||Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Aum Namo Narayanaya
The drive to ashram was an immensely restless one... impatience smothered me as I could hardly wait for the commencement of the thithi pooja of Swami Vivekananda, undoubtedly a king amongst men.
The morning was beautiful - the gentle breeze teasing the atmosphere before the heavenly grillers were switched on; the moving trees launching the birds in all directions like confetti being strewn in celebration of Makara Sankranti (Sun moving into the Capricorn constellation).
As I drove towards the Veeraboga Temple on my way to ashram, I caught a glimpse of daybreak, as the sun slowly released itself from the grip of night. The air was perfumed with incense and overpowering smoke emanating from the log fire that was placed under a clay pot in which white rice was being prepared.
As the contents of the pot started to boil over, the mantras being chanted by the priest were suddenly disrupted with loud screams of “Pongal oh Pongal”. By this time, Surya (sun) had made a prominent display on the horizon.
Surya Pongal is a festival celebrated by mainly South Indians, and pays homage to Lord Surya for His grace and blessings, allowing them to harvest a bounty. Similarly, on different days, homage is paid to the cow, ancestors, etc. for their contribution to the agricultural success of the community. Agriculture formed the backbone of Indian civilisation, providing abundantly for the country’s sustenance.
After India was conquered and colonised, many lost their land and became slaves to the empires, leading to the poverty and degradation of the masses of India, who at one stage were self sufficient through agriculture.
|Pic of Swamiji at HQ Shrine Durban|
Upon entering the shrine at ashram, devotees were greeted by the most outstanding and majestic picture of Swami Vivekananda - simply decorated yet it accentuated his regal personality - His eyes and posture displaying his determination and burning desire to ameliorate the suffering and pain of mankind.
At once, one is directed by the inner voice to bow and make pranams to Him, the king of renunciates, who is verily satchidananda, who has come to remove our miseries. When looking at this picture, at once, all your fear is removed, knowing that He has the power to eliminate all your miseries.
In continuing our account on the life of Swamiji, we shall commence with that epoch-making moment when Naren came into contact with Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa which will be recorded not only in the annals of Hinduism, but in the annals of history as a relationship that cut a new path as far as Guru-Disciple relationships are concerned. At this point, I recall in the talk that Swami Vimokshananda delivered in Tongaat the previous Sunday, where He quite clearly explained that Him coming to that function or one going to a particular temple was by the grace of that deity alone. Without the call or permission of that deity, one will not be afforded the opportunity to visit.
This first meeting of the young Naren and his Master then, was in no way an accident, but clearly the start of the most beautiful divine play for which the stage was being set.
It was at the feet of Sri Ramakrishna that Naren was delicately and purposefully moulded for the task of freeing mankind from the yoke of suffering. It is beyond the imagination of man to understand how a persona like Swami Vivekananda emerged out of the hands of an unlettered Brahmin from Calcutta. When Master on His death bed allayed Swamiji’s doubts by proclaiming that He who came as Rama and Krishna has come as this Ramakrishna, it was only then that Swami Vivekananda Himself truly understood the incarnation of Sri Ramakrishna.
In His talk today, Swami Vimokshananda clearly illustrated how Master created the restlessness in Naren -who loved to immerse himself in meditation- to do the divine work of the Mother. Master said to Naren that He holds the key to His nirvikalpa samadhi (union with god consciousness) and will realise it to Him once His work is done.
Swamiji Himself proclaimed Himself as a product of Master. He said: "A particle of dust from His blessed feet could have created a thousand Vivekanandas".
After planting the seed of His mission into Swamiji, Master entered mahasamadhi. At once, the powers of Master began to work in Swamiji and He started to wander India as a monk. Having felt the pangs of hunger and poverty after the death of His father who carelessly spent their wealth, Swamiji’s sincere and genuine empathy with the downtrodden of India started to churn His heart.
Having walked the length and breadth of India, every molecule of being was focused on the rejuvenation of India, to restore the dignity of the people. Every muscle and thought was utilised in the plan to free the masses of India from their plight.
It was at the southernmost tip at Kanya Kumari, where He mediated for 3 days and nights that the realisation came to Him that He must go to the west to bring back resources and best practices for implementation at home.
His travels to the west brought Him face to face with how education had the ability to develop a country and emancipate men and women from poverty. His approach broke through all forms of discrimination that shackled India at the time. His work in reform touched lives beyond caste, religion and gender.
Swamiji commanded India’s children to “arise and awake” inspiring them to the core of their beings to empower themselves and restore their dignity. He implored on all to perform Daridra Narayana seva, ie. to worship God, by serving the sick , feeding the hungry and educating the illiterate. “That is true worship”, He proclaimed. In one of His most powerful quotes, He declares: “So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them”.
Swamiji contributed immensely to the freedom of India, and today as we celebrate Makara Sankranti, when that makara jyothi was seen from the Sabari Malai Hills, we know that jyothi is none other than Swamiji who continues to inspire millions to manifest the divinity already present in man. If we can all aspire to be a speck of what Swamiji was, the world will be a divine place to live.
Like the overflowing pongal pot, let prosperity reign and let our spiritual consciousness rise and merge into the supreme consciousness is my sincere prayer. Happy Pongal, Makara Sankranti and Vivekananda Jayanti to all.
With Love and Prayers always
Feel my children, feel; feel for the poor, ignorant , the downtrodden; feel till the heart stops and the brain reels and you think you will go mad - then pour the soul out at the feet of the Lord, then will come power, help and indomitable energy. Have fire and spread all over. Work!!! Work!!! Work!!!