In The Sesquicentenary Year of His Birth REMEMBERING SWAMI VIVEKANANDA, HIS UNIQUE CONTRIBUTIONS AND THE LASTING SPIRITUAL LEGACY TO HUMANITY
“I have given humanity enough for the next fifteen hundred years”
– SWAMI VIVEKANANDA -1-
Prelude “I have given humanity enough for the next fifteen hundred years” -- These are the memorable words of Swami Vivekananda. Today on his 150th Birth Anniversary, we remember his great contributions and the spiritual legacy to humanity. As we all know, the great Hindu Monk of India made history in this country 120 years ago, when he first addressed the World’s Parliament of Religions and captured the hearts of America, with his mere five endearing words, “Sisters and Brothers of America”, revealing his own unique spiritual insight of the ‘oneness of all life and love for and adoration of that truth, which is the one in all’ – the central theme of his gospel of ‘Practical Vedanta’, for the propagation of which he came to the West, surmounting all hurdles, well equipped as he was with the Divine Commission, and fully guarded by the grace of his Great Master, Sri Ramakrishna. Quite naturally, in his exalted universal vision the world was one family, and seeing ‘God in man’, he dedicated himself heart and soul for the welfare of humanity. On this auspicious occassion of the sesquicentenary of his birth, let us offer our reverential homage to that 'Patriot Monk' who dazzled the West by his fascinating personality, scintillating intellect and powerful oratory. Reposing great hopes in the younger generation, he declared, “Young men, my hope is in you…”, and went on to assert, “My faith is in the younger generation, the modern generation; out of them will come my workers. They will work out the whole problem, like lion.” It is fitting and proper, therefore, that in 1985, while declaring Swamiji’s birthday as the ‘National Youth Day,’ the Government of India acknowledged that the philosophy and the ideal for which he lived could be a great source of inspiration for the Modern Youth. * * *
HIS CONTRIBUTIONS AND LEGACY TO HUMANITY Today’s world is torn by the fundamentalist aggression and peacelessness arising out of a sensate culture. The world is looking for a way to create a new era with peace and stability. There is an urgent need for ‘universal love and service’, ‘mutual respect – not mere tolerance – amongst all religious traditions’ and ‘devotion to the One Supreme Power with a variety of names and patterns’, with a view to foster harmony in the world community. Weary of strife and turmoil, humanity is in search of amity among religions and individual freedom. The world therefore needs leaders who are universal in approach, all-embracing in religious outlook, rational and humanistic in thinking and above all, spiritual in vision. India has given us spiritual and epochal heroes like Swami Vivekananda who was a manifold personality – a spiritual giant who strove for the good of all. He was a creator of a worldwide spiritual civilization. He was an inspired seer born with a man-making mission. He did everything for the removal of misery from the world and for kindling the spark of divinity in every human being. His message is therefore meant for all times and for all countries. In a short span of life, Swamiji vigorously disseminated in his last 9 years the message of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal message of peace, harmony and universal well-being, and proclaimed to the world the Vedic truth: “ekam sat” (The Ultimate Reality is One), and that the whole world is one family. We need this message everywhere. We need the vision of Vivekananda who declared: “Where seekest thou, friend, God, leaving aside those before you in myriad forms? He indeed serves God who loves God in all beings.” The message of Swami Vivekananda is very relevant today. His spirit is still working. In Swamiji we have a -3-
dependable guide and mentor who can give us a better direction at this crucial juncture of history. His special contribution to the present age is the deliverance of a universal message conducive to man's moral and spiritual upliftment throughout the world and to the harmonious living of all human beings irrespective of differences of color, creed, sex, age, social rank, cultural standard, political outlook, and so forth. The Swami’s personal experience of East and West, his penetrating insight, his erudition, his boundless compassion, his immaculate life, and above all, his realization of the Ultimate One, the Truth of truths beyond all diversities, made him specially qualified for the Divine Commission – the reconstruction of humanity on the spiritual foundation. His was a rare personality, a dynamic and dedicated life. His multi-faceted life and work, and the inspiring message were for the spiritual regeneration of India and the world. “Man-making is my mission in life,” he declared. “The older I grow the more everything seems to me to lie in manliness. This is my new gospel.... My ideal indeed can be put into a few words, and that is: to preach unto mankind their divinity and how to make it manifest in every movement of life.” At the height of his glory and renown, how unassuming and egoless he was! Here is the testimony: “If there has ever been a word of truth, a word of spirituality, that I have spoken anywhere in the world, I owe it to my Master; only mistakes are mine… They call me the ‘cyclonic Hindu’. Remember, it is His will – I am a voice without a form.” And, as to his spiritual depth and universality of outlook, mark his words: “What is India or England or America to
us? We are the servants of that God who by the ignorant is called man.” Renunciation, service and sacrifice were his watchwords. And, an embodiment of renunciation that he was, he wore himself out in the service of ‘God in man’. Here is his testament: “When will that blessed day dawn when my life will be a sacrifice at the altar of humanity? …Let the body, since perish it must, wear out in action and not rust in inaction… It is better to wear out than to rust out.” In working for his divinely ordained mission, rest and respite were alien to him, so much so he declared that even after his final exit from this mortal world, he would not cease to work, and that he would inspire one and all until the whole world realized its spiritual oneness. Time has proved the truth of the words Swamiji uttered. Vivekananda’s influence on societies and individuals can be classified into: his impact as a teacher of the message of Eternal India, which is in fact the spiritual message of Sanatana Dharma, also known as the rational and universal gospel of the Vedanta; his stress on the practice of religion of service, based on equality and tyaga; his role as an awakener, builder and organizer of modern India with its patriotic, spiritual and service movements; his contribution as a cultural and spiritual emissary of India to the West; and his work as an interpreter of Indian values in the universal language of science. Humanity has not yet opened fully the gift it has received from Sri Ramakrishna, the gift of the advent and work of Swami Vivekananda. We can only envy the future world, which will be delighted and blessed with this gift, which it has been ready to receive but slow to uncover. Swamiji’s words seem to gain greater force as they roll down the years. He is today a voice without form. He has transcended the limitations of human personality. He has -5-
become concretized into an impersonal institution which the world will not willingly let die. He is a system of thought, an attitude to men and things, an approach to life, a tradition which has woven itself inextricably into the world. His spirit is more alive today than his body was decades ago. It permeates a network of organizations spread over the whole world. It has expressed itself in diverse activities, which have become institutionalized. It permeates the re-awakening India. It revitalizes man. It infuses new life and strength. It is this spirit, which we should understand and catch if we want to make our lives fruitful. His message of spirituality can alone give solace and strength to the war-weary world. Acquaintance with him opens a new portal to life. Accepting his message and applying it in full makes oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life exalted. The main concern of the world today is peace and harmony. The path that the world has until now traversed in pursuit of technological mastery has imperilled peace and environment and failed to provide prosperity and equality for all people of the world. Hosts of problems are cropping up, bringing in its train a lot of tension, anxiety, worries and frustration. Beset with psychological, social, economic, ethnic, political and environmental problems, which defy solution, the people of todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s world are ill at ease. If peace and harmony are to rise and reign in the hearts and minds of all people all over the world, they should have an opportunity to be exposed to the revealing insights of spirituality, which Swami Vivekananda has bequeathed to humanity. Hence, an earnest and vigorous propagation of his spiritual teachings is the most important means of serving that divine mission. The more the life and teachings of the great Swami are made known, the more will the spiritual perspective of humanity be widened, thereby paving the way for enduring world peace everyone is hankering for. -6-
Spiritual leaders, like Swami Vivekananda, are the salt of the earth and in their exalted life and inspiring teachings do we find a solvent for all our problems, individual, social, national and international. They are verily the harbinger of much needed peace and harmony on the earth. Vivekananda is truly a bridge between the East and the West. He is a dynamic spiritual force to shape the future of humanity. His teachings have set in motion a spiritual force, which can eventually bring into the western civilization the needed qualitative change. The greatest of all benefactions, according to Swamiji, is the act of rousing man to the glory of the divinity within. The awakened man solves for himself all his problems, secular and sacred. The solution to all human problems is in man's becoming Man (with capital ‘M’) in all his dimensions, by manifesting his divinity. Problems are understandably many. But the solution is one – to become the new kind of man, who being simultaneously scientific and spiritual eventually becomes free. It is this new man, pure in heart, clear in brain, unselfish in motivation, who works in a balanced manner with his head, heart and hand, who has shed all his smallness and illusions, who has experienced unity of existence in his expanded consciousness – this selfless, spotless and fearless man of character, enlightenment and love, is the hope of the world. Hope is not in more machinery, wealth, politics of cleverness and power. The world is looking forward to the coming of this new man – who is aware of his own divinity and is always anxious to discover and worship the same divinity in all others – in ever increasing numbers. What made Vivekananda stand apart from others is that in his life there was made manifest a tremendous force for the moral and spiritual welfare and upliftment of humanity irrespective of caste, creed or nationality. This power of his is what characterizes Swamiji’s work even to this day. Though his voice is without a form today, the vibrations of -7-
the same have been caught up in many a heart and have surcharged and transformed them. As we offer our homage to Swamiji in the sesquicentenary year of his birth, let us meditate on his multi-faceted life and work and inspiring message for the spiritual regeneration of humanity. And, above all, let us translate his spiritual teachings into our day-to-day life and be blessed thereby.
“A Teacher of Modern India and Her Cultural and Spiritual Emissary to the West” West” (Swami Ranganathananda, the 13th President of the Ramakrishna Order, who had the rare privilege of disseminating Swami Vivekananda's gospel of Vedanta far and wide pays a glowing tribute extolling Swamiji as India’s great Emissary to the West):
Swami Vivekananda is the one person who stands as a golden link between India and the western world, and who promises to be such a link between India and the rest of the world as well. For the first time in our history of the past thousand years, our country produced a great teacher in Swami Vivekananda who took India out of her isolation of centuries and brought her into the mainstream of international life. This is a great work, whose beneficent results are slowly and steadily becoming evident as decades roll on. Swami Vivekananda had a fourfold training, which equipped him for the world mission. Firstly, his education in modern western science, literature, and history; secondly, his assimilation of the positive elements in the Indian culture and traditions; thirdly, his discipleship at the -8-
feet of Sri Ramakrishna, the very personification of the Indian spiritual tradition; and fourthly, his intimate grasp of the realities of contemporary India during his life as a wandering monk for six years. And this fourfold training made Vivekananda an embodiment of the East and the West. He was a man with a message and he delivered it fearlessly and intensely. He had said of himself: ‘Buddha had a message to the East, and I have a message to the West.’ The West will one day learn to feel proud of this Emissary of modern India and learn from him the philosophy of comprehensive spirituality and total lifefulfillment and the way to its own redemption from a soulkilling materialism. When that response comes from the West, the tunnel connecting East and West would be complete, and a new culture, neither eastern nor western, but just human, would be evolved, making for the spiritual growth of man everywhere and tending to develop a ‘mankind-awareness’ in all nations, and marking the fulfillment of the purposes of the advent of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda in the modern age. He passed away on the 4th July 1902, at the young age of 39 years, 5 months, and 22 days. Out of the nine years of his public ministry, from the Parliament of Religions in 1893 up to his death in 1902, he gave over four most intense years to the West. The intensity of his nine years of work in the West and in India, the output of spiritual, intellectual, literary, and organizational work, besides the traveling involved during the period, is unprecedented. As a teacher of modern India and as her cultural and spiritual Emissary to the West, Vivekananda has illumined the horizon of national and international life, which has no parallel in the history.
Homage (Homage in the form of a Sanskrit composition depicting Vivekananda â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the Man and His Mission):
vishwahitaishi mahaamanishi, janasevaataapasi jayatu vivekananda swami, jayatu veera sannyaasi II Victory be to Swami Vivekananda, the intrepid Hindu Monk of India, who was endowed with a poised mind and a scintillating intellect, who was keenly interested in the welfare of the entire humanity, and to whom the service of man was verily the tapas â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the spiritual practice -- for Godrealization. nipeeya sakalam tattwajnaanam, paanchabhautikam nava vijnaanam jagaditihaasa puraana darshanam, parameshwara darshane manaswi yo nitaraam abhilaashi, jayatu veera sannyaasi II Victory be unto that intrepid Hindu monk of India, who was well versed in all branches of philosophy including the metaphysics, and well acquainted with the modern material science, World History, Puranaas and Darshanaas and ever intensely aspired for Godrealization. sakaladharama patha parama saadhakam, vividha dharma mata marmabodhakam bhogavaada naastikya rodhakam, jagadgurum tam pranamya sahasaa jaato dradhataapasi, jayatu veera sannyaasi II Victory be unto that intrepid Hindu Monk of India, who was instantly transformed and established in spiritual practice on account of his mere glance at the World Teacher, Sri Ramakrishna, the practitioner supreme of all religious - 10 -
paths, who preached the inner core of all religions, and who is a bulwark against atheism and hedonism. graame graame nagare nagare, nadi nadaanaam teere teere guha gahware vipine ghore, vilokya jana jivanam vipannam yo vivhala maanasi, jayatu veera sannyaasi II Victory be unto that intrepid Hindu Monk of India who, as an itinerant monk, traveled all over India â&#x20AC;&#x201C; visiting villages, towns and cities, river banks, caves and dense forests, and witnessing the deplorable living conditions of the poor and downtrodden, the distressed and the diseased masses, was greatly pained at heart and felt intensely compassionate for them, and was spurred on to find ways and means to mitigate their sufferings. vishwadharma sammelana pithe, vividha dharma guru garva garisthe naanaa dharma dhwaja pratishte, navayuga maanavadharma ghoshanaa jagarjayo saahasi, jayatu veera sannyasi II Victory be unto that intrepid Hindu monk of India, who proclaimed with a leonine roar, as it were, the dharma for the mankind of the New Age, from the platform of the World's Parliament of Religions at Chicago, whereon had assembled the religious leaders of all faiths of the world, with all their pride and privilege, and with all their banners unfurled, to proudly proclaim and establish the supremacy of their own creed. mahaavera iva parama viraagi, krista-buddhavat karuno tyaagi shankara iva digvijayi yogi, udaara charito vishwa kutumbi janagana hrdaya nivaasi, jayatu veera sannyaasi II - 11 -
Victory be unto that intrepid Hindu Monk of India, who is supremely dispassionate like Mahavira, kind, compassionate and renunciate like the Christ and the Buddha, a yogi par excellence like Adi Shankara who held sway over his opponents in all the four quarters, who was extremely generous and endowed with a noble character, to whom the whole world was one big family, and who is ever residing in the hearts of hosts of people.
Estimate of the Inestimable Surely, Vivekananda's words do not need introduction from anybody; they make their own irresistible appeal. – MAHATMA GANDHI * * * The best introduction to Vivekananda is not to read about him but to read him. The Swami’s personality, with all its charm and force, its courageousness, its spiritual authority, its fury and its fun, comes through to you very strongly in his writings and recorded words…. Reading his printed words, we can catch something of the tone of his voice and even feel some sense of contact with his power…. Vivekananda’s English recreates his personality for us even now, three quarters of century later.” – CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD * * * If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative. – RABINDRANATH TAGORE * * * Swami Vivekananda was a colossus whose footprints have left an indelible impression on the sands of Time. Many, many are those that were influenced by him; many are those that still carry the Swami's message in their heart, trying to give practical expression whenever - 12 -
possible; and many, not only in India but also abroad, will continue to draw inspiration from his life and message. * * * Whether we regard Swami Vivekananda as a teacher, patriot or saint and whether we accept his teachings only partially or in their entirety, no one can deny that in his life there was made manifest a tremendous force for the moral and spiritual welfare and upliftment of humanity, irrespective of caste, creed, nationality or time. --EASTER AND WESTERN DISCIPLES * * * The going forth of Vivekananda marked out by the Master (Sri Ramakrishna), as the heroic soul destined to take the world between his two hands and change it, was the first sign to the world that India was awake not only to survive but also to conquer. -- SRI AUROBINDO * * * Vivekanandaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s name is a passport to the cultural centers of the West and his disciples and grand disciples are really cultural Ambassadors to the western world. * * * Columbus had discovered the soil of America, but Vivekananda her soul. â&#x20AC;&#x201C; ELEANOR STARK
Prophetic Voice Today man requires one more adjustment on the spiritual plane; today when material ideas are at the height of their glory and power, today when man is likely to forget his divine nature, through his growing dependence on matter, and is likely to be reduced to a mere money-making machine, an adjustment is necessary. The voice has - 13 -
spoken, and the power is coming to drive away the clouds of gathering materialism. The power has been set in motion which, at no distant date, will bring unto mankind once more the memory of its real nature, and again the place from which this power will start will be Asia. * * * The whole world requires Light. It is expectant! India alone has that Light, not in magic, mummeries, and charlatanism, but in the teachings of the glories of the spirit of real religion – of the highest spiritual truth. That is why the Lord has preserved the race through all its vicissitudes into the present day. Now the time has come. * * * As I look upon the history of my country, I do not find in the world another country which has done quite so much for the improvement of the human mind and that India was the homeland of the invisible powers that ruled the destinies of men and nations and its ancient scriptures could make it the teacher of the world. * * * Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external, and internal. Do this either by work or worship or psychic control or philosophy – by one or more or all of these – and be free. * * * Let man remember his true nature – divinity. Let it become a living realization and everything else will follow – power, strength, manhood. He will again become a Man. * * * Man-making is my mission in life…. The older I grow the more everything seems to me to lie in manliness. This is my New Gospel. * * * - 14 -
My ideal indeed can be put into a few words, and that is: to preach unto mankind their divinity and how to make it manifest in every movement of life. * * * All power is within you; you are the reservoir of omnipotent power… Awake from this hypnotism of weakness. None is really weak; the soul is infinite, omnipotent and omniscient. Stand up, assert yourself, proclaim the God within you… Teach yourself, teach everyone his real nature, call upon the sleeping soul and see how it awakes. Power will come, glory will come, goodness will come, purity will come and everything that is excellent will come, when the sleeping soul is roused to self-conscious activity. * * * This infinite power of the spirit brought to bear upon matter, evolves material development, made to act upon thought, evolves intellectuality and made to act upon itself, makes man a God. First let us be Gods and then help others to be Gods. ‘Be and Make’. Let this be our motto…. Say not, man is a sinner. Tell him that he is God…. Say that to the world, say it to yourselves and see what a practical result comes…. Tell that to mankind and show them their power. Then we shall learn how to apply it in our daily lives. * * * Work out the salvation of this land and of the whole world, each of you thinking that the entire burden is on your shoulders. Carry the light and the life of the Vedanta to every door, and rouse up the divinity that is hidden within every soul. Then, whatever may be the measure of your success, you will have this satisfaction that you have lived, worked, and died for a great cause. In the success of this cause, howsoever brought about, is centered the salvation of humanity here and hereafter. – SWAMI VIVEKANANDA - 15 -
“Be and Make”
In the illustration, the monosyllable (OM) superimposed on the bosom of the person symbolizes our inherent, true nature, which is Pure Awareness Absolute. The prayer: ‘tamaso maa jyotirgamaya’ – ‘Lead me from darkness to Light’, quoted in the inner orb, is indicative of the human quest – an intense aspiration to discover, realize and manifest our true nature which is Divine (sat-chit-ananda). The meditative posture, the brilliant sun, the lotus, and the waves beneath – are symbolic of mystic communion, pursuit of knowledge, devotional absorption and selfless service, respectively. The illustration thus reminds us the need to discover, realize and manifest our true nature, by cultivating an integrated life, with due emphasis on pursuit of knowledge, devotional absorption, mystic communion and selfless service. ‘Be and Make’ is Swami Vivekananda’s exhortation to us to unfold our true nature through the cultivation of an integrated life, even as we help others march towards that glorious consummation.
The contents of this brochure, based on the book: ‘Vivekananda – His Gospel of Man-making' (1064 pp, in five parts), are also made available on DVD as an audio-visual presentation, and offered as a complement along with the book commemorating the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda (2013).
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