandhi. Actually, there can be no comparison between the two. They belonged to two different worlds. If the Mahatma fought for freedom – and that is a precious contribution – Vivekananda restored India's self-confidence as no other person before him has done. The Mahatma himself was to say that after having gone through Vivekananda’s works, the love he himself had for his country increased “a thousand-fold”. 4


Vivekananda was born at a time when India had lost its self-confidence and was struggling to regain its identity. He helped it to understand its own greatness. He did so by sticking to his aim in life: man-making. And he succeeded beyond measure and one can’t be sufficiently grateful to him. He not only enlightened his own countrymen, but he made even the Western world aware of India’s past and glory and spiritual attainments. After a few hours of discussions with him, Prof J. H. Wright of Harvard University was to tell Swamiji: “Swami, to ask you for your credentials (to address the World Conference of Religions) is like questioning the ever-bright sun his right to shine”. The year was 1893 – the year when, at Chicago, American leaders were organising the Parliament of Religions. In a letter to Rev Barrows, who was organising the Parliament, Prof Wright was to say: “Here is a man who is more learned than all the Professors of America put together”. Vivekananda indeed went on to prove it. When he first addressed the Parliament with the line: “Sisters and Brothers of America” over 6,000 people who were listening to him rose up like one man and cheered him for full five minutes! Nothing like that had ever happened before – or after. Vivekananda had, in those five words, captured the hearts of America! Of course, Christian missionaries came to be very jealous of him and spread all kinds of dirty stories about him, and about Hinduism. They failed miserably. This book, in its sixth and enlarged edition, is divided into six parts and is remarkable in many ways. Part I quotes generously from the writings and speeches of Vivekananda and in effect tells us more about him, his life, his views and thinking than any orthodox biography would have done. It gives us Swamiji’s views on Education and Religion and the tributes he received from savants and saints. An American academician said of him: “Here is a man who knows what he is talking about. He is not relating what he thinks; he is telling what he knows. When I was asked what sort of man he was, I replied: ‘He is not a man, he is God!”. Vivekananda once 5


said: “Man-making is my mission in life. I never make plans. Plans grow and work themselves”. Part II is a chronicle of important events in Swami’s life in the context of the times in which he lived – and that is important. Part III portrays Vivekananda as a bridge between the East and the West, recording events in his life and times from 1863 to 1902 – something unique in the writing of a biography. It is interesting to learn that the Swami was born in the same year as the US Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg – the same year in which Henry Ford, father of the four-wheeled car, was born. But what is profoundly moving throughout the pages are the tributes paid to him literally by scores of a long list of admirers and devotees, both Indian and western and among the Indians are Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, Dr Radhakrishnan, K. M. Munshi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, C. Rajagopalachari, not to speak of Subhash Chandra Bose. Nehru is quoted as saying: “He (Vivekananda) came as a tonic to the depressed and demoralised Hindu mind and gave it self-reliance... there was fire in his heart....many of my generations were powerfully influenced by him....” Subhas Chandra Bose went on much further. He wrote: “How shall I express in words my indebtedness to Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda? It is under their sacred influence that my life got first awakened. Like Nivedita, I also regard Ramakrishna and Vivekananda as two aspects of one indivisible personality. If Swamiji were alive today, he would have been my guru… I would have accepted him as my Master. It is needless to add, however, that as long as I live, I shall be absolutely loyal and devoted to Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.” The Harvard Crimson noted that “whatever sect the Hindoo belongs to, he does not say that his is the only right belief and that all others must be wrong. He believes that there are many ways coming to God.” Romain Rolland thought Vivekananda was “born a king” and was “as if his chosen God had imprinted His name upon his forehead.” William James called 6


Vivekananda “an honour to humanity” and Prof AL Basham was to write: “It is very difficult to evaluate his (Vivekananda's) importance in the scale of world history. It is certainly far greater than any western historian or most Indian historians would have suggested at the time of his death... he will be remembered as one of the main moulders of the modern world... and as one of the most significant figures in the whole history of Indian religion....” Vivekananda’s impact was not just on ordinary citizens or religious leaders. He made a fabulous impact on the likes of Jamsetji Tata and John D Rockefeller. It is claimed that Aldous Huxley, the philosopher, took “formal initiation” from Swami Prabhavananda and “did as much as any other individual to introduce Vedanta to western culture". Vivekananda defined India. Not many know, but he put the ideal of Guru Govind Singh before every Indian to follow. To say this book is fabulous is to make an understatement. It is almost the final education on attaining the bliss of self-understanding. There has never been such a book before and it is unlikely that it will ever be surpassed. Finally, it gives one additional bonus: a portfolio of eighty pictures of the Swami! And those who want to know even more about him are provided with a long list of past publications. But this work, surely, must be considered the last word on the subject. – M. V. KAMATH, Manipal, ‘Organiser’, Delhi, May 5, 2012 / ‘The Free Press e-paper’, Aug 19, 2012

* * * Swami Vivekananda was a phenomenon. He strode the stage of the world like a colossus. Interest in his life and message has been renewed, as the year 2012 marks his 150th birthday. Recently many new monographs, articles and books have been published. Of all the books on Swamiji published in recent years the current book under review is, to say the least, the most outstanding one. This is actually the reissue, with additions, of a book published by the compiler in August 1986. It has seen, since 7


then, four editions. The current book is the revised sixth edition, commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Swamiji. The compiler has spared no pains in bringing it up-to-date. The book is massive, running to 1000 pages. It commences with Benediction from Swamis Ranganathananda, Dayananda Saraswati (to whom this edition is dedicated), Tattvavidananda and Muktananda. There is also a homage ‘with a difference’ by Anandasankar Pandya. After a short essay by the publisher and a foreword by Swami Tapasyananda, there are messages from Dr. M. Lakshmi Kumari, Sri M. V. Kamath and Prof. K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar. Then follow a note from the editor and a synoptic view of the book. All these help place the book in the proper perspective. The book proper comprises of five parts. Part One contains three sections. The first section is an Introduction, which is fairly lengthy, running almost to 50 pages. Section two consists of articles written by several prominent people. Some of these articles have been carried over from the previous editions, and some are new. The third section is about tributes from several contemporaries and others. Some are from abroad; some are from monks, some savants and saints, and some from statesmen and politicians. This broad spectrum is an indication of the appeal of Swamiji’s message and his influence on the entire cross-section of society. The Second Part has only one chapter on Swamiji and his mission. This is the longest and perhaps the most interesting. It begins with an index, chronologically listing the important dates of Swamiji’s life. This is followed by another chronological listing of all the world events from the date of Swamiji’s birth to the date of his Mahasamadhi. This part occupies 307 pages and is a veritable treasure house of information. There are so many facts that one wonders how the compiler could have collected so much data! Part Three is titled ‘Vivekananda – A Voice across the Century’, containing articles about the significant events of Swamiji’s life. This is for the benefit of those readers, who have read only condensed biographies of Swamiji. 8


The last part contains articles about the influence of Swamiji’s works and message on the Western world. This is of consequence since Swamiji’s message is being spread by many Vedanta Societies abroad, established by Swamiji himself or monks of the Ramakrishna Order. The book ends with a series of photographs and a glossary. Needless to say, the book is extraordinary. To publish so much information between the two covers of a book must have been a Herculean task. Swami Jyotirmayananda must be complimented on this achievement. This would certainly not have been possible without the blessings of Sri Thakur, the Holy Mother and Swamiji. Readers should be grateful to Swami Jyotirmayananda for this remarkable contribution to the literature on Swami Vivekananda. – NVC SWAMY, Bangalore, ‘The Vedanta Kesari’, February 2013. * * * India can be singularly proud of being the ancient land giving to the world many spiritual scriptures, including the ageless Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, but Swami Jyotirmayananda’s latest edition of “Vivekananda – His Gospel of Man-making” can easily be termed as a modern compendium of all the essence of these scriptures as enunciated by the 19th century Vedic and Vedanta messenger – Swami Vivekananda. This book, which forcefully conveys the message of Swami Vivekananda, commemorates his 150th birth anniversary being celebrated the world over on January 12, 2013. Swami Vivekananda is a yuga purusha – ‘a man of the era’, who became a bridge between the East and the West with his universal message of Vedanta. He interpreted Indian values in the universal language of science, and harmonized philosophies of the East and the West. He expounded the real meaning of Sanatana Dharma – the dharma of universal oneness. In his short life of 39 years, he had turned out work of thousands of years put in by thousands of people. His 9


wisdom is boundless; his knowledge of life as envisaged by him is as old as the universal existence, his teachings are all-encompassing; and he lives beyond his times. He stunned the audience with his eloquence, oratory and depth of knowledge, with his historic “Sisters and Brothers of America” address when he spoke at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893. In the last nine years of his life he addressed several gatherings, met many religious personalities, scholars, authors and even common people and influenced them with his profound knowledge of the Vedanta. While paying tributes to his Master Sri Ramakrishna, Swamiji said that he was only the human form, while his Master spoke through him. With clarity of thought and in simplest words, he had explained the intricate and deepest inner meaning of the Vedanta. According to him Vedanta seeks the realization of the Ultimate Truth beyond all diversities. The whole world is one family. Swamiji’s message has strongly influenced the scholars, intellectuals and common people of both the East and the West. In this voluminous compilation – “Vivekananda – His Gospel of Man-making” -- Swami Jyotirmayananda has distilled the essentials of Swami Vivekananda’s teachings. While the book makes an interesting reading, it carries a special article about the significance of “Man-making”; and also the Tributes paid to Swami Vivekananda by many people of light and leading. This book is enough for one to grasp, gather and understand thoroughly all about Swami Vivekananda and his philosophy. It is a gospel of practical Vedanta as revealed by Swami Vivekananda. Besides all accolades that Swami Jyotirmayananda has been receiving for the contents and years of labor put in by him in compiling the book – “Vivekananda: His Gospel of Man-making” – he deserves a doctorate. It is a priceless book that should find a prestigious place in all libraries. J. V. Lakshmana Rao, Chicago, ‘India Tribune Chicago’, January 4, 2013. 10


Recent Reviews of the 7th Edition "Vivekananda -- His Gospel of Man-making"