Bharat Ek Khoj

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Vivekanand
(Episode 47)

Nehru records that the real impact of the West came to Bengal in the 19th century through technological changes and their dynamic consequences. The first reaction, limited to the small English-educated middle class, was one of admiration and acceptance of almost everything Western. The counter-attempt by Raja Rammohun Roy was to adapt Hinduism to this new environment and start 'Brahmo Samaj' on rationalist and social reform basis. Another notable reform movement in the late 19th century was by Swami Dayananda Saraswati that struck root in the form of 'Arya Samaj' among the Hindus of the United Province and the Punjab with the slogan: 'Back to the Vedas.'

Another person in Bengal, whose life and precepts considerably influenced the new English-educated classes, was Ramakrishna Paramahansa, simple man who searched for self-realisation. He even met and lived with Muslim and Christian mystics emphasizing: All roods lead to truth. One of his chief disciples was Swami Vivekanand, who founded the non-sectarian Ramakrishna Mission of service.

Young Naren's queries of mystic nature leads him to Ramakrishna at Dakshineshwar, whom he charms with his Nirguna song: O mind, return to your own abode, forsaking your useless sojourn in material worlds as on uninvited stranger...Ramakrishna embraces him as the one for whom he was wating so long. While Naren is eager to experience Nirvikalpa Samadhi (salvation by total absorption in the universal identity), the Master chides him for his self-absorption, rather than be a huge tree to provide refuge to others!

After the Master's demise in 1886, Naren moves to a dilapidated house in Baranagar and leads a life of austerity. At Hathras railway station, he meets Sarat Chandra Gupta who become his first disciple (Swami Sadanand). At Khetri, Maharaja Ajit Singh becomes his friend and disciple, where he listens to a Bhajan from a Baiji and calls her 'mother'.

After traveling through the country for three years, he reaches Kanya Kumari and, to everybody's consternation, swims across the sea to the southernmost rock (Vivekanand Rock) and sits all night in deep meditation. The vast panorama of India passes before his mind's eye with its past, present and future. On return to Khetri, the Maharaja suggests that he should assume the name of 'Vivekanand'. With financial help from his and other, Vivekanand proceeds to America to attend the Parliament of Religions, convened in Chicago, in 1893.

There his address, opening with: 'Sisters and Brothers of America!' Meets with thunderous applause. He declares that like all rivers finding a confluence in the sea, all frligious ultimately end in one common God. Purity, sanctity and cordiality to all are not the property of any one religion. Nehru observes that Vivekanand laid stress on liberty and equality :'Liberty of thousand and action is the only condition in life, of growth and well-being; where it does not exist, the race, the nation must go'.