||Aum Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
||Aum Namo Narayanaya||
The title for this blog didn’t arbitrarily come to mind but was evinced through some contemplation on 11 September 2014. My thoughts travelled to Chicago 121 years ago where an unknown monk, spiritually awakened by an unlettered Sage of West Bengal, delivered an epoch-making speech to the world at the gathering of the World Parliament of Religions. The ‘cyclonic monk’-as He was subsequently branded by the American society- set in motion a wave of spiritual awakening that is to date beaching upon every enquiring mind like an uncontrolled tsunami.
|Swami Vivekananda - Image: Google Images|
This preordained moment was prophesised by His great Master Sri Ramakrishna when He said Naren will teach the world. The road to the defining moment was never bereft of challenges, but inspired by Sri Ramakrishna and the Holy Mother, Swami Vivekananda who lay seized by the instructions given by His Master, delivered unto the world the glorious heritage of Hindu Dharma like an illustrious son showing gratitude to his parents at his graduation. Speaking from the heart with no written speech it was Mother Saraswati Herself sitting on His tongue and composing the melody from the reservoir of His eternal and vast experiences. The spark of Vedanta that emanated from the fiery mind, character and personality of Swamiji during His visit to the West is today a raging inferno that is slowly burning to ashes the ignorance overgrowth suffocating our being.
There are a few important observations that come out of Swamiji’s address which at this point in time can be identified as the problem statement. The word religion which finds its root in Latin means to reconnect, bind or go back. It is quite evident from Swamiji’s tone that He was not impressed with the resultant of other religious practices up to that time. That which was supposed to make humanity more pious, humble, peaceful and happy was in fact the precipitous of sectarianism, bigotry and fanaticism which filled the earth with violence… and claimed the lives of thousands of human beings. That which was supposed to cajole and couch us in love has made us demons catalysing the destruction of families, societies and nations.
Anybody can speak about problems… it seems that we are all aware of the problems in the world but are grappling with finding sustainable solutions for these problems. Humankind has become masters in creating wealth. We find throughout the ages that through accessing better education people are becoming more creative in generating wealth. With advancement in technology more and more places are being developed that bring happiness… places that one can visit day and night to enjoy some happiness. The irony however is that with such creativity and advancement - why has man failed to eradicate poverty and find eternal peace and joy in his heart?
Standing regally in front of the world with the force of a million Rishis behind Him… His countenance beaming with the effulgence of a million suns, Swamiji with full realisation from the depths of His being in a few sentences identified, explained and provided a solution to that nemesis that from time immemorial has started to dismantle the joy and peace that is our birth right. Swamiji eloquently assembled the premise of His solution by unpacking His rich Hindu heritage that has shaped His consciousness and defined His character…the generations of realisation, that He is privileged to inherit, which undoubtedly provide a sustainable solution to the rut that we find the world in today.
“I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: ‘As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee’.”
The idea of dualism has contributed immensely to advancing the cause of prejudices, discrimination, racism, fanaticism, xenophobia and hatred. Even in South Africa, 20 years into our democracy… racism still rears its ugly head. The social cohesion and non-racial project of our government will continue to fail and will be held to ransom by the differences we create in society. The greatest message that Swamiji has given the world not only on September 11th, but throughout His life and in every breadth of his work is advaita (oneness). Although advaita -a stream of Vedanta- has always been in existence and propagated by various other Saints, none have given it prominence and none have practically showed its ability to salvage mankind from sinking into the abyss of hell than Swami Vivekananda. This idea is stunningly couched in this profound quote by Swami Vivekananda when He said” “Get rid, in the first place, of all these limited ideas and see God in every person – working through all hands, walking through all feet, and eating through every mouth. In every being He lives, through all minds He thinks. He is self-evident, nearer unto us than ourselves. To know this is religion is faith, and may it please the Lord to give us this faith! When we shall feel that oneness, we shall be immortal. We are physically immortal even, one with the universe. So long as there is one that breathes throughout the universe, I live in that one. I am not this limited little being, I am the universal.”
In concluding His most illustrious narrative on the state of the world, the glorious Saint throws us a challenge saying: “I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.”
We have split the atom; we have travelled to the moon and even genetically modified the DNA thus claiming the title of great scientists. When the bell of dawn strikes every morning and we arise… let us try to resolve a simple challenge put forward by Swamiji… using our resources, lets remove poverty from the world… using our superior intellect let us find everlasting joy and happiness in our hearts, not because we are helping others, but because we understand we are all one and that our efforts really help ourselves.
A project that was very close to His heart was a sanctuary that propagated this concept of advaita, and before He left the earth, He ensured the successful completion of the Mayavati Ashram in the Himalayas. I am very excited to inform you that a similar spiritual retreat is on the brink of being actualised on South African soil that will contribute towards social cohesion and the nation building project in our country. Keep a close eye for this unique, universal centre that will paint the KZN skyline soon
May Swamiji bless us all with the vision and feeling of oneness is my heartfelt prayer. To all our South Indian brothers and sisters who will be commencing the month long observance of Purutassi, may the grace of Sriman Narayana be with you always.