O Swami Vivekananda!
Sri Ramakrishna's life-breath,
Sri Ramakrishna's supreme gift to mankind,
Sri Ramakrishna's victory-song all-where!
The victory-world's delight you were;
Lo, the cyclone-valour of the Absolute!
You awakened your slumbering India,
You awakened humanity's sleep.
In you blossomed the Form Universal.
O hero-warrior sannyasin,
In the core of the creation,
Sleeplessly shall burn
The incense of your self-offering.
Sri Chinmoy 1
Swami Vivekananda was a supreme seeker and supreme lover of mankind. He was also the preserver of the universal vision. I am invoking his presence.
Was Swami Vivekananda a man? Yes, he was. Something else he also was: a lover-hero.
Did Swami Vivekananda really conquer America? Yes, he did. Truth to tell, it was a mutual conquest. Vivekananda conquered America's seeker-heart. America conquered Vivekananda's vision-eye.
What did Swami Vivekananda preach in the West? The Vedantic philosophy. Something he also did. In supreme secrecy, soulfully and lovingly on the vital plane, persistently and unconditionally on the mental plane and compassionately and unreservedly on the physical plane, he distributed Sri Ramakrishna's universal oneness-heart and blessingful joy.
Sri Ramakrishna loved at once Vivekananda's silence-heart and his sound-life. To his Naren what he gave was his own realisation-ocean. In his Naren what he found was his own vision-manifestation. Where? Here, there and all-where.
To the weak, Vivekananda had only one thing to say: "Fear not."
To the strong, he had only one thing to say: "Stop not."
To God, he had only one thing to say: "Delay not."
And to himself, he had only one thing to say: "Ask not." 2
Sri Ramakrishna’s unstinting Grace and Naren’s volcanic Will combined to create Vivekananda, who created a commotion all over the world. The never-to-be-forgotten words of Sri Aurobindo run: "...the Master marked out Vivekananda as the heroic soul destined to take the world between his two hands and change it."
Vivekananda came into the world in an age seething with rank materialism. Spiritual values were at a discount. He held the mighty torch of spirituality high. Exceptional was his clarion call to lead the life of the Spirit. The soul-stirring message of Sri Ramakrishna was embodied in him, in this lion amongst men. And as regards the message of India to the world, “Remember,” declares Vivekananda, “not the Soul for Nature, but Nature for the Soul.” 3
Question: What does Swami Vivekananda mean to you personally?
Sri Chinmoy: Swami Vivekananda is the indomitable spirit who tells us how to love and worship God the creation. Without loving God the creation, who can ever fulfil the Message of God the Creator? 4
Question: This centenary of the Parliament of Religions is, for many, associated with the name of Swami Vivekananda, one of the major figures of the Parliament that was held one hundred years ago. You have spent much of the past year giving concerts in his honour. Who was Swami Vivekananda, and what did he offer to the world?
Sri Chinmoy: I strongly feel that today’s centenary of the Parliament of Religions is taking place precisely because of Vivekananda. He was the dreamer, the lover and the possessor of a truly universal spirit. People came to the original Parliament of Religions from various religions and various cultures. In most cases they came to preach or speak about their respective religious beliefs. But Vivekananda came as a lover of humanity to sing the song of a oneness-world-home. He did not come here to propagate the views of his Hindu religion. He came to propagate the one religion that is known as Man. He spoke of the individual man who is evolving into the universal man and consciously accepting the world as his own, very own. Vivekananda was at once an ancient silence-heart and a modern dynamism-life. 5
When Swami Vivekananda came to Chicago, his dynamic vital embraced the whole world. In his very first speech, he began, "Sisters and Brothers of America…" After those words, he was unable to continue for two full minutes because of the enthusiastic cheering and clapping of the audience. Immediately, Swami Vivekananda had spread the feeling that we are all sisters and brothers of the same family. He showed the seekers of the West that he came to embrace them, not to conquer them. And, as a result, he conquered their hearts because his words came from the very depths of his soul.
True, we use the terms 'sister' and 'brother' at every moment, but do we have the same depths of feeling as Vivekananda? In comparison to him, we are all frauds. We do not have the same genuine feeling as Vivekananda had when we use those terms. For us, it is like saying "Ladies and Gentlemen." It is simply a form of address. When Vivekananda said, "Sisters and Brothers of America," it was based on his dynamic all-embracing vital. 6
Swami Vivekananda's soul-stirring addresses at the Parliament of Religions inspired the audience to have faith in all the religions of the world and to hug the best in each religion. There was a magic spell of throbbing delight woven around his very name at the Parliament. He was the figure that dominated the world's gaze there.
A report appeared in The Boston Evening Transcript of 30 September 1893 about the great triumph of this Indian spiritual giant:
"If he merely crosses the platform, he is applauded, and this marked approval of thousands he accepts in a childlike spirit of gratification, without a trace of conceit." 7
An interesting event took place when Swami Vivekananda was staying in a cottage at Thousand Island Park. It was a dark and rainy night. Two ladies from Detroit had travelled hundreds of miles to find him there.
Having met him, one of them humbly spoke out, "We have come to you just as we would go to Jesus if he were still on earth and ask him to teach us."
Swami Vivekananda, deeply moved and overwhelmed with humility, replied, "If only I possessed the power of Christ to set you free now!" 8
Vivekananda: an ancient silence-heart and a modern dynamism-life - A book of talks, poems, stories and reflections about Swami Vivekananda.
Vivekananda: Divinity's Soul-Rainbow and Humanity's Heart-Blossom - In 1993, Sri Chinmoy offered 39 concerts in honour of Swami Vivekananda. This book is a collection of the tributes to Swami Vivekananda given by Sri Chinmoy before each concert.
A Peace Concert dedicated to Vivekananda - full recording at Radio Sri Chinmoy.
Sri Chinmoy, Vivekananda: an ancient silence-heart and a modern dynamism-life, Agni Press, 1993.↩