Vivekananda's triumph of the idea of service to humanity over desire for complete self-realisation

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Vivekananda's triumph of the idea of service to humanity over desire for complete self-realisation

Wednesday, 12 January 2022 | Amardeep Yadav and Hitendra Anupam

The Spiritual Union of Ramkrishna and Narendra Nath (Vivekananda) is symbolic of the meeting of the Ancient culture with modern age.

At the time of meeting Ramkrishna, Vivekananda represented the searching, analytical, rationalistic, truth seeking and vigorous spirit of the West. He had mastard different systems of Western philosophy.

 He had tried the impassioned pantheism of Shelley, spiritualism of Wordsworth, was also attracted towards pure monism of Vedanta and the objective ideallism of Hegel together with the basic ideas of of Liberty, equality and fraternity.

He had asked so far from many renowned, seers and saints whether they had seen God but always had received ambiguous answers, until the firm affirmative reply of Ramkrishna that Yes he has seen him.

For the first time he realised that religion was a reality to be felt, to be sensed in an infinitely more intense way then we can sense the world.

But Vivekanand's inner life became a field of conflict between his domineering intellect and spiritually disposed heart. It was his this heart that had resisted, his intellect's unrestricted march towards the ideas of the modern West, and it was his intellect that stood in the way of his heart's outgoing impulses for renunciation.

Still Vivekananda started an enthusiastic career of spiritual practice, in order to verify the worth of Ramkrishna's instructions by his own realization. This was the period of transition of a Vedantist, Hegelian and Revolutionary towards the cult of religious ecstasy.

Vivekananda's father died in 1884 leaving his family in debts and abject penury. Being the eldest son, he had to face the utmost distress. His faith in the existence of just and merciful God in a world where millions die of starvation was shaken to the core.

 The sceptic in him once again imerged in his mind, which had temporarily gone after the glimpse of Ramkrishna's spirituality. During this period Ramkrishna seems to have shown his unshakable faith in his disciple and knew that he will exhaust himself from the the superficial content of mind. And this happened to Vivekananda after a fairly long period of continued suffering through his intuitive realisation. He found the the rational that would reconcile divine graciousness with the miseries of the world.

 And there started the main problem, when he strongly realised that the life of a householder was not meant for him and he opted for complete renunciation and self realisation.

He practically started a new career. His atheistic reactions were over. The new outlook enabled him to surrender himself completely before his Guru.

Ramkrishna had two distinct categories of disciples. The elder ones were asked not to denounce the world. He taught them how they were to practice detachment in the midst of worldly concerns.

They were to give up the idea of proprietorship and believe that all their earthly possessions really belonged to God.

 As humble servants of God, they were to take up seriously the worldly duties as so many other sacred tasks allotted by the divine power.

His instruction for them in his own words were "When you are at work, use only one of your hands and let the other touch the feet of the Lord. When your work is suspended, take His feet in both of your hands and put them in your heart." In fact Ramkrishna believed that each individual had a distinct line of spiritual growth and guided each along his or her own path.

The younger disciples including Vivekananda, however, where required to tread a different Path. Their search for spiritual truth was not to end up merely in attaining their own blessedness and salvation, but also in helping the spiritual uplift of thousands of human souls.

When Vivekananda wanted to remain absorbed in Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Ramkrishna rebuked him by saying that "Shame on you! I thought you were to be the great banyan tree giving shelter to thousands of weary souls.

Instead you are selfishly seeking your own well-being. Let these Little things alone, my child." With this group of disciples, Ramkrishna was building up a new order of monks to whom he was to bequeath, the legacy of his spiritual attainment.

This was precisely the reason why Ramkrishna was particular about the physical as well as moral stamina of every person, before admitting him into this select group. This batch came to be composed of most young and holy band from educated middle class Bengal.

 But during the last days of Ramkrishna, when Vivekananda was was about 23 years of age he again became adamant for merging his soul completely in the absolute Reality through Nirvikalpa Samadhi and remaining absorbed in the state forever. Ramkrishna insisted again and charged him with the mission of his life.

He gave in the charge of the mission consisted in serving mankind. And then only Vivekanand resolved to sacrifice even the intense bliss of transcendental Union with the supreme self.

Vivekananda and his brother-disciples of Ramakrishna, decided to rent a small old house at Baranagore halfway between Cossipore and Dakshineswar, and eventually the little group shifted there with Ramkrishna's relics and eventually ushered into existence of a monastery for the Ramakrishna order of monks.

This was followed by Vivekananda's extensive travel of North India including the Himalayan region of Garhwal and Dehradun.

Still his mind was not at rest. He had not perhaps discovered his precise line of action. He decided to go for a closer study of the condition of people, and so he had resolved to travel to the Southern extremity of India and visit the holy temple of Kanyakumari.

Thus he completed his cultural and economic survey of India. The itinerary included Meerut, Delhi, Rajasthan, Kathiawar, Mumbai, Mysore,  Travancore cochin, Chennai and till the end of 1892. 

He reached the temples of Rameshwaram and Kanyakumari. The real self of India stood revealed before him, which required to stand on its feet through spiritual awakening. There he also resolved of carrying a mission of the West.

Soon the God sent opportunity knocked his door. He heard about parliament of Religions to be held in Chicago, USA in connection with World's Fair of 1893. He thought that he was duty-bound to place before the World, The Spiritual Treasures of Hindu India.

He proceeded to America along the Pacific route. He had occasion to shortly see China and Japan, where he perceived the existence of an undercurrent of spiritual thoughts that had flowed out of India during the ancient glorious days.

The views expressed in the article are the writers’ own.

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