Rationalist, Scientific,Socialist, Vivekananda
Dr Dattaprasad Dabholkar, Lokayat Pune, First edition Dec 2015, 28 pages.
This book contains the sayings/writings of Swami Vivekananda. We live in a peculiar situation of turbulence and the utterances of the greatest of minds make us go forward peacefully, happily and purposefully. The following are ever memorable to guide us forge ahead. They need no explanation for they are clear and convincing to the right thinking. Out of 76 quoted in the book only some are reproduced in this review.
“We do not recognise such a thing as miracles… Most of the strange things which are done and reported in the foreign papers are sleight-of-hand tricks or hypnotic illusions.” (Volume3 - Reports in American Newspapers Miracles, 17th Feb 1894)
I would rather see every one of you rank atheists than superstitious fools for the atheist is alive and you can make something out of him. But if superstition enters, the brain is softening, degradation has seized upon the life.
We have to weed out “the hundreds of superstitions that we have been hugging to our breast for centuries …. Mystery mongering and superstition are always signs of weakness. These are always signs of degradation and of death….. Shame on humanity that strong men should spend their time on these superstitions, spend all their time in inventing allegories to explain the most rotten superstitions…. (Volume 3, Lectures from Colombo to Almora, The Work before Us)
“Do not believe in what you have heard,” says the great Buddha, “do not believe in doctrines because they have been handed down to you through generations; do not believe in any thing because it is blindly followed by many; do not believe because some old sage makes a statement; do not believe in truths to which you have become attached by habit; do not believe merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Have deliberation and analyse, and when the result agrees with reason and conduces to the good of one and all, accept it and live up to it.” (Volume 4, Lectures and Discourses, The Claims of Religion.)
Buddha was the only great Indian philosopher who would not recognise caste, and not of his followers remains in India. All other philosophers pandered more or less to social prejudices; no matter how high they soared, still a bit of the vulture remained in them. (Volume 7, Inspired Talks, 9 July, 1895)
There is no such thing as fate. There is nothing to compel us. What we have done, that we can do. (Vol 1, Lectures and Discourses, Soul, God and Religion.)
The definition that Vivekananda gave for religion is simply beautiful. “To devote your life to the good of all and to the happiness of all is religion” (“Vivekananda the Revolutionary,” http://americanvedantist.org.
I do not believe in a God or religion which cannot wipe the widow’s tears or bring a piece of bread to the orphan’s mouth. Volume 5, Epistles, First Series, XXI, Alasinga, 27 October 1894)
When Vivekananda preached equal respect for all communities, he clarified that this does not mean tolerance. On the contrary, he berated tolerance as blasphemy: “toleration means that I think you are wrong and I am just allowing you to live. Is it not blasphemy to think that you and I are allowing others to live? (Volume 2/ Practical Vedanta an Other Lectures/ The way to the Realization of a Universal Religion.)
“Though there is nothing that has brought to man, yet at the same time, there is nothing that has brought more horror than religion. Nothing has made more for peace and love than religion; nothing has engendered fiercer hatred than religion. Nothing has made the brotherhood of man more tangible than religion; nothing has bred more bitter enmity between man and man than religion. Nothing has built more charitable institutions, more hospitals for men, and even for animals than religion nothing has deluged the world with more blood than religion.” (Volume 2/ Practical Vedanta and Other Lectures/ The Way the Realisation of a Universal Religion.)
Vivekananda said that this universe of ours, the universe of the senses, the rational, intellectual, is bounded on both sides by the unknown. Man is not content with the known, with just eating and drinking. From the very beginning of humanity, man has struggled to understand the unknown, to enquire into the beyond, to transcend the limitation of the senses. That is the real reason for the origin of religion; religious thought is in man’s very constitution.( 51) Volume 2 Jnana-Yoga/ The Necessity of Religion,; Volume 3, Lectures and Discourses/ Unity, The Goal of Religion.)
“We want to tackle the ills created by religion; we will have to do so through religion itself. We want to lead mankind to the place where there is neither the Vedas, nor the Bible, nor the Koran; yet this has to be done by harmonising the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran.”(52) (Volume 6/ Epistles – Second Series/ CXLII/ Sarfraz Hussain, 10th June 1898)
Vivekananda declared while saying that the previous God became rather old, he declared: “Now we need a “new God, new religion, and new Vedas” because we want to build a “new India. (Volume 7 – Epistles – Third Series / XXXII Alambazar Math, 27 April, 1896)
In a letter to Swami Ramkakrsihnananda, Vivekananda writes: “There is no chance for the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly only on one wing.”
”In India there are two great evils: trampling on the women and grinding the poor through caste restrictions.” - (Volume 6, Epistles - Second Series, LXXV, 1895)
In a letter to his disciples from America, he says that America is prosperous, learned and energetic because its women are free.
“But why is it that we are slavish, miserable and dead? The answer is obvious…. Can you better the condition of your women? Then there will be hope for your well-being. Otherwise you will remain as backward as you are now.” - (Volume 5, Epistles – First Series, VI 28 December 1893)
“If I can raise thousand such Madonnas, Incarnations of the Divine Mother, in our country before I die, I shall die in peace.” - (Volume 6, Epistles –Second Series XLVII September, 1894)
“A time will come when Shudra of every country, with their inborn Shudra nature and habits – not becoming in essence Vaishya or Kshatriya, but remaining as Shudras – will gain absolute supremacy in every society. The first glow of the dawn of the new power has already begun to break slowly upon the Western world … Socialism, Anarchism, Nihilism, and other like sects are the vanguard of the social revolution that is to follow.” (Volume 4/ Translations: Prose/ Our Present Social Problems, 23 December 1898)
Like all socialists, Vivekananda had full faith in the masses. He believed that they, and not the upper classes, would transform society.
“Let New India arise … out of peasants’ cottage, grasping the plough; out of the huts of the fishermen, the cobbler and the sweeper. Let her spring from the grocer’s shop, from beside the oven of the fritter-seller. Let her emanate from the factory, from marts, and from markets. Let her emerge from groves and forests, from hills and mountains.” - (Volume 7 / Translation of Writings/Memoirs of European Travel: I.)
“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! I call those men who strut about in their finery, having got all their money by grinding the poor, wretches, so long as they do not do anything for those two hundred millions who are now no better than hungry savages!” - (Volume 5, Epistles- first series, XXV, Alasinga, 1894)
Vivekananda travelled across the country, calling the youth to sacrifice and work for uplifting the poor, as it was their duty to society: “who cares whether there is a heaven or a hell, who cares if there a soul or not, who cares if there is an unchangeable or not? Here is the world, and it is full of misery. Go out into it as Buddha did, and struggle to lessen it or die in the attempt. Forget yourselves; this is the first lesson to be learnt, whether you are a theist or an atheist, whether you are an agnostic or a Vedantist, a Christian or a Mohammaden.” - (Volume 2/ Practical Vedanta and other lectures/ Practical Vedanta: part 4.)
“We must die, this is certain; let us die then for a good cause…. The whole world is one; you are rated a very insignificant part of it, and therefore… you should serve your millions of brothers rather than aggrandise this little self.” - (Volume 3, lectures from Colombo to Almora, Sannayas: Its Ideal and Practice, 19th June 1899)
Vivekananda’s life was a saga of relentless effort to create awareness and mobilise the young men and women of India to sacrifice, go out along the masses, uplift them, organise them, and build a new society that would be free from all kinds of exploitation. He was confident about it: “Believe me, from the shedding of our life blood will arise gigantic, heroic workers and warriors of God who will revolutionise the whole world.” (Swami Nikhilananda, “In Northern India” in Vivekananda - A Biography)