What is the relevance today of a monk who was born 150 years ago, lived the life of a mendicant, and passed away at a young age of 39 years? Swami Vivekananda’s personality traits provide us all the answers.
Vivekananda was born Jan 12, 1863 during the British Raj. He saw colonial oppression from close quarters when he travelled through the length and breadth of India.
Sitting on a rock at Kanyakumari, he meditated for three days and nights not on any god but his motherland.
Thereafter he declared that India will again rise to her zenith, overshadowing all her previous accomplishments.
Swamiji — as he was affectionately addressed — enthused his followers to sacrifice their lives for their motherland. By doing so, he said, they will easily attain ‘nirvana’.
His messages were vibrant and laced with intense patriotism.
Swamiji also poured his heart out for the poor, saying: “I call him a traitor who, having being educated, nursed in luxury by the heart’s blood of the downtrodden millions of toiling poor, never even takes a thought for them.”
He added: “They only live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.”
It is no wonder that his books were regular companions of Indian freedom fighters. The British government, at one point, banned them altogether.
Rabindra Nath Tagore said of Swamiji: “If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative.”
Mahatma Gandhi paid his own tribute: “I have gone through his works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country became a thousand-fold.”
Swamiji was a scholar and a great exponent of scriptures. Throughout his life, he propounded the message of Upanishads.
He used to say that the primary teaching of the Upanishads is “Abhi”, that is, “Be fearless”.
Katha Upanishad was closest to his heart and Nachiketa was his hero. He wanted youths to attain immense self-confidence and be fearless like Nachiketa.
A person commits crime when he gets overpowered by weaknesses – at physical or psychological level.
Swamiji said: “Have faith that you are all born to do great things.”
Another aspect of Swamiji’s personality was his universal brotherhood.
Speaking at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, he said: “As the different streams mingle their water in the sea, different paths which men take, various though they appear, all lead to the same god…
“Upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, ‘Help and not Fight’, ‘Assimilation and not Destruction’.”
Swami Vivekananda, who was said to have the intellect of Shankaracharya and heart of Buddha, now looks into our eyes and makes us realize that his messages are much more relevant today than ever before.
By Rajib Roy