(These are excerpts from the speech delivered by Arvind K.Pandey at Jagat Taran Girls Degree College, Allahabad, on January 12, 2014 in a programme organised by Kritisankalpa Society to celebrate birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. Other notable speakers who expressed their views on this occasion included Swami Nikhilatmananda, President, Ramakrsihna Mission, Allahabad; Justice Rajesh Tandon, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Uttarakhand; Justice. Palok Basu (Retd.), Allahabad High Court; Dr. Milan Mukherjee; Devendra Tiwari and Senior Advocate Ashok Mehta.)
Today we find that youths are at the receiving end of so many challenging issues.The transition phase has introduced them to complex living patterns, which has left them high and dry. They not only remain the most exploited lot but also remain frustrated and depressed. That’s because pressure to perform is at its peak in materialistic times. They are unable to choose right means of survival. Worse, imposition of outdated patterns of living by the silver hairs has made youths a sorry figure. Against this backdrop, the values shared by Swami Vivekananda seem to be last ray of hope as they infuse within the being supreme confidence and positive feelings.
Swami Vivekananda truly recognized the potential of youths. He always believed that “strong, vigorous, believing young men, sincere to the backbone” can change the face of globe. “A hundred such and the world becomes revolutionized.” However, when we look at the state of affairs prevalent in their lives, it leaves any thinking soul quite worried and sad. Very recently, police entered inside the campus of Allahabad University and students got beaten black and blue with laathis as if they were hardcore criminals and not innocent students. If you hear about the experiences of these youths, you would be in great pain to hear about their exploitation. Acharya Manu rightly states that silver hairs alone do not constitute wisdom but in Kaliyuga the white hairs have become confirmed sign of knowledge! No wonder they are always in conflict with younger generation. They are more often than not involved in quashing the innovative spirit of youths, leading to dissipation of enthusiasm from the lives of youths.
Swami Vivekananda believed that each soul is a “potentially divine soul” but misguided silver hairs with their outdated notions have turned these younger souls, bubbling with optimism, into a potentially destructive soul. Swami Vivekananda possessed a revolutionary spirit who had dared to ask uncomfortable questions from older lot. He rightly believed that “each generation should be inspired afresh” and “men should not be taught to imitate a personal ideal, however great”. One of the fatal errors committed by older generation is that it tries to impose its views all in name of sharing experience.
Some of the well-made flicks like Three Idiots, Rang De Basanti, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, and Paan Singh Tomar, to name a few, capture well the conflicts generated by old minds in the lives of youths. It’s evident that optimism and energy found in youths deeply impresses any conscious thinker of Vivekananda’s stature interested in creating new order of things.” My faith is in the younger generation, the modern generation, out of them will come my workers. They will work out the whole problem, like lions.” It’s another thing that in a nation which prefers argumentative tradition-something highly praised by Amartya Sen-the youths get tamed on one pretext or another.
The lives of youths seem to have got trapped in ills of modernity. Or, why else are we seeing advertisements related with prevention of AIDS on National Youth Day? Isn’t this sad reminder of the fact that there has been erosion of values among the youths? Or is this indicative of fact that things have gone out of control since what was once upon a time treated as immoral has gained some sort of acceptance in Indian society? Whatever it is, it indicates crisis of values. We also need to accept that priorities of youths have changed and their role models have also changed. Their role models are the ones which do not inspire them to be do good and be good. They are the ones which encourage them to earn name and fame within short span of time. So what’s the role of a spiritual powerhouse amid this new set of perceptions?
Even if we take into account new changes that have hit the lives of youths, there is still much space left for spirituality. That’s because materialism cannot give them real peace of mind. It cannot quench the thirst which exists inside our soul. No wonder youths have been hit hard by giant dragon called depression. Let’s also not forget that India is land of discovering inner peace. It’s not the land to multiply external source of happiness. And so likes of Swami Vivekananda would always be influencing our lives. They are the ones who keep us above from the realm of negativism. Youths are depressed because external world has limited means of satiating one’s desires, wherein seekers are more than suppliers! On the other hand, the inner world is infinite in nature and the competition to own this inner world is less. So people in race of inner peace have greater chances to remain happy than the majority which is in the race to conquer external world.
Swami Vivekananda’s views will always remain relevant among youths since they enable the youths to rectify their approach towards life. They rejuvenate our dull spirit, by making us shift attention from the external world to inner world and in the process this great truth gets revealed: “The aim of life is to realize God…He alone is real and everything else is false…Religion is realization.” And once you attain realization you come to feel every moment that” all power is within you, you can do anything and everything.”
P.S.: This post also appeared in Northern India Patrika On January 18, 2014.
It really fills my heart with bliss that this part of the world originally hailed as Aryavrata, now known as Bharat (India), has always produced evolved souls, having the capacity to delve deep into the world of mysticism in effortless manner- a reason why this part of the land is viewed with great wonder by people living in the other part of the hemisphere. I often meet yogis/saints, witnessing many such mysterious phenomenon related with world of Yoga, but this feeling saddens me that, back in past, when great saints and spiritually advanced yogis, roamed on this land quite frequently, I wasn’t fortunate enough to be the part of that era! It’s interesting to note that these great souls played different roles as per need of the society. Some roamed in jungles, some lived in caves, some lived as householder, and some became part of mainstream affairs, even as they retained their ascetic robes, to shape the destiny of Bharat-the land of divine principles.
True, many fake Gurus, have turned religion into a most lucrative affair, but it remains ultimate truth that India is intrinsically wedded to yogic principles. This land, in absence of spiritual values, would not be able to survive. May be currents of time sometimes lead to clash of values, but this nation has the capacity to absorb contradictions and conflicts in easygoing way. Like myself, others too, would have not believed the glory of Indian spiritual world, had saints like Swami Vivekananda not appeared in the modern phase of civilization. His presence was certain sign of the fact that supreme consciousness was still in operation. Swami Vivekananda removed my doubt that great yogis were mainly confined to storybooks; that great tales of yogic feats were exaggerated description of imaginative minds. However, after reading life-sketch of, Sri Aurobindo, I became truly confirmed that people in league with extraordinary psychic powers, were not only part of ancient India but they were very much part of modern India as well.
However, today I wish to remain confined to world of Swami Vivekananda, since on this very day, 12 January, 1863, this Avatara of Lord Shiva, manifested on earthly plane. He was an extraordinary person in his lifetime but one who had normal childhood. He involved in naughty pranks like any other child of that age. However, the thing that separated him from others was that he frequently got absorbed in higher form of consciousness. As he grew up and took admission in college life, he was the one who loved to read various philosophies, roped in by great teachers in past. In other words, he remained hooked to intellectual plane alone! That was not the final destination of a great mind like him placed on route to realization. The Updesha Vakyas (Directive Statements) found in Upanishads were yet to culminate into Anubhuti Vakyas or Anubhava Vakyas ( realized truths).
A great truth of the world of spirituality is that a willing seeker or a qualified seeker soon comes to find a Guru (The Master). The same thing happened with Swami Vivekananda, when he met with Sri Ramakrishna. Naturally, that turned out to be life-defining moment for Swami Vivekananda. He soon emerged as a realized soul. In fact, he was always a realized soul and able Guru like Sri Ramakrishna merely ensured that ignorance inside him which made him see himself as ordinary mortal get vanished for forever. It’s interesting to note that in pre-Independence era, we had host of great spiritual souls, who ensured that India’s journey in future as independent nation takes place amid certain special values. The Western world, and we Indians too, remember him mainly because of his great speech at Parliament of the World’s Religions, delivered on 11 September 1893, in Chicago. Not many are aware of the fact that it wasn’t a smooth journey and there was lack of funds to sponsor this visit, and surprisingly, he was not allowed to participate in the conference because of lack of endorsement from a well known organisation. It was only after the intervention of Professor John Henry Wright of Harvard University he got the chance to participate in this conference. Wright was so taken aback that he had to say: “To ask for your credentials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine in the heavens.”
Anyway, a soul of his stature, does not appear on earth for attainment of petty goals. He arrived to make supreme consciousness part of this land, which appears to be heart of the universe. If it stops functioning, the other civilizations are bound to collapse one after another. Although if one has a close look at the life of Swami Vivekananda, one would notice that he suffered life-long at the hands of mediocre minds but today when he is now no more in physical form, his own words have come true that real significance of his achievements would manifest after many years of his death. I must say that now when India is struggling hard to keep its ancient identity- the land of spirituality- intact, the words of Swami Vivekananda offer great solace, great strength. In other words, his thoughts and thoughts of other great minds are keeping at bay values antithetical to its spiritual essence. These great souls have now become active at subtle level, considering the way we have begun to realize that their thoughts alone could brighten our lives marred by ills of materialism.
It’s upon us that we either follow their way and emerge as an evolved being or ignore their wisdom to emerge as “dirty picture” of crass values. “All the powers in universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.” (Swami Vivekananda). Isn’t it the right thing to live life in light of these great values? Is there any merit in dying like a retarded lamb when you could have always roared like a lion? Let’s attempt for such huge transformation from this very moment.
It’s beyond human intellect to comprehend in totality the attributes of a real Master. Why? Because to know Lord you have to become Lord. Sri Ramakrishna could undoubtedly be hailed as supreme incarnation of the Parabrahman. He is the perfect role model for the enthusiastic seekers who wish to merge their identity in Lord. Ramakrishna is regarded as the real Master by their disciples. While laying down the characteristic of qualified teacher Sri Aurbindo stated “The master is one who has risen to a higher consciousness and being and he is often regarded as its manifestation or representative. He not only helps by his teaching and still more by his influence and example, but by a power to communicate his own experience to others”
Sri Ramakrishna graced this divine land on February 18,1836 in a village named Kamarupkar. Ironically, the decent representatives of Lord always appear at times when the atmosphere is laden with confusion and chaos. As a matter of fact they are like gentle wind amidst the fury of demoniacal interests. Other than human garb, which they use as a mean to wonder among us like an ordinary soul, there is no other point of similarity, which allows to strike a bond with these rare souls.
Ramakrishna had a unique childhood. Even then he was in league with his “sublimity of his aim and the one-pointedness of his application to them”. Once the person who was chosen to play the part of Shiva in a play, named “Conversation between Shiva and Parvati”, was forced by the circumstance to withdraw his name at the last moment. Ramakrishna got the chance to provide colour to the role of Shiva on the stage. No need to mention that he transcended the human consciousness while playing the part and for next few hours remain lost in that particular mood. His childhood provides a glimpse into his bent of mind stuffed with extraordinary perceptions. Ideally, it allowed him to gain insight, which invariably shattered the illusions of this dreamy would.
In his village school, when others were busy in parroting the sterile instructions of the teacher, he toyed with ideal which was not normal by any standard in that age. “What purpose will it all serve-this hard study, this sitting up late at right, this rumination of the glosses and commentaries? Will this help me in attaining the truth? “Obviously, he did not wish to end up as ‘finished product’ much like his school teacher. He rebelled against this sort of teaching system which enabled man to sail in the ocean of materialism with ease. But in the process extracting a heavy price for teaching this art of deception. We are unconsciously turned into monsters that trample other human beings without any trace of remorse. It wouldn’t be out of place to observe that in our times the realistic education has come to mean the ability to laugh at the miseries of fellow beings and name it pragmatism.
One of the commonplace assumptions regarding the bent of mind of Indian saints is that they lack scientific temper. In other words, they just swallow the facts owing to their inability to discern them in rational ways. The reality is otherwise. Ramakrishna passionately followed all through life that “He shall accept anything as true only after having subjected it to close scrutiny. If it stands the test, I will reduce it to practice. And I shall not look down upon anything of the world if it is not demonstrably untrue”. This may be the reason why apparently antagonistic soul like Narendra could hardly resist from surrendering his dreams at his feet. This curious mixture of both these worlds-the earthly and the heavenly-created deep impression on Vivekananda’s mind who didn’t take much time to be the vehicle of his purpose. So much that he openly confessed that “Ever since our first meeting, it was the Master alone, and no one else, not even my own mother and brothers, who had uniform faith in me. That faith and that love of his have bound me to him forever. It was the master alone who knew how to love. He did love, while others only feign to love for the sake of their self-interest”.
How intimate was their relationship could be gauged from this hilarious incident. Once Ramakrishna offered the Hookah to Narendra. Perplexed looking Narendra could not turn down this strange offer. He stopped smoking after two or three puffs. The Master then took that Hookah and as he was about to smoke Narendra, stopped him to remind that he should first wash his hands and then carry out the smoking business. This infuriated Ramakrishna and what followed was display of ecstatic mood mired in uncontrollable anger-a familiar sight for Narendra having spent a long time with him. “You rascal, you are awfully conscious of differences” uttered Ramakrishna before gaining normalcy. The smoking session moved ahead with that very Hookah which Narendra had sealed with impunity with his lips.
In earlier year of Sadhana, the group comprising of Narendra, Kesava and others was greatly influenced by Western Philosophy. Narendra however, tried to counteract the charm of alien literature. Something so evident when he quotes Hamilton who felt that “where philosophy ends there religion begins.” It wasn’t easy for the Master to de-construct these minds shaped in convictions gathered from here and there. Even Master was bit worried about their flirtations with bogus reading material. “I hope he did not do so because some Western scholars had expressed that opinion.”
Under the influence of Western Philosophy Vevekanand held the opinion that God unknown and unknowable. Ramakrishna came to intuitively apprehend his dilemma regarding the true nature of Lord. He advised Narendra to seek the Lord’s grace which he said could result from sincere prayer offered from heart aching for Lord’s darshana. Such feelings when condensed in form of words may read like this “O God, I don’t know Thy nature, do Thou manifest Thyself to me as Thou really art”. Vivekananda, who earlier medicated on formless Brahman with attributes, decided to anticipate Lord in its real form. So he started praying “O Lord make me fit to see your real nature”.
What the Master wanted to convey through this episode was that the Lord couldn’t be governed by any particular belief. He has form and lo and behold formless as well. And thus Narendra bid adieu to doubts in this regard. Being now aware of His glory Swami Vivekananda suggests seekers to unite their heart and mind with the fountain of all bliss.” Seek for the Highest, aim at that Highest, and you shall reach the Highest.”
Sri Saradadevi, the divine consort of Sri Ramakrishna, also considered the Master ‘embodiment of bliss itself’. That is why she advised seekers to rely on Ramakrishna in order to remain above the pangs of worldliness. Vindicating the fact that Ramakrishna was not an ordinary soul she said, “Really and truly Sri Ramakrishna was God himself. He assumed this human body to remove the sorrows and sufferings of others”. According to the holy mother Ramakrishna played the part of both Maheswara and Maheswari. All through her life she translated into action the will of Master. Perhaps, she has known too well that Lord alone is the real and the world illusionary. It’s really hard nut to crack to cross the ocean of desires partially owning to seeker’s bent of mind but more largely because of Mahamaya’s mysterious designs. “A person may have no relative anywhere but Mahamaya may cause him to keep a cat and thus make him worldly. Such is her play”, observed mother in lighter vein. Unmistakably it may sound pessimistic had not she sent supreme souls to show us the way amidst drama of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The moral of this whole story is that a soul must take refuge in these Mahatmas (super souls) if he truly wishes to strike an eternal bond with Lord. Such souls alone provide security blanket from the onslaught of worldly desires.
A man who is in sync with sincerity of his purpose finds himself sooner or later in company of the Lord. Let us never forget that real aim of the individual wondering on this planet is realization. Other than this all other concerns are bound to open the floodgate of misery. In this journey towards the Lord the company of godly souls acts as a catalyst. Our intrinsic nature compels us to return back to our source. It’s only matter of time when the restlessness to attain the Highest germinates in our heart. Indeed, the life goes in waste if it is not used as an instrument to establish perfect communion with the Lord. Finally, I would like to refer to statement of the Master, one surcharged with mystical undertone, which establishes his tie-up with the Lord – “All those who are living their final lives in the world will come here, and all those who have, even once, truly called on God cannot but come here.” Yes, it’s imperative for the seekers to honour those who share the platform with Lord.
Literature Published By Ramakrishna Mission