By Dr. Mahesh Mehta
We are commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, who was considered among the top 10 visitors to the United States in the 20th century. Swami Vivekananda, born on January 12, 1863, as Narendranath Dutta, was the disciple of Shree Ramkrishna Paramhansa. He was popularly known as a wandering Hindu monk, who had addressed the First Parliament of World Religions held at Chicago in September, 1893. The speech delivered by him on September 9, 1893, generated an electrifying effect in the audience, echoing the hall with a thunderous applause. He said, “Sectarianism, bigotry and its horrible descendant; fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now! “ But there time has come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.”
What happened on 9/11/2001after more than a century of Swamiji’s gift to the western world must be an eye-opener for humanity to embrace his vision of spiritual awakening.
Swami Vivekananda said, “Man making is the mission of my life. My ideal indeed can be put in a few words and that is: to preach unto mankind their divinity and how to make it manifest in every movement of life.” He was addressing a gathering where majority of the people were brought up in with the Biblical teaching, “Man is a sinner.”
The youth participating in this conference, most of you born and brought up here in the US in a new world connected globally by means of instant communications technology and means of transportation have an opportunity and a challenge to steer the current global view, “the world is a market place and we all are consumers” to a global view of world as “one family and we are all spiritual beings looking for the well being of the entire creation, not just a homo-centric but a holistic view.”
What will Swami Vivekananda offer to us as the most essential tool to accept such a challenge? In his words, “STRENGTH”, He used to say, “Above all, be strong, be manly! I have respect for one who is wicked , so long as he is manly and strong; for his strength will make him some day give up his wickedness, or even give up all work for selfish ends, and will then eventually bring him into the Truth.”
In a brief span of 39 years of life, this wandering monk delivered the powerful of message of Vedanta for human beings to embrace for the life in full vigor to serve the poor, the weak, the ignorant and the religious fanatics. He embodied the essence of Vedanta and acted like a warrior and a conqueror. He struggled to have both, the God and the world- to dominate everything and to renounce everything. He continued his intellectual struggle to grasp the real meaning of life and also surrender completely to God. The Grace of Shree Ramkrishna transformed him to aParivrajak, wandering through the world without an abode, without ties or relations, always a stranger to whom he meets.
Swamiji guides us for success. In his words, “To succeed you must have tremendous perseverance, tremendous will. I will drink the ocean; at my Will Mountains will crumble. Have that sort of energy, that sort of will; work hard and you will reach the goal.”
“Strength is life, weakness is death, Strength is felicity, life eternal, immortal; weakness is constant strain and misery; weakness is death.”
Swamiji appeals to the young. He says what we need. “Men, men, these are wanted: everything else will be ready, but strong, vigorous, believing young men, sincere to the backbone, are wanted. A hundred such and the world become revolutionized.”
“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life; think of it; live on that idea and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, and this is the way great spiritual giants are produced.”
What is the goal of human life? Is human life merely an accident or is there any purpose to the journey of a human being from birth till death? Is life merely a series of events and experiences without any purpose? Who am I? Am I coming from nowhere and going nowhere? Is death the end of life or a transition to other life? Am I simply a complex entity endowed with body, mind and intellect or something more? The Rishis, the seers of Bharat (India) spent all their lives in unfolding the mystery behind the creation, the ultimate Reality. Their discoveries laid the foundation of Bhartiya Sanskriti, Bhartiya Science, Indian civilization and culture.
Swami Vivekananda is among that lineage the modern era Rishi. He expressed the basic truth of human being. In his words,” Each aatman is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divine 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. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines or dogmas, or rituals or books or temples or forms are but secondary details.”
The young generation of the twenty first century and that too the younger generation of Indian origin has a special responsibility to explore experience and express the wisdom of the ancient seers to the world. Not only have you had to shine in your personal endeavors but to lift the human consciousness to the level of divinity.
What happened on 9/11/2001 showed that the gift Swami Vivekananda gave to America on 9/11/1893 has remained unopened. Quoting from Eleanor Stark, “A message, a gift was given to the American people in words of such universal wisdom and power that those who heard them at the time found their lives changed and their spirits freed. It was a message of humanism in depth, a ringing declaration of a science of human development that did not deny but deepened to new dimensions America’s achievements in science and humanistic philosophy. It was a call not to a new religion but a new way of thinking about religion. It was a call to a universal science of spiritual life and affirmed man as God and asked him to look within, to turn inward in order to discover the ground of his Being, and there to discover the same ground in all.”
Swami Vivekenda’s life and his accomplishments are published in many volumes. For your benefit, I would just touch two names, out of the many he touched in his short span of life.
You may not know the origin of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and the first among the many IITs now in India. American scientists, industrialists and entrepreneurs are all talking about it now. In 1893 when Swamiji was travelling on a ship to USA on a boat sailing from Japan to Vancouver, another great son of India, Jamshedji Tata was on the same boat. During that journey they both have long talks about many subjects. Then five years later Shree Tata wrote a letter to Swamiji on 23rd November 1898.
He wrote about the concept of starting residential halls for men dominated by the spirit of inquiry to devote their lives to the study of science-natural and humanistic. He requested Swamiji to publish a fiery pamphlet rousing our people in this matter. Swamiji endorsed this proposal in Prabuddha Bharat, April 1899. The proposal got a boost in 1901 when British Government was trying to set up a memorial for Queen Victoria who died in 1901. Swamiji’s Irish disciple, Margaret Nobel (later Sister Nivedita) used her influence on the British and 370 acres of land was donated by Maharaja of Mysore. The Research Center was started in July 1902. Later the Indian Institute of Science got of the ground in1909. Swamiji had passed away in 1902 and Jamshedji in1904.
During his stay In America and later in Europe; Swamiji had the occasions to interact with some prominent scientists. In 1895 Swamiji met with Nikola Tesla, a well-known scientist in those days, who was working on the idea of Free Energy. Swamiji introduced to him the Sanskrit terminology for explaining the Vedic Science. Tesla could see the harmony between the Vedic and the Western sciences and stimulated to study the Vedic science.
Swami Vivekanada at the very young age appeared on our planet as an embodiment of intelligence, and knowledge based on Self –realization and a tremendous zeal to serve the cause of the poor and awakening the human spirit to higher consciousness.
He wrote home to India from America: “By combining some of the active and heroic elements of the West with the calm virtues of the Hindus, there will emerge a type of man far superior to any that have ever been in the world.”