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Archive for the ‘Vivekananda’ Category

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Ahead of Swami Vivekananda’s 155th birth anniversary, Sonia Sarkar reports on Hindutva’s concerted bid to co-opt him and how unfitting that effort is

Last February a group of students congregated at the foot of the life-size statue of Swami Vivekananda in Delhi University’s Arts Faculty complex. The black sculpture of the 19th century sage-philosopher is modelled on the famed Chicago pose – turban on head, buttoned up robe, sash around waist, head at an angle, square jaw and bulky frame creating an aura of confidence and composure, folded arms suggest a stolid defence, and making benign the overall effect, a pair of soulful eyes. One T.J. Desai, who was associated with the establishment of the early Vedanta circle in London and had attended Vivekananda’s lectures, had commented – he looked more prince and less sadhu.

That day at Delhi Univer-sity (DU), slogans such as “Hindustan me rehna hoga, Vande Mataram kehna hoga” and “Bharat ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko” filled the air. The next thing you knew, a scuffle had broken out between the ABVP crowd and the Left-wing students’ organisation of DU’s Ramjas College. The issue: JNU student leader Umar Khalid, a virulent opponent of the RSS-BJP led Right-wing, had been invited to speak at a literary event in the college.

The invitation to Khalid was cancelled, but a year hence, ABVP’s national media convener Saket Bahuguna tells The Telegraph, “Vivekananda stood for unity and integrity of the country. We were protesting against someone who believes in breaking up India.”

A comparison of the original 1893 Thomas Harrison photograph of Vivekananda taken at Chicago and DU’s stone rendition reveals a difference. The eyes of the statue are narrowed, the brows a wee bit more angular. Is the mouth also a bit too firm? Is this Vivekananda more warrior than sadhu?

Icons are supposed to help beam onto the masses a particular ideology, emblazon in people’s minds the dominant thought of the times, also checkmate icons of the previous regime. Ever since it assumed power in 2014, the BJP government has been working to create its own iconography.

But not many Indians are aware what V.D. Savarkar or Deendayal Upadhyaya or M.S. Golwalkar look like. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is not invisible, but not visible enough. After Ram perhaps, Vivekananda is the only other icon in the BJP-RSS quiver with an already accepted visual identity and a recall value.

Besides, there is that ready-made saffron hue; the famed Chicago story – the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions and a dashing Hindu rep; and, of course, the echo of a name. In 2016, BJP’s national general secretary Ram Madhav said, “Narendras tend to be courageous,” drawing a parallel between the PM Narendra Modi and Vivekananda, who was born Narendranath Dutta.

As professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Pennsylvania’s Elizabethtown College, Jeffery D. Long, puts it, “It is convenient for the Right-wingers to invoke Vivekananda because he is universally accepted. It is easier to convince people about your agenda or ideology if you cite him in favour of the point of view you propagate.”

Not one to miss an opportunity that might gain traction, yield more votes, the BJP does just that. Today, Vivekananda’s face powers countless campaigns – Swachh Bharat, women’s empowerment… References to him abound in the PM’s speeches – be it at the US Congress or in his radio show, Mann Ki Baat. Three years ago, a webpage was launched by the Centre to mark the 152nd Birth Anniversary of Vivekananda on January 12, which is also celebrated as National Youth Day. Some will recall how way back in 2012, Modi did a “Vivekananda Yuva Vikas Yatra” before the Gujarat Assembly elections, wherein a statue of Vivekananda was rolled out atop a chariot. In 2014, a comic book titled Bal Narendra was released – it also features stories of the “fearless” young Narendra reading books on Vivekananda.

In truth, though, it was Rajiv Gandhi who declared Vivekananda’s birthday as National Youth Day in 1984; there are extensive writings on him by Jawaharlal Nehru; Mahatma Gandhi spoke extensively about him, even visited Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission. But all of these are conscious and deliberate omissions by Right-wingers who have decided to foist Vivekananda on the general Indian consciousness as the flagbearer of Hindutva ideology.

And that’s problematic because?

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Because they are half-truths, extrapolations. Because they are merely imposing their brand of Hindutva onto him.

The appropriation of Vivekananda did not happen overnight. The RSS’s first mega Vivekananda project was the construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in 1970 at Kanyakumari. It was the initiative of RSS heavyweight Eknath Ranade. The Vivekananda statue in DU was set up in 1978, when BJP leader Vijay Goel was the Delhi University Students’ Union president. In 1993, during the centenary celebrations for Vivekananda’s Chicago speech, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal had said that the demolition of Babri Masjid would be recorded in “letters of gold” and Hindus would not rest till the Ram Mandir was built.

This yolking of man, agenda and event was grossly unfair, but there it was. In 2009, a Right-wing think tank, Vivekananda International Foundation, was established in Delhi under the aegis of the charitable organisation, Vivekananda Kendra, run by Ranade. Among its lead cast used to be Ajit Doval, currently the national security adviser.

 A pose, a speech, a robe, a name, some quotes – it is possible to reduce Vivekananda to tropes, except that the man was much more. The evidence is in his upbringing and education. The evidence lies in his written and spoken word.According to a bio-sketch in the Dictionary of National Biography, 1974, Vivekananda’s home atmosphere was a blend of modernism and orthodoxy. His brother, Bhupendranath, has written about how their father “was a respecter of the Bible and the Diwan-i-Hafiz”, for which he was criticised by many. He writes, “If it be a sin to be a student of comparative religion and to respect all cults, then Biswanath [Vivekananda’s father] had undoubtedly committed that sin.” Their mother, Bhuvaneswari Devi, who made an abiding impression on Vivekananda, was a devout Hindu.

So far as formal education goes, Narendranath did BA from Scottish Church College, and thereafter studied Law – he did not take the final examinations, though. He was widely read, hugely invested in social reforms and knowledgeable about the Vedas. “He was a reformer and criticised prevalent practices of Hindu religion just as he might be critical of Christian or Islamic religious practices,” says historian Mridula Mukherjee.

Did Vivekananda put a premium on Hindusim? Yes, he did. According to Jeffery Long, Vivekananda was convinced that if Hindus could awaken to their past greatness, they could live with dignity and pride in their traditions. But Long also makes it clear that this did not translate into hatred for other traditions.

Vivekananda did say of Islam that it was a religion that had “shed so much blood” and “been cruel to other men”, but he also said this – “For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam – Vedanta brain and Islam body – is the only hope. I see in my mind’s eye the future perfect India rising out of this…”

And when Vivekananda spoke about Hinduism, he did not use the word “Hindutva” – that was a coinage of Savarkar. “Vivekananda warned against the forces of sectarianism and bigotry and invoked the Bhagavad Gita to emphasise the message of universal acceptance. But not many understand it,” says Veena Howard, a trustee member of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a global interfaith body.

In recent times, Hindu groups have been using Vivekananda to force-feed their neo-nationalism. The way it works is, they proceed by negation. They define things that are considered anti-national, such as denouncing Western culture, beef eating… And every time, they push down people’s throats a theory, they invoke Vivekananda. “Vivekananda realised that Western culture was not good for him.” (He actually spoke against Western Imperialism.) “Vivekananda said eating beef is disgusting.” (He actually conceded that Brahmins at some point ate beef; he also said it was allowable for people who work hard, but not for those who are going to be bhaktas.)

Long points out that the word “nationalism” is used only once in Swami Vivekananda’s Complete Works, and that too in reference to European nationalism; but there are a number of references to “patriotism” – not surprising given the immediate context was the freedom movement.

In Bengal, the BJP has turned Vivekananda into a people bait. In 2013, Modi meditated in Vivekananda’s room in Belur Math. In 2017, BJP president Amit Shah went to Vivekananda’s north Calcutta house to pay tribute. The RSS organised a film festival in Calcutta titled “Manush Chai” to promote “nationalism and Indian ethos”. The posters had on them Vivekananda’s image and a famous quote – “Give me hundred energetic young men and I shall transform India.” The saffron forces are actually body-shopping.

Of course, Bengal state general secretary of the RSS, Jisnu Basu, says, “Our mission is man-making. We want the youth to make this country prosperous just as Vivekananda wanted. That was the essence of the festival too.”

And while there are murmurs of protest, there has been no concentrated effort, no strong voice objecting to this misappropriation of Vivekananda. Internationally, however, there have been stray efforts to resuscitate his teachings of acceptance and inclusiveness.

In 2013, on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary, Australian playwright and director Alex Broun’s play, Oneness – Voice without form, was staged at the Sydney Opera House. He tells The Telegraph over email, “The play carried the message of Vedanta that all religions in essence are same.”

Actors from nine countries including Sri Lanka and Palestine came together to perform. Calcutta-based actor-singer Shaheb Chattopadhyay played the lead. He speaks about how Vivekananda’s idea of oneness was reflected in the play as it had actors of different nationalities and faiths “coming under one roof for one purpose”. He adds, “Each one of us brought in his idea of love, peace and acceptance.”

Chattopadhyay makes another observation. He tells us how the play was staged in Australia and Dubai, but did not find any sponsors in Calcutta. He says, “It is so unfortunate that nobody is keen to sponsor a play on Vivekananda in his birthplace. That clearly reflects the apathy of the people.”

Indeed, it is one thing for the forces of Hindutva to misappropriate Vivekananda, quite another thing to let them do so.

Or, eventually, for them to be able to.

(This story was published in The Telegraph, January 7, 2018 — https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/narendra-s-grab-on-narendra-199108)

 

Here are the interviews of Calcutta-based actor-singer Shaheb Chattopadhyay and Australian playwright and director Alex Broun.

Shaheb Chattopadhyay played the lead in Broun’s “Oneness — voice without form”, a play based on the life of Swami Vivekananda. Chattopadhyay, who received standing ovation from the audience at the historic Sydney Opera House and at Brisbane for his impressive performance in September 2013, calls it the most memorable experience of his acting career so far. Broun says, Chattopadhyay’s resemblance to Vivekananda in voice, stature and appearance is truly remarkable. A marvellous singer, Chattopadhyay also sang two songs in the play.  Many would know, Vivekananda himself was a very good singer.

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Pic: Shaheb Chattopadhyay with Dana Dajani, a Palestinian actor who played Sister Nivedita in the play at Sydney Opera House (September 2013).

Excerpts from Shaheb Chattopadhyay’s telephonic interview.

Q. What was so special about performing in ‘Oneness’?

A. It was an experience of a lifetime for me. It would always remain special for me, personally and professionally.

I was going through a personal crisis when I had to leave for Australia for nearly two months for the play in 2013. My father was suffering from a terminal illness; I was in two minds — whether to go or not. But my father said, the show must go on and I must perform. He promised, he will be there for me when I am back and he did keep his promise. When I came back, I showed him the recording of our performance at Brisbane; he was thrilled. It was a highly emotional moment for both of us.

(His father passed away in January the next year).

Professionally, I would say, this has been one of the most significant works of my career, so far. Working with actors from nine different countries — playing Vivekananda at the Sydney Opera House in front of international audience — receiving huge applause from them — it was a fantastic experience.

Q. How did the play bring in Vivekananda’s idea of oneness? How did your co-artists see him?

A. The idea of Vivekananda’s “oneness” was reflected in the play as actors of different nationalities, culture and religious beliefs came under one roof for one purpose. Each one of us brought in Vivekananda’s idea of love, peace, tolerance and acceptance. Also, all the co-artists looked prepared. They read his teachings extensively, they knew what he stood for.

 Q. How do you see the relevance of Vivekananda and his “oneness” in today’s divisive India?

A. Vivekananda spoke about acceptance but we have failed to understand what he stood for. In India, we are becoming extremely divisive and intolerant. It is unfortunate that what we are witnessing today is what Vivekananda had feared India will become, more than 100 years ago.

Q.How do you see the appropriation of Vivekananda by certain political parties in our country?

A. Politicians are using Vivekananda’s name and image for pocket interests. It’s nothing but a political gimmick.  I am not sure how many of them actually understand Vivekananda in true sense.

Q. Do you plan to stage the play in India?

A. I have been trying to get sponsorship for the play in Calcutta but failed. It clearly shows the apathy of the people. It is one thing to invoke Vivekananda in speeches or use his image in political events and it is another thing to actually make an effort to understand him through a genuine piece of work on him.

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Interview with Alex Broun

Fifty-two-year-old Australian playwright and screenwriter, Alex Broun has worked extensively with short and sweet, a series of theatre festivals for productions of ten minutes or less. Born in Sydney, Australia, he has been referred to as “the Shakespeare of short plays.” Oneness – Voice without form was commissioned by the Vedanta Society of New South Wales in honour of the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.

(Excerpts from the E-mail interview with Alex Broun

Q. Why did you write this play? What influenced you to explore Swami Vivekananda?

A. Oneness – Voice without form was commissioned by the Vedanta Society of New South Wales in honour of the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. The play was designed to be the centerpiece of celebrations in Australia.

The play was extremely challenging to write as the Vedanta Society wanted the play to not only tell the extraordinary story of Vivekananda’s life but also encapsulate his teachings. The play also had to address his spiritual journey, which is something very unusual in Australian theatre, though more common place in Indian theatre. Vivekananda was also a renowned singer, so the play also had to give focus to that facet of his character.

After numerous consultations with the Swamis (monks) and Pravrajikas (nuns) and considerable research I decided to break the play up into four parts or acts: Vivekanandas early life as Naren; his meeting with Ramakrishna and spiritual awakening; his travels to the west, including his history making speech at the Parliament of Religions; and his return to India, where he set up the Ramakrishna Mission.

Along the way the play charted the important moments, relationships and events of his life. Although naturalistic in form the play also encompasses visual elements of movement and dance, traditional in Indian theatre, that needed to be considered when writing the play.

The play was developed through readings and workshops over a 12-month period between July 2012 and June 2013. Devotees, Swamis and Pravrajikas attended workshops of the play to give their input and feedback on the script.

It was a joyous and wonderful process to work on the play and definitely one of the highlights of my career in the theatre. It was such an important story to tell and I’m honoured I got the chance to tell it.

The play enjoyed sold out performances when it was presented at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney and at BEMAC in Brisbane. It also had a very successful season in Dubai in 2015. We hope to re-mount it again in the future.

My play is not the definitive story of Vivekananda. Hopefully many different versions of this story will be continued to be told throughout the ages.

Q.  How do you see the relevance of Vivekananda in today’s world where there is an overall rise of right-wing? Do you think creative artists and academic experts need to explore Vivekananda more in such troubled times?

A. The story of Swami Vivekananda is a truly remarkable one – and his message of oneness still as powerful as ever. How can this brilliant young man from Kolkata have affected the world and our lives so deeply? It is something everyone involved in our production was touched with since they began working on the play. Is it because his words carry such basic human truths, expressed in such heart felt lyrical phrases? Vivekananda offers us a path to peace – we simply need to open our arms and embrace it.

It was a great challenge to portray the character of Swami Vivekananda and I spent many hours reading through his complete works for many months. One man’s struggle to search for enlightenment – his life was really quite extraordinary.

He is a great character someone who wanted to find God and how he struggled to spread the message of his Guru Swami Ramakrishna. How he impressed people like John D Rockfeller and Sara Bernhardt in those days, who became his disciples. He is a great character on stage.

It took a lot of time and thought to put his life into a script, something that will carry the message of Vedanta – that all religions in essence are same though their paths may be different, with the aim to ultimately find spiritual enlightenment. Especially in today’s world which is full of tension due only to religions.

Vivekananda swept away the division and tensions between different sects and faiths. His was a doctrine of tolerance, inclusivity and compassion.

I think everyone in life – artist, teacher, politician, academic – can draw something from the teachings of Vivekananda, especially in these complex and difficult times.

There is so much friction in the world due to the concept of ‘otherness’ – Vivekananda was all about tearing down those barriers

 Q. There is a growing intolerance towards Islam – do you think Vivekananda’s teachings on religion is important to remember to fight such intolerance?

A. Absolutely. In Oneness his feisty US supporter Kate Sanborn asks him: “What is the best religion?” To which Vivekananda replies: “Choose whichever you wish – but please don’t presume to be wise enough to say that your choice is good and all others are bad.”

Such perfect and simple words which ring true now as much as they did when he uttered them over a century ago. How much more peaceful and prosperous the world would be if everyone could just embrace this message?

There is also another story where Vivekananda acknowledges and praises an Islamic holy man, much to the surprise of his fellow monks.

Vivekananda saw all religions as one – different pathways to the same destination. This vision is a treasure we must hold in our hearts on a daily basis.

Q. Would you like to stage the play in India?

A. Absolutely. We would love to stage the play in India and it would be great to see Shaheb’s portrayal come to life in Vivekananda’s homeland.

The play relates to all Hindu and Indian communities as well as all followers of Vivekananda, as well as all those interested in Vedantic principles and beliefs – so I’m sure there would be a great demand.

I hope we get a chance to re-stage it across India.

Q.  The lady who played Nivedita was a Palestinian actor Dana Dajani. what a wonderful choice- I would say. I am sure her religion was certainly not a problem to cast her. Did you think twice of her religion before casting her?

A. It was important when we staged the play that the cast represented many nationalities and beliefs – to reflect the universality of Vivekananda’s teachings and life.

When we staged the play in Australia it was performed by a mixture of professional actors, including leading Bengali actor Shaheb Chattopadhyay (who was brought in to play the older Vivekananda) and Dana Dajani (who was brought in to play Sister Nivedita), and local devotees of Vivekananda and members of the local Hindu community.

Dana is a Dubai based Muslim actress, who played the role of sister Nivedita. The Holy mother was played by Isaro Kayitsi while a South African actor Robert Rhode played Swami Ramakrishna.

The play has such a varied and multicultural cast, which was special as they were all deeply touched by the life story of this great man who changed the world through his message.”

It was a life changing experience for us all who are involved in the project.

Q. How was it working with Shaheb Chattopadhyay?

A. It was great to work with Shaheb whose resemblance to Vivekananda in voice, stature and appearance is truly remarkable. He also reprised the role in Dubai where again he was extraordinary.

ENDS

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Swami Vivekananda was a man of many parts. It’s impossible to understand him in totality by reading a few selected quotes or just his much celebrated speech at the Parliament of World’s Religions at Chicago in 1893. The more you read him, the more you realise, it is not enough. Indians, largely know, Vivekananda through various interpretations, and misinterpretations of his teachings, letters and speeches.

Hindu groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) do quote Vivekananda every time they want to emphasise their “Hindutva” ideology. He is being seen as the champion of Hindu nationalism but the fact is the word ‘nationalism’ is only used once in Swami Vivekananda’s Complete Works, and that in reference to European nationalism.

“There are a number of references to ‘patriotism’ in his works, some positive and some negative. The positive references all relate to the Indian independence movement, still in its early stages in his time. The negative one’s relate to patriotism’s limitedness and partiality,” says Professor Jeffery D. Long, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies
Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

“The big issue in regard to Hindu nationalism today, it seems, relates to fear and hatred of other religious communities. This issue, Vivekananda addresses very strongly throughout his works, emphasizing the unity and harmony of religions, and the ideal not only of tolerance, which he says is insufficient, but of acceptance,” Long who is writing a book titled, ‘Arise! Awake! Swami Vivekananda Speaks to the Twenty-first Century,’ adds.

Long says Vivekananda’s teaching is far too complex, profound, and expansive to be fit easily into any political party, program, or slogan.  Given his emphasis on restoring Hindu pride specifically (and Indian pride more generally) during the period of British imperial rule, it is quite understandable that adherents of Hindutva, who also want to assert Hindu pride, would find a champion in him.  But simply to equate his teaching with Hindutva is, in my opinion, simplistic, whether this is being done by adherents of Hindutva or by their critics.

Many adherents of Hindutva who admire Swami Vivekananda are deeply critical of Mahatma Gandhi.  Yet there is much overlap between their ideals, and Vivekananda was a direct and strong inspiration and influence on Gandhi, who even tried to meet with Vivekananda when Vivekananda was on his deathbed.  The same Swami Vivekananda who sought to inspire pride in Hindus also said, “My master [Sri Ramakrishna] used to say that these names, as Hindu, Christian, etc., stand as great bars to all brotherly feelings between man and man. We must try to break them down first. They have lost all their good powers and now only stand as baneful influences under whose black magic even the best of us behave like demons.”

Here are some more examples where Vivekananda’s views have been distorted by the Hindu groups.

Religion

Hindu groups do invoke Vivekananda when they talk about nationalism. Let’s see what Vivekananda said: “…true nationalism in India can only be based on unity of religion. The problems in India are more complicated, more momentous, than the problems in any other country. Race, religion, language, government – all these together make a nation. The one common ground that we have is our sacred tradition, our religion. That is the only common ground….”

“The unity of religion is therefore absolutely necessary as the first condition of the future of India. There must be the recognition of one religion throughout the length and breadth of this land. What do I mean by one religion? Not in the sense of one religion as held among the Christians or the Mohammedans or the Buddhists… We know that our religion has certain common ground, common to all our sects, however, varying their consciousness may be , however different their claims may be. So there are certain common grounds; and within their limitations this religion of ours admits of a marvelous variation , an infinite amount of liberty to think and live our own lives.”

In today’s India, Hindu parties have been only using the religion to divide the country. But for him, Hinduism is a religion which accepted others. He said, “our watchword will be acceptance and not exclusion.” He added, “Not only toleration  but also acceptance. Toleration means that I think that you are wrong and I am just allowing you to live.I believe in acceptance. I accept all religions that were in the past and worship them all.

I worship God with every one of them in whatever form they worship Him. I shall go to the mosque of the Mohammedans; I shall enter the Christian’s Church and kneel before the Crucifix. I shall take refuge in a Buddhist temple where I shall take refuge in Buddha and in his law. I shall go into the forest and sit down in meditation with the Hindu, who is trying to see the Light which enlightens the heart of everyone.”

Beef

The Hindu groups have unleashed their goons on the road to kill Dalits and Muslims for allegedly skinning cows and eating beef. And on several national platforms, the Hindu leaders would invoke Vivekananda to defend how eating beef is not permissible in India.

But read what exactly Vivekananda said on beef-eating :

“The Brahmins at one time ate beef and married Sudras…calf was killed to please a guest. Sudras cooked for Brahmins.”

“You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to the old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it. That is disgusting now. However they may differ from each other in India, in that they are all one — they never eat beef. The ancient sacrifices and the ancient gods, they are all gone; modern India belongs to the spiritual part of the Vedas.”

“If we did not eat beef and mutton, there would be no butchers. Eating meat is only allowable for people who do very hard work, and who are not going to be Bhaktas; but if you are going to be Bhaktas, you should avoid meat.” — So beef-eating is a no-no for Bhaktas!

Sita – the ideal woman

For example, it is true that Vivekananda held Sita as an ideal woman, a fact that Hindu groups love to acknowledge because they too think Sita was ideal and all Indian women should be like her. But they don’t tell the world that , Vivekananda also said, he would not impose any idea on the educated women leaving them to make their own decisions.  He writes, “With such education women will solve their own problems. They have all the time been trained in helpless, servile dependence on others and so they are good only to weep at the slightest approach of a mishap or danger. Along with other things, they should acquire the spirit of valour and heroism. In the present day it has become necessary for them also to learn self-defence.

Western culture

One would often hear the RSS ideologues asking Indian youth to denounce Western culture; here again, they invoke Vivekananda for this to make a stronger argument. But read what Vivekananda had to say about the West. In his various teachings, Vivekananda has expressed his gratitude to the British for giving India a centralized administration, for helping to destroy caste privilege for opening our eyes to the wonders of the world outside; for introducing material science and philosophy for bringing us out of the narrow shell in which we had confined ourselves.

“Make a European society with India’s religion” – is what he said, former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru writes.

He had no mercy for exploitative trader and the “ruthless bureaucrat who had starved us and impoverished the country and from his philosophic heights he cursed the blood-suckers who one day have to face the Vengeance of History (Source : Vivekananda and Aurobindo  in Swami Vivekananda and Indian Nationalism– by SC Sen Gupta).

How critics misconstrued Vivekananda’s teachings —

As Long says, just like Hindu groups, the anti-Hindu groups have also failed to understand Vivekananda.

Caste system

Vivekananda’s critics say, he was a great defender of caste-system.  It is true that Vivekananda said, castes should not go.  But he also said, “Human society is in turn governed by the four castes, the priests, the soldiers, the traders and the labourers… the first three had their day. Now is the time for the last – they must have it—none can resist it.”Vivekananda, in one of his letters written in 1896, declared himself as a  socialist. “I am a socialist,” said he, “not because I think it is  a perfect system but half a loaf id better than no bread.”

Islam

It is quite easy for his critics to call him communal because he spoke against Islam by calling it a religion which “has shed so much blood” and “been cruel to other men.” But it is important to note that he also said,  “Hinduism and Islam — Vedanta brain and Islam body — is the only hope.”

He said :

“For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam – Vedanta brain and Islam body – is the only hope. …we want to lead mankind to the place where there is neither the Vedas, not the Bible, or the Koran, yet this has to be done by harmonizing the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran. Mankind ought to be taught that religions are but the varied expressions of The Religion which is Oneness, so that each may choose the path that suits him best.”

The moral of the story is neither believe the Hindutva forces who claim to be the real inheritors of Vivekananda’s legacy, nor believe his critics who outrightly reject his writings by labelling him as “communal”. Visit a nearby library to read his teachings instead!

ENDS


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