SWAMY RAMA TIRTHA-EMBODIMENT OF NOBLEST PATRIOTISM. The land of India is my own body. The KanyaKumari is my feet: The Himalayas are my head: From my hair flows the Ganges: From head come the Brahmaputra and the Indus

The land of India is my own body. The KanyaKumari is my feet: The Himalayas are my head: From my hair flows the Ganges: From head come the Brahmaputra and the Indus: I am the whole of India and its East and West are my arms…and I spread them in a straight line to embrace humanity. I am universal in love. When I walk, I feel it is India walking. When I speak, it is India speaking: When I breathe ,it is India breathing.

-------thus thundered Swamy Rama Tirtha whose spirit-stirring call roused our nation from its slumber of serfdom and torpor of inaction and made it realize the need for practical Vedanta. In fact, he wanted his fellow countrymen to ‘tune themselves in love with their country and people.’ A peerless spiritual leader, he remarked “Be a spiritual leader. Lay down your life in the interest of your land, abnegating the little ego and thus loved the country, feel anything and the country will feel with you .March and the country will follow.”

A blazing sun in the firmament of Adhyatmic wisdom, he fulminated against the other worldly vedantins whose intuitive perceptions and experiences have hardly helped the common man to wriggle himself out of his political servitude, economic bondage, cultural obscurantism and religious fundamentalism. No wonder, he is hailed as a great soul who ‘vivified Vedanta with the vitality of his own inspired life and shining example ,presented Vedanta not as knowing and realizing but as a’ Becoming and Being and revealed how the eternal secret of all activity lay in attunement with the Divine law of oneness, harmony and bliss. In fact, as an undaunted patriot, practical vedantist, spiritual visionary, great Karma yogi and champion of Indian culture and philosophy, Swamy Rama Tirtha holds a unique place in the history of India..

A self- effacing nationalist, Sri Rama Tirtha often stated that “poverty of practical wisdom and plenty of population were the cause for the disharmony, disunity and downfall of India”. Castigating the self-styled reformers and pseudo revolutionaries, he said “Lack of practical wisdom comprehends all social evils like contempt of manual labour, unnatural divisions and sub divisions on caste and creed. It is an utter absurdity to believe that an individual can be perfect in an imperfect society”. He always trusted that ‘Unvedantic thought’ was responsible for the pitiable dismemberment of the community and commented that ‘A country is strengthened, not by great men with small views but small men with great views.’

According to the Swamy ‘The object of education should be to enable us to utilize the resources of the country’. He made it clear that ‘Education should enable the people to make the land more fertile, the mines more productive, the trade more flourishing, the bodies more active, the minds more original, the hearts more pure, the industries more varied and the nation more united’. He criticized the narrow-minded pedagogues who show off their learning and denounced “the study of subjects never have to use in life”. He aptly said that the “the talking of knowledge which we carry out in practice’ is spiritual constipation or dyspepsia”.

Swamy Rama Tirtha’s uniqueness lies in his enunciation practical vedanta or renunciation-through love-in action. He said that “True action is inseparable from true love and true wisdom” and stated the “Practical Vedanta makes our life” ‘a Yagna’ which, in turn implies “feeling oneself as one or identical all-losing one’s little self to become the self of all”. He called this process “crucifixion” of selfishness and resurrection of all self. He equated “National Dharma” to “Spiritual Dharma” of “Virat Prema” called upon his countrymen to abnegate the little ‘ego’ and be a spiritual soldier, laying down one’s personal life in the interests of the land. Vedanta is to him, by no means a mere intellectual learning but a most solemn and sacred offering of body and mind at the holy altar of love.’

The Swamy‘s greatest contribution to the world Indian philosophy and culture lay in the fact that “he took Vedanta into the quiet houses, into busy offices, into the crowded streets and into the noisy markets of the western world and awakened the materialists of the mechanized West to the intrinsic worth of Atman living”.

He was an indefatigable crusader and Karma Yogin who sounded the conch for the liberation of the down-trodden from centuries of superstition, slavery and segregation. Terming most of the Sanyasins as “no more than dasas of slaves of caste”, he said that “most of the professors of Vedanta are like armchair philosophers vegetating in their ivory towers of isolation…deaf to the bleeding voice of a woe-begone humanity.

Referring to the Manu Smriti, he said, “All this class- system and the system of division of labour was stultified, ossified, mummified or petrified. They gave it rigidity and made it crystallized”. Manu Smriti,in stead of serving the people became a despotic tyrant. “The poor, the low are always the feet, base or support of society. The over bearing society which obstructs the growth of the low castes, the society which maltreats and denies education to the poor ,that society cuts down its own feet that society must crumble down”. Sri Rama Tirtha wanted “martyrs in the name of truth, real workers, sacrificing men who will be willing and ready to’ lie down with pariahs upon the floor and who are content to be clothed in rags with them, who are content to starve with them, who are content to share with them the tough and hard crusts or half cooked bread”.

The Swamy became an M.A in mathematics at the age of about twenty. He distinguished himself as an erudite lecturer and eminent professor. It is interesting to know that elevated the study of Mathematics and equated it to karma Yoga. Describing Mathematics as “the best remedy for mind wandering, he said that Mathematics strengthens the foundation of moral character, puts us in a humiliating mood, makes us realize our own incapability, tends to away with our vanity".

To the modern day casteist politicians who crave for power and pelf and ignore their primary duty of service to the down-trodden denizens, here is Sri Rama Tirtha’s warning delivered a century ago.

‘The government through disposing of the coveted posts on caste or race considerations, encourages party spirit and manages matters in such a way that each fellow should become inimical to his brother. The present political and social condition of India will not allow the spirit of freedom to take root in the people….India is your own feet and you are the head….Neglect not the feet. If the feet are sore and paining, you totter down….

Sri Rama Tirtha was not a lip-reformer. He cautioned the gullible but pious masses of his time not to hanker after hanker after pseudo saints, fake Godmen and cunning conmen.

He said “As it is today, the Swami’s and Pundits in India are singing lullabies to prolong the lethargic sleep of their race. The Superstitious centring of love in outward ritual and forms, the blind focusing of feelings in ceremonies and external bodies, ignorant faith reposed in the reality of appearances… has brought about race-hatred sectarianism, party spirit to such a pass that the people cannot put their wills together and cannot produce the marvelous dynamic force which always accrues to a nation from a practical realization of underlying unity… This is the bane of India”.

To the Indians steeped in inertia, despair and despondency under alien rule and self-inflicted timidity and ignorance, he gave a stentorian call in his spirit-stirring poem.

Shake! Shake off delusion

Wake! Wakeup! Be free

Liberty! Liberty! Liberty…

Born in 1873 at Muraliwala in Punjab, Sri Rama Tirtha had premonition of his death in October 1906. A few minutes before his accidental drowning in the ganges, he said

“Oh Death! Take away this body

If you will. I can afford to live

Happily singing in the guise of hilly brooks

… dancing in the waves of the sea…

Wearing the silver threads of the moon and the golden rays of the sun”…

A staunch believer in practical Vedanta, he founded no ‘ism’ or institution to propagate his faith and convictions but only said “The best way to spread Vedanta is to live it”.

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