Part I — The disciple and the Master

Vivekananda the wonder-warrior

Sri Ramakrishna’s unstinting Grace and Naren’s volcanic Will combined to create Vivekananda, who created a commotion all over the world. The never-to-be-forgotten words of Sri Aurobindo run:

> ...the Master marked out Vivekananda as the heroic soul destined to take the world between his two hands and change it.

Vivekananda came into the world in an age seething with rank materialism. Spiritual values were at a discount. He held the mighty torch of spirituality high. Exceptional was his clarion call to lead the life of the Spirit. The soul-stirring message of Sri Ramakrishna was embodied in him, in this lion amongst men. And as regards the message of India to the world, “Remember,” declares Vivekananda, “not the Soul for Nature, but Nature for the Soul.”

There is the amusing story that Vivekananda in his childhood, in reply to his father’s query, said that his ambition in life was to become a coachman like the one who loved him much and whose love he reciprocated.

Another anecdote: once in his adolescence he asked his father what he had done for his son. “Go and look into the mirror,” came the prompt reply. Naren obeyed. He looked at his own reflection in the mirror and walked away quietly. Evidently he became convinced that he owed his magnificent personality solely to his father.

Now let us move on to a more significant topic. Tagore was an adorer of beauty, while the dominant trait of Vivekananda was the expression of power. But Vivekananda, too, possessed a deep sense of appreciation of subtle beauty. “Beauty,” says he, “is not external, but already in the mind.” Here we are reminded of what his spiritual daughter Nivedita wrote about her Master. “It was dark when we approached Sicily, and against the sunset sky, Etna was in slight eruption. As we entered the straits of Messina, the moon rose, and I walked up and down the deck beside the Swami, while he dwelt on the fact that beauty is not external, but already in the mind. On one side frowned the dark crags of the Italian coast, on the other, the island was touched with silver light. ‘Messina must thank me,’ he said; ‘it is I who give her all her beauty.’ ”

Truly, in the absence of appreciation, beauty is not beauty at all. And beauty is worthy of its name only when it has been appreciated. Further, they are not many in number who really have the power of appreciating it.

> My tastes are aristocratic; my actions are democratic.

— Victor Hugo

In the realm of spirituality this truth got full manifestation in Vivekananda’s life. His was the heart that pined to realise the lofty Truth, and he did it. But about his actions, we can say that they were democratic; that is, his actions were for the good of humanity at large.

Vivekananda looked upon the world as his dear Motherland, and upon mankind as his true brothers and sisters. Come what may, to serve them was his cherished religion. Religion is a unique thirst for the One and the many. Assimilation and tolerance are the true signs of the greatest religion. Let us not forget Colton: “Men will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; die for it; do anything but live it.”

Religions are like the lines of a poem. As each line is helpful — rather, responsible for the completion of the poem — even so every religion is responsible for the entire fulfilment of the others. And according to Vivekananda religion is never a mere creed, but an ever-living and enlightening experience. How beautifully he unites the two antagonists, the materialist and the spiritualist: “The materialist is right. There is but One. Only he calls that Matter and I call it God.”

It is an undeniable fact that the Western mind has a liking for making plans before it takes up anything. Is it at all advisable? Not in the least, in the opinion of Vivekananda. The Eternal Will is sure to carry out its work at its chosen hour. Once he had to reprove: Nivedita. “Plans! Plans! That is why you Western people can never create a religion! If any of you ever did, it was only a few Catholic saints, who had no plans. Religion was never preached by planners.”

Again, it was Vivekananda who spoke to his Indian brothers about the greatest achievement of the English: “They have known how to combine obedience with self-respect.”

Neither are we to obliterate from our minds his solemn warning to the Westerners that they must never attempt to force upon others that which they have found good for themselves. But his consolation too is very cogent. He elsewhere says, “Never forget that a man is made great and perfect as much by his faults as by his virtues. So we must not seek to rob a nation of its character even if it could be proved that that character was all faults.”

God and men are as inseparable as one’s head and hair. It is our blind stupidity that fails to find the indivisibility of man and God. The gods who are not one of us, who ignore us and look down upon us, can never be our cherished gods. “I would not worship,” Vivekananda boldly exclaims, “even the Greek gods, for they were separate from humanity! Only those should be worshipped who are like ourselves, but greater. The difference between the gods and me must be a difference only of degree.”

“Better to wear out than to rust out.” Vivekananda’s whole body — rather, his earthly life — vibrated with this unique idea. Mother Earth lost him when he was on the right side of forty. But his work? No hyperbole, it can easily be rated as the eighth wonder of the world. Let us cite here his firm conviction with regard to work. “By work alone,” he writes, “men may get to where Buddha got largely by meditation or Christ by prayer. Buddha was a working Jnani, Christ was a Bhakta, but the same goal was reached by both of them.”

His was a life of unimaginable sacrifice. And how can India, his Motherland, dare to forget his message of stupendous sacrifice? “For my own part I will be incarnated two hundred times if that is necessary to do what I have undertaken amongst my people.” At this Sri Ramakrishna, if he had heard his disciple, could have done nothing but clap and dance in supreme ecstasy. For it was this very Naren whose heart ached to remain always in samadhi and whom he had to scold fondly by saying, “I thought you had been born for something greater, my boy!”

> Veni, Vidi, Vici. “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

— Julius Caesar

Nowhere else had this truth been proved so wonderfully as it was in the life of Vivekananda. Caesar conquered only empires, but the spiritual giant of India conquered the heart of mankind. The great emperor was only of an age, but the disciple of Sri Ramakrishna shall shine for all time.

From:Sri Chinmoy,Vivekananda: an ancient silence-heart and a modern dynamism-life, Agni Press, 1993
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