Narendra Modi kicked off a recent rally with a Swami Vivekananda statue adorning his campaign vehicle. A large number of his supporters sported images of Modi and the great seer on their shirts. This symbolic appropriation ought to have embarrassed Modi.
The philosopher Ramachandra Gandhi’s Sita’s Kitchen: A Testimony of Faith and Inquiry famously recalls an episode: “Swami Vivekananda was in Kashmir towards the end of his life but his heart was heavy even in that paradise on earth. Large-hearted though he was, he felt tormented by the fact that successive invaders had desecrated and destroyed countless sacred images of Hinduism’s gods and goddesses and pulled down Hindu temples and built mosques over their ruins. Unable to bear the burden of this humiliating testimony of history, Vivekananda poured out his anguish at the feet of the Divine Mother in a Kali temple. ‘How could you let this happen, Mother? Why did you permit this desecration?’ he asked despairingly. Swamiji has himself recorded all this, and reports that Kali whispered in his heart: ‘What is it to you, Vivekananda, if the invader breaks my images? Do you protect me, or do I protect you?’” His questions were laid to rest. The goddess had awakened him to his own unexamined arrogance and temptation towards self-deification. This episode is unlikely to hold a moral lesson for Modi.
Like his guru, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who strove to experience the divine variously as a Muslim, Christian and Hindu, Vivekananda had profound respect and love for Prophet Mohammed and Jesus. Even if one is not able to read through the swami’s nine-volume corpus, his famous 1893 address at the Parliament of the World Religions, Chicago, alone should confirm his love of religious diversity: “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.”
Besides, the swami has termed himself a socialist on occasion (“I’m a socialist not because it’s a perfect system, but (sic) half a loaf is better than no bread.”). Although his socialism wasn’t a well worked out doctrine, his concerns towards social and economic equality are present across his writings and speeches. Modi’s unconditional love of business capital for Gujarat and steadfast refusal to apologise to the Muslim victims of the Godhra riots make him singularly ineligible to bear the swami’s legacy. But the symbolic and electoral gains from this association pip considerations of ethical integrity.
Modi, of course, is in a long line of Hindu right-wing activists striving to attach Swami Vivekananda to their work. In the early ’60s, M.S. Golwalkar, a former Ramakrishna Mission initiate who later became RSS chief, asked his colleague Eknath Ranade to help establish the Vivekananda Memorial in Kanyakumari. After the memorial was completed in 1970, Eknath went on to found Vivekananda Kendra to further RSS activities in the Northeast. Right-wing outfits bearing the swami’s name in India are now legion. It is doubtful whether the swami’s respect for Islam and Christianity or his rejection of priestly orthodoxy posed an ideological problem for the RSS. What seems to have mattered for them was his charisma and status as a Hindu youth icon who inspired trust and goodwill among people of different religions. A symbolic hijack of the swami would bring them a popular legitimacy and visibility they could never hope to earn through their deeds. And so, the Hindu right has expended much cynical labour in this regard over the decades. They misalign the swami’s thoughts with their own interests and don’t let his deep Hindu reformist concerns or love of religious diversity deter them.
The Ramakrishna Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, has stayed silent amidst the heinous abuse of the swami’s words and deeds. A monk from its Mysore branch once told me: “We do not comment on politics since we are a social organisation.” Swami Vivekananda’s passionate efforts to renew Hinduism (which, for him, meant Advaita Vedanta) in the late 19th century steered clear of metaphysical and social malice towards non-Hindus—in marked contrast to the revivalist efforts of contemporaries like Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Dayanand Saraswati. Little surprise, therefore, that he should hold moral appeal for Gandhi, Aurobindo and many others who saw good politics as inseparable from spiritual values. It is this valuable historical legacy of social interventions outside of secular frames that the Hindu right has sought to take over. This should not go uncontested. Swami Vivekananda needs to be claimed back.
(The author is professor of sociology at Azim Premji university)
Swami Vivekananda was neither apologetic nor embarrassed by Hinduism (Arise, Awake, Fight, Nov 12). In fact, he wanted Hindus to “arise, awake and fight” after centuries of slumber. He had respect for other religions but that in no way came in the way of being proud of his own great spiritual heritage.
D.L. Narayan, Visakhapatnam
If Vivekananda had been living today, he would have been dubbed a fanatic. For he criticised the Prophet but praised Islam’s sense of equality. He admired Christ but slammed the padres for their ‘missionary zeal’. But he also criticised those “thievish Brahmins” and the crab mentality of Indians. So go figure.
B.V.G. Rao, Warangal
If Swami was alive, he’d probably have sued these right-wingers for defamation.
Aurko Sen, Los Angeles
Boring recycled stuff. Give us something new, Outlook.
Gandhar, New Jersey
It has become the fancy of all charmers to use the images of legendary personalities for their own ends. Modi is no exception. People who fall for such gimmicks deserve what they get.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
IN the 21'st century, in the age of the internet still talking about the ARyan Invasion Theory?
Australia,UK,India,North america are few places where it has been scientifically disproved.
But then again, you probably don't believe in any evidence pointing to evolutionary theory either!!
Arun Shourie, in his book 'A secula agenda', writes-
//A while ago the Ramakrishna Mission pleaded before the Calcutta high court, that it was not a Hindu organisation.That it was in fact, a 'minority institution'.The fact that a mission bearing the name of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a mission founded by Swami Vivekananda should have been driven to declare that it was nto a Hindu organisation, became as potent an announcement of the pass things had reached as the mass conversions at Meenakshipuram.
What was in the beginning a matter of regret became an outrage when it was seen that the mission, to press the claim of not being a hindu organisation, bowdlerised Swami Vivekananda's complete works: entire sections which affirmed his faith, those which contained his views about other religions too explicitly were censured out and replaced with dots.
That told a lot about the sort of hands into which the direction of the mission had fallen, but it also told a lot about the state of laws which pushed an organisation of this sort to swear to falsehood.
What is a minority institution?Why should a body like the Ramakrishna Mission have found it necessary to declare itself to be one?//
He goes on to explain in great detail how claiming to be a minority institution can lead to benefits and advantages over other 'general' institutions.
He writes-//The advantages which accrue in terms of looser norms or lesser interference have led groups to resort to subterfuges to have themselves recognised as minorities-that is how the ramakrishna mission was propelled to have itself declared as being other than Hindu.//
Evidence of what this kind of selective interference from the state has done to a section of the Hindu/Sikh mindset is demonstrated by the author of this article.
This is an immature article and is being read by people only because Modi makes news.
Even people whi dislike Modi will not really like this article.
Arun Shourie's words, also explain how it is the leftist scum of the earth who have in the past not just hijacked but bullied people/organisations into declaring 'minority' status.
And this is what the author is hinting at. He conveniently forgets that swami Vivekananda was a staunch critic of Abrahamic religion.If he does remember, he doesn't mention it.
What the Swami was saying is that Hindus accept different paths to god.
This doesn't mean he felt paths other than the neo-vedantists were equally sophisticated.
He had no love lost for the abrahamics.He was just stating a fact.Hindus(And Sikhs) do not have a problem with different ways of worship.But apart from praying technique and the necessity of prayer, there are several teaching in the abrahamic religions that the good Swami was disgusted by.
This is why, even back then he was called communal.
Also, Modi, in an interview to Rajdeep Sardard-Kasai, makes it clear why he's doing what he's doing:
RS: But Modiji, Swami Vivekanand was a saintly person… You are using his name to garner support amongst the people, that's what your opponents say.
NM: As I told you already, we are celebrating this year as the Yuva Varsh. And it was not I who decided that the 150th anniversary of Swami Vivekanand would fall this year. It was decided 150 years ago. So it's not my fault that it fell this year.
The truth is, there is no news in this country like religion baiting and esp muslim baiting & Modi's name has been used to sell Islamophobia stories.
This sadly continues even now.
Elsewhere.......Obama looks like he's coming back into power.
Gaaad bless America!!
That website does not have a good "Search" function.
In the past we had been made to believe false propaganda of cunning and looter secular. Let court decide if Gadakari is actually a wrong doer. May be, most of the documents are prepared by Teesta Seetalwad gang. Here question is why secular are after him? Real target is NaMo. They very well know if Gadakari is BJP chief he would definitely nominate NaMo for PM candidature (all news about rift between NaMo-Gadakari is corp media built and fake). They think if any one from old BJP men is becomes chief he would not support to his junior (NaMo) for top most plitical post. If some charges are against Gadakari we ask for his resiganation. Did secular do the same when GF was alleged by even worse charges. A BIG NO.
Thanks Mr.Anwaar. Can you give me the links to those ? It feels so good to read such news/articles
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