For details refer to Dr. Mazumdar's History of Political Thought from Ram Mohun to Dayananda, Vol. I, Calcutta University Press, Calcutta, 1934, pp. 37-45.
Rammohun Roy was a progressive and liberal thinker. He had a passion for liberty and equality, yet he showed his respect for property and believed in the freedom of contract. Indeed, he pleaded for state intervention m suppressing evil practices in society and held that it was the duty of the state to protect tenants against the oppression of the landlords, nevertheless he was not a believer in the theory of laissezfaire. He was also not a socialist as he maintained that the state should protect the existing titles to property. Besides, he was in favour of a strong and prosperous middle-class. But in order to protect the cultivator against the oppression of the zamindar be
RAJA RAMMOHUN ROY
suggested that the right of the latter to increase the rent due from the ryots should be abolished, and the benefits of permanent settlement should be extended to the ryots.
Rammohun Roy thus dealt with various problems of his day and led the country to progress and modernity. He was only the pioneer of all the progressive movements in India, but was also responsible for the constitutional agnation in the country. He has been called the father of modern Indu. the first earnest-minded investigator of the science of comparative religion, one of the greatest reformers of his time and the harbinger of ;he idea of universal humanism. He stands in history as the living bridge over which India marches from her unmeasured past to her incalculable future. He was the arch which spanned the gulf that yawned between ancient caste and modern humanity, between superstition and science and between despotism and democracy. If we follow the right line of his development we shall find that he led the way from the orientalism of the past towards a civilization which is neither western nor eastern, but something vastly larger and nobler than both.
Raja Rammohun Roy died at Stapleton Hill near Bristol (England) on the 27th September, 1833.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA (I 863-1 902)
His Personality and Life
Swami Vivekananda did not seem to belong to this world but appeared to be a radiant being descended from another and higher sphere for a definite purpose. He was a seer, an illumined soul, very much different from the ordinary run of mankind. His mind was luminous ; he had that supreme knowledge of which the Gita speaks and which results from the realization of oneness with the Supreme Being. Besides, he had within himself a fountain of energy to carry his message not only to the different parts of India but to the West also. He never prepared his speeches and addresses, but poured forth the deepest spiritual truths in words of imperishable beauty. Once Sri Ramakrishna said about his young disciple, Narendra, who is known to the world as Swami Vivekananda : "He is not a pond, he is a reservoir. He is not a pitcher or a jug, he is a veritable barrel. He is not a minnow or sardine, he is a huge red-eyed carp. He is not an ordinary sixteen-petalled lotus, he is a glorious lotus with a thousand petals."' The master also said on another occasion : "Narendra is not a twig floating in a river—a twing that sinks even if a bird alights upon it. Rather is he a great tree-trunk carrying men, beasts and merchandise upon its chest."8
This beautiful summing up of Vivekananda's personality suggests about his strength, vigour and endurance. A strong athlete, a Herculean figure having broad face spotted with large eyes and vast forehead, he bore in himself a storehouse of power and strength, granite faith and rock of self-confidence, immeasurable passion of a warrior and the Napoleonic ambition for a world conquest. At the same time, he possessed a burning desire for renunciation of all earthly empires and for casting off all his chains and roaming like a wandering unknown pilgrim, sheltering under a tree or meditating alone in a lonely cave in the Himalayas. "I long, oh, I long for my rags, my shaven head, my sleep under the trees, and my food from begging—" (January, 1895)
If one word can speak out and signify the life and mission of Swami Vivekananda, the patriot and prophet of modern India, it
is strength. A lion among men he roared and thundered forth rousing the leviathan of the sleeping nation from century-old slumber and mental stupor, to rise on its feet and march on freely. He wanted in us the sleeping divinity to awaken that austere elevation of spirit which rouses heroism. "Never forget the glory of human nature ! We are the greatest God that ever was or ever will be. Christs and Buddhas are but waves on the boundless ocean which lam." (1895, in an interview at the Thousand Island Park, U.S.A.) Vivekananda found the essence of the Upanishads and religious scriptures in one word •manliness.' It was due to his message of courage and fearlessness that he was described as a 'tamer of souls.* Delegates at the Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in 1893, were left spellbound after having heard him and referred to him as the 'cyclonic monk from India.' Wherever he went, he carried an air of kingliness and power.
Vivekananda, whose real name was Narendranath Dutta, was born in an aristocratic Kshatriya family of Calcutta on the twelfth of January, 1863. He was blessed with a sound constitution and grew up into a healthy and vigorous youth. As a college student, he made his mark in many fields and became popular as a debator and .conversationalist. But he also had a meditative strain that often made him appear aloof and indifferent.
Influences on Him and His Mission
Vivekananda came under the influence of rationalist thought of his time. He was much impressed by European science, liberalism and the democratic pattern of Western society as expressed in political and sociological literature. He studied the ideas of J. S. Mill, the philosophers of the French Revolution, Kant and Hegel. He even entered into correspondence with Herbert Spencer and offered criticism of some of his ideas. Vivekananda's studies were confined not only to Western thought, but he was also drawn towards India's religious and philosophical heritage through the writings of Brahmo Samaj leaders.
3 Vivekananda described his ascent to Nirvlkalpa Samadhi under Rama-krishna's guidance as the most important landmark in his own spiritual development.
On account of his varied, though somewhat unsystematic, studies and enthusiasm for reason, Vivekananda developed an agnostic, even sceptical, outlook on life. But his meeting with Ramakrishna in November, 1881 and his close association with his master for about five years brought a turning point in his life. His aggressive faith in logic was toned down, and he was made to understand the value of personal realization as distinct from intellectual conviction. The master carried him by easy stages into his own spiritual realm and led him, step by step, to the highest pinnacle of inward experience.3
Ramakrishna's death in August, 1886 again brought a change in Vivekananda's life. After the death of his master, he embarked upon extensive travels from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin with an urge to spread the message of Ramakrishna and see the natural beauty of the Motherland, and visited all the important centres of Indian culture. For years nobody knew what had happened to him. He allowed himself to be completely 'swallowed up in the immensity that is India'. Through his travels, he not only saw India's cultural wealth, the strength of her traditions, her assimilative powers and her latent spiritual energy, but he also saw her grinding poverty, her social backwardness and her mental inertia into which she had fallen. Although he wandered without any plan, wherever he went he learnt something new and gained new experiences. During his stay at Ahmedabad he was attracted towards Jain and Islamic traditions ; and while at Alwar in Rajasthan he developed a keen interest in History and expressed the necessity of a school of Indian historians, steeped in modern scientific methods. He had thus a fair knowledge of both the Western thought and India's religious and philosophical heritage and her manifold problems. His visit to America and Europe developed in him a good deal of admiration for the West. The dynamism, social awareness, spirit of adventure, capacity for hard work and concern for practical values that he saw in America and Europe made a deep impression upon him. Although he saw the triumph of human spirit in the achievement of science, he also became aware of the limitations of Western civilization. On his second journey to the West in 1899, he was left disillusioned in many ways.4
Before he had gone to the West a second time, Vivekananda had undertaken a whirlwind tour in India, carrying the message of resurgent Indian spirituality to every part of her. The messages, which he delivered at different places, were later published under the title, Lectures from Colombo to Almora. These messages did much to restore the self-confidence of Indian intellectuals, and to stimulate the study of Indian philosophy and religion. In 1897, he established the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur, near Calcutta. He died on the 4th July, 1902 before he had attained fortieth year of his life. Although he died long ago, his great voice is still present to fill the sky.
4 He felt that Indian mysticism had become a new kind of "appetiser' for the jaded intellectual palate of the West.
It should now be amply clear from the preceding sh-*rt account of Vivekananda's life that he came to this earth with a mission and was fully conscious of it. That mission was to make India aware of the role which religion had played in her life from time immemorial. He often reminded his Indian listeners that religion also constituted the real life of the people and that they, as a nation, would cease to
exist, if they forgot their religion. In his reply to the address of welcome, presented to him at Ramnad, he commented : "Remember, if you give up that spirituality, leaving it aside to go after the materialistic civilization of the West, the result will be that in three generations you wili be an extinct race ; because the backbone of the nation will be broken, the foundation upon which the national edifice has been built will be undermined, and the result will be annihilation all round."5
Against Orthodoxy and Social Exclusiveness
It must be noted that Vivekananda did not like any kind of orthodoxy in matters of religion, in spite of his strong faith in the indis-pensability of religion in the life of a nation. He advised his coreligionists to avoid the old orthodoxy, which he condemned as 'kitchen religion' and 'don't touchism'. But he preferred it as against the trend towards Westernization, for he thought that the orthodox man had at least the necessary strength to stand on his feet and stick to his position, while the Westernised person had no such strength and was simply shifting his ground again and again. At Madurai, he stated in his address that India had been constantly supplying spirituality to the world throughout her long history. He spoke : "She contributed it long before the rising of the Persian Empire ; the second time was during the Persian Empire, for the third time during the ascendancy of the English, she is going to fulfil the same destiny once more".*
Vivekananda did not agree with those, who held religion responsible for the social backwardness and political subjugation of India. Although he admitted that the rigidity of caste system, its social exclusiveness, the spirit of fatalism and other factors, which had come to be accepted as essentials of Hinduism, greatly contributed to her decline, he was of the view that it was not the fault of Hinduism but of the people, who misunderstood it and failed to translate its fine principles into practice. According to him, India declined because "she narrowed herself, went into her shell, as the oyster does, and refused to give the life-giving truths to thirsting nations outside the Aryan fold." He urged his countrymen to break through the walls of that social exclusiveness, and to go out and give to others what they possessed. He argued that the secret of life was to give and take. India can learn mechanism and scientific devices from the West and, in return, can give to it the spiritual message of Hinduism.
His Philosophy of Neo-Vedantism
Vivekananda, Lectures from Colombo to Almora, Acivaita Ashram, Calcutta (1963), 7th impression, p. 68.
Ibid., p. 92.
Vivekananda drew the essence of Hinduism from the Upanishads,
GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS
the Gita and the Sutras of Vyasa. He used the term 'Vedanta' to cover the systems of thought expounded by Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Chaitanya and others. In other words, Vedanta includes the Advaita, Visishtadvaita and the dualist systems of thought. Vivekananda maintained that there was no incompatibility between '.he various systems of thought. The human mind begins with dualism, rises to qualified dualism and ultimately reaches the qualified monism or Advaita, which proclaims the highest truth : Tat Twam Asi (Thou Art That). Thus Vedanta, according to him, is an attempt to find out the ultimate unity of things.
The phrase Tat Twam Asi implies that man is not as he appears to be. He is neither the body, nor the mind and intellect. But he is the Soul or Atman, which cannot be pierced into or cut by a dagger or a sword, burnt by fire or made wet by water. It does not perish at all. In other words, it is birthless, deathless and changeless ; it is infinite and eternal. Because of these qualities, it is a part and parcel of the Parmaatman or the Universal Soul. From this conception of man as Atman, certain conclusions may be drawn. First, man is not inherently bad or a sinner as is taught by some religions. He is inherently and essentially pure, divine, and partakes of the nature of Sat-chit-ananda. It is wrong to think that man is weak, evil and sinful. Hence Vivekananda urged the people to cast off this wrong notion and to believe in the divinity of man. Secondly, if each one of us is divine and a part and parcel of Parmaatman, all of us become one. This also leads to the concepts of equality of man and the unity of mankind. If the same God is present in all of us, there can be no other relationship between man and man than that of love and service. Vedanta thus preaches the message of universal love and service. As love and service demand the spirit of sacrifice and renunciation, the message of Vedanta also insists upon it. As a strong believer in the philosophy of Vedanta, Vivekananda also found the real essence of India's religion and spirituality in the observance of love, service and sacrifice and renunciation. According to him, the religion of India, which may also be called as religion of the Vedanta, is a man-making religion, a religion of strength and the observance of which would make any people brave, courageous and pure. No nation becomes great just by making material progress and enacting good laws. It is the strength of character of her people, which makes her great and strong. As the Vedanta wants to raise or improve the quality of men by infusing in them the strength of character, it goes to the very root of the matter. That is why Vivekananda wanted to give to the West the message of Vedanta in exchange for the means to improve the conditions of the poor in India. He thought that the whole world needed the help of India ; her spiritual treasures could not be allowed to be destroyed as the treasures of several other civilizations had been. The people of India, he thought, were also to be reminded of their own rich spiritual traditions,
which they had forgotten partly due to their long subjection to foreign rule and partly due to their own ignorance and inertia. India could not afford to loose anchorage to her age-old tradition of spiritualism. Vivekananda's life-mission was to open the door of spirituality to everyone. He felt that religion was bound up with India's destiny. "For good or for evil," he said, "religious ideal has been flowing in India for thousands of years. It has permeated the atmosphere, has entered our very blood, tinged with every drop in our veins, has become one with our constitution, has become the very vitality of our lives. Can we give it up without rousing the same energy in reaction, without filling the channel which that mighty river has cut for itself in the course of millennia ? Do you want that the Ganges should go back to its own bed and begin a new course ?'"
Vivekananda was, however, realistic enough to realize that the truths of Vedanta would have little appeal for a hungry man. He recalled the words of his master that religion was not for empty stomachs. Spiritual message would melt in the air before the wrath of hunger, the penury and sad spectacle of the poor, demoralised and degenerated mass of people, devoured by senseless credulity and fetishism Vivekananda in his compassion for the downtrodden said : ". . . .but the crying evil in the East is not religion—they have religion enough—but it is bread that suffering millions of burning India cry out for with parched throat. It is an insult to a starving man to teach him metaphysics."8 What right have we to speak on religion, metaphysics or high moral principles to poor millions if we fail in our primary task to give a morsel of food to hungry stomachs, and elevate them from the dark, dingy hovels to bright sunshine and the glimmering surface of life ?
Ideal of Social Service and Economic Organisation • Blending of the East and the West
Vivekananda dedicated his life to the service of the unhappy masses. He thought of seeking material help from the West for the amelioration of conditions of the poor in exchange for the Gospel of Vedanta. He told his countrymen that there were cany things which they could learn from the Western nations, such as their great concern for their masses, their ideal of social service and their technique of production and economic organization.
Ibid., p. 86. '
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. VII, Advaita Ashram, Calcutta (1964). Hereinafter it is cited as C. W.
Vivekananda was highly impressed by the material brilliance of the Western civilization, w hen he first saw it in the city of Chicago. But gradually its darker side also began to be revealed to his keen vision. He discovered the love of lucre, the spirit of greed, and the
GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS
ferocious struggle for supremacy which lay at its basis. In a letter to Sister Nivedita, written at a later date, he explained his mind: "'Social life in the West is like a peal of laughter ; but underneath it is a wail. It ends in a sob. The fun and frivolity are all on the surface ; really it is full of tragic intensity. . . .Here (in India) it is sad and gloomy on the surface, but underneath are carelessness and merriment."*
Vivekananda thought that what the West needed was the great spiritual truths, enumerated by the Vedanta. He told his Western audience that there was a nobler aim than accumulating wealth and conquering external nature, and that materialism could never permanently satisfy the soul of man. He further told them that the man is Atman and that the chief aim of life is to realize the divinity latent in man.
Thus Vivekananda advised both the Indians and the Westerners. He advised Indians to learn from the West the great ideals of social service, hard labour and economic organization, while his message to his Western friends was to follow the spiritual truths of India, contained in the Vedanta.
9 Romain Rolland, Prophets of New India, Advaita Ashram, Calcutta, p. 353.
Vivekananda placed before the mankind some important facts about religion. First of all, he told that the origin of religion lay in the innate struggle of human mind to transcend the limitations of human senses, and not in nature-worship or ancestor-worship. The second important fact that he explained about religion is that it is neither word nor doctrine : it is realization. "It is not hearing and accepting. It is being and becoming." It is possible to realize God in one's lifetime. This realization is open to everyone. The third important fact about religion, according to him, is that renunciation is an indispensable pre-requisite of a true religious or spiritual life. The idea of renunciation is an old one, and it was neither discovered by Sri Ramakrishna nor by Swami Vivekananda. But the stress on service, which Vivekananda laid, was something new. He was not satisfied with the idea of personal salvation to be reached by Jnana (knowledge). He, therefore, dedicated his entire life to the service of the poor. The Ramakrishna Mission is the outstanding monument to this ideal. The fourth important idea about religion, which Vivekananda placed before us, is that of Universal Religion. He struck the first note about it, when he said in his opening speech in the Parliament of Religions that he was proud of belonging to a religion "which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance." He made it clear that the Hindus 'believe not only in universal toleration', but also 'accept all religions as true.' In support of his claim, he cited the famous
teaching of the Gita. Lord Krishna says in the Gita. ". . . .In that way in which they worship Me, I give them fruit accordingly. 0 Paartha ! whichever path is followed, a man ultimately comes and joins into My path."10 Vivekananda spoke some ten or eleven times during the session of the Parliament of Religions; and each time he advocated the idea of Universal Religion in which all men could be united without limits of space and time. He stated that the same truths could be found in every religion, and that good and perfect men had been produced by every creed. He maintained that every religion consisted of three parts—its philosophy and ideals, its mythology and its rituals. The last two varied from one religion to another, but there was an essential identity in regard to the first. Defence of Hinduism
Vivekananda's exposition and defence of Hinduism at the Parliament of Religions led the "New York Herald" to remark that the Swami was the greatest figure in the Parliament. It further added : "After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned land."
Vivekananda also explained his mind regarding the usefulness of image-worship. Although he conceded that the worship of an image could not lead a man directly to Mukti, he did not disregard its usefulness. He considered it necessary for a common man to prepare bis mind for the realization of God. He regarded it as a preliminary stage in our spiritual unfoldment. Image worship is as necessary for the realization of God as infancy and childhood are for the maturity and wisdom of an old age. Idolatiy can be wri.ug only if cbildhood or youth is a sin. But he was also conscious of the fact that the mystery-mongering cult, the so-called Yogism or magic had crept in the soil of India for long. He considered it responsible for the spiritual and social downfall of the Indian people. Likewise, he was of the view that dogmatism in any realm—life or letters, idea or belief, theory or practice—is the sure enemy of progress. It stifles our souls, regiments our thoughts and trims our creative adventures into narrow groups of slavish minds, Hence, Vivekananda strongly pleaded for adopting a free and rational attitude towards religion. Religion and His Concent of Individual and Social Freedom
10 Gita, Chap. 4, Sbloka 11.
According to Vivekananda, freedom is the keynote of spiritual life. Religion consists solely in inner spiritual urges. Wherever religion is estranged or cut off from its vital spring, spiritualism, ft is degenerated into dry formalism or dull mechanised drilling, a routine affair of life. True or dynamic religion lifts us out of our ruts. It is also "the function of philosophy to provide us with a spiritual rallying centre, 'a synoptic vision' as Plato loved to call it, Samarivaya as the Hindu thinkers put it, a philosophy which will serve as a spiritual concordant, which will free the spirit of religion from the disintegration
GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS
of doubt and make the warfare of creeds and sects a thing of the
past."1.1, Vivekananda declared in the Parliament of Religions with
all the emphasis that he would command : "The Christian is not to
become a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each
must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his indivi-
duality and grow according to the law of growthIf the Parliament
of Religions has shown anything to the world, it is this'Help
and not fight', ^^assimilation, and not destruction', 'harmony and peace and not dissension'."
Vivekananda considered freedom not only for maintaining religious harmony among various religious faiths and for realising the spiritual life by the^in^i^a^^gbiiJJie.also thought that the individual freedom was equallj^^ispensaBre for the realisation of his personality in the social and economic spheres. He, therefore, wanted to make freedom as the natural possession of all "fndlviduals. He inspired that every individual must cultivate a free body, mind and spirit. He defined his concept of individual freedom as follows: "Liberty does not certainly mean the absence of obstacles in the path of misappropriation of wealth etc., by you and me, but it is our natural right to be allowed to use our own body, intelligence or wealth according to our
will, without doing any harm to othersHe further explained
his attitude towards freedom thus: "Freedom is the watchword. Be free ! A free body, a free mind, and a free soul! That is what I have felt all my life: I would rather be doing evil freely than be doing good under bondage.""