Vivekananda and his Master4

A popular view is that without Vivekananda Sri Ramakrishna would have remained the Sri Ramakrishna of Bengal; to the wider world he would at most have been a mere name. One may quite reasonably dispute the point, for no spiritual force of Sri Ramakrishna’s dimensions could lose its dynamism and remain confined within the narrow limits of one little province. But it goes without saying that Vivekananda would not have been his mighty self without his child-like, simple, but towering spiritual Master.

The reciprocal appreciation of the greatness of the disciple and the Master found an exceedingly interesting expression in their lives. The former was firmly convinced that millions of Vivekanandas could come into existence at the fiat of his Master, while the latter declared that his Naren was the incarnation of Narayan himself to uplift humanity.

Without Arjuna would the victory of Kurukshetra have been possible? Sri Krishna had to preach the whole Gita to train his disciple, over and above infusing into him his divine force.

Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda appeared in an age more advanced. Hence the Master could much more easily make of Naren what he intended him to be.

In the life of Narendranath we notice two instances in which Matter submitted to Spirit. The young Narendranath, steeped in agnosticism, accepting matter and doubting the existence of the supreme Spirit, would question people who seemed to be advanced in spirituality as to whether they had direct vision of God. Maharshi Devendranath, father of Tagore, attempted thrice in vain to answer the query of the bold young man, and at last said, “You possess the eyes of a Yogi.”

This very Narendranath fell at the hallowed feet of Sri Ramakrishna, who was a veritable embodiment of Spirit, and who saw Spirit permeating Matter.

As a contrast, the supremely materialistic America practically bowed down before Vivekananda, who stood there as the spiritual representative of the East.

His was a life of numerous miracles. At the age of eight he entered into trance for the first time! He was only thirty years old when America — nay, the West — found the spiritual giant in him! In his childhood and boyhood he condemned women terribly. But in his later years he fought like a giant for the progress of Indian womanhood! We may, however, hold that in his earlier days Vivekananda was afraid not of woman but of temptation. It took six long years for him to make his proud head bow to the Mother Kali. And when his surrender was complete he opened his devoted lips: “All my patriotism is gone. Everything is gone. Now it’s only Mother, Mother!”

I am sure my purpose will be best served if I just reproduce his own words about Kali. “How I used to hate Kali!” Vivekananda said, “and all Her ways. That was the ground of my six years’ fight — that I would not accept Her. But I had to accept Her at last. Ramakrishna Paramahansa dedicated me to Her, and now I believe that She guides me in every little thing I do, and does with me what She wills.”

Vivekananda ruthlessly looked down upon the so-called miracles that create a commotion in the minds of people. “I look upon miracles as the greatest stumbling block in the way of truth. When the disciples of Buddha told him of a man who had performed a so-called miracle — and showed him the bowl, he took it and crushed it under his feet and told them never to build their faith on miracles, but to look for truth in everlasting principles. He showed them the inner light — the Light of the Spirit, which is the only safe light to go by. Miracles are only stumbling blocks. Let us brush them aside.

To show surprise at anything amounts to a tacit expression of ignorance, and hence of weakness. “Never show surprise,” such was the command of Viswanath Dutta to his son Naren when he was in his teens. The son acted according to his father’s instructions from that very day until the end of his life. He spent years at the foot of the silence-hushed and snow-capped Himalayas during his itinerancy. He met people drawn from all sections of society — from the lowest to the highest. He came in close contact with the poorest and the richest of the world. In spite of striking differences in the world, surprise could never take shelter in his all-conceiving eyes.

Perfection is the only choice for a man treading the path of spirituality. Perfection and infinite bliss run abreast. True happiness lies nowhere else except in perfection. But how to achieve this perfection? Vivekananda shows us a unique way to achieve the impossible. He writes: “If we can distinguish well between quality and substance, we may become perfect men.”

Sweetness and happiness are rarely found in carrying out earthly duties. No human being must be judged by the nature of his duties, but by the manner and the spirit in which he discharges them. What is our duty and what is not our duty has been the most puzzling, the most intricate problem to solve since the dawn of civilisation. But the bold statement made by Vivekananda solves it in a very easy manner: “Any action that makes us go Godward is a good action, and that is our duty; any action that makes us go downward is evil, and that is not our duty.” And we may further add to it that in order to advance in life, it is our duty to have faith in ourselves first and then in the Divine. Everybody must remember the undeniable truth that without having faith in oneself one can never have faith in God.

ILS 114. Appeared in the Hindusthan Standard, India, April 15, 1962