Monday, August 20, 2012


What was called in the ancient times Sanatan Dharma, which has come down to us today under the name of Hinduism, with its many branches, sects and gurus, is in great danger today, as it is attacked by many forces.

The enemies of Hindus are united, even if it is in disunity, even if it is a temporary arrangement based on a common hatred. 
Christian cnversions, the onslaught of Muslim fundamentalism, the invasion of Assam by Bangladeshis, the abhorrence of communists for Hinduism, the infinite dangers of Globalisation and Americanisation, the disregard of India’s intellectual elite of India for their own culture and spirituality, are slowly but surely making a dent in India’s psyche …

There are so many great gurus incarnated in India at the moment. Yet not only are they not united against the common enemy, or for the common good, but they often compete against each other for disciples or territory and even criticize each other.

Disunity has always been the curse of Hinduism and India and whichever enemy conquered this country, did it not because of superior strength, but because they were helped by Hindu betrayers. Remember the last great Hindu empire, that of Vijaynagar.

The Christians have a Pope, the Muslims the word of the Koran, communists have Der Kapital of Karl Marx, but Hindus are fragmented in a thousand sects, which often bicker with each other.

It is thus of vital importance that Hindu gurus and swamis regroup under one umbrella. Each group and guru will retain its leadership and autonomy but will meet three times a year.
There are too many gurus and swamis all over India and the world and it would not be possible to assemble them all in one group. Thus we propose that the twelve gurus in India who have the most disciples, represent all the other swamis and gurus. Amongst them of course, we should find Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Amrita Anandmayi, the Shankacharya of Kancheepuram, Guruma of Ganeshpuri, Shri Ramdev, Satguru Jaggi etc.

The leadership of this group will be rotated every year and so can membership for that matter, as there are quite a few other gurus of India who have a huge following.

It is not only Hinduism which is at stake, but the Knowledge Infinite which came down, through the ages and has survived today only in India in a partial form. This Knowledge only can save the world.

FACT-India, which is a non-political, non-partisan, NGO, will provide the umbrella under which all the gurus can meet three times a year and issue a number of ‘adesh’, which will be binding to 800 million Hindus in India, a billion worldwide. Let Hindus at last understand that not only they have the numbers, but also that they are one of the most successful, law abiding and powerful communities in the world.

Long Live Mother India

Fran├žois Gautier / FACT-INDIA

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Inspiration That Was Swami Vivekananda

                Swami Swahananda

     Swami Vivekananda’s ideas have been seen through various eyes, and new light has been thrown upon these ideas. In one sense, Swamiji is inexhaustible. In another sense, it can be supported that Swamiji’s core message is that man is the Atman, Atman is perfection, and perfection defies all types of limitations.

     ‘I Shall Not Cease to Inspire’

     The first thing about Swamiji that strikes me is his importance in inspiring us. His teachings are there of course, but his life is also there. He has left behind a sangha, an organization, a circle of devotees, to put into practice the ideas he gave. And a great man is more a principle than a person. But still, to my mind, his most important contribution is the inspiration he creates.

     I remember - and this is the experience of many people - that when we were young, there was a Bengali volume, a second volume of Swamiji’s letters, which was very inspiring. Now it has been included in the larger compilation, Letters of Swami Vivekananda. The letters written between 1890 and 1902 are of a more inspiring type, when Swamiji was trying to energize people to do things. Romain Rolland has described Swamiji as ‘energy personified, and action was his message to man’. So when you read his books, you get thrilled, as do some of the famous writers and thinkers and singers, but you also feel that inspiration comes in your own life. I was in Madras for more than twelve years in the 1950s and 60s. The president of the Tamil Writers’ Association became my friend. And being inspired by us, he began to read the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Early one morning, he came to the Math to meet me. That was not the time sadhus met people, but still I had to come out. He said, ‘Swami, I could not contain myself. Last night I was reading Swamiji till twelve o’clock; then suddenly the inspiration came, by reading his works, that I must do something. But what to do at midnight? So I settled with my pen and wrote two stories in one night.’ The reason he was so impressed was that for the previous two years he could not write a book or any stories for that matter, because he was constructing a building. That building took up all his energies, all his attention. There was no creativity left in him to write anything. So that is the important idea: in whatever way you are going, Swamiji’s inspiration can help you in that particular way. Not that you will necessarily turn traditionally spiritual overnight, but you will be inspired, and inspired things will happen. And that, according to Swamiji, is the real fulfilment of life: to manifest the perfection we have in us. How it is manifested and how much it is manifested, only by that will it be judged whether our life is successful or not.

     So that is the major idea: Swamiji is an inspirer of people, especially young people. When we remember his inspiring words, we feel energized, enthused; all the blood will be boiling, as it were, to do something. What things will come? Much will be determined by the composition of our mind. Inspiration doesn’t always express itself in the same way. We have the classical experience of the Ramayana stories. Three brothers, Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana, practised hard austerities. That was considered to be the major method by which strength, power and wisdom were acquired. Because Ravana was of the rajasic type, his mental composition was of rajoguna. He became a king and wielded power in the three worlds, but he also became a tyrant. Kumbhakarna was a lazy man, so by his tapasya his laziness increased, though it was probably a covetable laziness to some extent. He could alternately sleep for six months and eat for six months! We may smile at this, but remember, eighty per cent of our activities centre around these two: having good sleep and good food - to attain our security in these two. Twenty per cent of our activities may involve something more than these two things. Vibhishana was of the sattvic type and had spiritual attainment, realization of God. The idea is that spirituality can give you inspiration, but your mental composition must be all right.

     Need for Purification of Mind

     Along with receiving inspiration, it is very important to purify our minds as much as possible. The method of achieving purification is contemplation of the pure. The lives of Ramakrishna, Holy Mother, Swamiji and others can purify us, but it is also important to do some unselfish action. Swamiji’s major prescription is service. He used to say that renunciation and service are the national ideals of India. Why national ideals, these are the ideals of the whole world.

     I was at one time the editor of the Vedanta Kesari in Madras. My predecessor was Swami Budhananda, who was a good thinker. At one time he filled up the journal with quotations he had collected for two years - quotations from the Mahabharata and other books - to prove that a householder is a greater renouncer than a sannyasin. Why? If I am a monk and I have got a headache, I go to sleep. I don’t care for the world. But if I am a mother and my child comes home, in spite of my headache, in spite of my illness, I shall have to get up and look after the child. Now, unconsciously that mother has acquired the quality of a yogi: self-control, control of the emotions and demands of the body, working for others.

     True Worship

     Swamiji’s prescription is to purify yourself, and then, to be useful to society, to work for others. Spiritual work is all right, but if you work for others, at least something substantial will remain. When Swamiji went to Rameswaram, he said in his lecture in the Shiva temple that if we go to the temple with fruits and flowers but forget that God is there, the whole thing is a waste. Of course, some result will be there inasmuch as it is a discipline; it is not a hundred per cent waste, but still a waste. But if we go to a sick man and give a little medicine, or go to an ignorant man and give a little knowledge, if we remember God is in him, we get the full benefit of worship. But even if we forget the God in him, still, our action has a social benefit. It involves the practice of unselfishness. The more unselfishness increases, the more will purity come. Impurity is self-consideration. In all our affairs we normally equate things from our own standpoint. Unselfishness is ignoring oneself.

     I remember one thinker’s very beautiful definition of humility. We know what humility is, but his was a very unique way of explaining it: humility is the capacity to praise your adversary - very difficult indeed! To praise one’s adversary, to say that he has got good qualities, is wonderful. It requires us to think a little deeper. When we can do this, it means that complete egolessness has come. We are then able to appreciate goodness elsewhere, or find goodness in somebody else.



     Swamiji’s idea is that we will be much more successful if we can purify ourselves, make the mind ready for results, ready for the manifestation of our hidden powers. As Vedantists we should believe that nothing comes from outside. All the capacities are already within. They are to be brought out. Instead of self-development, our word is atma-vikasa, self-manifestation. The Atman is all perfect, but it manifests itself. Unknown areas are there in human nature in which the Spirit can manifest. In the world’s oldest book, the Rig Veda, it is said that God covered the entire universe, but transcended it by ten fingers more, meaning that He is not finished with the universe - He is something more also. This means that a puny creature like a man or a woman has the same perfection God has; it is a question of difference of manifestation. And in innumerable ways we can manifest the Spirit in ourselves. When I first went to America, thirty-five years ago, two women had been declared generals of the US Army, for the first time in history. There had been queens and fighters, but not generals. That means that an ordinary creature like a man or woman has unknown areas, undiscovered areas, unmanifested areas. So that is why Swamiji advised us to every day think of ourselves as the Atman and manifest the power of the Spirit.

     Assert Yourself

     One writer spoke of ‘prayer without tears’. Prayer, normally, is asking. Now, Vedanta says, instead of weeping and crying, assert. You have got the power within you. Assert it. The theistic idea is that God has got the power, and that we ask God, ‘Please, God, give me something.’ But instead of that, assert. Assertion is a better psychological technique. If we say, ‘I have got a headache, I have got a headache; O Lord, do something for me’, the subconscious absorbs the idea - headache, headache, headache. So instead of producing health, more unhealthiness will be produced. On the other hand, Vedanta will ask you to say, ‘Shuddho’ham, buddho’ham, niramayo’ham; I am pure, I am illumined, I am healthy.’ You may argue, ‘I am not healthy; I have a headache.’ But, really speaking, you don’t have a headache. Vedanta pushes you to the question, ‘Who are you?’ That is one of the enquiries Vedanta asks us to make. Some groups don’t go into philosophy, religion, pujas and bhajans - they use straight questioning. Who are you? Analyse, analyse, analyse. Vedanta asserts, ‘I am not the body, not the mind, but the Spirit.’ The moment you say, ‘I am healthy, I am healthy’, you are identifying with your Spirit nature. When you say, ‘I have got a headache, I have got a headache’, who has got the headache? The body, of course. Or, you may feel bad mentally, but you have already argued that you are not the body, not the mind, so you are not suffering. When you say ‘I am healthy’, you are telling the greater truth, the higher truth, the more enduring truth. Truth that is more enduring is real truth. Temporary truth is no truth.

     The materialists came forward and said, ‘No, we don’t accept this. How do you know that this is so? Our studies don’t reveal the Spirit.’ The Vedantists explained, ‘We don’t know your method of physical analysis or logical process, but we can realize the Truth by our special method of inspiration, or intuition, by what is called anubhuti, or experience, realization. These are different terms used by different schools to describe the ultimate understanding of one’s real nature. This method may not be accepted by the materialists but that does not matter, for according to them it cannot be known by their methods. This is not evident to ordinary people, but the ultimate nature of everything is revealed to the realized soul.

     Swamiji asserted that man is Divinity in human form. When he went to America, he told the people, ‘You are not sinners. It is a sin to call you so.’ Very dramatic sentences! And by the by, it would be a very good idea, especially for you young people, to memorize fifty, sixty or seventy of these inspiring sayings of Swamiji. Through your whole life they will be useful. So when Swamiji said this, he was speaking to Americans, who were immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Europe, who had either been persecuted religiously or went to America because of famine or for a better livelihood. They found that the country was theirs for the taking. Soon there were ranches and fields, ten, twenty miles long. To such a person, if you say, ‘You are a sinner; you are hopeless’, he is not going to believe it. For religion’s sake he may grudgingly agree, but he is not going to really accept it. Swamiji said, ‘No, you are the all-powerful Spirit.’ That appealed to the pioneering Americans. That is one reason why Swamiji became so successful. He inspired. He touched the real core of the people’s lives. He told them, ‘You are something grand, something infinite, something unending.’ That is the special idea Swamiji tried to inject. In the Western context the idea of the divinity of man is the major idea that he thrust. In the Indian context it was the application of the ideal that we must see divinity in man - see it for ourselves. The Bhagavadgita identifies both, and Swamiji supported both ideas. But in the Western context, he made people aware of their spiritual nature. In the Indian context, he stressed the idea that the Atman should be seen in society.


     Serving the Manifested Atman

     Normally, commentators translate the word atmarama as ‘one who finds bliss in the Self’. But is it bliss in the Self with closed eyes or opened eyes? Sri Ramakrishna is seen in both ways in the advanced stage. In his commentary on the Narada Bhakti Sutras, Swami Tyagishanandaji explains that the effect of seeing the Atman everywhere is service of men and other creatures. So a man of illumination can do both: he may go within or serve the manifested Atman. Once you have realized, you are free; what do you want to do? The swami is telling us that the normal, natural course of a man of illumination will be to serve others. It is a very beautiful way of putting Swamiji’s ideas.

     This is an important idea in the Indian context. Swamiji stressed this idea of service, because India needs service. Even after more than fifty years of independence, people are starving, people are ignorant. There has not been much improvement. Of course, they say forty per cent of Indians belong to the middle class, and that is why America has got interested in India. But, still, in the larger community, people are not free from hunger and insecurity, so some manifestation of energy is necessary. The Ramakrishna Mission immediately attracted the attention of society because of pinpointing this idea of serving society.

     Nowadays, the question of relevance is often brought out. In what way, as a person or as a principle manifesting ideas, is Swamiji relevant? He is significantly relevant in two ways. Man must continually be made aware that he has got infinite possibilities. If he knows and believes that he has got possibilities, new avenues will open up. The method will be to serve others. That way, society will be benefited, the individual will be benefited. This way, Swamiji says, stage by stage a practitioner will go towards higher realization, which is the ultimate goal of life.

     Everything Positive, Nothing Negative

     Swamiji’s special prescription is that all of us should have an ideal. His famous saying is, ‘If a man with an ideal makes a thousand mistakes, I am sure that the man without an ideal makes fifty thousand. Therefore, it is better to have an ideal.’1 Swamiji always tried to improve people, not by showing their defects, but by showing their merits. By denouncing people, much result is not achieved, because it evokes resistance. If somebody denounces me and then gives me advice, half the time I am not going to accept it even if he is right. That is why Swamiji’s method was to bring out the positive side. In one of his famous letters he says, ‘No negative, all positive, affirmative. I am, God is, everything is in me. I will manifest health, purity, knowledge, whatever I want.’ (6.276) But that has to be done by asserting the positive aspect of ourselves, by thinking of our divine nature. If I lack strength, I think of the Atman as full of strength. If I lack courage, I think of the Atman as full of courage. That is the method. There is another famous saying of his:

     Disease was found out as soon as man was born. Everyone knows his disease; it requires no one to tell us what our diseases are. But thinking all the time that we are diseased will not cure us - medicine is necessary. … In our heart of hearts we all know our weaknesses. But, says the Vedanta, being reminded of weakness does not help much; give strength, and strength does not come by thinking of weakness all the time. The remedy for weakness is not brooding over weakness, but thinking of strength. Teach men of the strength that is already within them. (2.300)

     That is why, even for India his prescription is to think of strength, not weakness.

     In one context Swamiji denounces India, but his major thrust is, ‘Love India, honour India, respect India.’ The idea is that you must develop that love for your own country. Not only for your country - ultimately you will have to embrace the whole world, but not by ignoring your country. Now the present world is being ruled by nationalism, and everywhere the nationalistic states are lionized. But, transcending nationalism, we must also recognize the universal idea - to make the entire world our own.

     • • •

     These are a few ideas from Swamiji. We can take up Swamiji from any angle and try to show that a particular idea of his is useful for the betterment of the individual, of society and of the world at large. That is the special purpose of a religious teacher, a teacher who is an inspirer. ‘Awakener of souls’ is the term often used for Swamiji. Let us be inspired by him; let us try to build our lives and also dedicate them for the good of everyone.


     1. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols. (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1-8, 1989; 9, 1997), 2.152.

Swami Vivekananda on Impulsion and Restraint

     Mind Acts on the Impulse to Act

     When certain things occur before us, we have all a natural or trained impulse to act in a certain manner towards them; when this impulse comes, the mind begins to think about the situation. Sometimes it thinks that it is good to act in a particular manner under the given conditions; at other times it thinks that it is wrong to act in the same manner even in the very same circumstances.

     Culture and Society Arises from Restraint

     The primitive man was a man of impulse. He did what occurred to him, and tried to bring out through his muscles whatever thought came into his mind, and he never stopped to judge, and seldom tried to check his impulses....How can one man live with another without having some time or other to check his impulses, to restrain himself, to forbear from doing things which his mind would prompt him to do? It is impossible. Thus comes the idea of restraint. The whole social fabric is based upon the idea of restraint, and we all know that the man or woman who has not learnt the great lesson of bearing and forbearing leads a most miserable life.

     We get Impelled, Battered yet will not Learn

     Here we are with strong impulses and stronger cravings for sense-enjoyments, but cannot satisfy them. There rises a wave which impels us forward in spite of our own will, and as soon as we move one step, comes a blow. We are all doomed to live here like Tantalus....Men go out into the world and struggle and fight for money or for any other thing to which they get attached. Ask them why they do it. They say, `It is a duty.' It is the absurd greed for gold and gain, and they try to cover it with a few flowers. What is duty after all? It is really the impulsion of the flesh, of our attachment.

     Pravritti and Nivritti

     With every breath, every impulse of our heart asks us to be selfish. At the same time, there is some power beyond us which says that it is unselfishness alone which is good....There is one impulse in our minds which says, do. Behind it rises another voice which says, do not. There is one set of ideas in our mind which is always struggling to get outside through the channels of the senses, and behind that, although it may be thin and weak, there is an infinitely small voice which says, do not go outside. The two beautiful Sanskrit words for these phenomena are Pravritti and Nivritti, `circling forward' and `circling inward'. It is the circling forward which usually governs our actions. Religion begins with the circling inward. Religion begins with this `do not'. Spiritual begins with this `do not'.

     Culled from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vols. 1:63, II 108-109, 2:110/1,1:103,2:91, 2:108/9

A Christian Looks at the Life of Vivekananda

        Dr. S. Sunder Das

     I am sure many of you will be familiar with the account of the first miracle that Jesus performed at the wedding in the village called Cana in Galilee. Jesus was a guest at this wedding. The wine gave out, to the discomfiture of the master of ceremonies. Mary, the mother of Jesus, somehow felt her son could help. When she asked him to do something to produce wine, he got the servants to fill the troughs with water. The water immediately turned into wine. The guests asked the master of the feast as to why he had kept the good wine till the end. It has been said that when Robert Browning was a little boy at school, the teacher had set the class a composition entitled 'The Miracle at Cana'. While the rest of his classmates were busy writing furiously, little Robert just sat dreaming. Just before the composition was due to be handed in, he wrote just one sentence: 'The water saw its Lord and blushed.' Needless to say, he got the highest marks for his effort. If I were asked to sum up in one sentence the essence of Swami Vivekananda's work, this is what I would say: 'He brought the awareness of the divinity of man to the common people all over the world.'

     The crucifixion of Jesus at the instigation of the chief priest of the Jewish people had enormous repercussions. Nature itself rebelled against the inhuman crime: there was pitch darkness for three hours. When the spirit of Jesus left his body many momentous things happened. There was a severe earthquake and the graves opened, and people who had been dead for a long time awakened and went into the city. The most significant thing that happened was that the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom. Many Christians even to this day do not understand the significance of the torn veil. From the time Moses liberated the children of Israel from the clutches of the Pharaoh of Egypt, no one could approach God except through the intercession of the priests. The veil represented the partition between the common people and God. The advent of Jesus changed all that. Anyone, poor or rich, sinner or righteous, could approach God. It has been so with the Hindus too. For a very, very long time, the priestly class held the right to interpret to the common people the prolific rituals inherent in Hindu worship. For one thing they were the only ones who knew Sanskrit, the language of the sacred Hindu literature. They were the educated people of the time and only they could inform the people as to what rituals were required to appease the deity. Not only was there a princely living for the priests, they also wielded enormous power and influence over the lives of innumerable people.

     It could be said with conviction that the life of Swami Vivekananda was devoted to the illiterate poor people of India who were downtrodden by the application of the caste system. In that way he also sought to bring the common people to an appreciation of how every human being had the capability to reach the heights of spiritual awareness. Vedanta philosophy holds that divinity resides within each and every human being and the aim of a successful life is to acquire not only a knowledge of this fact but also to feel this conviction. The veil that Vivekananda rent was the bringing to the awareness of the poor people that they needed no priest to intercede for them and that they could approach God directly without any human intervention.

     Why was Swami Vivekananda chosen to take the message of Vedanta to the West? We have to look at the concepts of extroversion and introversion. The extrovert is outward looking and has the capacity to interact actively with the world of people; the introvert, on the other hand, is inward looking and can be said to live in a subjective world. Some important research findings on introversion are:

     · · Introverts have higher levels of cortical arousal and better ability to learn conditioned responses, and they seem to be better learners using formal, direct teaching methods.
     · · They seek stimulus avoidance, are cautious and tend to over-socialize.
Introverts may be seen to show stimulus aversion in the sense that they already have a high cortical arousal, any further stimulation being perceived as unpleasant. It is perhaps the introversive characteristics of the reclusive yogi which makes him spend a massive slice of his life ensconced in a cave, oblivious to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
     · · They are process oriented and tend to avoid competitive situations. An interesting correlation may be drawn with the theory of karma promulgated by the ancient sages of India which postulates rebirth thousands or millions of times until the individual Atman is ready to merge with the Divine Consciousness. Once Swamiji asked Pavhari Baba what the secret of success in work was, to which he replied, 'The means should be loved and cared for as if it were the end itself.' This is another way of saying what the Gita teaches: 'To action man has a right; he has no right to the fruits of action.' This is in conformity with the process orientation, that introverted Indian culture stands for.
     · · They have a rich fantasy life and this may be of aid to people of reclusive habits.
     · · They do not usually suffer from boredom.
     · · The threshold for pain is lower for the introverts and therefore it may be found that their suffering is disproportionate to the intensity of the painful stimuli.
     · · Introverts are more susceptible to punishment.
     · · The body temperature of introverts is higher in the morning and early afternoon.

     This has several practical implications. Introverted people seem to function best in the early morning and forenoon. As the day progresses, their body temperatures and their efficiency tend to wane, whereas extroverted people come alive in the afternoon and evening. It is interesting to note that in Vedanta and Yoga philosophies the pre-dawn hours, referred to as brahma-muhurta, are said to be the best time for contemplation and study.

     Extroverts, on the other hand, have a craving for stimulation; they often need change of activity and rest pauses. They are very susceptible to rewards. They are impulsive and are slower to learn the rules of society.

     The introversion-extroversion dichotomy is often overlooked by the layman who thinks that every seeker after truth is fit to be a sannyasin. Many yogis and holy men have spent a lifetime trying to fit their personality into a pattern of renunciation which is not in their nature. Some of them have had to be content with being karma yogis. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, although he did not put it in these words, was nevertheless aware of the fact that despite the spiritual evolution of Swami Vivekananda he was cut out to be a messenger of spirituality not only to the Western world but also to India. He had the necessary outgoing nature to relate to people of all faiths. One of the essential attributes he had was his innate gift for superb public relations. His target population could be rich or poor, white or brown or black, atheists or believers. He could relate to all of them with great success.

     Swami Vivekananda had always been extroverted and he would never accept anything without questioning. Very often he needed positive proof about everything. For example, during the early days of his discipleship, it was reported to him that Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had renounced wealth, money in particular, and that the very contact with money would cause him discomfort. Vivekananda hid a coin under his guru's mattress. Ramakrishna, when he occupied his bed, jumped up as if in pain. He made a search of the mattress when the offending coin was found. This was just one of the tests he subjected his guru to. Swami Vivekananda's food preferences have caused a great deal of furore among his critics, who have accused him of pampering to his bodily needs at the expense of spirituality. Some orthodox Hindus even accused him of eating forbidden food at the table of infidels. He retorted by saying: 'Do you mean to say I am born to live and die as one of those caste-ridden, superstitious, merciless, hypocritical, atheistic cowards that you only find amongst the educated Hindus? I hate cowardice. I will have nothing to do with cowards.' Further, 'I belong as much to India as to the world, no humbug about that. … What country has any special claim on me? Am I any nation's slave? … I see a greater power than man, or God, or Devil at my back. I require nobody's help. I have been all my life helping others.' This is reminiscent of what people said about Jesus when he participated in the social life of his community, eating and drinking with the common people. It has to be pointed out that severe renunciation is very often sought by introverted people whereas the karma yogi, who is usually an extroverted man, does not have to renounce anything but live the life of a householder bearing in mind that every act that he does is for the divinity which resides within and which is all around him. This means that a radical attitudinal change has to be brought about. And this is exactly what Swami Vivekananda did. It has been recorded that once he came across an outcaste puffing away at his pipe. He craved for a smoke and requested a draw from the pipe and enjoyed it, very much to the discomfiture of the man, who was horrified that a high caste man should share a pipe with him.

     Many people talk glibly about the bane of untouchability and how everyone is equal in God's eyes. But when it comes to the crunch many so-called upper class people would shudder to partake of the food prepared by a person of lower caste. Not Swamiji. He not only practised what he preached, he also accepted everybody as equal without any hint of patronization. Once when he was in Khetri, Rajasthan, people came to him all day long with their questions. Three days and three nights passed in that way. Swamiji was so engrossed in talking about spiritual matters that he did not even stop to eat. No one even asked him whether he wanted to eat or rest. On the last night when all the visitors had left, a poor man came forward and said lovingly, 'Swamiji, I have noticed that for three days you have not even taken a glass of water! This has pained me very much.' Swamiji felt as if God himself had come to succour him. He said to the man, 'Will you please give me something to eat?' The man, a cobbler by trade, said, 'My heart yearns to give you some bread, but how can I? My touch will defile the food. If you permit I will bring you some coarse flour and dal and you can prepare them as you please.' Swamiji said without hesitation, 'No, my child, give me the bread you have baked. I shall be happy to eat it.' At first the poor man was frightened because he thought the Maharaja would punish him if he did as Swamiji asked. But the eagerness to serve a monk overpowered his fear. He hurriedly went home and returned with freshly baked bread, which Swamiji ate with relish. It goes to show that in India there are millions of poor people of humble origin who are noble and large-hearted and that, given a chance, they would help other people.

     But Swami Vivekananda also had to learn his lesson about purity and impurity the hard way. Just before his impending departure to America, he was invited by the Maharaja of Khetri to a musical entertainment in which a nautch girl was to sing. Swamiji promptly refused to go since he was a monk and not permitted to enjoy secular pleasures. The singer was hurt and sang that he should not look upon her sins. In her song she said, 'Is not same-sightedness Thy name?' Swamiji realized that the girl whom society condemned as impure was nevertheless a precious person in the sight of God. Before God there is no distinction of good and evil, pure and impure. Such pairs of opposites become manifest only when the light of Brahman is obscured by maya. In this connection we have to remember the story of the woman caught in adultery who was brought to Jesus. The punishment among the Jews for adultery was death by stoning. Jesus said to the hostile mob, 'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.' Soon the crowd disappeared, each one being convicted in his own heart!

     It might be worthwhile to relate another of the experiences of Jesus, a Jew by birth and therefore supposed to be superior to the gentiles. A publican named Levi hosted a very big feast for Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees, the cream of Jewry, took Jesus and his disciples to task, saying, 'Why do you eat and drink with publicans and sinners?' Jesus answered, 'They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'

     One of the outstanding gifts Swamiji had was the ability to chastise his friends and disciples without causing offence, although it was not always so. His hostess in America, Miss Dutcher, a conscientious Methodist Christian, could not take in with equanimity Swami Vivekananda's revolutionary ideas. She became physically ill and was not seen at the meetings for a number of days. One sometimes wonders how Swamiji could be so tactless as to offend a lady who had befriended him and who had placed at his disposal her own large mansion, even building an annexe for him to stay. Miss Ellen Waldo, another of his disciples, was once in tears. On being asked why, she replied, 'I seem unable to please you. Even when other people annoy you, you scold me for it.' He said, 'I do not know those other people well enough to scold them. So I come to you. Whom can I scold if I cannot scold my own?' When Swamiji had to speak in Boston, he looked at the artificial and worldly crowd of people and contrasted it with his master's purity and renunciation. He berated them mercilessly for the hypocrisy and shallow nature of Western culture. The audience was resentful and many left the meeting in anger. However, on returning home, Swamiji recalled what Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had said about tolerance, and he wept. His master had never uttered a word of condemnation against anyone.

     However, Swamiji tried hard to adhere to the principle of seeing God in every living being, which is what his master was at pains to teach him. His personal ideal was that of the sannyasin who during the First War of Independence (known as the Sepoy Mutiny in the West), when he was stabbed by a British soldier, said to his murderer with his dying breath, 'And thou also art He.' Then there is the tale of the saint who ran after a thief with the vessels he had dropped in his terror at being discovered. The saint then said, 'O Lord, I knew not that Thou wast there! Take them, they are Thine! Pardon me, Thy child.' This is reminiscent of the story of the bishop's candlesticks in which the thief, who was the bishop's guest, stole his silver candlesticks and tried to abscond with them. The police apprehended him with the booty whereupon the bishop made the remark that the silver was his gift to the man. The idea of recognizing an enemy would have seemed to Swamiji's mind a proof of hatred.

     Swamiji's reverence for Buddha was one of the passions of his life. Sister Nivedita relates with considerable feeling, how one evening Swamiji sat with his disciples reconstructing the story of Siddhartha's renunciation as it must have appeared to his wife Yashodhara. On the night of the fateful farewell Prince Siddhartha returned again and again to the bedside of his sleeping wife. It was she whom he was about to sacrifice for the sake of the world. That was his struggle. Then the final farewell with that gentle kiss on the foot of the princess. During the seven years of the prince's absence , Yashodhara had lived clad in the yellow cloth, eating only roots and fruits, and had not used a bed. On his return as Buddha, she took the hem of his garment while he told their son the Truth. When the child asked, 'Mother, who is my father?' her answer was, 'The lion that passes down the street, lo, he is thy father.' When the lad, at his mother's behest, asked his father to give him his inheritance, he had to ask thrice before Buddha turned to Ananda, his disciple, and said, 'Give it.' Thereupon the disciple threw the gerua cloth over the child. On Ananda's asking his master whether he should also bestow on Yashodhara the ochre cloth, Buddha assented. Thus Yashodhara became his disciple. One of the first things that Swami Vivekananda did after receiving the ochre cloth from his master was to go to Bodh Gaya and sit under the great tree where Buddha was said to have attained his enlightenment.

     There were many reasons why Swamiji was so impressed by Buddha. The fact that Buddha kept in abeyance his own attainment of nirvana till all sentient beings on earth had attained that state, appealed to the sense of fair play that Swamiji espoused at all times. The work that Buddha did for helping the poor people, especially the outcastes, was something Swami Vivekananda had always done. To this day, Buddhists abhor the existence of the caste system. The very establishment of the Ramakrishna Mission was the culmination of Swami Vivekananda's desire to uplift the Indian masses. He believed, for instance, that it was important to help other people even at the risk of retarding his own spiritual growth. On one occasion he remarked, 'Of course I would commit a crime and go to hell for ever, if by that I could really help a human being.' Like Buddha he also believed that the Truth should be accessible to every human being. He was fond of giving the example of Ramanuja, who broke his vow of secrecy and proclaimed the sacred mantra to all. One wonders whether any human being is ever unworthy or unready to hear the Truth!

     It is perhaps a mark of the sannyasin that he is not afraid of physical dangers. Swami Vivekananda had to learn this fact perhaps the hard way. The first experience was when as a young swami he was pursued by a band of monkeys. He was afraid they would harm him. An old sannyasin, who happened to be nearby, said to him, 'Face the brutes.' This is what Vivekananda did and the monkeys ran away. He never forgot this lesson. Much later when Swamiji was in England, he happened to visit a farm in the company of an Englishman and Miss Muller. An enraged bull charged at the little group. The Englishman ran for his life and reached the safety of a hill. Miss Muller ran as fast as she could but fell, being incapable of further effort. Swamiji, seeing her predicament, stood in front of her with folded arms. When it neared him, the bull suddenly stopped, turned and walked away. One of the thoughts that had preoccupied Swamiji's mind then was the distance that the bull would be able to toss him and whether he was to die in such a violent manner. It is also on record how he, as a young boy, had saved a child from being trampled under the hooves of a horse in Calcutta.

     One of the important things that Swamiji did during the last few years of his life was this: he paid more attention to people doing social work to raise the living conditions of the poor and downtrodden. He scoffed at the idea of people looking for their own salvation by austerities and meditation. This is in accordance with his extroverted personality, which determined his preference for action rather than contemplation alone. It has to be remembered that he was a karma yogi, which is symbolized by his organizational capacity resulting in the establishment of the Ramakrishna Mission in India and by his work in America and England. The Ramakrishna Mission as it is constituted now has an important arm which deals with the uplift of the poor and illiterate. However, when he was not engaged strenuously in his active work, he could meditate for a long time. It is on record that in India and in the USA he experienced nirvikalpa samadhi many times. In this regard one may say that he is not a typical example of an extroverted man. I hasten to add that every rule has its exception. It has been said that when he was a young novice under the wing of the Paramahamsa, Ramakrishna asked him what he wanted most in life. Naren, as he was known then, promptly replied, 'To remain always in samadhi'. Ramakrishna remarked, 'I thought you had been born for something greater, my boy.' This set Swamiji thinking. Thus he stood for work without attachment or work for impersonal ends as one of the highest expressions of the religious life. Very soon an order of monks was formed with their faces set primarily towards new forms of civic duty. This was the beginning of the Ramakrishna Mission.

     Every thinking person who reads Swami Vivekananda's life would be intrigued to find that he rarely spoke about his mentor and preceptor in public, especially in America. One wonders why he did not, for instance, publicize the teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa at the Parliament of Religions. Sister Nivedita had this to say: 'He never in public mentioned his own Master, nor spoke in specific terms of any part of Hindu mythology.' At one stage Max Muller, the orientalist, asked him what he was doing to make his guru Ramakrishna Paramahamsa known to the world. At that time Max Muller was writing a biography of the Master and he enquired whether Vivekananada could procure some material for this endeavour. Instead of directly acquiescing to this request Swamiji asked a colleague, namely Swami Saradananda, to write down the sayings of Sri Ramakrishna and the biographical facts of his life. Later Max Muller incorporated these in his book Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings. Vivekananda explained in the following words why he himself had not written about the Master's life:

     I have such deep feelings for the Master that it is impossible for me to write about him for the public. If I had written the article Max Muller wanted, then I would have proved, quoting from philosophies, the scriptures and even the holy books of the Christians that Ramakrishna was the greatest of all prophets born in the world. That would have been too much for the old man. You have not thought so deeply about the Master as I have; hence you could write an unbiased account that would satisfy Max Muller. Therefore I asked you to write.

     Whatever explanation Swamiji was able to offer in this regard remains shrouded in mystery. Indeed no satisfactory explanation exists or is possible.

     Swamiji had his share of hecklers too. Fortunately, these people were not shallow troublemakers but sincere seekers after truth. Once a white-haired philosopher said to Swamiji at the end of a lecture, 'You have spoken splendidly, sir, but you have told us nothing new.' Swamiji was quick to reply, 'Sir, I have told you the Truth. That, the Truth, is as old as the immemorial hills, as old as humanity, as old as creation, as old as the Great God. If I have told you in such words as will make you think, make you live up to your thinking, do I not do well in telling it?' Vivekananda was a master of repartee. Once during question time, a native of Scotland made a snide remark by asking, 'What is the difference between a baboo and a baboon?' Swamiji's instantaneous reply was: 'Oh, not much, it is like the difference between a sot and a Scot - just the difference of a letter.' Although Swamiji was abrupt with facetious, insincere people, he was never known to show the slightest impatience at being interrupted by sincere seekers after truth, of whom there were many in his audience.

     One of the things we have to remember is that Swami Vivekananda was born endowed with certain gifts, one of which was his phenomenal memory and an ability to speak in public. Even as a schoolboy these characteristics came to light. At school one day, he was regaling his classmates with a story. When the teacher came into the room and started teaching, the children were still listening to Narendra's story. All this whispering and inattention to his teaching enraged the teacher, who questioned his pupils as to what he was saying. No one could answer. But Narendra was able to repeat word for word what the teacher had said. This proved that he could attend to two things at the same time. Psychologists will tell you that it is impossible to do this. However, Indians have always spoken about some gifted people who could have what is called ashtavadhana, the ability to attend to eight different things at the same time! Later on, while at Belur Math, Swamiji wanted to go through the Encylopaedia Britannica. After perusing some of these volumes for a few days, he could accurately remember much of the contents.

     During the early days of his explorations, Swami Vivekananda travelled widely all over India, many a time without food. His aim was to travel to Kanyakumari. He always proceeded alone on these journeys quoting the famous words of Buddha: 'Even as the lion not trembling at noises, even as the wind not caught in a net, even as the lotus leaf untouched by the water, so do thou wander alone like the rhinoceros.' After reaching Kanyakumari he worshipped Devi Kanyakumari in the shrine and then swam across the shark-infested waters to meditate on the rocks where, according to the Puranas, the Devi had performed tapasya.

     Any account of the life of Vivekananda cannot be complete without a narration of what happened at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. To start with, the Maharaja of Khetri was responsible for introducing two important things into the life of Swamiji. It was he who suggested that he take the name of Vivekananda, perhaps to emphasize his wisdom and knowledge. Secondly, the prince bought a first-class ticket on the ship SS Peninsular of the P & O Company. Besides this he also provided a robe of orange silk, an ochre turban and a handsome purse. Swamiji enjoyed the voyage because he could go sightseeing at various ports of call, Colombo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Yokohama. From Vancouver in Canada, he travelled by train to Chicago. He arrived too early for the Parliament and did not have the necessary accreditation from a well-known institution. Moreover, his funds were dwindling. It is to the credit of American women that some of the very wealthy ones came to his help and extended their hospitality to him. Although he had stage fright in the beginning, when he did speak to the gathering, his first words, 'Sisters and Brothers of America', drew the people to a standing ovation. What he did was open the eyes of the Americans to the message of Vedanta. Swamiji made clear to the people there that unlike many other religions, Hinduism was a tolerant approach to life which admitted the divinity of many religious leaders like Jesus, Muhammad and others. It is not possible here to go into details about his message to the West but it can be summed up in the words of St Paul, 'And now abideth faith, hope and love: but the greatest of these is love.'

     Some Pithy Sayings of Swamiji

     · · 'It is well to be born in a church, but it is terrible to die there.'
     · · 'What the world wants is character. The world is in need of those whose life is one burning love, selfless. That love will make every word tell like thunderbolt. … Awake, awake, great ones! The world is burning with misery. Can you sleep?'
     · · 'Silence! ye teachers of the world, and silence! ye prophets! Speak Thou alone, O Lord, unto my soul!' (In the context of Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ.)
     · · 'It is a sin even to think of the body.'
     · · 'It is wrong to manifest power.' ~ Feb2005_a_christian_looks_at_the_life_of_Vivekananda.php

Monday, August 6, 2012

Swami Vivekananda on Woman and Divine Feminine

Swami Vivekananda (January 12, 1863 - July 4, 1902) was a Vedantic monk who at one time saw women as an obstacle. However on realising the highest truth he saw no distinction between sex and saw in women the presence of the Divine Mother.

Swami Vivekananda worked effortlessly to try and uplift the plight of women, in particular Indian Women. These are few of the collection of his thoughts on women.

~ 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. (CW ,V.4, P.176)

~ The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women.

~ There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved.

~ Woman has suffered for aeons, and that has given her infinite patience and infinite preserverance.

~ The idea of perfect womanhood is perfect independence.

~ 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? Writing down Smritis etc., and binding them by hard rules, the men have turned the women into manufacturing machines! If you do not raise the women, who are living embodiment of the Divine Mother, don’t think that you have any other way to rise.

~ [Talking to an American audience] I should very much like our women to have your intellectuality, but not if it must be at the cost of purity. I admire you for all that you know, but I dislike the way that you cover what is bad with roses and call it good.

Intellectuality is not the highest good. Morality and spirituality are the things for which we strive. Our women are not so learned, but they are more pure.

~ In India the mother is the center of the family and our highest ideal. She is to us the representative of God, as God is the mother of the universe. It was a female sage who first found the unity of God, and laid down this doctrine in one of the first hymns of the Vedas. Our God is both personal and absolute, the absolute is male, the personal, female. And thus it comes that we now say: ’The first manifestation of God is the hand that rocks the cradle’. (CW V.4 p.170)

- Swami Vivekananda 

Truth behind the Kokrajhar violence

Kokrajhar happens when the State colludes with foreigners to capture power and as a result its own loyal citizens are uprooted and killed, says Tarun Vijay

From our Olympics contingent in London to Kokrajhar in Assam, India has become a free land for trespassers. If genuine sportspersons were overshadowed and embarrassed by the 'lady in the red' in London, native Bodos were killed and devastated by Bangladeshi infiltrators in Kokrajhar.

And while the State apparatus totally failed to protect the honour and lives of Indians from infiltrators in Kokrajhar, the prime minister's visit to Assam proved to be a lame-duck affair, with no word of sympathy for Bodos who are the victims, or no announcement of plans to detect and deport Bangladeshi infiltrators who have become the single biggest threat to India's security and sovereignty.

Unconfirmed reports say more than a hundred have died and 2.5 lakhs have become refugees. The camps have become a torture centre for Bodo refugees with no help available and victims being turned away.

Who feels the pains of an Indian?

And what have we seen so far? News headlines screamed: Muslim members of Parliament from various political parties met the home minister seeking help for Muslim refugees. Another news report said a secular Muslim leader has blamed the Assam government for 'doing a Gujarat'.

This is how India's secular politicians try to uphold the basic tenets of their variety of secularism.
When I spoke to the energetic MP from the Bodo Peoples Front, Biswajit Daimury, he was in tears and said, 'It looks as if Bodos do not exist for anyone. Nobody says a word about their pains and sorrows.'

Imagine a news report headline such as: 'Hindu MPs from various political parties met the home minister to seek protection for Bodo Hindus'. The media and political bigwigs would have condemned the move, criticised it as communal and editorialised on the shameful conduct of those who are supposed to uphold the secular character of the Constitution.

Kokrajhar happens when the State colludes with foreigners to capture power and as a result its own loyal citizens are uprooted and killed.

Betrayed and bruised

The violence is a direct result of the State apparatus's lackadaisical attitude towards those who swear in the name of the tricolour and Constitution. When the rulers give blind support to those who infiltrate Indian territories to launch a demographic invasion and capture our land, the trust between loyal citizens and their constitutionally appointed protectors is broken.

If it were not so, the Bodos, a highly intelligent and brave people committed to the Constitution and Indian culture, would never have felt the need to have their own administrative area. Even after an agreement was inked on February 10, 2003, they were cheated and ignored by the central government. The grants were not given according to their population ratio, as was agreed to in the agreement.

Nine years have passed yet the Bodos have not been recognised as tribals in the Assam plains, Karbianglong and North Cachar Hills, although several other communities like the Hazong, Garo and Lalungs have been included in the ST list during this very period.

Wages of patriotism

Why should the Bodos remain patriotic when nobody listens to them and every body wants to help and shield the Bangladeshi infiltrators?

Dr Anand Kumar wrote for South Asia Analysis Group in 2008, 'After returning from the 28th India-Bangladesh Border Coordination Conference in Dhaka, the BSF chief A K Mitra disclosed that nearly 12 lakh Bangladeshis who had entered India on valid papers have disappeared between 1972 to 2005. He was quoting this figure from the intelligence reports of the West Bengal government.

This is one of the few official figures about the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants whose number has been estimated to be around 20 million and growing by the day. Out of this number nearly six million illegal Bangladeshis are residing in Assam, where they have turned five of the bordering districts into migrant-majority areas. What is however, most concerning is that these illegal immigrants are now threatening to swamp the tribal and rural areas of Assam and other parts of the country.'

This shows how successive governments have failed to detect and deport foreigners. To such levels has the frustration of Indian citizens reached that DN Bezbaruah, an oldtime friend, former president of the Editors Guild of India and a celebrated editor of The Sentinel, said to me, 'Tarun, you Delhiwallahs' India begins at Vaishno Devi and ends at Kolkat . You people really don't care for the pains and travails of north-eastern citizens.'

Even the Guwahati high court in a judgment delivered on July 23, 2008, had observed that the Bangladeshi migrants have become the kingmakers.

This time in Kokrajhar, the hands of the All Bodoland Minority Students Union and the All Assam Minority Students Union in instigating violence were quite visible from day one; still the Assam government chose to keep a blind eye and did nothing.

An independent news report as this stated: 'Dhubri, in fact, is central to this clash between Bodos and immigrant Muslims over land. Over the last five years, the Muslims from Dhubri have migrated to Kokrajhar in huge numbers, raising the hackles of Kokrajhar residents'.

The report further said, 'Curfew had to be clamped in Dhubri as violence erupted during the 12-hour BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Area Districts) and Dhubri district bandh called by the All Bodoland Minority Students Union and All Assam Minority Students Union. 

'At Golokganj market, the police resorted to lathicharge and blank fires after a clash broke out between AAMSU activists and shop-owners. At Gauripur, AAMSU activists set ablaze 35 houses along with the office of the Bodoland Peoples' Front.'

For four days, neither Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi [ Images ] nor the police chief found time to visit the violence-affected areas. Later, when questioned, Gogoi blamed the central government's lethargy and made an almost blank visit to Kokrajhar. It's noteworthy that the police remain a state subject outside the control of the Bodo Autonomous Council.

And in spite of the Bodoland agreement signed in February 2003 by the then deputy prime minister LK Advani [ Images ] with Bodo leaders, which assured the inclusion of Bodos in the scheduled tribe list, nothing has been done in that direction so far, as stated earlier.

A major Assam daily, the Sentinel, wrote in its editorial last week: 'In the last three decades, we have been witness to a callous indifference to the disasters that have overtaken people as a result of the actions of politicians directed solely at electoral gains even with the help of foreign nationals. At this point, any objective and dispassionate penal action against rioters would seem to be quite impossible because of their electoral clout and the inability of the government to punish wrongdoing on the part of the so-called minorities who are actually in a majority in several of the districts of Assam.'

The affected area

Situated on the northern banks of the Brahmaputra river, Bodoland includes the Bodoland Territorial Areas District, which is administered by the Bodoland Territorial Council. The territory consists of four districts, viz, Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri, with Kokrajhar serving as the capital. Tension among Bangladeshi infiltrators and native Bodos has been simmering in the region.

BDIs are further backed by the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam, a terrorist organization, and also by the All Minority Student's Union, who get government support. A new faction from the AMSU was created to cater exclusively to Muslims of the Bodoland region and was named the All Bodoland Minority Students Union, which is the main culprit behind the current situation in Assam.

The violence has since spread to over 400 villages in the BTAD region. Houses have been burnt down and abandoned. People live in refugee camps in their own country because of hostilities from the people of a foreign land. The conditions in the refugee camps are extremely poor. Food supply is scarce, there are no medicines available and as if that was not enough, the security in the camps is woeful. The Centre has deployed 29 companies of paramilitary forces to control the situation, which is turning extremely hapless by the day.

What have we become as a nation? In a nation that celebrates the triumph of Ram on Vijayadashami every year, Ram worshippers are eliminated for vote-bank gains by helping foreigners get fake certificates of citizenship.

  Tarun Vijay