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Finding Vivekananda

Finding Vivekananda

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Swami Vivekananda

Vivekananda’s life teaches us ways to attain spiritualism staying in the boundaries of the society. We share this short narrative on Vivekananda’s teachings on the occasion of his birth Anniversary which was on 12th of January.

An Indian man was found sleeping on a tram somewhere in America. The tram went round the entire circle but the man did not get up or move. This man was Swami Vivekananda and he was not sleeping, he was meditating. Back in India, as Sister Nivedita records, Swamiji used to meditate and the whole of his body was covered with mosquitoes, but he was so immersed in deep meditation that he did not feel them at all. When we see Swamiji’s life, we do not find any specific period of tapasya or sadhana, but if you see his whole life was surrounded by intense concentration which for anyone else is unthinkable. 

There is an interesting story from 1890. Swamiji was in Meerut and he used to subscribe to books from the local library. Every day he used to subscribe to a book and return the same the next day. The librarian doubted if at all Swamiji was reading it. When he questioned Swamiji he requested the librarian to ask any question from any book. To the librarian’s surprise, Swamiji answered all, and that too with the specific page number. Such was his concentration level that he could read an entire page in a fraction of a second.

Another example of his concentration can be observed when we study the Chicago shooting incident. A group of young boys were trying to shoot some eggshells which floated in the river. They failed mostly as the shells were moving with the waves. Swamiji who was keenly observing was approached by the boys to try shooting. He fired 12 times missing none of the shoots. The young boys assumed him to be an experienced shooter and asked him how long does he practice. Swamiji laughed and said this was his first experience. Later he explained to the boys that every task is attainable if one concentrates on it properly.

Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religion, Chicago
Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religion, Chicago

We all know about his famous speech in Chicago. Interestingly The New York Herald reported and I quote ‘Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in Parliament of religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation.’  So what was it that made this man so great, and what was his ideology, his philosophy? Let us understand.

Well, religion is a complex and diverse matter. If one studies Adi Shankaracharya’s philosophy it says Brahma Satya Jagath Mithya Jiva Brahmaiva naparah meaning only Brahmana/God is the reality the rest is mithya or an illusion and is just an appearance. On the other hand, Ramanuj Acharya’s philosophy says God is purnam or Amshi and jevas are amsham or parts. Again the philosophy of Adwaitovadis and the Madhyacharya says one is also real many are also real and they are different. In between this complexity comes Vivekananda who says all is true, many and the one are the same reality seen by the same mind at different times at different attitudes. This is the key that will unlock the various dimensions of Swamiji’s teachings. 

Swamiji was a master in separating these two dimensions. The very word Vivekananda comes from the word Viveca which is from the Sanskrit root Vivich which means separate. Swami Ramakrishnaji in a beautiful salutation to this great man says… 

‘‘Anitya Drishyeshu Vivichya Nityam

Tasmin Samadhatta Iha-sma-leelayah

Viveka vairagya vishuddha chittam

Yoshau Viveki Tamaham Namami”

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 …which explains the ability of Swamiji to separate the unchanging luminous in this mass of changing many-fold world which we see. 

Swami Vivekananda’s teaching says there are two extremes, those who feel I shall retire to a Himalayas cave and meditate ignoring the world he has missed the way. Similarly, the one who plunges headlong into the enjoyment of the world he too has missed the way. Swamiji teaches us to follow the ancient Vedanta teaching which says īśā vāsyamidaṁ sarvaṁ yatkiñca jagatyāṁ jagat, tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā mā gṛdhaḥ kasyasviddhanam. So the way out is to be in the world and find God in it, find God in all the living beings. He taught Jibe prem kore jai jon shai jon shabiche ishwar meaning one who loves living beings loves God. 

What is spirituality? 

Swamiji says to see God in this world, the one reality is appearing in many forms in front of you, recognize the existing reality. As you close your eyes you find peace within and merge with one, and as you open your eyes you give peace to your surroundings. Life itself is religion and recognizing that is spirituality. 

Swamiji’s teaching of Karma is not about getting divorced but about expressing gayana and bhakti through karma. Swamiji describes Art, Science and Religion are all expressing the same truth. That is why perhaps he insisted on opening up schools and hospitals alongside centers for worship. He wanted the young generation to raise to this truth of Karma Yoga and not just Bhakti Yoga.

We share this with our readers on the occasion of his birth anniversary which was on the 12th of January. May Swamiji’s teachings help us to form a better world.

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