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Sunday, 12 January 2020

Margazhi Blogotsavam: Day 27: The Patriot Monk who Put India on the World Map: Swami Vivekananda

On the 12th of January, 157 years ago, was born a child to Vishwanath Dutta and Bhuvaneshwari Devi of Bengal, whom they named Narendra. And as they say, the rest is history.... 

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Naren was bright, full of energy, restless and naughty and yet, could spend hours sitting still in deep meditation. He was also very compassionate, and no wandering sansyasi passed their house without receiving something from little Naren. 
Image courtesy: Amar Chitra Katha
At school, and later at college, Naren was an excellent pupil, and as he got more drawn towards Western logic and philosophy, yet, he was restless with a deep yearning, asking every holy man he met, “Have you seen God?”

This question finally led him to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa of Dakshineshwar, the only one with an emphatic reply, “Yes! Of course, I see Him! Even more clearly than I see you! You can also see Him!” This last bit was nectar to Naren’s ears, and he began visiting Dakshineshwar more often.

One day, Sri Ramakrishna entered the room full of disciples and sat on his bed as usual. The next moment, he jumped up, shouting, “Ah! My entire body is burning!” When he looked under the mattress, the culprit was found – a silver coin. Guess who had placed it there? Yes, the would-be ‘disciple’ Naren was ‘testing’ the Guru who claimed he couldn’t bear the touch of money!

As he grew closer to the Guru, Naren began to grow more focused on his aim of God-realization. But unfortunately at that time, his father passed away, and the family sank into a financial crisis. Often, Naren would go hungry for days on end, lying about having eaten at a friend’s place so that the meager food could assuage the hunger of his mother and siblings.

Desperate, Naren asked his Guru to pray for his family who directed him to pray at the temple of Ma Kali. Intending to ask for money, Naren rushed there, but when he stood in front of the Divine Mother, however, his mind grew blank, and all he asked for was “Jnyana” or knowledge. The Guru sent him back, but this time, Naren could only ask for “Bhakti” or devotion. When Ramakrishna sent him back to the Goddess for the third time, Naren begged for “Vairagya” or detachment! Shortly after this, Ramakrishna gave him a glimpse of the experience of Samadhi.

Sometime later, the Guru passed away from cancer of the throat, and all his disciples, led by Naren, began living together at Baranagar, wearing the saffron robes that set them out as renunciates – sannyasis. Driven by the urge to know more about his motherland, Naren wanted to travel all over the country.

When he went to Sarada Devi – the Guru’s wife – asking for permission, she was in the kitchen and asked him to pass her the knife to cut vegetables. When he did that, she smiled, and said, “Now I know you are ready for the world! Go, and may you be successful in your chosen mission!” 

How did she know Naren was ready? He had passed the knife to her with the handle pointing at her, and the blade at himself, unconsciously indicating his compassion and concern for others! Indeed, when he later set up the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897, the motto adopted was ‘Atmano Mokshaartham Jagad Hitaayacha’ which translates into ‘For one’s own salvation and welfare of the world’.

Traveling through the whole of India for 2 years, meditating at the confluence of the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean at Kanyakumari, Naren could now see the mission that lay ahead of him. Now known as Swami Vivekananda, he traveled to Chicago for the Parliament of World Religions and was probably the first person to impress such a strong footprint of Bharata Mata on the world map. 

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Against all odds, on September 11, 1893, Swamiji made his best-known speech that is celebrated till today all over the world. “Sisters and Brothers of America.....,” he began, and the rest is history. 

Image courtesy: Amar Chitra Katha
After almost 3.5 years of spreading the message of Vedanta in the West, he returned to India, and the first thing he did on landing, was to purify himself by applying the dust of this divine land on his head!

Swamiji set up the Ramakrishna Mission and Math and inspired his disciples both within the country and outside to work as a dedicated band of spiritual social workers. 

Finally, in the evening of July 4, 1902, this great son of Bharata Mata retired to his room, went deep into meditation, and attained mahasamadhi, a few months before the 40th year of his life. 

Image courtesy: Twitter
Like Swami Vivekananda, can we learn to develop a heart that feels, head that thinks, and hands that serve? 

Can we learn more about the greatness of our country and culture, and teach others, too?

Can we take up just one of Swamiji's numerous inspiring quotes, and start practicing it in our lives?


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