|| Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Aum Namo Narayanaya
This weekend, all roads lead to Mangaung. The African National Congress has rolled out the red carpet to all veterans, comrades, friends and members to the centenary celebrations being held in Bloemfontein. The African National Congress is labelled as the oldest liberation movement in the continent of Africa.
I was blessed to witness the liberation of South Africa from institutionalised racism to a non-racist, non-sexist, united democracy. Indeed this process was not devoid of casualties as many lives were taken, amidst the intense conflicts between the security forces and comrades. To date, many families still bear open wounds, failing to reconcile the conditions under which their loved ones were slain.
The iconic product of the struggle Dr Nelson Mandela, represented the ethos and intentions of the founding fathers of the ANC in 1912, when upon his release from Robben Island after 27 years of imprisonment for political activity against the then government, led the reconciliation process in South Africa burying all pain and suffering he met under the oppressive regimes. He used humility and love of all South Africans as his glue to carefully patch a bruised and battered country back to health.
As much as we understand remarkable progress made in our new found democracy, we equally understand it is a work in progress riddled with various obstacles and challenges. In that breath we salute the founding fathers and all those who sacrificed their lives so that we can live the way we do.
The removal of this political yoke of oppression paves the way for us to now be able to concentrate on another liberation struggle that has been waging war on us since creation. The liberation of our atman from the repeated cycle of birth and death which has robbed us of that truth and eternal bliss collectively termed satchidananda - the realisation and understanding of our true nature.
Unlike the political freedom where the opponent is palpable and tangible -inducing strategies like defiance campaigns, arms struggles and mass mobilisation- this proved very effective in eradicating the threat. The enemy in the spiritual struggle for freedom is very elusive and covert.
It does not utilise kshatriya codes of conduct in warfare but exploits our weakness for base sense satisfaction and greed, and attacks when you most vulnerable.
In this spiritual movement, towering leaders took centre stage in order to help us win this war. Personalities like Rama, Krishna, Chaitanya, Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Sivananda, Ramana Maharishi and Sri Paramahansa Yogananda to name just a few that surface this instance at the top of my head.
They all have contributed immense thoughts, philosophies and methods that can assist a spiritual aspirant free him/herself from the attachment that bonds us to this manifest world. But for the next three weeks as an offering to the Great Swami Vivekananda on the occasion of His 149th Birth Anniversary, I would like to try and showcase this towering spiritual freedom fighter’s life.
Born Narendranath Datta in Calcutta to Viswanath Datta and Bhuvaneswari Devi on Monday, 12th January 1863. Little did his countrymen realise that the one who would shift and raise Indian thought and thinking into a new era had arrived. A force greater than a thousand tornadoes was about to swipe through the spiritual landscape of a country that had been thrown into decay and darkness by various exploitative forces.
As a child, Naren was extremely naughty and displayed behaviour like other children, like teasing his sisters and taking affection to pets. However his mother realised that her naughty son could not be taken away from his mischief in the conventional way. She found that pouring cold water on his head whilst chanting the name of Shiva worked perfectly in quietening him.
Naren took a great liking to monks and would gift them anything in his possession out of pure love. He had even indicated that he would like to be a monk. His mother’s heart would sink at the thought that he will perhaps follow the footsteps of his granddad(a sanyas).
As Naren grew up his phenomenal abilities of learning and memory retention were noticed. Whatever he undertook to study, he would master. From an early age, he never took anything at face value and always questioned - a characteristic we find even in his adult life.
Apart from his academic talents Naren was endowed with a melodious voice and had a great flair for physical exercise and games. He would never lay idle - he would go to gym, ride his pony or even entertain his siblings with stories.
In the midst of all his intense activities, he had a great attraction for meditation which intensified as he grew. His meditation was so intense that once a cobra entered the room where he and his friends were meditating. All sprung to their feet and left screaming to their parents for help. But Naren didn’t even realise a snake was there when he was questioned about it later.
As he grew, Naren showed immense strength and fearlessness, and his life was underpinned by truth. He was always cheerful and joyful and showed vivid signs of leadership when he used to proclaim to be samrat - king amongst his playmates.
This tries to encapsulate the early childhood of Swamiji and I do pray for His forgiveness as even 30 volumes will not be able to do justice to the personality He was. In this attempt, I merely try to sketch some parts of His life so as to inspire you to read His life if you haven’t.
Next week, we will continue with His meeting with His Master, Sri Ramakrishna and His life as a wondering Monk. May Swamiji’s life be an inspiration to you is my sincere prayer.
With Love and Prayers