I want to say a few words about Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902).
Today is his 150th birthday.
SV died in Calcutta at a rather young age of 39. Yet, he was one of the very few Indians who became well-known globally as a celebrity intellectual. Perhaps, poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Ray (1772-1833) and scientist Sir J. C. Bose (1858-1937) were among the others whose work crossed the Indian borders and reached the Western World.
Remember, all of them were born and died during the two centuries of British occupation of India. Without phenomenal contribution to human civilization, the tyrant-oppressive colonizing powers would not let the names reach Europe or America.
SV became known to Europe and America primarily through his legendary speech at the World Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 1893. He was only thirty years old at that time, and could not have made it to the conference without help from a few Western admirers. The conference and his speeches made him so famous that Americans and Europeans invited him to speak to their gatherings over the next few months. Here’s a YouTube (audio) of SV’s Chicago speech. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4Nmvbm4WYM.
He spoke about Hinduism — from an ecumenical, inclusive point of view. He highlighted the socialist traditions of Hinduism where he chastised a degenerate variety of the religion with its patriarchy, superstitions, and caste system.
SV’s most famous disciple was Margaret E. Noble (1867-1911), a white Irish woman, who left her name and religion behind to join SV and his pro-poor, upliftment mission in India. She assumed the name of Sister Nivedita. Nivedita comes from the Sanskrit word Nivedan, which means dedication. She truly dedicated her life for her firebrand mentor’s new, revivalist Hinduism.
At the age of 44, Nivedita died in Calcutta. Her health broke down working too hard for India’s slum dwellers and plague victims.
SV, the young “Socialist Saint” and Sister Nivedita were two driving forces behind anti-British revolution in India. Elite politicians, media and Limousine Gurus have kept it a secret. They have only appropriated him as a religious smokescreen, without showing the fire. Ramakrishna Mission, the religious order SV founded after the death of his spiritual mentor, even ostracized Sister Nivedita for her political activities.
Establishment has painted SV as a religious leader without telling us what his religion stood for. SV stood for equality, moral upliftment, and justice.
SV’s brother Bhupendra Nath Datta (1880-1961) was a pioneering socialist revolutionary. He wrote extensively about SV’s brand of Hinduism, and highlighted the message of egalitarianism both SV and Sister Nivedita carried and spread.
I invite you to know this magical man — the real SV that he was.
The new-generation India is oblivious of its glorious history.
SV is one of the best elements of that glory.
Paying Tribute on This Auspicious Day,
Brooklyn, New York