“They alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive”
By Kanchan Banerjee
Yoga, Freedom & Universalism
Despite the popular image and understating of yoga as some sort of exercise and stress-relief mechanism, Yoga is the original Indian idea of self realization through numerous paths and means. Swami Vivekananda was the one who formally introduced yoga to the Americans and the Western societies which has become household practice today. As he had great success in America in introducing Indian wisdom, it impacted Indians also to re-discover their heritage, the knowledge of the Vedas and the Upanishads. Yoga also came down from the caves and forests – the abode of limited number of Yogis, to the masses.
Yoga is basically a path and mechanism to physical, mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual perfection, harmony and liberation, the ultimate freedom.
In 2012 the Wall Street Journal noted: ‘The surprising—and continuing—influence of Swami Vivekananda, the pied piper of the global yoga movement’
Swamiji defined “In the living there is freedom, there is intelligence; in the dead all is bound and no freedom is possible, because there is no intelligence. This freedom that distinguishes us from mere machines is what we are all striving for. To be more free is the goal of all our efforts, for only in perfect freedom can there be perfection. This effort to attain freedom underlies all forms of worship, whether we know it or not.”
He gave the world a new type of universal and scientific spiritual humanism which is appreciated by the thinking humanity and the world at large. He also thought about an international unity based on liberty and human values long before the idea of League of Nations came into being.
He strongly believed that an international mechanism based on liberty is a necessary condition for the future man. His concept of freedom evolved from the Upanishad tradition which he preached:
“Liberty of thought and action is the only condition in life, of growth and well-being. Where it does not exist, the man, the race, the nation must go”.
Swamiji insisted for applying history with an Indian approach through internationalism and universal brotherhood that is implied in the ideas of Vedanta.
Vivekananda on Women
Vivekananda always praised the women of America whose support helped him in his mission tremendously. He always wanted to have the kind of freedom for all women around the world, especially in India as he saw in America and his heart cried: “Woman has suffered for eons, and that has given her infinite patience and infinite perseverance.”
And he strongly believed that: “There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing…. There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved.“
He was very clear on the place and role of women in society and said the following:
“The soul has neither sex, nor caste nor imperfection.”
“The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women.”
“The idea of perfect womanhood is perfect independence.”
“Soul has no sex, it is neither male nor female. It is only in the body that sex exists, and the man who desires to reach the spirit cannot at the same time hold sex distinctions. “
“It is very difficult to understand why in this country [India] so much difference is made between men and women, whereas the Vedanta declares that one and the same conscious Self is present in all beings. You always criticize the women, but say what have you done for their uplift? “
“All nations have attained greatness by paying proper respect to women. That country and that nation which do not respect women have never become great, nor will ever be in future.”
Prophecies of Vivekananda
He was truly a visionary. He predicted India’s freedom with no uncertainty.
He predicted that socialism would come to Russia and China first, though the Marxists’ prediction was England or France!
Years before two world wars he predicted ‘Europe was sitting on gun powder and would burst out any day’.
He strongly felt that America needed spirituality not to be destroyed by the force of technology and secular lifestyle devoid of spiritual orientation. And he, through the great minds of his time invisibly influenced our world.
Today, the green movements, human rights movements, even societies for ethical treatment of animals and more human approach to using the resources of ‘mother earth’ has been aided by an unseen power. Many think that Swami Vivekananda has significantly contributed towards it by bringing the ideas of Vedanta and Yoga to the western world.
Finally, for India, he has predicted that would find its rightful position soon, and the signs are visible everywhere:
“Shall India die? Then, from the world all spirituality will be extinct, all sweet-souled sympathy for religion will be extinct, all identity will be extinct; and in its place will reign the duality of lust and luxury as the male and female deities, with money as its priest, fraud, force and competition its ceremonies, and human soul as its sacrifice. Such a thing can never be”
Though India is going through a great transition in its history, his true follower Sri Aurobindo gave hope and envisioned:
“Whenever the first play of energy is exhausted and earth grows old and weary, full of materialism, racked with problems she cannot solve, the function of India is to restore the youth to mankind and assure it of immortality. Such time is now at hand.”
And finally when it came to his personal life, sadly he predicted the last day. During a trip to Kashmir while being with some of his western disciples on July 4 1998 while celebrating the American Independence he wrote:
To the Fourth of July
Behold, the dark clouds melt away,
That gathered thick at night, and hung
So like a gloomy pall above the earth!
Before thy magic touch, the world Awakes.
The birds in chorus sing.
The flowers raise their star-like crowns-
Dew-set, and wave thee welcome fair.
The lakes are opening wide in love
Their hundred thousand lotus-eyes
To welcome thee, with all their depth.
All hail to thee, thou Lord of Light!
A welcome new to thee, today,
O sun! today thou sheddest LIBERTY!
Bethink thee how the world did wait,
And search for thee, through time and clime.
Some gave up home and love of friends,
And went in quest of thee, self banished,
Through dreary oceans, through primeval forests,
Each step a struggle for their life or death;
Then came the day when work bore fruit,
And worship, love, and sacrifice,
Fulfilled, accepted, and complete.
Then thou, propitious, rose to shed
The light of FREEDOM on mankind.
Move on, O Lord, on thy resistless path!
Till thy high noono’erspreads the world.
Till every land reflects thy light,
Till men and women, with uplifted head,
Behold their shackles broken, and
Know, in springing joy, their life renewed
At that time he sadly said: ‘I won’t see my 40th birth day’. He left his mortal coil on July 4, 1902.
However he also has predicted this:
“I do not see into the future; nor do I care to see. But one vision I see as clear as life before me is that the ancient mother has awakened once more, sitting on her throne more glorious than ever. Proclaim her to the entire world with the voice of peace and benediction.”
(This is the final part of a 9 part series)
Click here to read Part 8
Click here to read Part 1