ramkisno at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 27 13:20:31 CDT 1999
The name of Swami Vivekananda has come up again and it is my personal
opinion that we err by calling him 1) what he never claimed for himself and
2) dubbing him a "modernist thinker".
I am sure there are enough here who have read Swamiji's writings and would
therefore be aware that he never claimed for himself the position of some
sort of expert on Hindu philosophy. Instead, he attributed his fame to his
Guru and his knoweldge to the knowledge in our ancient scriptures.
He came and his fame spread. That is beyond doubt. He appealed not to the
experts of philosophy, but rather to a slave and moribund nation crying out
for the release of its ancient spirit. He appealed to the common man,
telling him about the greatness of his culture and religion. A thousand
years of slavery dented our spirits. In him, India saw something to
He never put himself at par with our Acharyas. Never did he criticize the
Shastras. Even those texts which the secularists of today flaunt as
Brahiminical and oppressive, even those he defended by saying that they
might have been relevant in the times. If anyone claims that he came to
reform Hinduism, then that person has not suffeciently imported what he
said. He was wedded to the spirit of Bharat, as Sister Nivedita has written.
As for our customs, he crticized what he termed as "Don't touchism". Citing
the example of Malabar, he said that if an Untouchable crossed the path of a
Brahmana, he was beaten up and scolded for that but as soon as that person
took up the name of John or Ismail, he was welcomed with full honors. This
he termed as hypocrisy.
I feel it would be an injustice to his greatness and memory if we indulge in
judging him in retrospect. Let us even call him an ordinary man who was
deeply pained at the "patan" of society around him and the misery of his
fellow countrymen. To him, the message of Vedanta provided the inspiration
for not just his personal Moksha, but to serve selflessly (Nar Seva Narayan
Seva), something which forms the hallmark of the ideal of Seva as a means to
Chitta Shuddhi. He was not "flattered" by calling himself God but tried to
make the enslaved Indian fearless by claiming so on the basis of Vedanta. He
wanted to "raise" the Hindu spirit which had suffered enormously because of
invasions etc. Let us also not forget that the call for action was from his
Guru, something no Shishya can ignore (Swami Dayananda Saraswati is another
We can argue endlessly about all that he did. I can also say that I am
interpreting Swamiji but this is the closest I can get to following his
ideas verbatim. If we don't want to call him a great Advaitin, fine. We
can't claim for him what he never claimed for himself. However, one message
that comes out loud and clear from his writings is that be proud of your
culture and religion because it is this land which is the land of Rishis'
Tapas and it is here that Man himself is considered God. Be proud of your
Hindu heritage by knowing what it is all about. If his writings become the
seed for a new thrist to know about our culture/traditions/scriptures, then
Swamiji has been immensely successul, as he has been in my case.
Jaladhar, RK Mission is not a cult that seeks to increase its numbers. They
are still welded to the idea of service as Swami Vivekananda has envisioned.
We hear all about Christian missionaries setting up schools and hospitals in
remote parts of India but never hear of other "Hindu" organisations that are
doing stellar work.
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