Shencottah, on the occasion of Swami Vivekananda’s 105th death anniversary, collects some links to his writings. I have also enjoyed Sister Nivedita‘s The Master as I saw him, which, unfortunately is not available online. However, excerpts from her slim volume, Notes on some wanderings with Swami Vivekananda is available here.
Swami Vivekananda’s influence on our freedom struggle, and our freedom fighters is well known. Wiki has some relevant quotes:
The first governor general of independent India, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, once observed that “Vivekananda saved Hinduism.” According to Subhas Chandra Bose, Vivekananda “is the maker of modern India” and for Mohandas Gandhi, Vivekananda’s influence increased his “love for his country a thousandfold.” Gandhi, who also strived for a lot of reform in Hinduism himself, said: Swami Vivekananda’s writings need no introduction from anybody. They make their own irresistible appeal. Many years after his death, Rabindranath Tagore (a prominent member of the Brahmo Samaj) had said: If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative. National Youth Day in India is by way of commemorating him held on his birthday, January 12. This was a most fitting gesture as much of Swami Vivekananda’s writings concerned the Indian youth and how they should strive to uphold their ancient values whilst fully participating in the modern world.
Swami Vivekananda is widely considered to have inspired India’s freedom struggle movement. His writings inspired a whole generation of freedom fighters including Aurobindo Ghose and Bagha Jatin. Vivekananda was the brother of the extremist revolutionary, Shri Bhupendranath Dutta. Subhash Chandra Bose one of the most prominent figures in Indian independence movement said,
- I cannot write about Vivekananda without going into raptures. Few indeed could comprehend or fathom him even among those who had the privilege of becoming intimate with him. His personality was rich, profound and complex… Reckless in his sacrifice, unceasing in his activity, boundless in his love, profound and versatile in his wisdom, exuberant in his emotions, merciless in his attacks but yet simple as a child, he was a rare personality in this world of ours.
Aurobindo Ghosh considered Vivekananda as his spiritual mentor. While in Alipore Jail, Sri Aurobindo used to be visited by Swami Vivekananda in his meditation and be guided by him in yoga.
- Vivekananda was a soul of puissance if ever there was one, a very lion among men, but the definitive work he has left behind is quite incommensurate with our impression of his creative might and energy. We perceive his influence still working gigantically, we know not well how, we know not well where, in something that is not yet formed, something leonine, grand, intuitive, upheaving that has entered the soul of India and we say, “Behold, Vivekananda still lives in the soul of his Mother and in the souls of her children. –Sri Aurobindo–1915 in Vedic Magazine.
Swami Vivekananda also played a key role in the setting up of the Indian Institute of Science:
After a chance meeting between Jamsetji N. Tata and Swami Vivekananda on a ship in 1893, where they discussed Tata’s plan of bringing steel industry to India, Tata wrote to Vivekananda five years later:
I trust, you remember me as a fellow-traveller on your voyage from Japan to Chicago. I very much recall at this moment your views on the growth of the ascetic spirit in India… I recall these ideas in connection with my scheme of Research Institute of Science for India, of which you have doubtless heard or read.
Impressed by Swami Vivekananda’s views on science, and leadership abilities, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata wanted him to guide his campaign. Vivekananda endorsed the project with enthusiam, and Tata, with the aim of advancing the scientific capabilities of the country, constituted a Provisional Committee to prepare a plan for setting up of an Institute of research and higher education.
However, some of the modern scholarship has not been kind to Swami Vivekananda; see this excerpt from Hindutva by Jyotirmay Sharma, for example. In my opinion, though, Sharma misses the context of Vivekananda’s speeches and exhortations, as well as those sections where Swami Vivekananda talks about the need for reforms in Hinduism. In any case, what better way to remember him than to read his works, or works about him, and make up one’s mind by oneself?
Update: By a curious coincidence, I came across this musings by Chet of Thomas a Kempis‘ Imitation of Christ, which is one of the favourite books of Swami Vivekananda too!