Swamy vivekananda inspiring youth eternally
Can today's youth become what their set goal promises? Doubtful! Then, does achieving a goal lead to a contended happy life? It is at this...
Can today's youth become what their set goal promises? Doubtful! Then, does achieving a goal lead to a contended happy life? It is at this juncture that one wonders: isn't it much more helpful to look at the way the sixteen year old Narendra's life was A molded into the cyclonic monk Vivekananda who thundered A at the Parliament of Religions in 1893?
Professor M Sivaramkrishna
What would you like to be?" I often put this question to children in classes IV to X, or I ask teacher trainees, what they would know about the goals set by children they teach. Invariably, the children in chorus say, "an engineer", "software expert". Many say they would like to be doctors, also MBAs. Ok, for what? Lots of money! Some say they would like to buy a car for their parents. "Daddy will go on time to the office and mom can go to Reliance Fresh. "And, some say, "l will buy a flat so that my parents can live in comfort." Can everyone become what their set goal promises? Doubtful! Then, does achieving a goal lead to a contended happy life?
It is at this juncture that one wonders: isn't it much more helpful to look at the way the sixteen year old Narendra's life was molded into the cyclonic monk Vivekananda who thundered at the Parliament of Religions in 1893? Vivekananda's emergence is not a magical or miraculous event brought about by the Great Master overnight. His family background, the meeting with, and subsequent passing away of the Great Master, the training he received from him, the insurmountable difficulties he faced in keeping together his brother-disciples (gurubhais) by the unbreakable bond of loyalty to the practice of the Great Master's message-all these contain extremely relevant incidents and events which are much more useful in learning about his life than merely looking at his thoughts, ideas, programmes and agendas. The latter emerged from experiences which are agonising.
Many young people think that Swami Vivekananda is a born spiritual person, a social reformer, etc. They may not know the bare truths of the world which is a very strange mixture of intolerable paradoxes. But see what Vivekananda says about the impact his father`s death had on his family: "Even before the period of mourning [after my father's death] was over I had to go about in search of a job. Starving and barefooted, I wandered from office to office under the scorching noonday sun with an application in hand, one or two intimate friends who sympathized with me in my misfortunes accompanying me sometimes. But everywhere the door was slammed in my face."
By citing this reality, can we not tell our youth that when a brilliant student like Narendra, certified by his professors as far superior to students even in German universities, has doors shut in his face when he seeks a job, what about the comforts given by the government to students for studies nowadays? Scholarships of one kind or the other, subsidies, fee concessions, huge libraries for accessible technology and, above all, facilities to prepare for studying abroad, and several incentives?
Starving and barefooted, l wandered from office to office under the scorching noonday sun with an application in hand, one or two intimate friends who sympathised with me in my misfortunes accompanying me sometimes. But everywhere the door was slammed in my face
Vivekananda with Virchand Gandhi and Hewivitarne Dharmapala at World Parliament of Religions 1893
Let us take further clues: if a brilliant student like Narendra strives for a job, and if he has a guru like Sri Ramakrishna, can't the latter get a job for this most brilliant chela? Moreover, Sri Ramakrishna knows such stalwarts as Keshab Sen, Pratap Majumdar and an educationist like lshwar Chandra Vidyasagar. Sri Ramakrishna knows that Narendra is far superior to all these luminaries. Then, why not get him a job? 'There are two things which are of great relevance here: One is ethics, the other is, the nature of the world itself. A potential world leader should experience the raw facts of that world: "The first contact with the reality of life convinced me that unselfish sympathy was a rarity in the world�there was no place in it for -the weak, the poor and the destitute" is what Swamiji later recalled.
Can the youth with the highest academic degrees have an unselfish attitude of helping those who need help? And even if they help, is there a guarantee that this help will make the beneficiary lead a life free from selfishness? Moreover, those who get help may resent those who helped them in some context or the other. Another fact also Swamiji realised; "I noticed that those who only a few days ago would have been proud to have helped me in any way, now turned their face against me, though they had enough and to spare," Look at the word "A�potential" again. "Potential" to help is not just potential in the case of those who could help. In their case it is "actual"!
What prevented them from helping Narendra? Pure and simple: Absence of any values of sharing and caring. We have to cite another very simple example: the potential to prevent ourselves from spitting in public places, in not throwing garbage on the roadside [everyone skirts it, never complains]; then, the potential to prevent ourselves and prevent others from ragging fellow students. Above all, the acute poverty that Narendra experienced made him observe later: "when a man loses all his money and is very poor, then and then alone, with the greatest force come to him the idea of brotherhood of humanity. This is the world, and the more I go to different countries and see of this world, and the older I get, the more I am trying to avoid both these extremes of optimism and pessimism" .........
"The hard facts of life" threaten to blow to pieces all the faith in God! He put in himself a question which crops up in our minds too, especially the minds of young people: "Does God really exist? ...and if so, does He really hear the fervent prayer of man? ...'Why is there so much woe in His Benign kingdom? Why does Satan rule in the realm of the merciful God?" .........
Let us notice that the death of the head of his family led fundamental questions of faith in God Himself. Isn't it like the questions which are filmed in popular movies: the hero or the hero's mother vexed with difficulties sings a song: "Are you there at all O God! We worshipped you for so many years, so faithfully, so devotedly! And what have you given us! Suffering, poverty, deception by others!"And so on! We think it is cinematic. But look at the experience of Narendra which drove him to an intolerable dilemma, making him express, "...I shall fast to death for the realisation of God. .." But immediately comes the doubt, "it seems there is no God, I pray so much, but there is no reply-none whatsoever!" And yet, he declares something which is totally opposed, "How many visions have I seen! How many mantras shining in letters of gold! How many visions of the Goddess Kali! How many other divine forms! But, still I have no peace".
Isn't it strange that even after such experiences Swamiji candidly tells us that he had no peace? 'They say realisations of the kind that Narendra had result in "peace that passeth understanding". Then why did He lack peace? There are many young people who declare that they are full of mental disturbance and tensions because they don't have a job. When they do get a job, are they peaceful? More importantly, do they think of anything other than the comforts of their own family?
It is in this context that we notice a vast difference; the way in which Narendra responded to the crisis he faced in his family. All along he kept a larger ideal before him, which was slowly surfacing in his mind. In fact, it was in his experience of intolerable poverty and the abrupt change in the family situation which made him aware of the plight of millions of such people in India.
In other words, Sri Ramakrishna made him aware not only of spiritual matters but also of the plight that the poor and the destitute face. In short, Narendra's exposure to poverty and deprivation went beyond the personal domain and assumed dimensions of universal significance.
Can you go and tell the poor that "`God is in heaven and all is right with the world?"' Moreover, it is only experience of what you are talking about which makes that talk genuine. We can now see that, like any other responsible youth, Narendra faces the two worlds of loyalty to family and duty to the society at large. Says Narendra: "l had to stand between my two worlds. On the one hand, I would have to see my mother and brothers starve unto death; on the other, I had believed that [Sri Ramakrishna`s] ideas were for the good of India and the world, and had to be preached and worked out." The crisis was so acute that Narendra exclaimed: "Oh, the agony of those days! I was living in hell!" It is out of this mud and mire of acute suffering that ultimately emerged the lotus of the Ramakrishna movement based on renunciation and service.
When Narendra became Vivekananda, went to the West and returned triumphant as, let us say, a "tsunami" of spirituality, the one aim which dragged him back from enjoying the bliss of Samadhi was: rescuing India from its incredible poverty and intolerable social discrimination. See the severe way in which he expressed this insistent aim: `I don't feel tired even if I talk for two whole nights to an earnest inquirer; I can give up food and sleep and talk and talk, Well, if I have a mind, I can sit up in Samadhi in a Himalayan cave .. .Why then don't I do so? And why am I here? Only the sight of the country's misery", he answered, and the thought of its future do not let me remain quiet any more!�even Samadhi and all that appear futile�even the sphere of Brahma with its enjoyments becomes insipid! My vow of life is to think of your welfare ...." .........
Let us focus on Narendra's travails not so much on his triumphs as a colossal figure. Gently bring him from the pedestal to the pandemonium that exists in India, right now
Then, one can ask the youth; You have, let us say, a reasonably good job. You succeeded in the rat race of competition and feel good. 'Then, does any idea�at least the idea � of millions living in poverty in India come to your mind? Does it make you worthy of living? Are you prepared to lift your little finger at least to do whatever you can? Or, you sit for meditation sessions to ease the tensions of your job � meditative potential acquired only to control the employment blues, so that you can go on with your present life style of spending on things for status and not for need?
I can only feel that, since the world is dualistic in its very structure, good and evil will go together. We have to promote the good and limit evil. One practical step would be to study Swamiji's life, and prepare modules which contain examples of practical implementation. Minimise the religious idiom (India has a flood of it, right now) and maximise at least the basic secular values of a nation which, right now, does not seek high-sounding platitudes which are beyond the reach of average youth.
They are, I think, in the grip of fear at the kind of inaccessible image of Swamiji which is the one which gets projected. Let us focus on Narendra's travails not so much on his triumphs as a colossal figure. Gently bring him from the pedestal to the pandemonium that exists in India, right now. As the Zen story says, even if you pick up a few fish from the seashore and throw them back into the sea, that makes a difference, a remarkable lease of life for those few fish!