04 June 2011

Narendranath Dutta



India has been a fertile soil for spiritual quests since time immemorial and not surprisingly has proved to be the land of birth of many philosophical ideas, religions and sects. Many great saints have appeared and continue to appear since the commonly accepted belief here is that God’s mercy does not end with time and space.

In the coming weeks, I am going to take up the ‘best of what I have read’ among the teachings of one great man who had a great influence on my religious thoughts; a man who lived for only 39 years, literally traveled all over the west and captivated the minds of people by his inspiring speeches. He was befittingly called the “Prophet of modern India” and as an “Orator by divine right”. That man was none other than Narendranath Dutt of Bengal, who adopted the name 'Vivekananda' only at the moment of his departure for America in 1893. As you all know, he was the most favourite disciple of Ramakrishna, the King of Ecstasy. He came into limelight at the Chicago Conference on Religions when he was only 31 years old, but left this word rather prematurely, before he could cross 40. Considering the amount of work he did, is it not surprising to know that Vivekananda’s ministry lasted only for a decade?

To surmise, Naren was born in Calcutta in 1863, met Ramakrishna in 1881, began an exploratory tour of India in 1890, meditated on one of the twin rocks at Kanyakumari in 1892, participated in the famous World Parliament of Regions as ‘Vivekananda’ in 1893, returned to India in 1897 and died in 1902.

Ramakrishna Mission has published all works and sayings of Swami Vivekananda in a nine volume series, each book containing about 500 pages. I purchased these volumes in 1998 from a railway station “Ramakrishna Mission” book stall at Vijayawada (if I remember correctly). The reason I purchased these volumes that time was not because of any particular interest in Swami Vivekananda, but largely because the entire series was available for a mere 200 rupees! வெறும் 200 ரூபாய் மட்டும்! My interest in comparative religion had only just begun and I was of course looking forward to new thoughts, answers and explanations to my long pending doubts and questions on the necessity of so many spiritual ideas and religions in the world. Fortunately, these books called the “Complete Works of Vivekananda” turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me. Vivekananda’s teachings are simply brilliant to say the least and his thoughts and explanations proved to be a perfect foil for my wavelengths of enquiry.

Before I take up the first volume of the nine volume work next week, let me first present here with the following sayings of Vivekananda on WHAT RELIGION ACTUALLY MEANS…..
  • Every religion of the world owes its origin to the country between the Ganga and the Euphrates.
  • If there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will have no location on place or time.
  • The greatest misfortune to befall the world would be if all mankind were to recognize and accept but one religion, one universal form of worship
  • All the religions, from the lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, mean so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realise the Infinite.
  • One infinite religion existed all through eternity and will ever exist, and this religion is expressing itself in various countries in various ways
  • We must not forget that there will come after us who will laugh at our ideas of religion and God in the same way that we laugh at those of the ancients.
  • The old religions said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is the atheist who does not believe in himself.
  • And that universal religion about which philosophers and others have dreamed in every country already exists. It is here.
  • Mankind ought to be taught that religions are but the varied expressions of THE RELIGION, which is Oneness.
And also…….
  • The fear of God is the beginning of religion, but the love of God is the end of religion.
  • Religion is the manifestation of the Divinity already in man
  • The man who is frightened into religion has no religion at all.
  • Religion is being and becoming, not hearing or acknowledging. It is not an intellectual assent; but one's whole nature becoming changed into it. Such is religion.
  • There are differences in non-essentials, but in essentials they [religions] are all one.
  • Religion is a question of being and becoming, not of believing.
  •  All religions are different expressions of the same truth
  • We may read all the Bibles in the world, but that will not give us religion.
  • Books never make religions, but religions make books.
  • When it was discovered that 'I and my Father are one' the last word was said of religion.
His teachings having captivated my heart and soul, I promptly chose him for my blog as my icon for discussions on comparative religion, besides Valluvar as my icon for studies in comparative literature. Further readings on Vivekananda can be had from this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swami_Vivekananda

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