Friday, April 27, 2018

Symphony of unifying wisdom and love

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Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote to Romain Rolland, "If you want to know India, study Vivekananda." He stood for assimilation of cultures and unification of human race for peace and harmony amid conflicting diversity. With unifying wisdom he bridged the ancient and the modern, the East and the West, science and spirituality and, service of man and service of God. Ultimate truth was his God and the whole universe was his country. He viewed God as a circle whose centre is everywhere and circumference is nowhere. On the occasion of his 154th birth anniversary (1863-1902) today, let us ponder upon his unifying wisdom and practical precepts.

Undivided Bengal witnessed unprecedented appearance of a series of cultural luminaries during the renaissance of Bengal in 19th century. An outstanding figure of Bengali renaissance was Swami Vivekananda, who brought the message of ancient Indian culture into international prominence, and with his ingenious study of the problems of humanity today offered unique solution to the same, during his brief life-span of just 39 years.

At a tender age he developed intense quest for God which was not quenched by reading scriptures or attending prayers. He asked many scholars and saints about their personal experience of God, but was disappointed with their roundabout answers. In addition, study of Western philosophy made him skeptic. While studying in Scottish Church College, Kolkata, his professor William Hasty, in connection with explaining transcendentalism of Wordsworth told that one illiterate Brahmin called Ramakrishna Paramahansa in Dakshineswar had experience of the same.

Vivekananda (then Narendranath Dutta) met him asked point blank, "Have you seen God?" To his utter surprise he replied, "Of course.  I see Him always, much more clearly than I am seeing you." Smilingly he touched him, and instantly Narendranath experienced time and space dismissed for him and the apparent world of relativity merged into cosmic consciousness of massive oneness beyond the apparent plurality of names, forms and attributes of everything. Sri Ramakrishna explained that the formless, non-dual Absolute is the ultimate and all powerful.

He is formless like evaporated water but before soothing devotion of a devotee He can be as solid and visible as ice. You can stick to either or both and find Him accordingly. God is indeed limitless, and innumerable are the ways to attain Him. The only common condition for God-realization through His grace is intense yearning for Him alone.

Narendranath became his disciple and after graduation from Calcutta University became a renunciant monk to dedicate his life for service of man with love, framing his ideals from the direct experience of the Divine. As per monastic tradition he was renamed as Swami Vivekananda.

As foremost disciple of Sri Ramakrishna he received two major lessons: omnipresence of God, and therefore, selfless service to all sentient beings with empathy and affection is an excellent way of worship. And secondly, acceptance of every way of worshipping God as the valid way suited to its followers. This developed in him a sense of divine humanism and non-dogmatic approach, powerful enough to silence age-old disputes over comparative superiority of religions.

In 1893 as a wandering monk he attended the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, USA, and gave a clarion call for mutual help and not fight, assimilation and not destruction, harmony and peace and not dissension.   Since all paths lead to the same goal myopic quarrels over the paths by children of one God originate from abominable ignorance. The miseries of the faction-ridden world cannot be cured by physical help alone but by building character on this eternal truth.  His views were very well accepted and he travelled widely abroad to spread the same.

All the problems of the world, according to Swamiji, can be solved by man-making (including women) value-based education leading to perfection through assimilation of the solidarity of all life. Problems cannot be solved on racial, religious, national or narrow grounds. Acceptable solutions will have to cover the whole humanity. Man-making education will generate love for all sentient beings as extension of self and flourish highest wisdom.

The great common error in all the existing ethical systems has been the failure of teaching the means by which man could refrain from indulging in evil-doing under instinctive compulsion. Oral advice and bookish instructions cannot do much against instinctive temptations. The solution lies in controlling our nature through some psychophysical process which cannot be imposed from outside, but will have to be developed from within. Our growth must come from within, from the dictates of higher consciousness.

Apart from controlling the level of vast unconsciousness, which dictates the workings at the conscious level, there is a need to go beyond the conscious. When this superconscious state is reached, man becomes free and divine. That is the goal of life -- to go beyond the realm of conscious to the infinite super conscious and be driven by its dictates.

Swamiji transcendentally experienced the entire universe as nothing but manifestation of the absolute One. There is only one self in the universe, only one existence. When it manifests through time, space and causation it appears to be diverse and is called by different names. In the heart of things there is fundamental unity.  When all life in the whole universe is seen in vast oneness the selfishness, narrow-mindedness and innumerable compartmentalization instantly collapse. Hence he stood for harmony of religions and essential divinity of mankind.

He asserted that each soul is potentially divine. The purpose of our life is to realize the same through the path of selfless service to the humanity, assimilation of wisdom through deeper introspection, devotion to any concept of the inexpressible Almighty or some special psychophysical practice. These constitute the curriculum of yoga, the art of cosmic union with the Absolute.

Swamiji was exponent of divine humanism. For him the watchword was harmony, mutual co-existence and appreciation of diversities and not toleration.  Toleration comes out of a sense of superiority complex. You are wrong but I allow you to exist out of my generosity.

This is blasphemous. Diversity of views and thinking are inherently rooted in the scheme of the universe. So one must appreciate the spirit of others and yet preserve own individuality and grow, just as the seeds grow assimilating earth, water, sunlight etc.  But we have no right to think that we are exclusively right and others are wrong. Truth can be seen from many angles and expressed in diverse ways. We must accept this basic truth.

This universalism par excellence, or way of life engulfing whole gamut of existence should evolve as guiding principle of life of the posterity as panacea for all the world-problems of the day, arising out of sense of divisiveness missing massive unity amid diversity.

Swamiji passed away on 2nd July 1902, leaving behind his rich legacy- Ramakrishna Math and Mission,  spread all over the world including Bangladesh, to disseminate the divine message of universality and offer selfless service to the humanity with loving empathy.

The writer is a freelance  contributor

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