4 weeks ago
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
A Lion among men
" — We shall crush the stars to atoms, and unhinge the universe. Don't you know who we are?"
Scarcely the words one would expect out of a saintly young ascetic, especially one who doesn't know where his next meal is going to come from. In fact, almost half of Swami Vivekananda's writings become a General at war leading his armies, rather than a renunciate monk.
Hailed as the man who discovered India, one can scarce believe that such a man as this walked on this earth whose words were as thunderbolts on a tottering society.
"Tell them to brush aside their illness by mental strength, and in an hour it will disappear! ", he thundered about a disciple suffering from an illness. "Off with it! Tell them to meditate for an hour at a stretch".
"Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success." he said.
Impractical wisdom ? Too idealistic ? He set out proving this sort of naive, conventional wisdom true along with bunch of penniless monks in 1886, from a dingy house in Baranagore and set up a massive service organisation (including schools and hospitals) with over a 100 missions across India and several more around the world. No mean achievement; actually something that would make any entrepreneur proud. In fact, most entrepreneurs nowadays actually find the making-that-idea-your-life-part trying, very.
The attraction that persons like him wield over others is most likely this: One cannot classify such people under any head. They stand out with their clarity of thought and vision wherever they go. ("To ask you, Swami, for your credentials is like asking the sun about its right to shine", said a Harvard Professor) He is probably the only spiritual (?) figure of any major religion (how else to describe a chap like this?) who spoke at such length about Manliness and Fearlessness.
Here is a monk, who breaks all stereotypes one may have of religious preaching types and wrote to his fellow monks from America thus:
"A few cameras, some maps, globes, and some chemicals, etc., are needed. The next thing you want is a big hut. Then you must get together a number of poor, indigent folk. Having done all this, show them pictures to teach them astronomy, geography, etc., and preach Shri Ramakrishna to them. Go to their cottages, from door to door, in the evening, at noon, any time and open their eyes. Books etc., won't do — give them oral teaching." He taunts the overly religious monks, "Can you do all this? Or only bell-ringing?" :)
One is left with a feeling that had he lived a few years more, the landscape of this part of the world would have been very different. Tragedy that he couldn't find enough regiments within the teeming millions of India. So'ham. So'ham. His war cry still rings clear.
(Photo courtesy: www.vivekananda.org