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Vivekananda, A Lover

Pravrajika Atmaprana
VIVEKANANDA was a lover a lover of his country. When as a penniless,
unknown sannyasin he left the shores of his poor and materially backward
country, he loved her. Travelling far and wide to other continents, and earning
name and fame, when he returned to his motherland, he still loved her, even
more intensely perhaps. A Western disciple of his who had come with him
asked him whether he still loved his poor, backward country under foreign rule,
after seeing the prosperous and more advanced countries of the West. Swamiji
proudly replied, I loved her before I left the country, now every particle of her
dust is holy to me.
Was this narrow patriotism or senseless glorification?
Knowing
Swamijis vision of Universe as One, we cannot entertain either of these
concepts. Had he not replied to the agnostic leader and orator Robert
Ingersolls query regarding his country and his religion that, The world is my
country and Truth is my religion. Surely, he was the first world-citizen who
wanted a world without walls. Even then he had reasons to love his motherland
and become a crusader to defend her against slander and attacks on her culture
and spiritual greatness by foreigners. What he said in his first lecture in
Colombo on his return to India he reiterated in his talks and writings:
If there is any land on this earth that can lay claim to be the blessed
punya bhumi; to be the land to which all souls on this earth must come to
account for karma, the land to which every soul that is wending its way
Godward must come to attain its last home, the land where humanity has
attained its highest towards gentleness, towards purity, towards calmness, above
all, the land of introspection and of spirituality it is India. That is the ancient
land where wisdom made its home before it went into any other country, the
same India whose influx of spirituality is represented, as it were, on the material
plane, by rolling rivers like oceans, where the eternal Himalayas, rising tier
above tier with their snow-caps, look as it were into the very mysteries of
heaven. Here is the same India whose soil has been trodden by the feet of the
greatest sages that ever lived. Here first sprang up inquiries into the nature of
man, and into the internal world. Here first arouse the doctrines of the
immortality of the soul, the existence of a supervising God, an immanent God in
Nature and in man, and here the highest ideals of religion and philosophy have
attained their culminating points.

When Miss Josephine MacLeod of America came to India and asked him
what she could do for him, his short and straight answer was, LOVE INDIA.
Sister Nivedita who met him in London and left her home for serving his
country, beautifully writes about his loving sentiment for his motherland in
these words:
There was one thing however, deep in the Masters nature, that he
himself never knew how to adjust. This was his love of his country and his
resentment of her suffering. Throughout those years in which I saw him almost
daily, the thought of India was to him like the air he breathed. True, he was a
worker at foundations. He neither used the word nationality, nor proclaimed
an era of nation-making. Man-making, he said, was his own task. But he
was born a lover, and the queen of his adoration was his Motherland. Like
some delicately poised bell, thrilled and vibrated by every sound that falls upon
it, was his heart to all that concerned her. Not a sob was heard within her shores
that did not find in him a responsible echo. There was no cry of fear, no tremor
of weakness, no shrinking from mortification, that he had not known and
understood. He was hard on her sins, unsparing of her want of worldly wisdom,
but only because he felt these faults to be his own. And none, on the contrary,
was ever so possessed by the vision of her greatness.
Before Swamijis minds eye was always the past, present and future of
his country. His quest was this: what was the perennial source of strength and
vigour that enabled India to continue to survive while other civilizations
glorious and triumphant had risen and fallen? The conclusion he arrived at
was that the raison detre of her very existence was spirituality. He was tired of
saying that, This is the land from whence, like the tidal waves, spirituality and
philosophy have again and again rushed out and deluged the world, and this is
the land from whence once more such tides must proceed in order to bring life
and vigour into the decaying races of mankind. Here activity prevailed when
even Greece did not exist, when Rome was not thought of, when the very
fathers of the modern Europeans lived in the forests and painted themselves
blue.
History records that when other lands were just emerging from barbarity,
India had already a well-founded, complex and noble civilization where social
stability and political wisdom had reached perfection; literature was wellgrounded and philosophy became the spiritual basis of all life. We cannot
afford to forget that these went to create the living entity called India.
About three thousand years have rolled by since history has been
recorded. But where is the Egypt of the Pharaohs, where the Greece of Pericles,
the Iran of Darius and the Rome of the Caesars now? India has known enough

shocks, but she has survived the shocks of time. Many conquering races came
to India but they settled down here. Studying with awe the historical events
down the centuries, Swamiji was convinced that India stands deathless because
of her spirituality. He said, Though whirlwind after whirlwind of foreign
invasion have passed over the devoted head of India, though centuries of neglect
on our part and contempt on the part of our conquerors have visibly dimmed the
glories of ancient Aryavarta, the centre is all sound, the key-stone is
unimpaired.
Had Swamiji not sensed the presence of a deep undercurrent of
spirituality in the mettle of the Indian people he would not have declared that in
it lay their vitality. It was this strength that helped them to survive in spite of so
much misery, poverty and oppression from within and without. He told the
children of the Motherland that she never went out to conquer other countries,
therefore wealth and political power she would never attain. Beggars they may
remain, poor and poverty-stricken; dirt and squalor may surround them perhaps
throughout all time, but let them not give up their God, let them not forget that
they are the children of the sages. He was convinced about this and said, I am
one of the proudest men ever born, but let me tell you frankly, it is not for
myself, but on account of my ancestry. The more I have studied the past, the
more I have looked back, more and more has this pride come to me, and it has
given me the strength and courage of conviction, raised me up from the dust of
the earth, and set me working out that great plan laid out by those great
ancestors of ours.
This spiritual heritage was not to be preserved for Indians only, but for
the whole of mankind. Under no circumstances should she give up her lifecentre. If she did, she would die. And he emphatically said, If India dies, then
from this world all spirituality will be extinct, all moral perfection will be
extinct, all sweet-souled sympathy for religion will be extinct, all ideality will
be extinct. And in its place will reign the duality of lust and luxury as the male
and female deities, with money as its priest, fraud, force and competition its
ceremonies, and the human soul its sacrifice.
This was Swamijis assessment of Indias ancient glory. But during the
period when this lover of the Motherland took birth in India, social inequities,
economic ruin, political servitude all conspired to crush the common man.
Nowhere was there strength, nowhere synthesis. Was it surprising then that
Sister Nivedita saw him in India, as she put it, In all the fruitless torture and
struggle of a lion caught in a net? Vivekananda, the lover, suffered with his
people, but his vision of her greatness remained unimpaired.

From Samvit No. 25, March 1992