"Many times I have been in the jaws of death, starving, footsore, and weary; for days and days I had no food, and often could walk no further; I would sink down under a tree, and life would seem to be ebbing away. I could not speak, I could scarcely think, but at last the mind reverted to the idea: "I have no fear nor death; never was I born, never did I die; I never hunger or thirst. I am It! I am It! The whole of nature cannot crush me; it is my servant. Assert thy strength, thou Lord of lords and God of gods! Regain thy lost empire! Arise and walk and stop not!" And I would rise up, reinvigorated; and here I am today, living! Thus, whenever darkness comes, assert the reality and everything adverse must vanish. For after all, it is but a dream. Mountain-high though the difficulties appear, terrible and gloomy though all things seem, they are but Maya. Fear not, and it is banished. Crush it, and it vanishes. Stamp upon it, and it dies." (Delivered at Los Angeles, Calif., 5th January 1900)
Today is the 150th birthday of Swami Vivekananda, the missionary who spread the Indian philosophy beyond India. A lover of mankind, he strove to promote peace and human brotherhood on the spiritual foundation of the Vedantic Oneness of existence. A mystic of the highest order, Vivekananda had a direct and intuitive experience of Reality. He derived his ideas from that unfailing source of wisdom and often presented them in the soul stirring language of poetry. The natural tendency of Vivekananda's mind, like that of his Master, Ramakrishna, was to soar above the world and forget itself in contemplation of the Absolute. But another part of his personality bled at the sight of human suffering in East and West alike. It might appear that his mind seldom found a point of rest in its oscillation between contemplation of God and service to man. Be that as it may, he chose, in obedience to a higher call, service to man as his mission on earth; and this choice has endeared him to people in the West.
In the course of a short life of thirty-nine years (1863-1902), of which only ten were devoted to public activities-and those, too, in the midst of acute physical suffering-he left for posterity his four classics: Jnana-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Karma-Yoga, and Raja-Yoga, all of which are outstanding treatises on Hindu philosophy. In addition, he delivered innumerable lectures, wrote inspired letters in his own hand to his many friends and disciples, composed numerous poems, and acted as spiritual guide to the many seekers, who came to him for instruction. He also organized the Ramakrishna Order of monks, which is the most outstanding religious organization of modern India. It is devoted to the propagation of the Hindu spiritual culture not only in the Swami's native land, but also in America and in other parts of the world. Swami Vivekananda once spoke of himself as a "condensed India." His life and teachings are of inestimable value to the West for an understanding of the mind of Asia. William James, the Harvard philosopher, called the Swami the "paragon of Vedantists." Max Muller and Paul Deussen, the famous Orientalists of the nineteenth century, held him in genuine respect and affection. "His words," writes Romain Rolland, "are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are through the pages of books, at thirty years' distance, without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero!'' (Nikhilananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center)
I remember a nice poem by Swamiji, titled 'To The Awakened India'.
- Once more awake!
- For sleep it was, not death, to bring thee life
- Anew, and rest to lotus-eyes for visions
- Daring yet. The world in need awaits, O Truth!
- No death for thee!
Resume thy march,
And tell the world—
- With gentle feet that would not break the
- Peaceful rest even of the roadside dust
- That lies so low. Yet strong and steady,
- Blissful, bold, and free. Awakener, ever
- Forward! Speak thy stirring words.
- Awake, arise, and dream no more!
- This is the land of dreams, where Karma
- Weaves unthreaded garlands with our thoughts
- Of flowers sweet or noxious, and none
- Has root or stem, being born in naught, which
- The softest breath of Truth drives back to
- Primal nothingness. Be bold, and face
- The Truth! Be one with it! Let visions cease,
- Or, if you cannot, dream but truer dreams,
- Which are Eternal Love and Service Free.
Read here about the childhood of Swamiji.