Sunday, March 20, 2011

Swami Vivekananda's Wanderlust

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA—A Wandering Mendicant

From time immemorial, India has had many Parivrajakas [Wandering mendicants] who undertook tour of the whole country with a view to spreading the message of our Sanathana Dharma. In keeping with this tradition, Swami Vivekananda toured the entire country sometime in 1890, before he left for the Parliament of Religions at Chicago in May 1893. Apart from giving a’ wake-up call’ to the sleeping citizens of the country who had lost sight of their hoary tradition and culture, Swamiji was more keen on reaching the heart of the nation and understand the sufferings and hardships of the people and then devise ways and means of alleviating their sufferings. Towards this end, he toured the entire country and in the South, he covered Mysore, Hyderabad and Kerala including Kanyakumari where he was blessed with a vision.

SWAMIJI IN MYSORE [November 1892]: Swami Vivekananda’s association with Mysore dates back to 1892 when the then Mysore State was ruled by His Highness Chamaraja Wodeyar, a visionary statesman himself. The meeting of a spiritual giant and a visionary statesman was history in the making for the State. Swamiji was in the State from 9th November to 24th November 1892. Initially he was the guest of Diwan Seshadri Iyer and subsequently the guest of His Highness who was highly impressed by the dynamism and the zeal of the yet unknown monk. Swamiji’s arrival in Mysore hardly created a flutter. But soon word spread about his erudition and deep knowledge of Vedanta. His Highness was struck by the wide range of Swamiji’s knowledge. Swamiji also held his host spellbound by his grasp of the Western Classical music as was evident during a discussion on the subject with an Austrian music composer who was in the Mysore Palace.
This was followed by a debate on Vedanta in which many acclaimed pundits from the State held forte for a long while. But when the Swamiji spoke on the subject it came as a whiff of fresh air and the audience was taken aback at the originality of thinking and the new perspectives espoused by the Swamiji. Not confining himself to Vedanta, Swamiji, during a conversation with His Highness, expressed his views on the state of the nation and his vision for its future and what could be achieved with India’s genius combined with modern scientific ideas.
During his tour, Swamiji had heard of the Parliament of Religions Meeting in 1893 at Chicago, America. Though he had a desire to attend it, he was penniless. When His Highness heard about the monk’s desire to visit Chicago, the Maharaja readily extended his financial support. The noble gesture helped Swami Vivekananda set sail for America from Bombay on 31st May 1893. The fame that Swami Vivekananda achieved in America may be said to be an indirect contribution of His Highness. Swamiji himself acknowledged this in his letter dated 23rd June 1894, nine months after the Chicago Parliament. He writes “Through your Highness’s kind help it has been possible for me to come to this country”. After explaining the great strides of progress achieved in America and what needs to be done in India, Swami Vivekananda adds:
“My noble Prince, this life is short; the vanities of the world are transient but they alone live who live for others; the rest are more dead than alive. One such high, noble-minded and Royal Son of India as your Highness can do much towards raising India on her feet again and thus leave a name to posterity which shall be worshipped. That the Lord may make your noble heart feel intensely for the suffering millions of India sunk in ignorance, is the prayer of Vivekananda”

SWAMIJI IN HYDERABAD [ February 1893]: When Swami Vivekananda visited Hyderabad in February 1893, an incident happened that set him thinking about the powers of the human mind, a subject which deeply interested him and on which he spoke at length in a lecture he delivered in Los Angeles on 8th January 1900
Hearing that there was a Brahmin in the city who produced, as if from the air, anything that was asked for, he went to see him. He asked the man to show him some of his ‘tricks’. The Brahmin requested Swamiji and his companions to write on a piece of paper the names of the things that they wanted him to produce. The companions wrote down names of such things as either did not grow in that season or were not locally available. They stripped him of all his clothing except a blanket to cover his body. Then they gave him the piece of paper, when, lo, there came from under the blanket all that they wanted him to produce—bunches of grapes, oranges and what not, which, if they had been weighed, would be found to weigh twice the weight of the man. He asked them to eat the fruits and finding them hesitant, he began to eat some of them himself, whereupon they also ate and found that the fruits were fresh and of excellent quality. When the Swamiji asked for an explanation, he simply said that it was just a sleight of hand. The Swamiji later explained to his companions that it was not the sleight of hand that produced the materials but one of the ‘Astha Siddhis’ of Yoga [ The Eight Fruits] by name ‘Praapti’ according to which anything could be produced by sheer Sankalpa and determination of the mind.

SWAMIJI AT KANYAKUMARI [Last Week of December 1892]: Kanyakumari is the southern tip of India. On the sea shore is the temple of Kanyakumari, the Guardian deity, washed by the waves of the ocean. There is a rock, a quarter of a mile away in the sea. Swami Vivekananda swam through the rough sea and reached the rock in the last week of December 1892. He stayed on the rock for three days in deep meditation. There he had a great vision of the future and came to certain conclusions as to what he should for the country and how. “For the first time in the history of religion, the subject of meditation of a great monk was man, the good sleeping man, and not any far away deity” writes Swami Ranganathananda. He adds “ When in deep meditation, the whole history of India unfolded before his vision, and he became identified, as it were, with the achievements and failures, sorrows and triumphs if his motherland, her past glory and continued existence through millenniums filled him with inspiration. With tears in his eyes and hope in his breast, he discovered his mission in life, which was to dedicate himself to the regeneration of India, the Queen of his adoration, to reawaken her from her deep long sleep. Like a second Buddha Gaya, Vivekananda emerged from his meditations at Kanyakumari”, Vivekananda himself has said in his letter dated 19th March 1894 thus “Sitting on the last bit of Indian Rock near Mother Kumari’s Temple I hit upon a plan”
The Kanyakumari meditation was the birthplace of practical Vedanta. It was the source of the creation of New India. Here took place a synthesis of Western thought and Eastern philosophy. It was Kanyakumari meditation that gave him the courage and enthusiasm to go to Chicago and blazon forth the magnificent names of Hindu scriptures.

B.M.N. Murthy

ARTICLE NO. 376----Swami Vivekananda--A wandering Mendicant
Created: Friday, June 22, 2007


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