It was interesting to read a news headline that Gujarat is going to celebrate the birth anniversary of the great savant, spiritual leader and thought spokeman Narendranath Dutta, alias Swami Vivekananda. Till now I only read of the Ramakrisna Mission celebrating in his honour some anniversary or the other, mainly in Eastern India, and some parts of North East India. Vivekananda's following is mainly in East India and some parts of Western and Southern India, although the Ramakrishna Mission founded by him has centres all over the world.
To read about Gujarat celebrating his anniversary interested me. Vivekanda has often been projected as a die hard Hindu, representing a religion, and the forerunner of Hindu dominance. Vivekananda was out and out a staunch Hindu representing Vedic and Upanishadic philosophy and tenets. He depicted Hinuism as the universal religion: Sanatan Dharma and a way of life upholding an unified and egalitarian cosmos.
If we read his writings, closely between the lines, we are struck by not only a prodigious intellect, but an unparalled sensitiveness towards, people and fellow beings. His classic address at Chicago, in the Parliament of Religions, where he addressed the audience as: ''Brothers And Sisters Of America'' was at once Christian, or Islamic or Buddhistic as it was Hindu. It called for an unified world, breaking chasms of barriers and discord. It was at once humanistic as it was spiritual. Vivekananda was spiritual, rather than religious. His address led to a thunderous clapping in Chicago. This was because the unknown Hindu monk, struck the chords of hundreds, by his universalist appeal for a common humanity.
Years later men like Tagore pleaded for this very same entirety of the human race.
Vivekannanda's philosophy, and if I may call them ethics and epistemology centred on the emotive factor. Do you feel? he asked, for the beggar, the hungry and the naked? A man with supernormal levels of creativity and feeling: sums up Swami Vivelananda. Yet he was a realist and pragmatist. You have to go and play football, to tone the body, he once exhorted his disciples. And you cannot do it on an empty stomach, he cautioned. This was Swami Vivekananda, born Narendranath Dutta, the sagacity of wisdom, infinitude, knowledge and spiritualism. He was not God incarnate, he was flesh and blood, but he was born ahead of his times.
However I am plagued by an irritant. Vivekananda is often projected as representative of a staunch and inflexible Hinduism. This is animadversion of a man, who saw the equality of human beings bereft of caste. religion and colour. His concept of ''Brothers and Sisters'' is essentially Christian and universal. He was against orthodoxy of any kind. He was moved towards Ramakrishna, out of sheer spiritual pathos. And he read about him in Dakhineswar, through the words of his English Professor in Scottish Church college in British Calcutta. Vivekananda's prescience and knowledge were intertwined with his British masters, speaking both literally and metaphorically.
And it was in Sister Nivedita, alias Margaret Noble that he found a true disciple, once again fate interweaving destinies: western and eastern, orthodoxy and christian. Similary Christian rationalists have totally misconstrued the savour of Swami Vivekananda, portraying him as the upholder of Hindu fanaticism. Nothing could be further from the truth! In doing this both Hindu and Christian rationalists have twice removed him from a sacrosanct Truth.
Thus spake Vivekananda!