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Friday, June 20, 2014


Great Thinkers
Swami Vivekananda

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Universally acclaimed as a pioneer in the field of national
liberation in India, Swami Vivekananda was complex
personality being a lover of humanity, a world teacher of religion,
a great patriot, and a leader of the Indian people. Truly has he
been regarded as a patriot-saint of modern India and an inspirer
of her dormant consciousness, who instilled a freshness and
vigour into it. He presented the rare combination of being patriot
and a saint, in whom patriotism was deified into the highest
saintship and loving service to fellow men into true worship.1

Even now a hundred years after the birth of Narendranath
Datta, who later became Swami Vivekananda, it is very difficult
to evaluate his importance in the scale of world history. It is
certainly far greater than any Western historian or most Indian
historians would have suggested at the time of his death. The
passing of the years and the many stupendous and unexpected
events which have occurred since then suggests that in centuries
to come he will be remembered as one of the main moulders of
the modern world, especially as far as Asia is concerned, and as
one of the most significant figures in the whole history of Indian
religion, comparable in importance to such great teachers as
øaïkara and Ràmànuja, and definitely more important than the
saints of local or regional significance such as Kabãr, Caitanya,
and the many Nàyanmàrs and âëvàrs of South India.

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* * *

I believe also that Vivekananda will always be remembered
in the world’s history because he virtually initiated what the late
Dr C. E. M. Joad once called ‘the counter-attack from the
East’. Since the days of the Indian missionaries who travelled in
South-East Asia and China preaching Buddhism and Hinduism
more than a thousand years earlier, he was the first Indian
religious teacher to make an impression outside India.2


A striking figure, clad in yellow and orange, shining like the
sun of India in the midst of the heavy atmosphere of Chicago, a
lion head, piercing eyes, mobile lips, movements swift and
abrupt — such was my first impression of Swami Vivekananda,
as I met him in one of the rooms set apart for the use of the
delegates to the Parliament of Religions. Off the platform, his
figure was instinct with pride of country, pride of race — the
representative of the oldest of living religions, surrounded by
curious gazers of nearly the youngest religion. India was not to
be shamed before the hurrying arrogant West by this her envoy
and her son. He brought her message, he spoke in her name,
and the herald remembered the dignity of the royal land whence
he came. Purposeful, virile, strong, he stood out, a man among
men, able to hold his own.

On the platform another side came out. The dignity and the
inborn sense of worth and power still were there, but all was
subdued to the exquisite beauty of the spiritual message which
he had brought, to the sublimity of that matchless truth of the
East which is the heart and the life of India, the wondrous
teaching of the Self. Enraptured, the huge multitude hung upon
his words; not a syllable must be lost, not a cadence missed!
‘That man, a heathen!’ said one, as he came out of the great hall,

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70 Great Thinkers on Ramakrishna-Vivekananda

‘and we send missionaries to his people! It would be more fitting
that they should send missionaries to us!’3

I have come under no greater influence than the influence of
the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda. ... I have spoken
of that life and have testified to the great influence that that life
has had on the generation which immediately succeeded the
premature departure of the Swamiji from this world.

After I began to study in the college, there were friends and
elders of mine who used to tell us stories of the days in 1893
when Narendra Datta (Swami Vivekananda)—as he then was
— often sat on the pials of the houses of Triplicane and began to
discuss with learned pandits in Sanskrit — and some of them in
Madras were very learned indeed — the great truths of our
religious teaching. The exposition, the dialectic skill he showed,
and the masterly way in which he analysed what even to those
well-educated and learned pandits were unfathomable depths of
Sanskrit literature and law, greatly attracted attention from all
and sundry.

Swami Vivekananda was a fighter himself. He was one who
knew not any kind of physical cowardice or moral cowardice.
...He is a citizen of the world. His contribution will stay on
forever. His immortal soul pervades the whole universe.4


It is doubtful if there is any Hindu who does not know the
name of Sri Vivekananda Swami. There has been extraordinary
advancement of material science in the nineteenth century.
Under the circumstances, to present the spiritual science
prevailing in India for thousands of years by wonderful

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Great Thinkers on Vivekananda

exposition and then to kindle admiration and respect among the
Western scholars, and, at the same time, to create a sympathetic
attitude for India, the mother of spiritual science, can only be an
achievement of superhuman power. With English education, the
flood of material science spread so fast that it required
extraordinary courage and extraordinary genius to stand against
that phenomenon and change its direction. Before Swami
Vivekananda the Theosophical society began this work. But it is
an undisputed fact that it was Swami Vivekananda who first held
aloft the banner of Hinduism as a challenge against the material
science of the West. ... It was Swami Vivekananda who took on
his shoulders this stupendous task of establishing the glory of
Hinduism in different countries across the borders. And he, with
his erudition, oratorical power, enthusiasm and inner force, laid
that work upon a solid foundation. ... Twelve centuries ago
øaïkaràcàrya was the only great personality, who not only
spoke of the purity of our religion, not only uttered in words that
this religion was our strength and wealth, not only said that it was
our sacred duty to preach this religion in the length and breadth
of the world—but also brought all this into action. Swami
Vivekananda is a person of that stature—who appeared
towards the last half of the nineteenth century.5


If we look upon Ramakrishna as the Buddha of our time,
Vivekananda may pass for one or other of the great apostles of
yore, say, the scholar Ràhula, the constitutional authority Upàli,
the devoted lieutenant ânanda, the sage Sàriputta, or that
master of discourses, Mahàkachchàyana. One can almost say
that Vivekananda was all these great Buddhist preacher-
organizers boiled down into one personality.

...He was much more than a mere exponent of Vedanta, or
Ramakrishna, or Hinduism, or Indian Culture. ...In all his

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thoughts and activities he was expressing only himself. He
always preached his own experiences. It is the truths discovered
by him in his own life that he propagated through his literature
and institutions. As a modern philosopher he can be properly
evaluated solely if one places him by the side of Dewey, Russell,
Croce, Spranger, and Bergson. It would be doing Vivekananda
injustice and misinterpreting him hopelessly if he were placed in
the perspective of scholars whose chief or sole merit consists in
editing, translating, paraphrasing or popularizing the teachings of
Plato, A÷vaghoùa, Plotinus, Nàgàrjuna, Aquinas, øaïkaràcàrya
and others.6

* * *
With five words he conquered the world when he addressed
men and women as ‘Ye divinities on earth,—Sinners?’The first
four words thundered into being the gospel of joy, hope, virility,
energy and freedom for the races of men, and yet with the last
word, embodying as it did a sarcastic question, he demolished
the whole structure of soul-degenerating, cowardice-promoting,
negative, pessimistic thoughts. On the astonished world the little
five-word formula fell like a bombshell. The first four words he
brought from the East, and the last word he brought from the
West. All these are oft-repeated expressions, copy-book
phrases both in the East and the West. And yet never in the
annals of human thought was the juxtaposition accomplished
before Vivekananda did it in this dynamic manner and obtained
instantaneous recognition as a world’s champion.
Vivekananda’s gospel here is that of energism, of mastery
over the world, of elan vital subduing conditions that surround
life, of creative intelligence and will, of courage trampling down
cowardice, of world-conquest. And those who are acquainted
with the trends of world-thought since the middle of the
nineteenth century are aware that it was just along these lines

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that the West was groping in the dark to find a solution. A most
formidable exponent of these wants and shortcomings was the
German man of letters and critic, Nietzsche (on whom the
influence of Manu was powerful), had
awakened mankind to the need of a more positive, humane and
joyous life’s philosophy than that of the New Testament. This
joy of life for which the religious, philosophical and social
thought was anxiously waiting came suddenly from an
unexpected quarter, from this unknown young man of India. And
Vivekananda was acclaimed as a tremendous creative power,
as the pioneer of a revolution,—the positive and constructive
counterpart to the destructive criticism of Nietzsche....

The key to Vivekananda’s entire life ... is to be found in this
øakti-yoga, energism, the vigour and strength of freedom. All
his thoughts and activities are expressions of his energism. Like
our Pauràõik Vi÷vàmitra or the Aeschylean Prometheus he
wanted to create new worlds and distribute the fire of freedom,
happiness, divinity and immortality among men and women.7

* * *
His [Vivekananda] politics and economics are all to be
found in his social philosophy. And in this domain we encounter
Vivekananda as the messenger of modern materialism. It is
possible to establish here an equation between Vivekananda
and Immanuel Kant. ...What Kant did for Euro-America
towards the end of the eighteenth century was accomplished for
India towards the end of the nineteenth century by Vivekananda.
Kant is the father of modern materialism for the West.
Vivekananda is the father of modern materialism for India. ...It is
to them that the world is indebted for the charters of dignity for
Nature, matter, material science and material welfare. ...India
like Europe was in need of a man who could say with all honesty

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he could command that Prakçti was no less sacred than Puruùa
and that the pursuit of material sciences and material prosperity
was as godly as that of the sciences and activities bearing on the

* * *
The combined intelligence of the entire world assembled at
Chicago listened to this uninvited and perhaps unwelcome
intruder [Swami Vivekananda] from the banks of the Southern
Ganges and was convinced that a new power had arisen in the
international sphere and that this new power was Young
India. ... Vivekananda was acclaimed as the world-conqueror
for Young India.
... From 1757 down to 1893 for more than a hundred years

– for nearly 140 years, the world had known almost nothing
about Indian India, nothing of the creative Hindus and
Mussulmans, nothing of Indian culture, nothing of India’s
constructive energism. In 1893 Vivekananda threw the first
bombshell that announced to mankind in the two hemispheres,
to the men and the women of America, of England, France,
Germany, Russia, Italy, nay, to the yellows of Japan and China
that India was once more to be a power among the powers of
the world. Mankind came to realize 1893 as the year No.1 of a
vast empire and to recognize the founder of that empire as

Vivekananda, however, does not stand alone. He is
indissolubly bound up with his Master, Paramahansa
Ramakrishna. The two stand almost organically bound up, so far
as the modern man, not only in India but in the larger world of

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our day, is concerned. The modern man can only understand
Paramahansa in and through Vivekananda, even as
Vivekananda can be understood only in the light of the life of his
Master. The Master was a great spiritual force. He was
therefore inevitably a mystery to a generation possessed by the
un-understood slogans of what is called rationalism, which really
means lack of that imagination which is the soul of all spiritual
life. Imagination is not fancy. It is really the power to cognize, if
not to visualize, that which stands above not only the sensuous
but also the intellectual plane. The generation to which
Ramakrishna belonged, lacked this imagination. He was,
therefore, a mystery to it. It was given to Vivekananda to
interpret and present the soul of Paramahansa Ramakrishna and
the message of his life to this generation in such terms as would
be comprehended by them.

Ramakrishna Paramahansa belonged to no sect or
denomination or to put it in another way, he belonged to all sects
and denominations both Indian and non-Indian. He was a true
Universalist, but his Universalism was not the Universalism of
Abstraction. He did not subtract the particularities of different
religions to realize his universal religion. With him the Universal
and the particular always went together like the sun and shadow.
He realized therefore the Reality of the Universal in and through
the infinite particularities of life and thought. Vivekananda
clothed this realization of his Master in the language of modern

Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s God was not the God of logic
or philosophy, but the God of direct, personal, inner experience.
Ramakrishna believed in his God not on the authority of ancient
scriptures or traditions, nor on the authority of any guru, but on
the testimony of his own direct, personal experiences. He was a
Vedantist ; because, his direct allegiance and early training was

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in the cult of øakti. The øakti cult in Bengal has been built upon
Vedantism. But the Vedantism of Ramakrishna Paramahansa
could hardly be labelled as øaïkara-Vedantism, nor could it be
labelled either as any of the different schools of Vaiùõava-
Vedanta. These labels are for those who borrow their theology
from speculations of great thinkers. But Ramakrishna
Paramahansa did not belong to this class. He was not a
philosopher; he was not a Pundit, whether modern or ancient ;
he was not a logician ; he was a simple seer. He believed in what
he saw.

The seer is always a mystic. So was Paramahansa
Ramakrishna: so was Jesus; so were all the great spiritual
leaders of men. The crowd cannot understand them; least of all
are they understood by the learned and the philosophers of their
age. Yet they reveal that which all philosophies grope after.
Paramahansa Ramakrishna, like Jesus Christ, needed an
interpreter to explain him and deliver his message to his age.
Jesus found such an interpreter in St. Paul; Ramakrishna found
him in Vivekananda. Vivekananda therefore must be understood
in the light of the realizations of Paramahansa Ramakrishna.


The story of Vivekananda’s conversion has not as yet been
told. I do not know if anybody knows how this miracle
happened. Vivekananda had been a rationalist and a deist,
though he fancied that he was a theist. His early religious
associations were with the Bràhmo Samàj. They were not very
congenial to the development of faith in saints and seers.
Ramakrishna Paramahansa attracted however many members
of the Bràhmo Samàj by his great psychic powers and more
particularly by his passionate love of God. But they never were
able to open the secret springs of the life and realizations of the

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Paramahansa. They saw him through the prism of the intellect.
The Paramahansa never really opened to most of them the
secret chambers of his piety. Vivekananda was favoured by the
Paramahansa in this matter.

Paramahansa Ramakrishna saw into the innermost
composition of Vivekananda’s nature and spirit and recognized
in him a fit instrument for delivering the message of his own life.
This is the real story of Vivekananda’s conversion. It is the story
of the conversion also of Soul, though it was set in a different
psychological setting. Vivekananda felt drawn to his Master by
what he hardly knew. It was the operation of what is now called
soul-force. When one soul touches another on this deep spiritual
plane, the two are united for ever by unbreakable spiritual
bonds. The two henceforth become practically one; the Master
working in and through the disciple, the disciple not even
knowing that he is dancing to the tune of the Master. People call
it inspiration. Vivekananda worked after his conversion under
the inspiration of his Master.


The message of Vivekananda, though delivered in the term
of the popular Vedantic speculation, was really the message of
his Master to the modern man. Vivekananda’s message was
really the message of modern humanity. His appeal to his own
people was, ‘Be men.’ The man of religion in India had been a
mediaeval man. His religion was generally a religion of the other
world. It was a religion that enjoined renunciation of the world
and all the obligations of the physical and the social life. But this
was not the real message of Paramahansa Ramakrishna. He was
as much a Vedàntin as a Vaiùõava. His ideal of piety was a
synthesis between these two rival schools of Hindu religion. His
cult of the Mother was really the cult of Bhakti, or love of God,

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realized in the terms of the human motherhood. As with the
Bengal Vaiùõavas, so with the Paramahansa, the Ultimate
Reality was not an abstraction. It was not carnal, but therefore it
was not without form. And the real form of the Ultimate Reality
is the Human Form—not the sensuous form of man which we
see with our eyes, but the spiritual form which stands behind it,
invisible to mortal eye. Man and God are generically one.

To help man to realize his essential divinity is the object of all
religious culture. This is what Vivekananda really meant when he
appealed to his people to be men. In the ritual of divine worship
of the Brahmin, is used the following text which says : ‘I am
Divine. I am none other. I am not subject to grief and
bereavement. I am of the form of the True, the Self-conscious
and the Eternally Present. I am by nature eternally free.’ This
was the message really of his Master as delivered to the modern
world by Vivekananda.

It is the message of freedom, not in a negative sense, but in
its positive and most comprehensive implications. Freedom
means removal of all outside restraint. But constituted as we are,
we cannot cut ourselves off from all outside relations, whether
with our natural environments or our social environments. Such
isolation spells death both physically and spiritually. The law of
life is therefore not isolation, but association, not non-cooperation
but co-operation. And real freedom is achieved not
through war, but through peace only. War or renunciation or
isolation has a place no doubt in the scheme of life, but only a
temporary place as a means to the attainment of the ultimate end
which is not perpetuation of the inevitable conflict of evolution,
but the settlement and cancellation of these conflicts in a closer
and permanent union. Freedom again is one. Freedom from the
domination of our passions and appetites is the first step in the
realization of the ideal. Freedom from the fear of brother-man is

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the next step. Freedom from the domination of any external
authority must follow next. In this way from personal freedom,
through social freedom including political freedom, man must
attain his real freedom. And when he attains it, he realizes finally
that he and his God are one. This is the message of the Vedanta
as interpreted by Vivekananda. This is really the message of his
Master to the modern world.10

Some people in India think that very little fruit has come of
the lectures that Swami Vivekananda delivered in England, and
that his friends and admirers exaggerate his work. But on
coming here I see that he has exerted a marked influence
everywhere. In many parts of England I have met with men who
deeply regard and venerate Vivekananda. Though I do not
belong to his sect, and though it is true that I have differences of
opinion with him, I must say that Vivekananda has opened the
eyes of a great many here and broadened their hearts. Owing to
his teaching, most people here now believe firmly that wonderful
spiritual truths lie hidden in the ancient Hindu scriptures. Not
only has he brought about this feeling, but he succeeded in
establishing a golden relation between England and India. From
what I quoted on ‘Vivekanandism’ from The Dead Pulpit by Mr
Haweis, you have already understood that owing to the spread
of Vivekananda’s doctrines, many hundreds of people have
seceded from Christianity. And how deep and extensive his
work has been in this country will readily appear from the
following incident.

Yesterday evening I was going to visit a friend in the
Southern part of London. I lost my way and was looking from
the corner of a street thinking in which direction I should go,
when a lady accompanied by a boy came to me, with the
intention, it seemed, of showing me the way. ... She said to me,
‘Sir, perhaps you are looking to find your way. May I help

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you?’... She showed me my way and said, ‘From certain papers
I learned that you are coming to London. At the very first sight of
you I was telling my son, Look there is “Swami Vivekananda.” ’
As I had to catch the train in a hurry, I had no time to tell her that
I was not Vivekananda, and compelled to go off speedily.
However, I was really surprised to see that the lady possessed
such great veneration for Vivekananda even before she knew
him personally. I felt highly gratified at the agreeable incident,
and thanked my geruà turban which had given me so much
honour. Besides the incident, I have seen here many educated
English gentlemen, who have come to revere India and who
listened eagerly to any religious or spiritual truths, if they belong
to India.11


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t¡àÒ๠\>¸ ¤¸Ñz "à[á—"à³à¹ "¤Î¹ >àÒü¡ú ëÎÒü [ƒ> t¡àÒ๠ÎA¡¹ç¡o &A¡àNøt¡à
ëƒ[JÚà ¤å[c¡ìt¡ šà[¹Úà[áºà³ ë™, ëºàA¡i¡à¹ Òê¡ƒÚ ë¤ƒ>à³Ú-¤¸=àÚ šøšã[Øl¡t¡¡ú A¡àÒà¹
\>¸ 뤃>à, A¡àÒ๠\>¸ ¤¸=à¡? ëƒìŹ \>¸ 뤃>à, ëƒìŹ \>¸ ¤¸=à¡ú "à™¢`¡à>,
"à™¢Î®¡¸t¡à [¤‹ÿ¤Ñz [¤š™¢Ñz ÒÒüÚà ™àÒüìt¡ìá—t¡àÒà¹ Ñ‚ìº ™àÒà Òüt¡¹, ™àÒà ">à™¢
t¡àÒàÒü ÎèÜìA¡, l¡üƒà¹ ¤ÑñìA¡, "à™¢t¡wìA¡ š¹à®è¡t¡ A¡[¹ìt¡ìá—"๠ët¡à³à¹ ÎàØl¡à
>àÒü, ¤¸=à >àÒü¡ú [¤ì¤A¡à>ì–ƒ¹ ÒꡃìÚ ÒüÒ๠™”|oà³Ú ÎàØl¡à š[Øl¡Úà[ạú ëÎÒü ÎàØl¡à
&t¡ K®¡ã¹ ë™, l¡üÒàìt¡ ³à[A¢¡> * Úåì¹àìš¹ íW¡t¡>¸ ÒÒüÚà[ạú ' ¤¸=๠A¡=à ®¡à[¤—
뤃>๠A¡=à [W¡”zà A¡[¹—"๠[\`¡àÎà A¡[¹—[¤ì¤A¡à>–ƒ ëA¡¡! ëƒìŹ \>¸ ¤¸=à
A¡J>* Źã[¹oã ÒÚ¡? ™[ƒ ÒÚ ët¡à [¤ì¤A¡à>–ƒìA¡ ¤åc¡à ™àÒüìt¡ šà칡ú12

(For a few days I had been on a trip to Bolpur. On my return
as I stepped down at the Howrah Station, someone said,
‘Swami Vivekananda passed away yesterday.’At once an acute
pain, sharp like a razor—not the least exaggerated—thrust into
my heart. When the intensity of the pain subsided, I wondered,
‘How will Vivekananda’s work go on ? He has, of course, well-
trained and educated brother-disciples. Why, they will do his
work!’Yet an inspiration flickered in me: ‘You give your best
with whatever you possess by trying to translate into action
Vivekananda’s dream of conquest of the West.’ That very
moment I vowed I would sail to England. So long I never even
dreamt of visiting England. But on that day at the Howrah

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Station I decided I must go to England and establish Vedanta
there. Then I understood who Vivekananda was. He whose
inspiration can drive a humble person like me across the seas, is
not, really, an ordinary man. Shortly afterwards I left Calcutta
and sailed for England with a sum of only twenty-seven rupees in
my pocket. Finally, I reached England and delivered lectures at
the Oxford and Cambridge Universities on Vedanta. Celebrated
[British] scholars listened to my expositions and expressed their
desire to learn the science of Vedanta by appointing Hindu
scholars. I did not publish the letters of appreciation which those
scholars wrote to me. How profound was the influence of
Vedanta in England could be understood if I had published those
letters. I am just an ordinary man. It was all like a dream that
such a great work was accomplished by me. All these were
miracles brought about by the inspiration and power of
Vivekananda behind me—this is what I believe. That is why
sometimes I think, who is Vivekananda ? The greatness of
Vivekananda surpasses my power of assessment as I think of
the stupendous programme of work he had boldly initiated.

On another occasion, I came across Vivekananda by the
side of Hedua Park in Calcutta. I said to him, ‘Brother, why are
you keeping silent? Come, raise a stir of Vedanta in Calcutta. I
will make all arrangements. You just come and appear before
the public.’ Vivekananda’s voice grew heavy with pathos. He
said, ‘Brother Bhavani, I will not live long (it was just six months
before his death). I am busy now with the construction of my
Mañh, and making arrangements for its proper upkeep. I have
no leisure now.’ At the pathetic earnestness of his words I
understood that day that his heart was tormented with a passion
and pain. Passion for whom? Pain for whom? Passion for the
country, pain for the country. The knowledge and culture of the
Aryans were being destroyed and crushed. What was gross and

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un-Aryan was deflating what was finer and Aryan. And yet there
is no response, no pain in your heart? —this [callous indifference
of his countrymen] evoked a painful response in Vivekananda’s
heart. The response was so deep that it struck at the root of the
conscience of America and Europe. I think of that pain and
passion in Vivekananda, and ask, who is Vivekananda? Is it
ever possible that passion for the motherland becomes
embodied? If it is, then only one can understand Vivekananda.)

Ѭà³ã\ã¡! "à[³ ët¡à³à¹ ë™ï¤ì>¹ ¤Þêå¡—ët¡à³à¹ Î[Òt¡ A¡t¡ "àì³àƒ-šøì³àƒ
A¡[¹Úà[á—¤>쮡à\> A¡[¹Úà[á—K¿Kàáà A¡[¹Úà[á¡ú t¡J> \à[>t¡à³ >à ë™, ët¡à³à¹
šøàìo [Î}Ò¤º "àìá, ët¡à³à¹ ÒꡃìÚ ®¡à¹ìt¡¹ \>¸ "àìN—Ú š¤¢t¡®¡¹à ¤¸=à "àìá¡ú "à\
"à[³* "à³à¹ Û塉 Å[v¡û¡ ºÒüÚà ët¡à³à¹Òü ¤øt¡ l¡üƒô™àš> A¡[¹ìt¡ l¡üƒ¸t¡ ÒÒüÚà[á¡ú...&Òü
ëQ๠Î}Nøàì³ ™J> Û¡t¡-[¤Û¡t¡ [¤‹ÿ¤Ñz ÒÒüÚà š[Øl¡—"¤Îàƒ "à[ÎÚà ÒꡃÚìA¡ "àZáÄ
A¡ì¹—t¡J> ët¡à³à¹ šøƒ[Å¢t¡ "àƒìÅ¢¹ [ƒìA¡ ëƒ[J—ët¡à³à¹ [Î}Ҥ캹 A¡=à ®¡à[¤—
ët¡à³à¹ K®¡ã¹ 뤃>๠">勸à> A¡[¹—"³[> "¤Îàƒ W¡[ºÚà ™àÚ—ëA¡à=à ÒÒüìt¡
[ƒ¤¸àìºàA¡ [ƒ¤¸Å[v¡û¡ "à[ÎÚà šøào³>ìA¡ ®¡¹šå¹ A¡[¹Úà ëó¡ìº¡ú13

(Swamiji ! a friend of your youth—how much of merrymaking
I have made with you ! With you I went on picnics and
spent hours in talks and conversations. But then I never knew
that there was a lion’s strength in your soul, a volcanic pain and
passion for India in your heart. Today with all my humble
strength I have come to follow your way. ... In the midst of this
fierce struggle, whenever I get torn and tossed, whenever
despondency comes and overwhelms my heart, I look up to the
great ideal you set forth, I recollect your leonine strength,
meditate on the profound depths of your agony—then all at
once my weariness withers away. A divine light and a divine
strength come from somewhere and fulfil my mind and heart.)


When I first met Vivekananda in 1881, we were fellow-
students of Principal William Hastie, scholar, metaphysician, and

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poet, at the General Assembly’s College. ... I saw and
recognized in him a high, ardent and pure nature, vibrant and
resonant with impassioned sensibilities. He was certainly no sour
or cross-grained puritan, no normal hypochondric; in the
recesses of his soul he wrestled with the fierce and fell spirit of
Desire, the subtle and illusive spirit of Fancy.

...He tried diverse teachers, creeds and cults, and it was this
quest that brought him, though at first in a doubting spirit, to the
Paramahamsa of Dakshineshwar, who spoke to him with an
authority that none had spoken before. ...But his rebellious
intellect scarcely yet owned the Master. ...It was only gradually
that the doubts of that keen intellect were vanquished by the
calm in the subsequent life-history of Vivekananda who, after he
had found the firm assurance he sought in the saving Grace and
Power of his Master, went about preaching and teaching the
creed of the Universal Man, and the absolute and inalienable
sovereignty of the Self.14

I would refer in the first place to that greater word
Advaitam. The word Advaitam really means, the occasions of
all spiritual life, to see (as the Upanishads tells us). The Universal
self in all things and all things in the Universal self. I feel that the
greatest of all debts the youths of modern India owe to Swami
Vivekananda is the renewal in practical life of this faith in the



Swami Vivekananda...was a democratic saint. He revived
for us the idea of nationhood. He was the first of those, who
made it possible to think of India as a whole irrespective of the
existing differences of class, creed, colour and custom. He

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pleaded for the driving away of everything that would prevent
the union of India. He knew that unless India was one spiritually
and intellectually, India could not step into the outer world. A
distracted, quarrelsome, feeble minded India would not be of
any assistance in the world and therefore he said, Unite ... our
ship of religion and of State is now laden full of many cargos,
precious, some by no means precious, some wholly nugatory.
We must throw aside such cargo. The storm is there. The great
winds are blowing and unless the useless cargo is thrown aside,
the ship will sink. The Swami asked us to sink the unnecessary
cargo. And unless we got that lesson India will perish as the
several other nations have perished. ...His gospel was the gospel
of courage, of hope and admiration, of eschewal and


Swami Vivekananda saved Hinduism and saved India. But
for him we would have lost our religion and would not have
gained our freedom. We therefore owe everything to Swami
Vivekananda. May his faith, his courage and his wisdom ever
inspire us so that we may keep safe the treasure we have
received from him !17


Vivekananda was, as I said, profoundly moved by the
realization of India’s poverty and the state of her oppression
under the British colonial rule. And he proposed a revolution.
The spirit of this revolution enormously influenced Gandhi and
influences Indian political thought to this day. Vivekananda in this
sense is a great figure in Indian history, one of the very greatest
historical figures that India has ever produced. But it must
always be noted that Vivekananda’s revolution, Vivekananda’s

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nationalism, were not like the kind of revolution, the kind of
nationalism, which we associate with other great leaders,
admirable and noble as they may be. Vivekananda was far
greater than that. In fact, when one sees the full range of his
mind, one is astounded. Vivekananda looked toward the West,
not simply as a mass of tyrants exploiting various parts of Asia,
and other undeveloped areas, but as future partners, people
who had very, very much to offer. At the same time, without any
false humility, he faced the West and said, ‘we have fully as much
and more to offer you. We offer you this great tradition of
spirituality, which can produce, even now, today, a supremely
great figure such as Ramakrishna. You can offer us medical
services, trains that run on time, hygiene, irrigation, electric light.
These are very important, we want them, and we admire some
of your qualities immensely.’

One of the most enchanting things about Vivekananda is the
way he was eternally changing sides when he was speaking to
different people ; he could denounce the British in words of fire,
but again he would turn on the Indians and say, ‘You cannot
manufacture one pin, and you dare to criticize the British !’And
then he would speak of the awful materialism of the United
States, and on the other hand, he would say that no women in
the world were greater, and that the treatment of women in India
was absolutely disgraceful. And so in every way, he was
integrating, he was seeing the forces for good, the constructive
forces, in the different countries, and saying, ‘why don’t we
exchange ?’ So Vivekananda’s revolution was a revolution for
everybody, a revolution which would in the long run be of just as
much use to the British as to India. Vivekananda’s nationalism,
the call to India to recognize herself—this again was not
nationalism in the smaller sense, it was a kind of super-
nationalism, a kind of internationalism sublimated. You all know

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the story that Vivekananda was so fond of, about the lion that
was brought up with a lot of sheep. Now another lion comes out
of the forest and the sheep all run away, and the little lion that had
been brought up thinks it’s a sheep and runs away too, and now
the pursuing lion grabs it, takes it over to a pool of water and
says, ‘Look at yourself, you’re a lion.’This is what Vivekananda
was doing to the Indian people. He remarks in one of his letters,
that the marvellous thing about all of the Western nations is that
they know that they are nations. He said jealousy is a curse of
India. Indians cannot learn to co-operate with each other. Why
can’t they learn from the co-operation of Western nations with
each other? I’m quoting all this because by considering all these
different attitudes that Vivekananda took, one sees the
immense scope and integrity of his good will. He was really on
everybody’s side, on the side of the West, and on the side of
India, and he saw far, far into the future ; his political prophecies
are extremely interesting, and he said repeatedly, that the great
force, which would finally have to be reckoned with, was China.
He also remarked on visiting Europe for the last time in 1900
that he smelled war everywhere, which was more than most
professional statesmen did, at that time.18

* * *

[When I heard message of Vedanta as Vivekananda
preaches it], I heard it with an almost incredulous joy. Here, at
last, was a man who believed in God and yet dared to condemn
the indecent grovelings of the sin-obsessed Puritans I had so
much despised in my youth. I loved him at once, for his bracing
self-reliance, his humour, and his courage. He appealed to me as
the perfect anti-Puritan hero: the enemy of Sunday religion, the
destroyer of Sunday gloom, the shocker of prudes, the breaker
of traditions, the outrager of conventions, the comedian who
taught the deepest truths in idiotic jokes and frightful puns. That

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humour had its place in religion, that it could actually be a mode
of spiritual self-expression, was a revelation to me; for, like
every small boy of Puritan upbringing, I had always longed to
laugh out load and make improper noises in church. I didn’t
know, then, that humour has also had its exponents in the
Christian tradition. I knew nothing, for example, about, St. Philip

He [Vivekananda] raised India in the eyes of the world, gave
Hinduism a new turn and put a new spirit in the hearts of his
countrymen. ...He was destined to be a pioneer. He broke new
ground and led his people across and sighted the Promised
Land. ...

...Three religious movements that immediately preceded the
Ramakrishna Movement were rather poor and inadequate
representations of the great historic religion of the Hindus. The
religion of the Bràhmo Samàj was mere eclecticism, more
Christian than Hindu in character. The religion of the ârya
Samàj was mere Vedism, which ignored all the later
developments in Hinduism. The religion of the Theosophical
Society, with its Tibetan Masters its occult phenomena and its
esoteric teachings, was looked upon by most Hindus as a kind
of spurious Hinduism. On the other hand, the fourth religious
movement, of which Swami Vivekananda was the great apostle,
was doubtless not only a full, but also authentic manifestation of

Reading and re-reading the works of Vivekananda each
time I find in them something new that helps deeper to
understand India, its philosophy, the way of the life and customs

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of the people in the past and the present, their dreams of the
future. ... I think that Vivekananda’s greatest service is the
development in his teaching of the lofty ideals of humanism
which incorporate the finest features of Indian culture. ...

In my studies of contemporary Indian literature I have more
than once had the opportunity to see what great influence the
humanistic ideals of Vivekananda have exercised on the works
of many writers. ... In my opinion, Vivekananda’s humanism has
nothing in common with the Christian ideology which dooms
man to passivity and to begging God for favours. He tried to
place religious ideology at the service of the country’s national
interests, the emancipation of his enslaved compatriots.
Vivekananda wrote that the colonialists were building one
church after another in India, while the Eastern countries needed
bread and not religion. He would sooner see all men turn into
confirmed atheists than into superstitious simpletons. To elevate
man Vivekananda identifies him with God. ...

Though we do not agree with the idealistic basis of
Vivekananda’s humanism, we recognize that it possesses many
features of active humanism manifested above all in a fervent
desire to elevate man, to instil in him a sense of his own dignity,
sense of responsibility for his own destiny and the destiny of all
people, to make him strive for the ideals of good, truth and
justice, to foster in man abhorrence for any suffering. The
humanistic ideal of Vivekananda is to a certain degree identical
with Gorky’s Man with a capital letter.

Such a humanistic interpretation of the essence of man
largely determines the democratic nature of Vivekananda’s
world outlook. ...

Many years will pass, many generations will come and go,
Vivekananda and his time will become the distant past, but never
will there fade the memory of the man who all his life dreamed of

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a better future for his people, who did so much to awaken his
compatriots and move India forward, to defend his much-
suffering people from injustice and brutality. Like a rocky cliff
protecting a coastal valley from storm and bad weather, from the
blows of ill winds and waves, Vivekananda fought courageously
and selflessly against the enemies of his motherland.

Together with the Indian people, Soviet people who already
know some of the works of Vivekananda published in the
USSR, highly revere the memory of the great Indian patriot,
humanist and democrat, impassioned fighter for a better future
for his people and all mankind.21

Chelishev further writes :

The name of Swami Vivekananda is very popular in Soviet
Russia and he is held in high esteem by our countrymen. Soviet
people respect him as a great democrat, humanist and patriot
who contributed immensely in the development of national
consciousness and anti-colonial liberation movement in India.
They also consider that his message and the message of Sri
Ramakrishna, which are really one, are absolutely necessary for
the survival of the human civilization which is now in great danger
due to the menace of the devastating nuclear war. We believe
that it is their message which can bring peace, harmony and
understanding to the tormented world of today. They are not
simply religious leaders, they are much more than that. They are
prophets of peace, harmony and brotherhood. Their message
was relevant in the past in India and in the world at large, but it is
still more relevant in the present Indian context and in the context
of the contemporary world. That is why a lot of Soviet research
scholars and thinkers have dedicated to the study of Sri
Ramakrishna and particularly Swami Vivekananda. I am proud
that I happened to be one of the pioneers of this study in our

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country and contributed an article on Swami Vivekananda to the
Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial Volume twenty
years ago, published from Calcutta.

I consider it a great honour for me to be associated with any
programme connected with Sri Ramakrishna and Swami
Vivekananda. I and my colleagues will continue to devote to the
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda studies with close co-operation of
the scholars of India and other countries I will do my best to
contribute to the development of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda
studies in the progressive direction. I consider this as a service to
the humanity at large.22


...We reached the hall just as Vivekananda was going on the
stage in his robe and turban. We sat in the very last seat of the
hall, clasping each other’s hands as the impressive orator gave a
never-to-be -forgotten talk on things spiritual. When we went
out my husband said: ‘I feel that man knows more of God than
we do. We must both hear him again.’

My husband attended with me not only a number of evening
lectures, but on several occasions came from his business office
during the day to listen to the Swami. I remember him saying, as
we went out on the street one day: ‘This man makes me rise
above every business worry; he makes me feel how trival is the
whole material view of life and how limitless is the life beyond. I
can go back to my troubles at the office now with new


There are many aspects of Swami Vivekananda’s thought,
his ideals and his social message which make UNESCO a very
good setting for ... celebration in France of the centenary of his

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participation in the World Parliament of Religions, held in
Chicago one hundred years ago.

His (Swami Vivekananda) commitment towards
universalism and tolerance, his active identification with
humanity as a whole. He said from the tribune of the Parliament
of Religions, and I quote : ‘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.’ I am sure all of us...would strongly identify with this
aspiration, since the struggle against exclusiveness is one that
must be perpetually renewed.

The Mission he established in India, and which has now
spread all over the world, is working to reduce poverty and
eliminate discrimination among the different segments of society.
There is no more important challenge for us all than this—
striving to overcome these problems at their roots; and it is one
that I believe the United Nations, working with all possible
NGO partners, must take its absolute priority in the years to

His preoccupation with human development and his vision
of education, science and culture as the essential instruments for
such development. The convergence with UNESCO’s
concerns will be obvious to all.

I am indeed struck by the similarity of the constitution of the
Ramakrishna Mission which Vivekananda established as early
as 1897 with that of UNESCO drawn up in 1945. Both place
the human being at the centre of their efforts aimed at
development. Both place tolerance at the top of the agenda for
building peace and democracy. Both recognize the variety of
human cultures and societies as an essential aspect of the
common heritage.

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The world today is going through a challenging period of
transition. We see many evils like racism and inter-ethnic and
religious conflict returning among us with renewed force.
Celebrations like this today are a source of renewed strength
and encouragement to fight against these evils.24


[Dr Felix Marti-Ibanez was asked what he considered to be
the most valuable thing in his life. He responded:]

Life itself. Health and dreams and love. ...If what is meant by
‘things’, however, is something concrete in physical form, then I
would have to say books. I was actually once put to the test of
what I value most. It was in February 1939, when I had to leave
Spain because of the fall of the Spanish Republic and all I could
take with me was what I could carry. I chose to take one book.
From the thousands of books in the library I have so lovingly
built up with my father, I selected The Universal Gospel and
The Life of Vivekananda by Romain Rolland. That uniquely
magnificent mystical book inspired me through the years to
dedicate my life to the service of others.25


On the death of Ramakrishna the leadership of the little
group of disciples fell to Vivekananda, still only twenty-three
years of age. Though busy with his own domestic affairs he set
to work to fulfil the sacred task left him by Ramakrishna.
Disregarding their vacillations he would spend hours in
describing the soul-stirring experiences of the Master. And after
a time they set out all over India preaching the message of
Ramakrishna. They left their dearest. They suffered the agonies
that all saints have to endure. And Vivekananda went further still.
He went to Europe and America. He became [famous] all over

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the world. But always he attributed every good he had or did to
what his Master, Ramakrishna, had imparted to him.26


To us the Swami is the person who called India and its
people to establish themselves with courage for acquiring selfknowledge.
He said—first of all I was born to this country, and
that in itself has reasons to be proud of. I don’t need to feel shy
or ashamed of in declaring my identity. To everyone in this world
I would proclaim my identity and add that I neither am inferior
to anyone, nor having a nondescript antiquity. Such utterance
we first had from Vivekananda. I hardly know of any one in
those days who could speak with such unhesitant bravery.27


The story of the pilgrimage of this man who electrified the
American people reads like a legend. At first unrecognized,
rejected, reduced to starvation and forced to beg in the streets,
he was finally hailed as the greatest spiritual leader of our time.
Offers of all kinds were showered upon him; the rich took him in
and tried to make a monkey of him. In Detroit, after six weeks of
it, he rebelled. All contracts were cancelled and from that time
on he went alone from town to town at the invitation of such or
such a society.

I had just been reading [Romain] Rolland’s book on
Vivekananda. I had put it down because I couldn’t read
anymore, my emotions were so powerful. The passage which
roused me to such a state of exaltation was the one in which
Rolland describes Vivekananda’s triumphal return to India from
America. No monarch ever received such a reception at the
hands of his countrymen : it stands unique in the annals of history.
And what had he done, Vivekananda, to merit such a welcome?

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He had made India known to America; he had spread the light.
And in doing so he had opened the eyes of his countrymen to
their own weaknesses. All India greeted him with open arms;
millions of people prostrated themselves before him, saluting him
as a saint and saviour, which he was. It was the moment when
India stood nearer to being unified than at any time in her long
history. It was a triumph of love, of gratitude, of devotion. I am
coming back to him later, to his clean, powerful words, spoken
like a fearless champion not of India but of the human race.28


It is a blessing that we had only lately in our midst, in the
cruelly inhibited conditions of foreign subjection, a truly great
soul like Vivekananda, never a recluse but always with his
leonine strength of character in the midst of his people . . . the
monk whose heart bled for his people so that he gave his all for
his country’s recovery, self-assertion, and yearning, never
wholly stifled, for fulfilment. This is why one like me, a sceptic
and atheist to whom the ardent assumptions and ecstasies of
belief are alien, salutes this tremendous man of faith and of action
who gave back to his stricken people the long-lost pride in their
manhood. This is why to dive into Vivekananda’s life-story is to
discover by no means just an archive but an arsenal of ideas, of
instruments for refashioning ‘the human condition’ in our ancient

In his wisdom and his wit Vivekananda could be homely, but
he could soar to the heavens even as his feet were planted on
our Indian earth. In his meditations he could reach
transcendental realms, but to him, as to the Atharva-Veda rishi,
Aya§ lokaþ priyatamaþ
(‘this, our world, is dearest of all’)
and to his fellow-humans he could truly say, as some of our finest
old injunctions stress, that ‘his mother was Pàrvatã, his father

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was Mahe÷vara, that all men were his brothers, and that the
three worlds were his home.’ It was, thus, that in his own unique
way Vivekananda could, if any one person did, give a vibrant
unequivocal, people-oriented colour to subject India’s
nationalism and will ever be remembered as one of the supreme
figures in the annals of our freedom struggle. ...He knew too
keenly that subject India had been debilitated and rejuvenation
of her strength was imperative. ... He did say, of course: ‘We
must conquer the world through our spirituality and philosophy.
There is no other alternative, we must do it or die. The only
condition of [Indian] national life, of awakened and vigorous
national life, is the conquest of the world by Indian thought.’

It was this man who actively inspired a whole host of national
revolutionaries in the ‘Swade÷ã’ era. ...No wonder the sedition
(Rowlatt) Committee Report (1918) affirmed that Vivekananda
had an important influence on those who created a big, profreedom
tumult in the first decade of the century. That influence
continued and pervades whatever is forward-looking in the
national scene even today. ...

Vivekananda pre-eminently was a Prophet who could
ascend, in contemplation, to what he sensed as the highest
human end — the saint’s thought processes must be unique —
and yet returns to insert himself in the sweep of time in order to
reshape forces of history and create, if one can, a new world.
Here is the shinning quality distinguishing Vivekananda.
...Vivekananda...will always be with us, as a great and gorgeous
liberator, a man with whom indeed we can match our mountains
and the sea.29


Vivekananda stands out as the most renowned philosopher
and social figure of India in modern China. His philosophical and

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social thought and epic patriotism not only inspired the growth of
nationalist movement in India, but also made a great impact
abroad. In 1893, Vivekananda visited Canton and its
neighbourhood. He noted his impressions of the visit in a letter
addressed to the citizens of Madras. He had some knowledge
and understanding of Chinese history and culture. He often cited
and spoke highly of China in his writings and speeches. He made
a prophecy that the Chinese culture will surely be resurrected
one day like the ‘Phoenix’ and undertake the responsibility of
the great mission of integrating the Western and the Oriental
cultures. His biographer Romain Rolland has narrated the
evolution of Vivekananda’s idea on this aspect. When
Vivekananda went to America for the first time, he hoped that
country would achieve this mission. But during his second visit
abroad, he realized that he was deceived by dollar imperialism.
He, therefore, came to the conclusion that America could not be
an instrument to accomplish this task, but it was China which
could do it.

Vivekananda had infinite sympathy for the Chinese people
living under the oppression of feudalism and imperialism : and he
pinned much hope on them. After his visit to China, he made a
very interesting comment. He said: ‘The Chinese child is quite a
philosopher and calmly goes to work at an age when your Indian
boy can hardly crawl on all fours. He has learnt the philosophy
of necessity too well.’This shows Vivekananda’s enormous
sympathy towards the miseries of the children of China in the old

While explaining his visionary socialism Vivekananda made
an interesting ‘gospel’. He said that the future society would be
ruled by the labouring people and that this would first take place
in China. In Modern India he said : ‘But there is hope. In the
mighty course of time, the Brahmin, and the other higher castes

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too, are being brought down to the lower status of the øådras
and the øådras are being raised to higher ranks. ...Even before
our eyes, powerful China with fast strides, is going down to
øådrahood,... yet, a time will come when there will be the rising
of the øådra class, with their øådrahood, ... a time will come
when the øådras of every country... will gain absolute
supremacy in every society. ... Socialism, Anarchism, Nihilism,
and other like sects are the vanguard of the social revolution that
is to follow.’

From the material cited above and his life and works, we can
see at least that Vivekananda showed very much concern for,
and sympathized with, the people of China who were living
under the rule of feudalism and imperialism and placed great
hopes on them. But we do not agree with B. N. Datta that the
success of the Chinese and the Russian revolutions coming into
being at concrete historical moments should be credited to the
‘gospel’ of Vivekananda. This would make him a divine
mystique personality. We have seen that Vivekananda’s
approach to the laws of social developments was unscientific.
However, it is not possible for any advanced thinker to make a
correct prediction of the phases and events of the progress of
history in every minute details. We should, therefore, appraise
Vivekananda in the light of seeking truth from facts.

In conclusion, Vivekananda was the most eminent figure
among the democratic patriots in India. He paid high tributes to
our glorious ancient culture and loved the Chinese labouring

We pay homage to him.30


Spiritually speaking, Vivekananda’s words and presence at
the 1893 World Parliament of Religions brought Asia to the

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West decisively. For, reading correctly the spiritual hunger of the
West that his words and presence brought to the surface,
Vivekananda went on to found the Ramakrishna Mission whose
centres in almost every major city of Europe and America
launched the influx of Asian spirituality that has changed the
religious complexion of those continents permanently.
Buddhism, Sufism, Sikhism, Baha’i and others have followed,
but Vedanta was the pioneer.

The importance of this fact needs no belabouring, but I
should like to expand the notion of East meeting West by
pointing out that it houses a temporal as well as a spatial
dimension. For though we have no time machine to set clocks
back, it is possible (in our Westernized world) to break out of
our modern time frame by venturing abroad. When I find
Vivekananda reporting that ‘when my Master touched me, my
mind underwent a complete revolution; I was aghast to realize
that there really was nothing whatever in the entire universe but
God’, and when he proceeds from such reports to conclude that
our seeming self is not our true self, the latter being in actuality
divine I hear his words echoing not only from a different land
(India) but from a different time—a past when the human
outlook was less hobbled by the materialistic, reductionistic
styles of thought that the West has fallen into.

I grant that there is danger in stating things this way, for the
cult of novelty has led many people to confuse ‘past’ with
‘inferior’. Reflective thinkers, though, are coming to recognize
that one of the most important questions of life—who are we?
Where did we come from? What are we supposed to do, if
anything?—modern science has confused us, along with
clarifying things in other respects. For in being able to deal only
with things that are woven of space, time, and matter ... science
has unwittingly led many people to assume that sa§sàra (the

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relative world) is more important and real than nirvàõa (the
experience of absolute Reality).

Personally, therefore, I welcome Vivekananda as envoy, not
only from a different land but from a time that was more open to
‘the breath of the eternal’ that the Upanishads attest to so


I had had the good fortune to know about the life and
teachings of Swami Vivekananda as well as about the activities
of the Ramakrishna Mission. My parents and specially my
mother were very close with the Ramakrishna Mission. And I
must say that the teachings of Vivekananda had inspired all the
members of the Nehru family both in their political activities and
day-to-day lives.

Swamiji’s teachings, writings and speeches which appear on
every page of his works, are indeed stimulant. Swamiji provides
us courage, strength, and faith and teaches us how to be selfsufficient.
These are the basic tenets of life which India needed
most and which would be relevant for all time to come.

Swamiji has taught us that we are the inheritors of a glorious
and sublime culture. He has at the same time shown us and
analysed the root causes of our national malady. It was Swami
Vivekananda who has given us the ways and means how to
reconstruct a new India. Swamiji preached the message of
universal brotherhood. And a single word which echoed and
reached in all his speeches, was abhãþ i.e. fearlessness.32


What a void this makes! What great things were
accomplished in these few years! How one man could have
done it all! And how all is stilled now. And yet, when one is tired

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and weary, it is best that he should rest. I seem to see him just as
I saw him in Paris two years ago...the strong man with the large
hope, everything large about him.

* * *
I cannot tell you what a great sadness has come. I wish we
could see beyond it. Our thoughts are in India with those who
are suffering July 9th 1902.
It seems to me that nothing is lost and all the great thoughts
and work and service and hope remain embodied in and about
the place which gave them birth. All our life is but an echo of a
few great moments, an echo which reverberates through all
time. ... That great soul is released; his heroic deeds on this earth
are over. Can we realize what that work has been—how one
man did all this? When one is tired it is best that he should sleep,
but his deeds and teachings will walk the earth and waken and


Ninety-one years ago a boy was born who has turned the
lives of millions of us in India into a new channel, and thousands
in the West to find their own souls amidst the doubts and
distractions of this mechanical civilization. When we calmly
reflect on our social scene, we feel bound to admit that the moral
revolution not merely preached but actually accomplished by his
life and example, is the dominating force of Hindu Society in the
20th century.34


Rooted in the past and full of pride in India’s prestige,
Vivekananda was yet modern in his approach to life’s problems
and was a kind of bridge between the past of India and her
present. ... He was a fine figure of a man, imposing, full of poise

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and dignity, sure of himself and his mission, and at the same time
full of a dynamic and fiery energy and a passion to push India
forward. He came as a tonic to the depressed and demoralized
Hindu mind and gave it self-reliance and some roots in the

I do not know how many of the younger generation read the
speeches and the writings of Swami Vivekananda. But I can tell
you that many of my generation were very powerfully influenced
by him and I think that it would do a great deal of good to the
present generation if they also went through Swami
Vivekananda’s writings and speeches, and they would learn
much from them. That would, perhaps, as some of us did,
enable us to catch a glimpse of that fire that raged in Swami
Vivekananda’s mind and heart and which ultimately consumed
him at an early age. Because there was fire in his heart—the fire
of a great personality coming out in eloquent and ennobling
language—it was no empty talk that he was indulging in. He was
putting his heart and soul into the words he uttered. Therefore he
became a great orator, not with the orators’ flashes and
flourishes but with a deep conviction and earnestness of spirit.
And so he influenced powerfully the minds of many in India and
two or three generations of young men and women have no
doubt been influenced by him. ...

Much has happened which perhaps makes some forget
those who came before and who prepared India and shaped
India in those early and difficult days. If you read Swami
Vivekananda’s writings and speeches, the curious thing you will
find is that they are not old. It was told 56* years ago, and they
are fresh today because, what he wrote or spoke about dealt
with certain fundamental matters and aspects of our problems or

* Jawaharlal Nehru delivered this speech in 1949.—Editor
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the world’s problems. Therefore they do not become old. They
are fresh even though you read them now.

He gave us something which brings us, if I may use the word,
a certain pride in our inheritance. He did not spare us. He talked
of our weaknesses and our failings too. He did not wish to hide
anything. Indeed he should not. Because we have to correct
those failings, he deals with those failings also. Sometimes he
strikes hard at us, but sometimes points out the great things for
which India stood and which even in the days of India’s downfall
made her, in some measure, continue to be great.

So what Swamiji has written and said is of interest and must
interest us and is likely to influence us for a long time to come.
He was no politician in the ordinary sense of the word and yet he
was, I think, one of the great founders—if you like, you may use
any other word—of the national modern movement of India,
and a great number of people who took more or less an active
part in that movement in a later date drew their inspiration from
Swami Vivekananda. Directly or indirectly he has powerfully
influenced the India of today. And I think that our younger
generation will take advantage of this fountain of wisdom, of
spirit and fire, that flows through Swami Vivekananda.

...Men like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, men like Swami
Vivekananda and men like Mahatma Gandhi are great unifying
forces, great constructive geniuses of the world not only in
regard to the particular teachings that they taught, but their
approach to the world and their conscious and unconscious
influence on it is of the most vital importance to us. ...36


Swami Vivekananda belongs to the class of great seers of
Truth. His intellect was great, but greater still was his heart. He
once told his disciples at the Belur Math that if a conflict were to

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arise between the intellect and the heart, they should reject the
intellect and follow the heart. Many a Mahàtmà has appeared in
this land, and some of them understood that to meditate on the
soul in the caves of the Himalayas was the correct path to follow.
Swami Vivekananda’s mind also was influenced by this tradition
and there arose a conflict in him early in his career; his intellect
advocating the traditional absorption in self-realization and his
heart bleeding for the miseries of the people around him. In the
end he came to the conclusion that leaving the solitude he would
enter into the soul of every being and worship his God by serving

...What attracts the poor and lowly to him is this
compassionate heart which ever bled for them and exhausted
itself in their incessant service in thirty-nine brief years. ... It was
this measureless feeling for the spiritual and material poverty and
misery of his fellow men, particularly of his fellow countrymen,
that drove him round the world like a tornado of moral energy
and gave him no rest till the end. His life’s campaigns in the East
and West, including the founding of the Ramakrishna Math and
Mission, were in response to this feeling.

His life was all purity and love; his coming to and going from
this world was [were] quick, sudden. But in the short period of
thirty-nine years he accomplished so much by way of stirring up
and infusing new life and new hope into the people that in the
history of our great country we do not find a second to stand
equal to him in this, except, perhaps the great øaïkaràcàrya.37


To Swami Vivekananda belongs the honour of familiarizing
India with the idea of a Parliament of Religions, and of
proclaiming to the world that a Parliament of Religions would be

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incomplete without Hinduism being represented there as an
equal partner. Educated India felt in 1893 that Hinduism had
been vindicated and that day Swami Vivekananda’s name
became with us a name to conjure with. I remember as a child
the glowing enthusiasm of my elder brothers discussing the news
and giving expression to their wild hopes for the future of
Hinduism. Swami Vivekananda’s lectures were soon translated
into Marathi, my mother tongue, and people read the lectures
with avidity. There was nothing new in them for Vedantic India,
at least so far as the substance went; but every word therein was
instinct with life and hope and self-confidence. The novelty
about the Swamiji’s presentation of Hinduism was its modern
outlook and his application of Vedantic principles to the solution
of modern, social and educational problems. The importance of
his teachings grew on me as I grew in years and I looked up to
the Swami as the high-water mark of Indian culture.38

Swami Vivekananda, a brilliant product of the Gãtà, trod the
path of yoga. His was not the way of the iconoclast but the
architect. He was not an apologist of the existing evils. At the
same time he had no illusion about Western culture. He saw
Aryan culture in its living greatness, as a spiritual force destined
to revolutionize the world. He brought back self-respect to
Indians. He also demanded and secured the world’s respect for
their culture. Due to him educated India felt a glow of a fresh
pride in its ever living culture which it had been taught to
condemn by Christian missionaries and its social reformers of
the Rationalist school. Vivekananda was sanity itself. He
declined to found sect and thereby segregate the influence of his
Master’s teachings. He preferred to emphasize his experiences
rather than dwell on his being an avatàra – a belief he shared

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with some of his co-disciples. In this way he became the voice of
Aryan culture itself.39

What gave Indian nationalism its dynamism and ultimately
enabled it to weld at least the major part of India into one state
was the creation of a sense of community among the Hindus to
which the credit should to a very large extent go to Swami
Vivekananda. This new øaïkaràcàrya may well be claimed to
be a unifier of Hindu ideology. Travelling all over India he not
only aroused a sense of Hindu feeling but taught the doctrine of a
universal Vedanta as the background of the new Hindu
reformation. ... The Hindu religious movements before him were
local, sectarian and without any all India impact. The ârya
Samàj, the Bràhmo Samàj, the Deva Samàj and other
movements, very valuable in themselves, only tended further to
emphasize the provincial character of the reform movements. It
is Vivekananda who first gave to the Hindu movement its sense
of nationalism and provided most of the movements with a
common all-India outlook.40


I remember that in my student days I have read the
speeches of the Swami and was deeply attracted to it. Its impact
on my mind was so great that my perceptions were all changed,
and I started to have a different idea about life.

When the nation was in a deep slumber, he created the stir.
He talked on the Vedanta; nevertheless, this sage-philosopher
aroused the people. India was like an open picture before him.
He wanted that the people of our country should embark on
work and be active. His Advaitism was not a passivity, and he
never directed to await luck or fate. He knew that if the people
of the country were not ready for toil and sacrifice, India would

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hardly achieve wealth and prosperity. Subjugation of the country
deeply troubled him. ... He called everyone to sacrifice for the
attainment of a noble goal. Aspirants of wealth and power were
deeply despised by him. In a country where millions of people
were living in deprivation, individual enjoyments were
considered unjust by him. ...His message was to awake, arise
and stop not till the goal is reached. He was a seer and a Godcommanded


Alexander Shifman writes: ‘Among the Indian philosophers
of the medieval period he [Tolstoy] studied more thoroughly
øaïkara and, among the more recent, Ramakrishna
Paramahansa and his pupil Swami Vivekananda. ...

‘During his last years Tolstoy did not concern himself with
Ramakrishna except selecting from his works passages for
inclusion in his new collections of ancient sayings which he had
compiled previously. At this time he was considerably more
interested in Vivekananda’s teachings. ...

‘Tolstoy’s acquaintance with Vivekananda’s philosophy
dates back to September, 1896, when for the first time he noted
in his diary that he had read “a charming book on Indian
wisdom” which had been sent to him.’41 This was a series of
lectures on ancient Indian philosophy delivered by Vivekananda
in New York in the winter of 1895-96. A. K. Datt, the Indian
scholar, who sent to Tolstoy this book, wrote to him :

‘You will be pleased to know that your doctrines are in
complete agreement with the Indian philosophy at the period of
its highest achievement, the most ancient to reach us.’

‘Tolstoy wrote in reply to this letter that he liked the book
and he noted with approval the reasoning on what was man’s
“self ”.’ [Complete collection of Works of Tolstoy, Vol. 69, p.

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‘In Vivekananda’s passionate tirades directed against the
contemporary bourgeois civilization, in his affirmations of the
priority of the spiritual essence of man over his “material cover”.
Tolstoy heard the echoes of the early teachings of the ancient
Indians and particularly many motifs of the Vedas which were
congenial to him.

‘The second book by Vivekananda which Tolstoy read was
a collection of Speeches and Articles (in English) sent to him in
1907 by his acquaintance I. F. Nazhivin. When Nazhivin asked
him whether he would like to have this book, Tolstoy replied on
7 July 1907 : ‘Please send me the book by the Brahmin. The
reading of such books is more than a pleasure, it is a broadening
of the soul.” ’42

‘In 1908, I. F. Nazhivin published a collection of articles,
Voices of the Peoples, which included Vivekananda’s articles
“The Hymn of the Peoples” and “God and Man”. The latter
article made a strong impression on Tolstoy. “This is unusually
good”, he wrote to Nazhivin, after reading it.” ’43

‘Once Tolstoy praised Vivekananda for his “excellent
polemics with Schopenhauer about God” and he noted the
English of the Indian philosopher : “What English has
Vivekananda ! He has learnt all its subtleties.” ’44

‘In March 1909, preparing a list of new popular books for
the people, Tolstoy also included in the plan of publication the
Sayings of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, [Works of Tolstoy,
Vol. 57, p. 40] and, in April of the same year, he informed the
Orientalist N.O. Einhorn : “We are preparing a publication of
selected thoughts of Vivekananda whom I appreciate very
much.”45 [Works of Tolstoy, Vol. 79, p. 142] But this
publication did not materialize.’

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It has been my good fortune and my joy to know a man who
truly ‘walked with God’, a noble being, a saint, a philosopher,
and a true friend. His influence upon my spiritual life was
profound. He opened up new horizons before me; enlarging and
vivifying my religious ideas and ideals; teaching me a broader
understanding of truth. My soul will bear him eternal gratitude.
This extraordinary man was a Hindu monk of the order of the
Vedanta. He was called the Swami Vivekananda, and was
widely known in America for his religious teachings.

...With the Swami and some of his friends and followers I
went a most remarkable trip, through Turkey, Egypt, and
Greece. Our party included the Swami; Father Hyacinthe
Loyson; his wife, a Bostonian; Miss MacLeod of Chicago, an
ardent Swamist and charming, enthusiastic woman; and myself,
the song bird of the troupe. What a pilgrimage it was! Science,
philosophy, and history had no secrets from the Swami. I
listened with all my ears to the wise and learned discourse that
went on around me. I did not attempt to join in their arguments,
but I sang on all occasions, as is my custom. The Swami would
discuss all sorts of questions with Father Loyson, who was a
scholar and a theologian of repute. It was interesting to see that
the Swami was able to give the exact text of a document, the
date of a Church Council, when Father Loyson himself was not

When we were in Greece, we visited Eleusis. He explained
its mysteries to us and led us from altar to altar, from temple to
temple, describing the processions that were held in each place,
intoning the ancient prayers, showing us the priestly rites. Later,
in Egypt, one unforgettable night, he led us again into the past,
speaking to us in mystic, moving world, under the shadow of the
silent sphinx.

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The Swami was always absorbingly interesting, even under
ordinary conditions. He fascinated his hearers with his magic
tongue. Again and again we would miss our train, sitting calmly in
a station waiting-room, enthralled by his discourse and quite
oblivious of the lapse of time. Even Miss MacLeod, the most
sensible among us, would forget the hour, and we would in
consequence find ourselves stranded far from our destination at
the most inconvenient times and places.46


I have come here [Belur Math] to pay my homage and
respect to the revered memory of Swami Vivekananda, whose
birthday is being celebrated today [6 February 1921]. I have
gone through his works very thoroughly, and after having gone
through them, the love that I had for my country became a
thousandfold. I ask you, young men, not to go away emptyhanded
without imbibing something of the spirit of the place
where Swami Vivekananda lived and died.47


...Originally an intellectual agnostic with a heart endowed
with true seeking and love, Vivekananda saw the living image of
Wisdom and Love in Ramakrishna.

...Vivekananda approached religion and philosophy through
an analysis of life and psychic experience and he welcomed that
as the highest which gave the finest idea of freedom. ...Gods,
angels and helpers had no fascination for him, for he felt that the
bondage was self-created, and should be broken by selfpossession.
He maintained the heroic attitude in all concerns of
life – even in spiritual life.

Vivekananda was the spirit of selflessness incarnated in
flesh. He could feel that true knowledge originated from it. It
was not an ideal for him. It was his being. He could see that

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selfless living was better than mere speculative philosophy, and
he accentuated it. This self-giving and self-opening were to him
the ways to wisdom. The Vedanta was to him the gospel of life,
and not mere philosophy.

...Vivekananda’s policy was to bring in social reformation
more by the propagation of liberal and humanistic culture rather
than by positive frontal attacks. He was anxious to impart the
touch of love and life to everybody, but he was equally anxious
to see the spirit of self-reformation coming from within. True
reformation was reformation by self-education. He
concentrated his forces thereon.48


Religious nationalism of the orthodox as well as reformed
school had begun to come into evidence in the province of
Bengal since the first years of the twentieth century. Although its
political philosopher and leader were found subsequently in the
persons of Aurobindo Ghosh and Bepin Chandra Pal
respectively, its fundamental ideology was conceived by a young
intellectual. ... Narendra Nath Datta, subsequently known by
the religious nomenclature of Swami Vivekananda. While still a
student in the University of Calcutta, Datta felt the rebellious
spirit affecting the lower middle class intellectuals. It was in the
early nineties. He was moved by the sufferings of the common
people. Declassed socially, possessing a keen intellect, he made
a spectacular plunge into the philosophical depths of Hindu
scripture and discovered in his cult of Vedantism (religious
Monism of the Hindus) a sort of socialistic, humanitarian
religion. He decried scathingly orthodoxy in religion as well as in
social customs. He was the picturesque, and tremendously
vigorous embodiment of the old trying to readjust itself to the
new. Like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Datta was also a prophet of

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Hindu nationalism. He also was a firm believer in the cultural
superiority of the Indian people, and held that on this cultural
basis should be built the future Indian nation. But he was not a
partisan of orthodoxy in religion : to social conservatism, he was
a veritable iconoclast. He had the courageous foresight, or
perhaps instinct, which convinced him that if religion was to be
saved, it must be given a modern garb; if the priest was still to
hold his sway over the millions of Hindu believers, he must
modify his old crude way; if the intellectual aristocracy of the
fortunate few was to retain its social predominance, spiritual
knowledge must be democratized. The reaction of native culture
against the intrusion of Western education ran wild, so to say, in
the person of Vivekananda and the cult of Universal Religion he
formulated in the name of his preceptor, Ramakrishna
Paramahansa. He preached that Hinduism, not Indian
nationalism, should be aggressive. His nationalism was a spiritual
imperialism. He called on Young India to believe in the spiritual
mission of India. ...

This romantic vision of conquering the world by spiritual
superiority electrified the young intellectuals. ... The British
domination stood in the way as the root of all evils. Thus, an
intelligently rebellious element... had to give in to national
preoccupations, and contribute itself to a movement for the
immediate overthrow of foreign rule. ...49


There are many parallel concepts between the ancient
philosophies of the East and the emerging philosophies of the
West. Certain concepts are so similar that it becomes impossible
to discern whether some statements were made by the mystic or
the physicist. Esalen Institute Psychologist Lawrence Leshan
gives an example of such an indistinguishable statement : ‘The

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absolute (is)...everything that exists ...this absolute has become
the universe...(as we perceive it) by coming through time, space
and causation. This is the central idea of (Minkowski) (Advaita).
Time, space and causation are like the glass through which the
absolute is seen and when it is seen it appears as the universe.
Now we at once gather from this that in the universe there is
neither time, space nor causation. ...What we may call causation
begins, after, if we may be permitted to say so, the degeneration
of the absolute into the phenomenal and not before.’

The remark was originally made by mystic Swami
Vivekananda in J¤àna-yoga, but the fact that the names of the
mathematician who first theorized that space and time are a
continuum, Hermann Minkowski, and the greatest of the
historical Brahmin sages, Advaita,* are inter-changeable,
demonstrates once again the confluence of mysticism and the
new physics.

Vivekananda further expresses a view that has become the
backbone of quantum theory : There is no such thing as strict
causality. As he states, ‘A stone falls and we ask why. This
question is possible only on the supposition that nothing happens
without a cause. I request you to make this very clear in your
minds, for whenever we ask why anything happens, we are
taking for granted that everything that happened must have a
why, that is to say, it must have been preceded by something else
which acted as the cause. This precedence in succession is what
we call the law of causation.’50


Among the great souls who welcomed the Indian
renaissance with sounds of conch shells, Vivekananda deserves

* The author obviously mistakes Advaita to be a
person and not a
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the first place. His divine message has a clear pronouncement
for spiritual progress—directed not for India alone but the world
at large. ...The Swami is no more with us today, but the glow of
spirituality he lighted will always illumine the World.51


In conversation Vivekananda was brilliant, illuminating,
arresting, while the range of his knowledge was exceptionally
wide. His country occupied a great deal of his thoughts and his
conversation. His deep spiritual experiences were the bedrock
of his faith and his luminations expositions are to be found in his
lectures, but his patriotism was as deep as his religion. Except
those who saw it, few can realize the ascendancy and influence
of Swami Vivekananda over his American and English disciples.
...At the sight of this Indian monk wearing a single robe and a
pair of rough Indian shoes his disciples from the West, among
whom were the Consul General for the United States living in
Calcutta, and his wife, would rise with every mark of respect;
and when he spoke, he was listened to with the closest and most
respectful attention. His slightest wish was a command and was
carried out forthwith. And Vivekananda was always his simple
and great self, unassuming, straightforward, earnest, and grave.
...His thoughts ranged over every phase of the future of India,
and he gave all that was in him to his country and to the world.
The world will rank him among the prophets and princes of
peace, and his message has been heard in reverence in three
continents. For his countrymen he has left priceless heritage of
virility, abounding vitality, and invincible strength of will. Swami
Vivekananda stands on the threshold of the dawn of a new day
for India, an heroic and dauntless figure, the herald and
harbinger of the glorious hour when India shall, once again,
sweep forward to the van of the nations.52

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It was Swamiji’s great principle that the service of daridra
Nàràyaõa should be the real service of humanity. ...Swami
Vivekananda’s great message was that all the low caste people
should be taken as our brethren. Not only the right hand of the
fellowship should be extended to them, but they should be
embraced as a brother embraces his fellow-brother. ...Many
things come out of Swami Vivekananda’s life. He said that the
temples should be thrown open to all the Hindus irrespective of
caste distinction. That is a very simple thing. In the eye of God
there is no distinction between one man and another. ... The aim
of Swami Vivekananda was not only to obliterate all distinctions
of caste, but also to uplift the daridra Nàràyaõa. ...Another
thing he has done is propounding the principles of Vedanta in
foreign countries. We are all the worshippers of the material
world. We forget that there is anything good in our own
teachings and literature. This is due to our illusion and ignorance.
He expounded the principles of Vedanta and created not only a
profound impression in the New World, but there were also
many converts to it in America. Many of them came out to India,
and devoted their time, energy and money to the cause of India.
That was not a small service that he rendered.53


Since then I have heard the sad news of Swami
Vivekananda’s death. I never saw the Swami, I never closely
followed his teachings, but you know how sincerely I
appreciated and admired his high patriotism, his genuine belief in
the greatness of his country, his manly faith in the future of his
countrymen if they are true to themselves. That spirit of selfreliance,
that determination to work out our own salvation,—
that faith in our country and ourselves,—that conviction that our

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future rests in our own hands,—are the noblest lessons that we
learn from the life of him whose loss we all lament today. India is
poorer to-day for the untimely loss of an earnest worker who
had faith in himself ; to us in Bengal the loss is more of a personal
nature ; to you the bereavement is one which will cast a shadow
over all your life. Only the thought of his earnestness and
greatness, only the imperishable lessons which his life teaches,
may afford some consolation to those who have lost in him a
friend, a helper in life, a teacher of the great truths.54


The fruitful movement of the dialectic of the Indian spirit
towards the stress of universality of the human person is
embodied in the thought and vision of Swami Vivekananda, the
beloved disciple of Ramakrishna, one of the greatest saints of
modern India and a living embodiment of the universality and
transcendence of Vedantic humanism. Vivekananda gave to
modern India the conception of the destitute, suffering and
sorrowing God (àrta and daridra Nàràyaõa) in man
conceived as essentially interpersonal and at the same time
ultimately cosmic-transcendent.55


It was only after his attainment of supreme knowledge that
Sri Ramakrishna allowed his pupil to engage in external activities
in the life of a teacher.

What was this Supreme knowledge which Vivekananda had
lived to achieve? It was the knowledge of the àtman, of
Brahman as the soul and supreme reality. He did not care for the
half truths and intermediate truths which make up the body of
knowledge, for which the modern world stands. He boldly
stood for the knowledge of immortality as the only objective to
be aimed at by mortals. ...

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Vivekananda stood out as an embodiment of a purified
Hinduism, a Hinduism purged of its impurities and abuses, which
are not of its essences. He was an embodiment of the religion
that is founded upon character and not upon mere external
forms, rituals and ceremonies. ...His clarion call still instigates in
us a fight against illiteracy, untouchability, and other social evils
which are eating into the vitals of Hinduism.

We at the modern age are too prone to modernize too much
the message of Vivekananda as if he were a mere political
leader. It is forgotten that his main strength lay in the depths of his
soul. It was his soul force that sustained a life so rich in events
and in external activities. There is hardly a life in which so much
could be packed within its span so restricted. His life was cut
short at the age of 39, but it is a priceless possession for India
and Humanity.56


Vivekananda championed the cause of Hinduism in the
Parliament of Religions held at Chicago (USA) in 1893 in
connection with the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the
discovery of America by Columbus. There, in the presence of
the representatives of all the religions from almost all the
countries in the world, the young monk from India expounded
the principles of Vedanta and the greatness of Hinduism with
such persuasive eloquence that from the very first he captivated
the hearts of vast audience. It would be hardly an exaggeration
to say that Swami Vivekananda made a place for Hinduism in
the cultural map of the modern world. The civilized nations of the
West had hitherto looked down upon Hinduism as a bundle of
superstitions, evil institutions, and immoral customs, unworthy of

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serious consideration in the progressive world of today. Now,
for the first time, they not only greeted, with hearty approval, the
lofty principles of Hinduism as expounded by Vivekananda, but
accorded a very high place to it in the cultures and civilizations of
the world. The repercussion of this on the vast Hindu community
can be easily imagined. The Hindu intelligentsia were always
very sensitive to the criticism of the Westerners, particularly the
missionaries, regarding the many evils and shortcomings of the
Hindu society and religion, as with their rational outlook they
could not but admit the force of much of this criticism. They had
always to be on the defensive and their attitude was mostly
apologetic, whenever there was a comparative estimate of the
values of the Hindu and Western culture. They had almost taken
for granted the inferiority of their culture vis-à-vis that of the
West, which was so confidently asserted by the Western
scholars. Now, all on a sudden, the table was turned and the
representatives of the West joined in a chorus of applause at the
hidden virtues of Hinduism which were hitherto unsuspected
either by friends or foes. It not only restored the self-confidence
of the Hindus in their own culture and civilization, but quickened
their sense of national pride and patriotism. This sentiment was
echoed and re-echoed in the numerous public addresses which
were presented to Swami Vivekananda on his home-coming by
the Hindus all over India, almost literally from Cape Comorin to
the Himalayas. It was a great contribution to the growing Hindu

On his return to India, Swami Vivekananda preached the
spiritual basis of Hindu civilization and pointed out in his writings
and speeches that the spirituality of India was not less valuable,
nor less important for the welfare of humanity, than the much
vaunted material greatness of the West which has dazzled our
eyes. He was never tired of asking the Indians to turn their eyes,

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dazed by the splendour of the West, to their own ideals and
institutions. By a comparative estimate of the real values of the
Hindu ideals and institutions and those of the West he maintained
the superiority of the former and asked his countrymen never to
exchange gold for tinsels. ...

But Vivekananda was not prejudiced against the West nor
insensible to the value of her achievements. He frankly admitted
that Indian culture was neither spotless nor perfect. It has to
learn many things from the West, but without sacrificing its true

Swami Vivekananda combined in himself the role of a great
saint and fervid nationalist. He placed Indian nationalism on the
high pedestal of past glory, and it embraced the teeming millions
of India both high and low, rich and poor. He devoted his life to
the awakening of national consciousness and many of his
eloquent appeals would stir the national sentiments of India even
today to their very depths. ...

Though an ascetic, Vivekananda was a patriot of patriots.
The thought of restoring the pristine glory of India by
resuscitating among her people the spiritual vitality which was
dormant, but not dead, was always the uppermost thought in his
mind. ...

This great sannyàsin who had left his hearth and home at the
call of his spiritual guru, Sri Ramakrishna, and delved deeply into
spiritual mysticism, was never tired of preaching that what India
needs today is not so much religion or philosophy, of which she
has enough, but food for her hungry millions, social justice for
the low classes, strength and energy for her emasculated people
and a sense of pride and prestige as a great nation of the world.
He made a trumpet call to all Indians to shed fear of all kinds and
stand forth as men by imbibing ÷akti (energy and strength), by
reminding them that they were the particles of the Divine

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according to the eternal truth preached by the Vedanta. The
precepts and example of this great sannyàsin galvanized the
current of national life, infused new hopes and inspirations, and
placed the service to the motherland on a religious level. ...

Swami Vivekananda thus gave a spiritual basis to Indian
nationalism. The lessons of the Vedanta and Bhagavad-Gãtà
permeated the lives and activities of many nationalists, and many
a martyr, inspired by his teachings, endured extreme sufferings
and sacrifices with a cheerful heart, fearlessly embraced death,
and calmly bore the inhuman tortures, worse than death, which
were sometimes inflicted upon them. ...57

He (Vivekananda) was a product of the nineteenth century
Renaissance in Bengal, in its initial stage, but it was his genius
and personality that moulded it into the shape it finally assumed.
...It was a great achievement on the part of Swamiji to bring
about a synthesis between the thesis and antithesis—to use a
Hegelian expression— represented by the first two phases of
Indian Renaissance. ...The Ideal he placed before the country
was an all-round development by imbibing both the spirituality
of ancient India and the material culture of the West. Such a
synthesis was not only necessary for India but its scope,
according to Swamiji, extended to the West also. As a matter of
fact Swamiji regarded this synthesis as essential for the whole
humanity. ...It would appear that Swami Vivekananda has laid
before us the final phase of the Renaissance Movement that is
still leading us forward, and India will derive the fullest benefit
from it if she follows the path laid down by him.58

His historical knowledge...was both profound and
extensive. Although he wrote only one or two short essays on

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historical subjects, his penetrating insight into the historical
evolution, not only in India but all over the world from ancient to
modern times, is revealed in numerous passages scattered
throughout his speeches and writings. His comprehensive grasp
of the main currents of the world history and the power to
express it in simple language is illustrated in his description of the
Renaissance [in his book Pràcya O Pà÷càtya]. He has given an
altogether new interpretation of evolution of Indian history
through ages which, considering the time in which he wrote,
displays an amazing depth of knowledge and critical judgement.
He emphasized the truth that ‘in ancient India the centres of
national life were always the intellectual and spiritual and not
political’, and interpreted on that basis the course of evolution in
Indian history right up to the British period. He was also familiar
with the scientific and critical method of historical research and
modern developments in Archaeology and Ethnology.

...It has been very aptly said the Swami Vivekananda is a
commentary on Sri Ramakrishna. But the commentator with his
giant intellect and profound understanding made such distinctive
contributions that his commentary becomes itself a philosophy
just as øaïkara’s commentary on the Vedànta-Såtra is by itself
a philosophy.59

India has produced numerous saints and religious teachers,
but it would be difficult to select in their message an appreciation
of the present-day problems of life and a heart bleeding for the
suffering millions of India such as we find throughout the writings
and speeches of the Swami. Sometimes, he even goes to the
length of subordinating religion to other interests of life...Like the
most advanced political thinkers, he had no illusion of the past,
but dreamt of a glorious future for his motherland.

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...Diversity in the personality of the Swami, at first, appears
to be somewhat puzzling. But with the advance of years and a
closer study of his teachings, one slowly realizes that this
apparent plurality is the real key to the proper understanding of
his personality. It becomes increasingly clear that the great
lesson which the Swami’s teaching holds out before us is the
indivisibility of a human being, in spite of the multiple
manifestations of his emotion and intellect, and the consequent
unity of the problem which faces society; for society is, after all,
a mere aggregate of individuals and, therefore, partakes of their
essential character.

...To him [the Swami] each individual human being is not a
mere bundle of different intellectual and emotional attributes, but
an organic entity whose diverse component elements are bound
up together by one indivisible force. This constitutes the main
spring which guides his life and actions, so long as this is not
brought under control, all attempts at reform are bound to prove

Swami Vivekananda might well be called the father of
modern Indian Nationalism; he largely created it and also
embodied in his own life its highest and noblest elements.61

Vivekananda’s Ideas Dear to Soviets

The people of the Soviet Union observed the 120th
anniversary of the birth of the great Indian thinker and public
figure Swami Vivekananda, whose fame has twice outlived his
short and dramatic life, entirely devoted to the noble cause of
awakening India. ...

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I have recently been to... Yasnaya Polyana, the house of Leo
Tolstoy— the great writer, whose name is equally dear to the
peoples of the USSR and India. I saw a group of visitors
encircling a large dinner table and my mind conjured up greybeared,
Tolstoy, reading British newspapers out loud in the light
of a kerosene lamp. The British Press was full of reports about
Vivekananda’s brilliant lectures. Sometimes, there was little truth
in them, yet the powerful voice of the Calcutta sannyàsã did
reach the writer’s mind through the filter of the British
newspapers. It stirred the writer profoundly and for a while he
could not continue reading. He went to the bedroom and read
Vivekananda’s books all through the night. He remarked in his
diary : ‘I was reading Vivekananda again. How much there is in
common between the thoughts of his and mine.’

New Age

That epoch has long since gone. The people who come to
the Tolstoy museum and listen to the guide’s story were born in
the age of space flights, cinema and television and they do not
know what colonialism is. The material culture of that time has
disappeared and so have clothes and objects of everyday life.
But the spiritual culture which unites all nations is alive and
continues to exert powerful influence on our contemporaries.
Vivekananda’s ideas were dear not only to Tolstoy. They are
just as dear to the Soviet people today, primarily, because his life
was filled with ardent love for India. Vivekananda had always
desired to change the situation in India—the powerful and yet
dependent country, fettered by the will of British colonialists,
hard vestiges of the centuries-old history and rigid caste
conventions and also disintegrated, oppressed and not yet
strong to rebel. He had not spared efforts to awaken his
countrymen’s feeling of national identity, the wish to work for the

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national benefit and the faith in India’s bright future. Neither had
he spared sarcasm to stir up the Indians’ feeling of shame for
their dependent and oppressed position, the shame, which, to
quote Marx’s apt remark, ‘is already revolution of a kind.
Shame is a kind of anger which is turned inward. And if a whole
nation really experienced a sense of shame, it would be like a
lion, crouching ready to spring’. However reluctant,
Vivekananda was to get involved in politics, his entire activities
were aimed against imperialism and colonialism and he had
played an important role in India’s becoming an independent
state and a leading power.

The essence of Vivekananda’s religion is the service to
people. ‘I do not believe in God or religion which cannot wipe
the widow’s tears or bring a piece of bread to the orphan’s
mouth,’ he said. His doctrine was focussed on man. Everything
for the good of man—how consonant this idea is with Maxim
Gorky’s words spoken at about the same time : ‘The name of
Man rings proud.’ Centring his attention on the Indian reality,
Vivekananda explained the national degradation by the
indifference of the propertied classes to the people’s needs and
by the poverty and ignorance of the population. ‘Contempt for
the masses is a grave national sin,’ he said.

Vivekananda had uncovered yet another cause of India’s
decline, namely, the country’s isolated status. It is only natural
that the voice of the man who asserted the idea of equality of all
religions and the international fraternity of liberated peoples
deeply moved the delegates of the world religious council in
Chicago. He was not afraid of reason and relied on it.

National Sin

‘It is better that mankind should become atheist through
following reason, than blindly believe in 200 million gods on the

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authority of anybody.’ The supernatural and miracles did not
bother him and he refused to accept miracles ascribed to his
teacher Ramakrishna. Isn’t it a miracle, however that he had
heard the roaring of the coming social and political events of the
20th century in the slow and serene life of 19th century Europe
and had aptly foreseen that the liberation would come from

That epoch is unreachably far away. Things and kingdoms
have disappeared and practically the entire colonial system has
collapsed. They say there are old gramophone records of
Vivekananda’s ardent voice still to be found in India. His voice
was admired by Ramakrishna and it produced a tremendous
impression on the Chicago religious congress. Those records
have not been played for a long time already, for there are no
gramophones to play them on.

Still, Vivekananda’s voice keeps ringing. Celebrating the
120th anniversary of his birth, we recall Rabindranath Tagore’s
words : ‘If you want to know India, read Vivekananda.’62


It was Swami Vivekananda who made us aware of our
subjugation, and inspired for achieving the national freedom.
This all, curiously enough, was done through his speeches and
talks pertaining to religious and spiritual matters. It was he who
first vociferously declared the impossibility of getting freedom
without eradicating casteism, poverty and illiteracy among the

When in Kerala, Swami Vivekananda had witnessed all and
his expression was — ‘This is a lunatic asylum.’ He added that
here we had only one wise man, and that was the Chattampi
Swami. The stalwarts of untouchability were shaken to their

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cores by the Swami’s reverberating voice. ...The Hindus of
Kerala were fragmented in innumerable castes and tribes, and
on that social ruins comfortably sat were the high caste peoples

— who, as a consequence of prolonged observance of local
traditions and practices and its resultant bragging, had their souls
eroding with rusts.
On his way to Kerala Vivekananda met Dr Palpu, who
narrated to the Swami about Kerala’s inhuman casteism,
perpetual exploitation and insult of the lower class Hindus by
their upper class counterparts. Learning this entire, the Swami
told Dr Palpu, ‘Find out a good sannyàsin within the country
and community you belong to, and try to unite the lower class
people around him and work for their uplift. Fight against
untouchability, the lower class people has to undertake this task.
None will come out to save the exploited and the suppressed.
They have to do it for themselves. Following this, Dr Palpu went
back to his State Travancore, discovered Sri Narayana Guru,
and the inception of Aruvippuram Kùetra Yogam was

All the subsequent social, cultural and political movements
[in Kerala] to eradicate the cumulative debris of injustice and
unjustness had in its centre the meeting of Dr. Palpu with Swami
Vivekananda. ...Sri Kumaran Asan, the first editor-director of
Vivekodayam and the spokes-person of ørã Nàràyaõa
Dharma Paripàlana Yogam (S. N. D. P.) while writing an
obituary on Swami Chaitanya has narrated about Dr Palpu’s
encounter and discussion with Swami Vivekananda.63


[A¡áå[ƒ> "àìK [¤ì¤A¡à>–ƒ ¤ìº[áìº>, šøìt¡¸A¡ ³à>åìȹ ³ì‹¸ ¤øìÕ¡¹ Å[v¡û¡¡ú
¤ìº[áìº>,ƒ[¹ì‰¹ ³ì‹¸ [ƒìÚ >à¹àÚo "à³à샹 ëΤà ëšìt¡ W¡à>¡ú

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&ìA¡ ¤[º ¤àoã¡ú &Òü ¤àoã Ѭà=¢ì¤à싹 Îã³à¹ ¤àÒüì¹ ³à>åìȹ "àuì¤à‹ìA¡
"Îã³ ³å[v¡û¡¹ š= ëƒJà캡ú & ët¡à ëA¡à>* [¤ìÅÈ "àW¡àì¹¹ l¡üšìƒÅ >Ú, ¤¸¤Òà[¹A¡
ÎS¡ão¢ ">åÅàÎ> >Ú¡ú áòå;³àìK¢¹ [¤¹ç¡‡ý¡t¡à &¹ ³ì‹¸ "àš[>Òü &ìÎ šìØl¡ìW¡¡ú t¡à¹ ‡à¹à
¹à[ÊöA¡ Ѭàt¡ì”|¸¹ Îåì™àK Òìt¡ šàì¹ ¤ìº >Ú, t¡à¹ ‡à¹à ³à>åìȹ "š³à> ƒè¹ Òì¤
¤ìº¡ú ëÎÒü "š³àì> "à³à샹 šøìt¡¸ìA¡¹ "àuळà>>à¡ú

[¤ì¤A¡à>ì–ƒ¹ &Òü ¤àoã δšèo¢ ³à>åìȹ l¡üì‡à‹> ¤ìºÒü A¡ì³¢¹ ³ì‹¸ [ƒìÚ
t¡¸àìK¹ ³ì‹¸ [ƒìÚ ³å[v¡û¡¹ [¤[W¡y šì= "à³à샹 ™å¤A¡ìƒ¹ìA¡ šø¤õv¡ A¡ì¹ìW¡¡ú64

(Some time ago Vivekananda said that there was the power
of Brahman in every man, that Nàràyaõa [i.e. God] wanted to
have our service through the poor. This is what I call real gospel.
This gospel showed the path of infinite freedom from man’s tiny
egocentric self beyond the limits of all selfishness. This was no
sermon relating to a particular ritual, nor was it a narrow
injunction to be imposed upon one’s external life. This naturally
contained in it protest against untouchability—not because that
would make for political freedom, but because that would do
away with the humiliation of man—a curse which in fact puts to
shame the self of us all.

Vivekananda’s gospel marked the awakening of man in his
fullness and that is why it inspired our youth to the diverse
courses of liberation through work and sacrifice.)

"à‹å[>A¡ A¡à캹 ®¡à¹t¡¤ìÈ¢ [¤ì¤A¡à>–ƒÒü &A¡[i¡ ³Ò; ¤àoã šøW¡à¹ A¡ì¹[áìº>,
ëÎ[i¡ ëA¡à>* "àW¡à¹Kt¡ >Ú¡ú [t¡[> ëƒìŹ ÎA¡ºìA¡ ël¡ìA¡ ¤ìº[áìº>, ët¡à³à샹
ÎA¡ìº¹ ³ì‹¸ ¤øìÕ¡¹ Å[v¡û¡,—ƒ[¹ì‰¹ ³ì‹¸ 냤t¡à ët¡à³à샹 ëΤà W¡à>¡ú &Òü
A¡=ài¡à ™å¤A¡ìƒ¹ [W¡v¡ìA¡ γNø®¡àì¤ \à[KìÚìá¡ú t¡àÒü &Òü ¤àoã¹ ó¡º ëƒìŹ ëΤàÚ
"à\ [¤[W¡y®¡àì¤ [¤[W¡y t¡¸àìK ó¡ºìá¡ú tò¡à¹ ¤àoã ³à>åÈìA¡ ™J>Òü δ¶à> [ƒìÚìá
t¡J>Òü Å[v¡û¡ [ƒìÚìá¡ú ëÎÒü Å[v¡û¡¹ š= ëA¡¤º &A¡ìcò¡àA¡à >Ú, t¡à ëA¡à>* íƒ[ÒA¡
šø[yû¡Ú๠šå>¹à¤õ[v¡¹ ³ì‹¸ š™¢¤[Ît¡ >Ú, t¡à ³à>åìȹ šøào³>ìA¡ [¤[W¡y®¡àì¤ šøào¤à>
A¡ì¹ìá¡ú ¤à}ºàìƒìŹ ™å¤A¡ìƒ¹ ³ì‹¸ ë™Î¤ ƒå@ÎàÒ[ÎA¡ "‹¸¤ÎàìÚ¹ š[¹W¡Ú šàÒü
t¡à¹ ³èìº "àìá [¤ì¤A¡à>ì–ƒ¹ ëÎÒü ¤àoã ™à ³à>åìȹ "àuàìA¡ ël¡ìA¡ìá, "àR塺ìA¡

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(In India of modern times, it was Vivekananda alone who
preached a great message which is not tied to any do’s and
don’ts. Addressing one and all in the nation, he said : In every
one of you there is the power of Brahman (God); the God in the
poor desires you to serve Him. This message has roused the
heart of the youths in a most pervasive way. That is why this
message has borne fruit in the service of the nation in diverse
ways and in diverse forms of sacrifice. This message has, at one
and the same time, imparted dignity and respect to man along
with energy and power. The strength that this message has
imparted to man is not confined to a particular point; nor is it
limited to repetitions of some physical movements. It has,
indeed, invested his life with a wonderful dynamism in various
spheres. There at the source of the adventurous activities of
today’s youth of Bengal is the message of Vivekananda—which
calls the soul of man, not his fingers.)


Men who lead their fellow beings in any sphere of life are
rare and those that lead their leaders are rarer still. These superguides
come not very often upon this earth to uplift the sinking
section of humanity. Swami Vivekananda was one of these
super souls.

It was he who could set the sceptic mind of the West at the
rest in the spiritual arena. Ambassadors of spiritual missions had
risen before him in the East, but none could speak to the West as
he did with that voice of conviction, keeping audiences
spellbound and enthralled. The worthy disciple of the worthy
Master rose to the pinnacle of spiritual eminence, preaching the
gospel of the innate oneness of the human race, and preaching
universal love and the affinity of all human souls.

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Not only Indians but Westerners too stand indebted to Swami
Vivekananda for the bequest of viveka (wisdom) to posterity.66

The ideal he stood for made universal brotherhood of man
an understandable proposition to a world which was wedded to
colour prejudice, having its route in the slavery of man. His
spiritual approach roused the conscience of the thinking section
of the human community all over the world and he succeeded in
bringing home to the West the greatness of the Vedic civilization.

The great disciple of the great Master immortalized the fame
and prestige of the land of his birth in a way which remains
unrivalled even in the annals of Indian spiritualism in modern
times. The sceptical youth with the intrepid spirit rose to be the
ablest and wisest heir to the legacy of spiritual wealth of the great
enlightened one.67


He [Vivekananda] was energy personified, and action was
his message to men. For him, as for Beethoven, it was the root
of all the virtues. ...

His pre-eminent characteristic was kingliness. He was a
born king and nobody ever came near him either in India or
America without paying homage to his majesty.

When this quite unknown young man of thirty appeared in
Chicago at the inaugural meeting of the Parliament of Religions,
opened in September 1893, by Cardinal Gibbons, all his fellow
members were forgotten in his commanding presence. His
strength and beauty, the grace and dignity of his bearing, the
dark light of his eyes, his imposing appearance, and from the
moment he began to speak, the splendid music of his rich deep
voice enthralled the vast audience of American Anglo-Saxons,
previously prejudiced against him on account of his colour. The
thought of this warrior prophet of India left a deep mark upon
the United States.

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It was impossible to imagine him in the second place.
Wherever he went he was the first. ...Everybody recognized in
him at sight the leader, the anointed of God, the man marked
with the stamp of the power to command. A traveller who
crossed his path in the Himalayas without knowing who he was,
stopped in amazement, and cried, ‘øiva !...’

It was as if his chosen God had imprinted His name upon his
forehead. ...

He was less than forty years of age when the athlete lay
stretched upon the pyre. ...

But the flame of that pyre is still alight today. From his ashes,
like those of the Phoenix of old, has sprung anew the conscience
of India—the magic bird—faith in her unity and in the Great
Message, brooded over from Vedic times by the dreaming spirit
of his ancient race—the message for which it must render
account to the rest of mankind.

* * *
Moving as were his [Vivekananda’s] lectures at Colombo,
and the preaching to the people of Rameswaram—it was for
Madras that he reserved his greatest efforts. Madras had been
expecting him for weeks in a kind of passionate delirium....
He replied to the frenzied expectancy of the people by his
Message to India, a conch sounding the resurrection of the land
of Ràma, of øiva, of Kçùõa, and calling the heroic Spirit, the
immortal àtman, to march to war. He was a general, explaining
his Plan of Campaign, and calling his people to rise en masse :
‘My India, arise !’...
‘For the next fifty years... let all other vain Gods disappear
for that time from our minds. This is the only God that is awake,
our own race—everywhere His hands, everywhere His feet,
everywhere His ears, He covers everything. All other Gods are

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sleeping. What vain Gods shall we go after and yet cannot
worship the God that we see all round us, the Viràñ ?... The first
of all worship is the worship of the Viràñ—of those all around
us. ... These are all our Gods—men and animals, and the first
Gods we have to worship are our own countrymen. ...’

Imagine the thunderous reverberations of these words!...

The storm passed ; it scattered its cataracts of water and fire
over the plain, and its formidable appeal to the Force of the
Soul, to the God sleeping in man and His illimitable possibilities !
I can see the Mage erect, his arm raised, like Jesus above the
tomb of Lazarus in Rembrandt’s engraving : with energy flowing
from his gesture of command to raise the dead and bring him to
life. ...

Did the dead arise? Did India, thrilling to the sound of his
words, reply to the hope of her herald? Was her noisy
enthusiasm translated into deeds? At the time nearly all this flame
seemed to have been lost in smoke. Two years afterwards
Vivekananda declared bitterly that the harvests of young men
necessary for his army had not come from India. It is impossible
to change in a moment the habits of a people buried in a Dream,
enslaved by prejudice, and allowing themselves to fail under the
weight of the slightest effort. But the Master’s rough scourge
made her turn for the first time in her sleep, and for the first time
the heroic trumpet sounded in the midst of her dream the
Forward March of India, conscious of her God. She never
forgot it. From that day the awakening of the torpid Colossus
began. If the generation that followed, saw, three years after
Vivekananda’s death, the revolt of Bengal, the prelude to the
great movement of Tilak and Gandhi, if India today has definitely
taken part in the collective action of organized masses, it is due
to the initial shock, to the mighty ‘Lazarus, come forth;’ of the
message from Madras.

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This message of energy had a double meaning : a national
and a universal. Although, for the great monk of the Advaita, it
was the universal meaning that predominated, it was the other
that revived the sinews of India.

* * *
His words are great music, phrases in the style of
Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses. I
cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are through
the pages of books at thirty years’ distance, without receiving a
thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks,
what transports must have been produced when in burning
words they issued from the lips of the hero !

* * *
India was hauled out of the shifting sands of barren
speculation wherein she had been engulfed for centuries, by the
hand of one of her own sannyàsins; and the result was that the
whole reservoir of mysticism, sleeping beneath, broke its
bounds and spread by a series of great ripples into action. The
West ought to be aware of the tremendous energies liberated by
these means.
The world finds itself face to face with an awakening India.
Its huge prostrate body, lying along the whole length of the
immense peninsula, is stretching its limbs and collecting its
scattered forces. Whatever the part played in this reawakening
by the three generations of trumpeters during the previous
century—(the greatest of whom we salute, the genial Precursor :
Rammohun Roy), the decisive call was the trumpet blast of the
lectures delivered at Colombo and Madras.
And the magic watchword was Unity. Unity of every Indian
man and woman (and world-unity as well) ; of all the powers of
the spirit—dream and action ; reason, love, and work. Unity of

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the hundred races of India with their hundred different tongues
and hundred thousand gods springing from the same religious
centre, the core of present and future reconstruction. Unity of
the thousand sects of Hinduism. Unity within the vast Ocean of
all religious thought and all rivers past and present, Western and
Eastern. For—and herein lies the difference between the
awakening of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and that of
Rammohun Roy and the Bràhmo Samàj—in these days lndia
refuses allegiance to the imperious civilization of the West, she
defends her own ideas, she has stepped into her age-long
heritage with the firm intention not to sacrifice any part of it, but
to allow the rest of the world to profit by it, and to receive in
return the intellectual conquests of the West. The time is past for
the pre-eminence of one incomplete and partial civilization. Asia
and Europe, the two giants, are standing face to face as equals
for the first time. If they are wise they will work together, and the
fruit of their labours will be for all.

This ‘greater India’, this new India—whose growth
politicians and learned men have, ostrich fashion, hidden from us
and whose striking effects are now apparent—is impregnated
with the soul of Ramakrishna. The twin star of the Paramahansa
and the hero who translated his thoughts into action, dominates
and guides her present destinies. Its warm radiance is the leaven
working within the soil of India and fertilizing it. The present
leaders of India : the king of thinkers, the king of poets, and the
Mahàtmà—Aurobindo Ghosh, Tagore, and Gandhi—have
grown, flowered, and borne fruit under the double constellation
of the Swan and the Eagle—a fact publicly acknowledged by
Aurobindo and Gandhi. ...

As for Tagore, whose Goethe-like genius stands at the
junction of all the rivers of India, it is permissible to presume that
in him are united and harmonized the two currents of the Bràhmo

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Samàj (transmitted to him by his father, the Maharshi) and of the
new Vedantism of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. Rich in both,
free in both, he has serenely wedded the West and the East in his
own spirit. From the social and national point of view his only
public announcement of his ideas was, if I am not mistaken,
about 1906 at the beginning of the Swade֋ movement, four
years after Vivekananda’s death. There is no doubt that the
breath of such a Forerunner must have played some part in his

* * *
I was glad to hear Gandhi’s voice quite recently—in spite of
the fact that his temperament is the antithesis of Ramakrishna’s
or Vivekananda’s—remind his brethren of the International
Fellowships, whose pious zeal disposed them to evangelize, of
the great universal principle of religious ‘Acceptation’, the same
preached by Vivekananda. ...
At this stage of human evolution, wherein both blind and
conscious forces are driving all natures to draw together for ‘cooperation
or death’, it is absolutely essential that the human
consciousness should be impregnated with it, until this
indispensable principle becomes an axiom : that every faith has
an equal right to live, and that there is an equal duty incumbent
upon every man to respect that which his neighbour respects. In
my opinion Gandhi, when he stated it so frankly, showed himself
to be the heir of Ramakrishna.
There is no single one of us who cannot take this lesson to
heart. The writer of these lines—he has vaguely aspired to this
wide comprehension all through his life—feels only too deeply at
this moment how many are his shortcomings in spite of his
aspirations; and he is grateful for Gandhi’s great lesson—the
same lesson that was preached by Vivekananda, and still more
by Ramakrishna —to help him to achieve it.68

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When I was a student in the early years of this century, a
student in high school and college classes, we used to read
Swami Vivekananda’s speeches and letters which were then
passing from hand to hand in manuscript form, and they used to
stir us a great deal and make us feel proud of our ancient culture.
Though our externals were broken down, the spirit of our
country is there and is everlastingly real—that was the message
which we gathered from his speeches and writings when I was a
young student.

There is nothing higher than humanity. But so far as we are
concerned, a human individual is a lamp of Spirit on earth, the
most concrete living embodiment of Spirit. ... By standing up for
the great ideals of Hindu religion, the great ideals that alone can
save humanity, by standing up for them, Swami Vivekananda
tried to lead humanity to a nobler and better path than that which
it found itself in. ... If you really believe in the divine spark in
man, do not for a moment hesitate to accept the great tradition
which has come to us, of which Swami Vivekananda was the
greatest exponent.69

* * *
We are today at a critical period not merely in the history of
our country but in the history of the world. There are many
people who think we are on the edge of an abyss. There is
distortion of values, there is lowering of standards, there is
widespread escapism, a good deal of mass hysteria, and people
think of it and collapse in despair, frustration, hopelessness.
These are the only things which are open to us. Such a kind of
lack of faith in the spirit of man is a treason to the dignity of man.
It is an insult to human nature. It is human nature that has brought
about all the great changes that have taken place in this world.

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And if there is any call which Vivekananda made to us, it is to
rely on our own spiritual resources. ... Man has inexhaustible
spiritual resources. His spirit is supreme, man is unique. There is
nothing inevitable in this world, and we can ward off the worst
dangers and worst disabilities by which we are faced. Only we
should not lose hope. He gave us fortitude in suffering, he gave
us hope in distress, he gave us courage in despair. He told us :
‘Do not be led away by the appearances. Deep down there is a
providential will, there is a purpose in this universe. You must try
to co-operate with that purpose and try to achieve it.’70


The immesurable force having its source within him
[Vivekananda], had ceaselessly strived to have emanation.
Throughout his life this irrepressable force had moved him
around the world. And wherever he went, people who had his
contact could experience this life-force and were, consequently,
rejuvenated. There hardly was anyone more capable than him to
arouse the people of our country from their deep illusory
slumber. ...It was our misfortune that like the great Vedantist
øaïkaràcàrya, he had an early demise. But as the øaïkaràcàrya
in his short life had moved around India for umpteen times and
tried to inject a new life force among the Indians, so also was the
Swami during the nineteenth century stormed around India and
the Western countries and preached Sri Ramakrishna’s message
of inter-religious harmony.71


Nineteenth century had witnessed the birth of several
spirited men in different corners of India. Swami Vivekananda
was the greatest among them. The message of the Swami still
resonates in the Indian hearts. Only in his chalked out path India

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can achieve absolute national rejuvenation. As the great ideals of
Divine Buddha has their culmination in Emperor A÷oka’s
proactive stance for his subjects, such were the spiritual tenets
of Divine Sri Ramakrishna manifested through the life’s work of
Swami Vivekananda. Behind A÷oka’s emissaries of peace was
the political enormity of a King, but, on the other hand,
Vivekananda’s Karma-yoga had nothing except love and
sacrifice behind its sustenance. ...To build the country and the
nation, it is imperative that we must adopt the ideal of Swami.
...People can never live without an ideal. Within the Swami’s life
and message are found such timely element and ideal resorting
to which we can build a strong nation and a great country.72


‘The awakening soul of India’

It was in religion first that the soul of India awoke and
triumphed. There were always indications, always great
forerunners, but it was when the flower of the educated youth of
Calcutta bowed down at the feet of an illiterate Hindu ascetic, a
self-illuminated ecstatic and ‘mystic’ without a single trace or
touch of the alien thought or education upon him that the battle
was won. The going forth of Vivekananda, marked out by the
Master as the heroic soul destined to take the world between his
two hands and change it, was the first visible sign to the world
that India was awake not only to survive but to conquer. ...
Once the soul of the nation was awake in religion, it was only a
matter of time and opportunity for it to throw itself on all spiritual
and intellectual activities in the national existence and take
possession of them.73

Vivekananda was a soul of puissance if ever there was one,
a very lion among men, but the definite work he has left behind is

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quite incommensurate with our impression of his creative might
and energy. We perceive his influence still working gigantically,
we know not well how, we know not well where, in something
that is not yet formed, something leonine, grand, intuitive,
upheaving that has entered the soul of India and we say,
‘Behold, Vivekananda still lives in the soul of his Mother and in
the souls of her children.’74

The visit of Swami Vivekananda to America and the
subsequent work of those who followed him did more for India
than a hundred London Congresses could effect. That is the true
way of awakening sympathy,—by showing ourselves to the
nations as a people with a great past and ancient civilization who
still possess something of the genius and character of our
forefathers, have still something to give the world and therefore
deserve freedom,—by proof of our manliness and fitness, not
by mendicancy.75


In the eighties of the last century, two prominent religious
personalities appeared before the public who were destined to
have a great influence on the future course of the new
awakening. They were Ramakrishna Paramahansa, the saint,
and his disciple Swami Vivekananda. ... Ramakrishna preached
the gospel of the unity of all religions and urged the cessation of
inter-religious strife. ... Before he died, he charged his disciple
with the task of propagating his religious teachings in India and
abroad and of bringing about and awakening among his
countrymen. Swami Vivekananda therefore founded the
Ramakrishna Mission, an order of monks, to live and preach the
Hindu religion in its purest form in India and abroad, especially in
America, and he took an active part in inspiring every form of
healthy national activity. With him religion was the inspirer of

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nationalism. He tried to infuse into the new generation a sense of
pride in India’s past, of faith in India’s future and a spirit of selfconfidence
and self-respect. Though the Swami never gave any
political message, every one who came into contact with him or
his writings developed a spirit of patriotism and a political
mentality. So far at least as Bengal is concerned, Swami
Vivekananda may be regarded as the spiritual father of the
modern nationalist movement. He died very young in 1902, but
since his death his influence has been even greater.76

I cannot write about Vivekananda without going into
raptures. Few indeed could comprehend or fathom him—even
among those who had the privilege of becoming intimate with
him. His personality was rich, profound and complex and it was
this personality—as distinct from his teachings and writings—
which accounts for the wonderful influence he has exerted on his
countrymen and particularly on Bengalees. This is the type of
manhood which appeals to the Bengalee as probably none
other. Reckless in his sacrifice, unceasing in his activity,
boundless in his love, profound and versatile in his wisdom,
exuberant in his emotions, merciless in his attacks but yet simple
as a child—he was a rare personality in this world of ours. ...

Swamiji was a full-blooded masculine personality—and a
fighter to the core of his being. He was consequently a
worshipper of øakti and gave a practical interpretation to the
Vedanta for the uplift of his countrymen. ... I can go on for hours
and yet fail to do the slightest justice to that great man. He was
so great, so profound, so complex. A yogi of the highest spiritual
level in direct communion with the truth who had for the time
being consecrated his whole life to the moral and spiritual uplift
of his nation and of humanity, that is how I would describe him. If
he had been alive, I would have been at his feet. Modern Bengal
is his creation—if I err not.77

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Åøã¹à³Aõ¡Ì¡ * Ѭà³ã [¤ì¤A¡à>ì–ƒ¹ [>A¡i¡ "à[³ ë™ A¡t¡ ˜¡oã t¡àÒà ®¡àÈàÚ [A¡
A¡[¹Úà šøA¡àÅ A¡[¹¤¡? tò¡àÒà샹 šåo¸ šø®¡àì¤ "à³à¹ \ã¤ì>¹ šø=³ l¡ü억ȡú
[>ì¤[ƒt¡à¹ ³ìt¡à "à[³* ³ì> A¡[¹ ë™, ¹à³Aõ¡Ì¡ * [¤ì¤A¡à>–ƒ &A¡i¡à "Jr¡
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ÒÒüìt¡>—"=¢à; tò¡àìA¡ [>ÆW¡ÚÒü "à[³ P¡¹ç¡šìƒ ¤¹o A¡[¹t¡à³¡ú ™àÒà Òl¡üA¡, ™t¡[ƒ>
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&A¡=à ¤ºàÒü ¤à׺¸¡ú¡78

(How shall I express in words my indebtedness to Sri
Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda ? It is under their sacred
influence that my life got first awakened. Like Nivedita I also
regard Ramakrishna and Vivekananda as two aspects of one
indivisible personality. If Swamiji had been alive today, he would
have been my My guru, that is to say, I would have accepted him
as my Master. It is needless to add, however, that as long as I
live, I shall be absolutely loyal and devoted to Ramakrishna-

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áàyγà\ Ѭà³ã\ã¹ ¹W¡>à * ¤v¡ûõ¡t¡à¹ ‡à¹à 뙹ꡚ šø®¡à[¤t¡ ÒÒüÚà[áº, ëιꡚ "à¹
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¤¸v¡û¡ A¡[¹Úà[áìº>¡ú

ÅøãÅøãš¹³Ò}Îìƒì¤¹ Î[Òt¡ &A¡ì™àìK >à ëƒ[Jìº Ñ¬à³ã\ãìA¡ ™=à=¢®¡àì¤ [¤W¡à¹
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[¤ìÅÈ "à¤àήè¡[³ ÒÒüìº W¡[ºì¤ >à—t¡àÒàìA¡ \àt¡ãÚt¡à¹ "àƒìÅ¢ ">åšøà[ot¡ [¤[®¡Ä
‹³¢Î´ßƒàìÚ¹ &A¡y ¤àήè¡[³ ÒÒüìt¡ ÒÒü줡ú ¹à³Aõ¡Ì¡-[¤ì¤A¡à>ì–ƒ¹ ë™ ¤àoã—
‹³¢Î³ÞÚ—t¡àÒà ®¡à¹t¡¤àÎãìA¡ Τ¢à”z@A¡¹ìo NøÒo A¡[¹ìt¡ ÒÒü줡ú...

Ѭà³ã\ã šøàW¡¸ * šàÆW¡àìt¡¸¹, ‹³¢ * [¤`¡àì>¹, "t¡ãt¡ * ¤t¢¡³àì>¹ γÞÚ
A¡[¹Úà[áìº>, t¡àÒü [t¡[> ³Ò;¡ú tò¡àÒ๠[ÅÛ¡àÚ ëƒÅ¤àÎã "®è¡t¡šè¤¢ "àuδ¶à>,
"àu[¤Å«àÎ &¤} "àušø[t¡Ë¡à¹ ë¤à‹ ºà®¡ A¡[¹Úàìá¡ú79

(It is very difficult to explain the versatile genius of Swami
Vivekananda. The impact Swami Vivekananda made on the

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students of our time by his works and speeches far outweighed
that made by any other leader of the country. He, as it were,
expressed fully their hopes and aspirations. [But] Swamiji
cannot be appreciated properly if he is not studied along with Sri
Sri Paramahansa Deva. The foundation of the present freedom
movement owes its origin to Swamiji’s message. If India is to be
free, it cannot be a land specially of Hinduism or of Islam—it
must be one united land of different religious communities
inspired by the ideal of nationalism. [And for that] Indians must
accept wholeheartedly the gospel of harmony of religions which
is the gospel of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda. ...

Swamiji harmonized East and West, religion and science,
past and present. And that is why he is great. Our countrymen
have gained unprecedented self-respect, self-confidence and
self-assertion from his teachings.)

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(The harmony of all religions which Ramakrishna
Paramahansa accomplished in his life’s endeavour, was the
keynote of Swamiji’s life. And this ideal again is the bed-rock of
the nationalism of Future India. Without this concept of harmony
of religions and toleration of all creeds, the spirit of national
consciousness could not have been build up in this country of
ours full of diversities.

The aspiration for freedom manifested itself in various
movements since the time of Rammohun Roy. This aspiration
was witnessed in the realm of thought and in social reforms
during the nineteenth century, but it was never expressed in the
political sphere. This was because the people of India still
remained sunk in the stupor of subjugation and thought that the
conquest of India by the British was an act of Divine
Dispensation. The idea of complete freedom is manifest only in
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda towards the end of the nineteeth
century. ‘Freedom, freedom is the song of the Soul’—this was
the message that burst forth from the inner recesses of Swamiji’s
heart and captivated and almost maddened the entire nation.
This truth was embodied in his works, life, conversations, and

Swami Vivekananda, on the one hand, called man to be real
man freed from all fetters and, on the other, laid the foundation
for true nationalism in India by preaching the gospel of the
harmony of religions.)


To the Bengal politicians Madras was the dark State, yet this
very Madras discovered in Vivekananda the luminous light
which later would throw its brilliance all over the world.
Vivekananda gave birth to radical neo-Hinduism. The Tamils
first accepted Vivekananda; afterwards Bengal and

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Maharashtra realized his greatness. ...It was Swami
Vivekananda by whom the [Indian] movements for ‘Swaràj’
and independence were first had its foundation. ...He was the
great inspirer of patriotism, and the fundamental power behind
rousing love for the country. ...Sri Ramakrishna had shaped
Swami Vivekananda and he was the foremost among the
creators of modern India. ...

The very moment the Swami had reached Japan on his way
to America for preaching the Vedanta religion, the mother power
of India, akin to the Vedic supremacy, blessed him with the
wings of ultimate wisdom. His letters from Japan were the
heralds of new radiance. The fires of neo-Hinduism, as if, were
dancing within his heart. It was the Divine design that at the end
of the nineteenth century the triumphant flag of neo-Hinduism
would be planted in America, the very country which was the
ideal of the European civilization. And Vivekananda was the
man chosen for that task.81


Vivekananda appeared to me immediately to be a man who
was intensely moved by the sufferings of Humanity, and
particularly of Humanity in India. Some of his tirades against
middle class and upper class societies in this matter moved us to
the depths of our being. He discovered for us the greatness of
Man, and particularly of men in the humbler walks of life who
were the despised and the denied in our Indian society. At the
same time, he brought home to us the value of Indian thought at
its highest and pristine best, as in the Vedanta. He was able to
convince us that what our ancestors had left in the Vedanta
Philosophy was of permanent value, not only for us in India but
also for the rest of Humanity. This put heart in us, and made us
feel a new kind of elation as members of a people who have

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always had a mission and a sacred task to serve Humanity. The
Hindus as a race were losing their nerve, and it was
Vivekananda who helped us to regain this nerve which we were
losing. There was a lot of unthinking and unsympathetic criticism
of our ways and our life, particularly from among Christian
missionaries of the older type, and this was demolished by
Vivekananda. All this made us hold him very close to our heart,
and to think of him as a great master and as a new kind of
incarnation who came down to earth to lead us into the good life
and the life of the strong man.

Vivekananda, in the first instance, knocked off a lot of
nonsense in our Hindu social life, and drew our attention to the
Eternal Verities and not to the ephemeral accidentals—social
usages and such like—in our life. He was a sworn enemy of
what we now call in India Casteism. Untouchability was
something which he abhorred both as a sannyàsin and as a lay
Hindu. He coined the word which is very commonly used in our
Indian English—‘don’t touchism’. His heart overflowed with
love and sympathy for the masses, whom he wanted to serve
with religious zeal—serve as a believer in the Vedanta which
sees God in all life. He coined a new word for our Indian
languages—daridra-Nàràyaõa or a ‘God in the poor and the
lowly’. This word has been accepted by the whole of India, and
in a way it brings in a sense of responsibility for the average man.
He has to look upon the poor and the humble, the suffering ones
and the frustrated ones of society, as if they were deities
incarnate or fragments of God, to serve whom was to serve
God. Mahatma Gandhi’s revival of the old expression which
was used in Gujarati by the Vaiùõava poets of Gujarat, namely,
Harijana or ‘the Men of God’ was a very fine expression ; but
daridra-Nàràyaõa implied or brought in an element of a sense

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of duty which was enjoined upon man to serve the poor if they
wanted to serve God.

Swami Vivekananda is looked upon as a great religious
teacher, and indeed he made a definite contribution to the study
of both Hindu religion and philosophy, and also in spreading a
knowledge and appreciation of this philosophy and religion. His
great works on aspects of Vedanta in theory and practice still
inspire hundreds and thousands of enquirers all over the world.
But it has also been said that he was more a philanthropist, one
who dedicated himself to the service of man, than a religious
theorist or preacher. One need not seek to analyse
Vivekananda’s personality in this way. It is best to take the
service of man as a form of serving God, for, from the point of
view of all practical religion, God and Man are the obverse and
reverse of the same medal. Vivekananda may be said to have
been an innovator in two matters. As his great disciple Sister
Nivedita suggested—he was the first to formulate the basic
character of Hinduism as a system of thought and as a way of life
in the modern age. This is the first great thing we as Indians may
note about Vivekananda. Secondly, Vivekananda may be said
to have brought before the Western World a new point of view
in religious thinking—a new approach to the problems of faith—
which they needed very badly. To this also might be added as a
pendant that Vivekananda, as one of the thought-leaders of
modern India, gave the tone to modern Indian culture. He
conceived of an integration of all human religion and culture into
one entity claiming the homage of all and sundry.

I consider, and many agree with me also, that Swami
Vivekananda’s participation and his magisterial and at the same
time sweet and reasonable pronouncements at the International
Congress of Religions at Chicago in 1893 form a very important
event in the intellectual history of modern man. There he

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proclaimed for the first time the necessity for a new and an
enlightened kind of religious understanding and toleration, and
this was particularly necessary in an America which was
advancing so rapidly in science and technology, and in wealth
and power, which were not, however, divorced from altruistic
aspirations and achievements. But apart from a few of the most
outstanding figures, particularly in the New England orbit of the
United States, generally the religious background was crude and
primitive. It had pinned itself down to a literal interpretation of
the Bible, and accepted all the dogmas with a conviction which
was pathetic in its combination of sincerity and fanatic faith, of
credulity and crudity. This very primitive kind of religion was not
satisfying to those who were actuated by the spirit of enquiry in a
higher and more cultured plane, and for them Vivekananda’s
message came like rain on a thirsty soil. ...So in this way, we
might say that quite a new type of spiritual conversion has taken
place in the mind of a considerable portion of intelligent men and
women in the West, beginning with America ; and here we see
the leaven of Vedanta working through Vivekananda. In a novel
on Mexican life by D. H. Lawrence—The Plumed Serpent—
where we have the picture of a revival of the pre-Catholic Aztec
religion among a section of political workers in Mexico, the
mentality displayed by some of the leaders of this movement is
something astoundingly modern. Many of the views expressed
by one of the characters in this novel, the hero Ramon talking to
the Roman Catholic Bishop, might have been taken over bodily
from the writings of Vivekananda. In this way, although the
ordinary run of people are not conscious of it, the message
which was given out by Vivekananda to America and the
Western World at Chicago in 1893, and subsequently to people
in America, England and India, has been an effective force in the
liberalization of the human spirit in its religious approach.

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The first point in Vivekananda which I mentioned above,
namely, his giving before the world a definition of Hinduism in its
essence, was a service which was done not only to India but
also in another way to Humanity. ...

Vivekananda was the lover of all those who had suffered
through the injustice of others, and he tried his best to restore
them to a sense of human dignity. ...It is remarkable how in India
in her days of political submission and spiritual inanity, when
everything seemed hopeless, and the people had lost all
confidence in themselves, a spirit calling us to action like Swami
Vivekananda could come into being. That such a person could
come at a time when the prospect was bleak, when we seemed
to have lost all hope, indicated that God in His mercy never
forsakes His people, and this in a way bears out the great idea
behind this oft-quoted verse of the Gãtà that whenever
righteousness is on the decline and unrighteousness is in the
ascendant, God creates Himself as a great avatàra or
Incarnation—as a Leader to guide men to the right path of
salvation. And in that sense Vivekananda was an avatàra, a
divinely inspired and God-appointed Leader, not only for Man
in India, but also for the whole of Humanity in the present age.82


Swami Vivekananda was the greatest spiritual ambassador
of India, if I may say, in the history of India. And for that matter,
the history of Asia. The main purpose of his historic visit to the
United States ... was to find a synthesis, if I can interpret and
assess his activities in this country. He was very keen to bring
about this synthesis between India and the United States,
between Asia and the West. To understand Swami Vivekananda
it is very important to understand the cultural and spiritual
background of India, and for that matter, the cultural and
spiritual background of Asia.

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I think if we attempt to analyse the main purpose of Swami
Vivekananda’s mission to this country—my interpretation is he
wanted to find a harmony, a kind of a synthesis between the
Eastern concept of culture and civilization and the Western
concept of culture and civilization. ... What we need today is not
to neglect or ignore the oral and spiritual qualities of mankind left
by centuries of tradition, and which is the key of all religion.

Another aspect of Vivekananda’s mission ... is the need of
tolerance in human relations. Not only religious telerance but
also tolerance in all spheres of activity. ... A few centuries ago
there was no such thing as religious tolerance. Religious
tolerance was unthinkable. ... Now in the twentieth century...
there is religious tolerance.

Swami Vivekananda ... had this very significant and very
pertinent message for these tense times. He said : ‘In this country
I do not come to convert you to a new belief. ... I want to make
the Methodist a better Methodist, the Presbyterian a better
Presbyterian, the Unitarian a better Unitarian.’ These are very
wise words and, friends, on this auspicious occasion when we
are doing honour to one of the greatest men of all times, let us
dedicate ourselves anew to this pledge : to make Christians
better Christians, Hindus better Hindus, Muslims better
Muslims, Buddhists better Buddhists, and Jews better Jews.83


The most ancient tradition [in India] has been one in which
the good work done for the assistance of the fellow man does
not necessarily have anything to do with metaphysical
contemplation. As far as we know, Vivekananda was the first in
India of any social influence to declare that these two things
should go together. He wanted his fellow monks of the
Ramakrishna Mission, not only to read Sanskrit and

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contemplate higher reality, but also to work in such things as
famines and floods, and in the eternal poverty of the Indian
cities. If you read Vivekananda you will find some excoriating
remarks about those who devote themselves entirely to their
own spiritual welfare and forget the existence of their fellow
creatures. He introduced into the monastic system of India this
principle of the assistance to those who needed it most, that
principle which was never so expressed before. And so on my
first trip [to India], in 1947, before I had ever been to Belur or
Dakshineshwar, I found monks of the Ramakrishna Mission
taking care of the wounded and the refugees in the tremendous
upheaval which followed the partition of India. Monks of the
Ramakrishna Mission were doing that work in all parts of the
country and on a very considerable scale, as they do in ordinary
times with their schools, hospitals, and refectories.

This principle, which is implict in everything Ramakrishna
said, everything of which we have record, he was not himself
fitted to carry out. It was not his quality, his nature, but it was
eminently the quality of Swami Vivekananda. He was able,
possibly because of his visits to the West, to introduce that the
element into the Mission, of which it has borne the imprint ever
since and from which very great good has resulted for the most
miserable of the peoples of India.84


Vivekananda not only made us conscious of our strength, he
also pointed out our defects and drawbacks. ...India was then
steeped in tamas (ignorance and unwisdom) and mistook
weakness for non-attachment and peace. That is why
Vivekananda went so far as to say that criminality was
preferable to lethargy and indolence. He made people
conscious of the tàmasika state they were in, of the need to

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break out of it and stand erect so that they might realize in their
own lives the power of the Vedanta. Speaking of those who
enjoyed the luxury of studying philosophy and the scriptures in
the smugness of their retired life, he said football-playing was
better than that type of indulgence. Through a series of obiter
dicta, he rehabilitated the prestige of India’s soul force and
pointed out to the tamoguõa (unwisdom) that had eclipsed her.
He taught us : ‘The same Soul resides in each and all. If you are
convinced of this, it is your duty to treat all as brothers and serve
mankind.’ People were inclined to hold that, though all had equal
right to the tattva-j¤àna (knowledge of the Spirit), the
difference of high and low should be maintained in the day-today
dealings and relations. Swamiji made us see the truth that
tattva-j¤àna, which had no place in our everyday relationship
with our fellow beings, and in our activities was useless and
inane. He, therefore, advised us to dedicate ourselves to the
service of daridra-Nàràyaõa (God manifested in the hungry,
destitute millions) to their uplift and edification. The word
daridra-Nàràyaõa was coined by Vivekananda and
popularized by Gandhiji.85

* * *

... Indians had totally become slaves to the English people
and considered themselves as inferiors. The entire world, as a
result, began to look upon the Indians as substandard in all
parameters. ... At this very juncture Vivekananda had stepped
in, and reminded the Indians of their spiritual power. Influenced
by materialism we had reached such a pit that a sense of overall
degradation prevailed in every sphere of life. India was in a
stupor with thoughts as if our sociology was bad, we knew
nothing of politics, and, even, our religion was imperfect. But
every country has its own speciality, its own power – and India

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was no exception to this. The only thing was we were unaware
of it. ...When India was in such a state, Vivekananda went to
America, and there he preached the message of Vedanta to the
world. He also told everyone about India’s supreme spiritual
power. And his speech over there showered elixir throughout
India. Indian people could find strength to stand with their head
high. It was the consequence of Vivekananda’s speech that the
Indians were able to realize that they also had power and,
moreover, their spirit would remain ever free even if the country
were conquered by external force. The peoples of distant lands
could furthermore learn about India’s long historical ancestry
and they realized that the distinctive power of the land is worth


He [Swami Vivekananda] preached to his countrymen a
more virile creed than any Hindu had offered them since Vedic
days :

It is a man-making religion that we want. ... Give up
these weakening mysticisms, and be strong. ... For the
next fifty years... let all other, vain gods disappear from
our minds. This is the only God that is awake, our own
race, everywhere His hands, everywhere His feet,
everywhere His ears; He covers everything. ... The first
of all worship is the worship of those all around us....
These are all our gods—men and animals; and the first
gods we have to worship are our own countrymen.

It was but a step from this to Gandhi.87
* * *
The most vivid of [the followers of Ramakrishna] was a
proud young Kùatriya, Narendranath Datta, who full of Spencer
and Darwin, first presented himself to Ramakrishna as an

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atheist, unhappy in his atheism, but scornful of the myths and
superstitions with which he identified religion. Conquered by
Ramakrishna’s patient kindliness, Naren became the young
master’s most ardent disciple. He redefined God as ‘the totality
of all souls’ and called upon his fellow-men to practise religion
not through vain asceticism and meditation, but through absolute
devotion to [mankind].88


... We all carry about with us unsolved problems of
adjustment to this many-angled world—without formulating
questions, we are living quests, unless by some rare chance our
philosophy of life is entirely settled. And to meet some person
may resolve a quest wholly without his knowledge; it may be
simply mode of being that brings the release.

This was in some measure the story of my first encounter
with Swami Vivekananda, though I was only one of an immense
audience. ...I was a casual visitor at the [1893 Chicago
World’s] Fair, just turning twenty, interested in a dozen exhibits
on the Midway. ...But aside from all this, I had a quietly rankling
problem of my own.

I had been reading Herbert Spencer, all I could get of his
works. ...I was convinced by him;...but it was somehow a vital
injury to think of man as of the animals—birth, growth, mating,
death—and nothing more—finis. I had had my religion—
Methodism—an experience of conversion with a strange
enlightenment which gave me three days of what felt like a new
vision of things, strangely lifted up; Spencer had explained that
all away as an emotional flurry—the world must be faced with a
steady objective eye. The Christian cosmology was fancy.

But still, Christianity was not the only religion. There were to
be speakers from other traditions [at the Parliament of
Religions]. They might have some insight that would relieve the

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tension. I would go for an hour and listen. I didn’t know the
programme. It happened to be Vivekananda’s period.

... He spoke not as arguing from a tradition, or from a book,
but as from an experience and certitude of his own. I do not
recall the steps of his address. But there was a passage toward
the end, in which I can still hear the ring of his voice, and feel the
silence of the crowd—almost as if shocked. The audience was
well-mixed, but could be taken as one in assuming that there had
been a ‘Fall of man’ resulting in a state of ‘original sin’, such that
‘All men have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ But
what is the speaker saying? I hear his emphatic rebuke : ‘Call
men sinners? It is a SIN to call men sinners!’

...Through the silence I felt something like a gasp running
through the hall as the audience waited for the affirmation which
must follow this blow. What his following words were I cannot
recall with the same verbal clarity : they carried the message that
in all men there is that divine essence, undivided and eternal
reality is One, and that One, which is Brahman, constitutes the
central being of each one of us.

For me, this doctrine was a startling departure from anything
which my scientific psychology could then recognize. One must
live with these ideas and consider how one’s inner experience
could entertain them. But what I could feel and understand was
that this man was speaking from what he knew, not from what
he had been told. He was well aware of the books; but he was
more immediately aware of his own experience and his own
status in the world; and what he said would have to be taken into
account in any final world-view. I began to realize that Spencer
could not be allowed the last word. And furthermore, that this
religious experience of mine, which Spencer would dismiss as a
psychological flurry, was very akin to the grounds of
Vivekananda’s own certitude.89

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The paragon of all monistic systems is the Vedanta

philosophy of Hindusthan, and the paragon of Vedantist

missionaries was the late Swami Vivekananda who visited our

land some years ago. The method of Vedantism is the mystical

method. You do not reason, but after going through a certain

discipline you see, and having seen, you can report the truth.

Vivekananda thus reports the truth in one of his lectures here :
Where is there any more misery for him who sees this
Oneness in the universe, this Oneness of life, Oneness of
everything ?... This separation between man and man, man
and woman, man and child, nation from nation, earth from
moon, moon from sun, this separation between atom and
atom is the cause really of all the misery, and the Vedanta
says this separation does not exist, it is not real. It is merely
apparent, on the surface. In the heart of things there is unity
still. If you go inside you find that unity between man and
man, women and children, races and races, high and low, rich
and poor, the gods and men: all are One, and animals too, if
you go deep enough, and he who has attained to that has no
more delusion. ... Where is there any more delusion for him ?
What can delude him ? He knows the reality of everything,
the secret of everything. Where is there any more misery for
him ? What does he desire ? He has traced the reality of
everything unto the Lord, that centre, that Unity of
everything, and that is Eternal Bliss, Eternal Knowledge,
Eternal Existence. Neither death nor disease nor sorrow nor
misery nor discontent is There. ... In the centre, the reality,
there is no one to be mourned for, no one to be sorry for. He
has penetrated everything, the Pure One, the Formless, the
Bodiless, the Stainless, He the Knower, He the great Poet,
the Self-Existent, He who is giving to everyone what he

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Observe how radical the character of the monism here is.
Separation is not simply overcome by the One, it is denied to
exist. There is no many. We are not parts of the One; It has no
parts; and since in a sense we undeniably are, it must be that
each of us is the One, indivisibly and totally. An Absolute One,
and I that One,—surely we have here a religion which,
emotionally considered, has a high pragmatic value; it imparts a
perfect sumptuosity of security. As our Swami says in another
place :

When man has seen himself as One with the Infinite Being of
the universe, when all separateness has ceased, when all
men, all women, all angels, all gods, all animals, all plants, the
whole universe has been melted into that oneness, then all
fear disappears. Whom to fear ? Can I hurt myself ? Can I
kill myself ? Can I injure myself ? Do you fear yourself ?
Then will all sorrow disappear. What can cause me sorrow ?
I am the One Existence of the universe. Then all jealousies
will disappear; of whom to be jealous ? Of myself ? Then all
bad feelings disappear. Against whom shall I have this bad
feeling ? Against myself ? There is none in the universe but
me. ... Kill out this differentiation, kill out this superstition that
there are many. ‘He who, in this world of many, sees that
One; he who, in this mass of insentiency, sees that One
Sentient Being ; he who in this world of shadow, catches that
Reality, unto him belongs eternal peace, unto none else, unto
none else.90

* * *
He [Vivekananda] ... is a man of genius, even though his
Absolute be not the truth. ... ‘I have been reading some of
Vivekananda’s addresses. ... that man is simply a wonder of
oratorical power. As for the doctrine of the One. I began to have
some talk with that most interesting Miss Noble [Sister

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Nivedita] about it, but it was cut short, and I confess that my
difficulties have never yet been cleared up. But the Swami is an
honour to humanity in any case.91

References and Notes

Swami Vivekananda: The Patriot-Saint of Modern India by
A. D. Pusalker (Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Bombay,
1958), p. 1. Ref.: Vivekananda O Samakàlãn Bhàratavarùa,
ed. by Sankari Prasad Basu, 1988, Vol.7, p. 270.
Swami Vivekananda in East and West (Ramakrishna Vedanta
Centre, London), pp. 210-14.
Brahmavàdin, March-April, 1914.
Prabuddha Bhàrata, June 1940, pp.280-83.
Ke÷arã, 8 July, 1902 : Trans. from Marathi.
Creative India by Benoy Kumar Sarkar, Lahore, 1937, p. 671.
ibid., pp. 671-673. Also see B.K.Sarkar’s The Might of Man in
the Social Philosophy of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, Sri
Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras, Second Edition, 1945,
pp. 21-22.
‘Vivekananda, Kant and Modern Materialism’—Published in
the Calcutta Review in April 1939, later the same was
reproduced in the Prabuddha Bhàrata of July 1939. Ref. :
Vivekananda O Samakàlãn Bhàratavarùa,Vol.7, p. 311.
‘What is Ramakrishna’ by Benoy Kumar Sarkar, Prabuddha
Bhàrata, August 1940, p. 251.
‘Ramakrishna and Vivekananda’, Prabuddha Bhàrata, July,
1932, pp. 323-25.
Indian Mirror, 15 February, 1898.
Vivekananda Ke?, Swaràj, 22nd Vaishakh, 1314 B.S., p. 99.
Vivekananda O Samakàlãn Bhàratavarùa, Vol. 1, 1982,
p. 351.
Prabuddha Bhàrata, April, 1907; later reprinted in
Brahmavàdin, May, 1907.
C. F. Andrews, ‘The Great Mantram’, Vedànta Ke÷arã,
November, 1923.
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‘The Message of Swami Vivekananda’ – Vedànta Ke÷arã, April,
1929. Ref.: Vivekananda O Samakàlãn Bhàratavarùa, Vol.7,
p. 223.
Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial Volume,
Calcutta,1963, p. xiii.
ibid., pp. 535-36.
What Vedanta Means to Me (Doubleday and Co., Inc., Garden
City, New York, 1960), p. 55.
Hinduism Through the Ages by D. S. Sharma (Bharatiya Vidya
Bhavan, 1955), pp.121-22. Ref.: Vivekananda O Samakàlãn
Bhàratavarùa, Vol.7, pp. 429-30.
Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial Volume,
pp.506-18. E. P. Chelishev was wrongly printed.
World Thinkers on Ramakrishna-Vivekananda ed. by Swami
Lokeswarananda, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture,
Kolkata, 2002, p.67 (footnote).
From her book The World and I, George H. Doran Co., New
Prabuddha Bhàrata, January 1994, p.21.
The Mirror of Souls, Clarkson N. Potter Publishers, New
York, 1971, p. 310.
Modern Mystics, New York, University Books, Inc., 1970,
p. 96.
Translated from Udbodhan Centenary Collection ed. by
Swami Purnatmananda, Udbodhan Karyalaya, Kolkata, June,
1999, p. 870.
The Airconditioned Nightmare (New Direction Books, New
York, 1945), Vol. I, pp. 47, 68-69.
Vivekananda and Indian Freedom by Hiren Mukherjee,
Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata, 2005,
pp.4, 6, 19, 21, 24, 32-33.
Huang Xin Chuan, a professor of history of Beijing University
and Deputy Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies,
Beijing, delivered a speech on ‘Vivekananda and China’ at the
Asiatic Society, Calcutta, on 4 January 1980. The matter
reproduced is the cyclostyled summary of that speech
circulated among the audience. A copy of the summary signed
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162 Great Thinkers on Ramakrishna-Vivekananda

by Professor Chuan was presented by him to Swami
Lokeswarananda, the then Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission
Institute of Culture, Gol Park, on 7 January, 1980.

Professor Chuan also wrote a book in Chinese on Swami
Vivekananda, which was published from Beijing in May 1979.
An autographed copy of the book was presented by the author
to the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture on 7 January
1980. Professor Chuan presented a copy of the book to
Mr Nirmal Bose, Minister for Co-operatives, Government of
West Bengal. He observed: ‘We in China do not consider
Swami Vivekananda just a religious leader. We consider him
one of the greatest social reformers of modern India. It is on
record that in India he was the first to speak of socialism. He
remained a source of inspiration for many revolutionaries in
India.’ (The Statesman, Tuesday, 8 November, 1983, p.9)
Incidentally, this copy of the book has also been presented by
Mr Nirmal Bose to Swami Lokeswarananda, editor of this

The book, entitled The Modern Indian Philosopher
Vivekananda : A Study, contains six chapters dealing with the
conditions in India prevailing at that time, Swamiji’s life and
works, his religious and philosophical thoughts, his social and
political theories, his views on China, and his contribution to
the Indian liberation movement. There are some extracts from
some of the important writings of Swami Vivekananda. In the
appendix there is one chapter dealing in brief with the life,
philosophy, and social thoughts of Sri Ramakrishna.

Vivekananda : East Meets West, Swami Chetanananda
(Vedanta Society of St. Louis, 1995), p. vii.
Translated from the Udbodhan Centenary Collection, p.826.
Letters of Sister Nivedita, Vol.1, ed. by Sankari Prasad Basu,
Nababharat, Publishers, Calcutta, 1982, p.529.
‘The Footprints of Vivekananda’, Hindustan Standard, 7
January, 1953. Ref. : Vivekananda O Samakàlãn
Bhàratavarùa, Vol.7, p. 268.
The Discovery of India (Meridian Books Limited, London,
1960), p.338.
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Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, Advaita Ashrama,
Calcutta, 1960, pp. 4-13.
Prabuddha Bhàrata, May, 1952, pp. 204-05.
Prabuddha Bhàrata, January 1940, p.22.
Social Welfare, 21 September, 1945. Ref.: Prabuddha
Bhàrata, January, 1946, p. 45.
The Determining Periods of Indian History, Bharatiya Vidya
Bhavan, Bombay, 1962, p.53.
40a. Translation of report appearing in the Yugàntar Patrikà on 21
January, 1964. Ref. : Vivekananda O Samakàlãn
Bhàratavarùa, Vol.7, p. 236.

Complete collection of Works of Tolstoy, Vol. 53, p. 106.
ibid., Vol. 77, p. 151.
ibid., Vol. 78, p. 84.
D. P. Makovitsky, Yasnaya Polyana Notes, entry of 3 July,
Tolstoy and India, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1969,
pp. 25-39.
Prabuddha Bhàrata, November, 1922.
ibid., May, 1963, p.170.
Eastern Lights by Mahendranath Sircar (Arya Publishing
House, Calcutta, 1955), pp. 240-45 and 253.
India in Transition (1922), pp.192-93.
Mysticism and the New Physics (Bantom Books, January,
1981), pp. 114-15.
Available in Kalam Kà Sipàhã—a biography on Munshi
Premchand by Amrit Roy, his son. Ref.: Translated from
Bengali edition available in Vivekananda O Samakàlãn
Bhàratavarùa, Vol.7, p. 503.
Prabuddha Bhàrata, March & April, 1927.
Prabuddha Bhàrata, May 1931, pp.243-44.
A letter wrote to Sister Nivedita by R. C. Datta (1902). Ref. :
Letters of Sister Nivedita, Vol.1, p.534.
The Way of Humanism : East and West by Radhakamal
Mukerjee, Academic Books, Bombay, New Delhi, 1968, p.212
Prabuddha Bhàrata, April 1940, pp.156-57.
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164 Great Thinkers on Ramakrishna-Vivekananda

History of the Freedom Movement in India (Firma K. L.
Mukhopadhyay, Calcutta, 1962),Vol. I, pp. 358-63.
‘Swami Vivekananda and the Indian Renaissance’ by Ramesh
Chandra Majumdar (Vivekananda Commemorative Volume,
The University of Burdwan, 1966), 1Ref.: Vivekananda O
Samakàlãn Bhàratavarùa, Vol. 7, pp. 271-72.
Swami Vivekananda : A Historical Study by Ramesh Chandra
Majumdar, pp.95-96, and 108. Ref.: Vivekananda O
Samakàlãn Bhàratavarùa, Vol. 7, p. 286.
Prabuddha Bhàrata, May 1963, pp.197-98.
India’s Struggle for Swaraj by R. G. Pradhan, Daya Publishing
House, Delhi, 1930, p.60.
Deccan Chronicle (Hyderabad), 11 September, 1983.
Kerala Kaumudi, January 22, 1963. Translated from the
Bengali rendition available in Vivekananda O Samakàlãn
Bhàratavarùa, Vol.7, pp.437-38.
This brief writing of Rabindranath first appeared in Udbodhan
in its Ashwin, 1348 issue. The title was ‘Vivekananda’. At the
footnote it is mentioned : ‘At the request of Swami
Ashokananda, formerly Editor of the Prabuddha Bhàrata and
the present Minister-in-charge of the Vedanta Society of
Sanfrancisco, Rabindranath gave this short writing to him in
the month of Phalgun, 1335.’
The facsimile of Rabindranath’s original writing was
available to the Ramakrishna Order by the courtesy of Visva-
Bharati long after its publication in Udbodhan.

Pravàsã, Jaishtha, 1335, pp. 285-86.
Prabuddha Bhàrata, May 1963, p.318.
Bihar News, 1 January, 1963. Ref. : Vivekananda O
Samakàlãn Bhàratavarùa, Vol.7, p.196.
The Life of Vivekananda and the Universal Gospel (Advaita
Ashrama, Calcutta, 1970), pp. 4-7; 106-14; 146; 286-89;
‘Swami Vivekananda and Young India’ by Sarvepalli
Radhakrishnan, Prabuddha Bhàrata, May, 1963, pp. 183-84.
Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial Volume, pp. x-xi.
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Translated from ‘Vivekananda Centenary Magazine’ (1963),
Howrah Vivekananda Institution. Ref.: Vivekananda O
Samakàlãn Bhàratavarùa, Vol.7, pp. 379-80.
Translated from Udbodhan magazine of Agrahayan, 1347
(BS) and Falgun 1357 (BS). Ref.: Vivekananda O Samakàlãn
Bhàratavarùa, Vol.7, pp. 252-53.
Sri Aurobindo, Vol.2, 1972, p.37.
74. ibid., Vol.17, 1971, p.332.
ibid., Vol.2, p.171
The Indian Struggle (Asia Publishing House, Bombay etc.,
1964), p. 21
‘Swami Vivekananda’, Prabuddha Bhàrata, July, 1932,
Udbodhan, Ashwin, 1354, p.459
ibid., Phalgun, 1337
Nåtaner Sandhàn, pp. 24-26
Translation from the Bengali rendition available in
Vivekananda O Samakàlãn Bhàratavarùa, Vol.7, pp.460, 462
and 464
Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial Volume, pp. 228-33
Vedanta and the West, 162 (July-August, 1963), pp. 11, 13,
14, 15, 16, 17
Vedanta and the West, 109 (September-October, 1954), p. 11.
Prabuddha Bhàrata, May, 1963, pp. 172-73
From the speech dated 15 January, 1955. Ref.: Translated
from Bengali edition available in Vivekananda O Samakàlãn
Bhàratavarùa, Vol.7, pp. 198-99
The Story of Civilization : Our Oriental Heritage (Simon &
Schuster, New York, 1954), Vol. I, p. 618
ibid., p. 617
‘Recollections of Vivekananda’, Vedanta and the West, 163,
September-October, 1963 (Hollywood: Vedanta Press),
pp. 58-60. Also : Swami Vivekananda in the West : New
Discoveries by Marie Louise Burke (Advaita Ashrama,
Calcutta, 1992), Vol. I, pp. 117-18
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166 Great Thinkers on Ramakrishna-Vivekananda

Pragmatism (Longmans, Green & Co., London, etc., 1913),
Marie Louise Burke, Swami Vivekananda in the West : New
Discoveries, Vol.VI (Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1986), Vol. II,
pp. 554, 556
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