Religion as an institution is as elusive and emphatic as nothing else. Throughout the centuries it has been tended to by various pioneers and mystics. According to me, closer home, religious and political find a comprehensive blending in various poets including Rabindranath Tagore; the two are virtually inseparable. At the forefront of the movement which championed the cause of Hinduism and played an important function in its revival was Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of the mystic sage Sri Ramakrishna Pramhamsa. There was so much more to this saffron clad mystic, that he is relevant even today to me and to all of us.
He introduced the basic Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga and played a significant role in stirring interfaith awareness and establishing Hinduism as one of the major religions of the world in the 19th century. Even after a century of his demise, Swamiji’s teachings are more relevant now than ever before, in a world submerged in crises of different sorts, which mourns the death of belief, faith and everything man has ever held close.
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Swami Vivekananda was one true spiritual and secular leader, and a political visionary at that as well. I don’t think nationalism in colonial India would have struck the right notes had he not preached about patriotism and the need for a democratic society. Casteism, inequality, religious animosity are concepts as old as the Greek civilization. What Vivekananda’s teachings enumerate on such occasions if simply translated in my opinion, is an urge to stop competing for art, beauty, Tibet or Syria in the name of religion. This is at the heart of all his teachings, to stop doing wrong in the name of the greater good.
Swamiji’s speech in the Parliament of the world’s religions in Chicago resonates within our consciousness even today, as if supplanting our own voice, our own ability to express. If you really think about it, you will realize, thoughts that we have adopted as part of our system, have emerged from one true visionary, who was more than a mystic, a religious or spiritual savior, he was human. He was one of us. The universe always speaks to those who listen. If you listen you will hear the comforting voice of religion, following you like a shadow or a friend.