Inspired by Swami Vivekananda
by Ram (Ramasubramanian) chief AT samanvaya DOT com
My own encounter with Vivekananda was during my student days when Rama (since my wife) was part of a youth movement in ramakrishna math that was trying to do some kind of social service. i still remember walking in for a meeting one Sunday afternoon out of curiosity - it was the day the Seoul Olympics (2 Oct 1988) closing ceremony was occupying live television everywhere and there were about 5 young people there and one Swamji. i realized i didn't know how to greet someone like a swamiji, my pride wouldn't permit me to fall in his feet like everyone else seemed to do and my ignorance about who he was and what was he doing meant i had no clue . perhaps sensing this, he started a conversation with a easy, "hello! so you are new, how did you come here?"...the rest of the conversation was rather easy. this ease of conversation with most of the swamis has been one of the hall marks of my engagement with the Swamis of this amazing order of monks since then (and it is two decades now!).
Among the activities of the youth organization were joint reading of the series of lectures by Swami Vivekananda called, "Lectures from Colombo to Almora".
Those days, i used to spend much time in libraries and my immediate attraction in ramakrishna math was the centenary library. it is here that i really discovered the works of VIvekananda - complete works, letters, the compilation of reminiscence of his disciples "East and West" by Mary Louis Burke. rebelling against the conservative family upbringing from triplicane, for me what was exciting was the rebellious tone of Vivekananda and his rendering of vendanta as "fearlessness" and "realizing the divine potential through work", karma yoga was my favourite book as much as "the work before us" was the favourite lecture in the Colombo to Almora lectures.
Service activities at the math and the reading of upanisad came to dominate much of my interest those days and in one of those visits i read a beautiful work called, "My Master" - this is the first time he acknowledges his teacher during the entire set of talks in the west, when someone asks him to talk about his teacher, he talks of ramakrishna with great passion and humility. it was after this that i discovered that there was a temple for ramakrishna in the math and took more interest in the order of monks itself!!
Since then, some of the best moments in life have been with the monks of the order, discussing management with Swami Someswarananda (then head of Khetri Ashram and since then left the order to start VIvekananda Centre for Indian Management in Indore) which has shaped my thinking in management immensely, reading together tamil scriptures with Swami Vimurthananda (since then become the youngest editor of the tamil magazine Ramakrishna Vijayam, the largest cultural monthly in tamil with 1.5 lakh copies printed now) a very close friend since then with whom even today have a walk once a month to discuss several issues of mutual interest. The late President of the order Swami Buteshananda from whom i took mantra diksha, played badminton and volleyball with some of the young novitiates of the order (many have since become monks) and have traveled, shared, volunteered and worked with many of the monks. some of my early articles have been published in the magazines of the order and it was a honour to be called to deliver couple of lectures in the same math campus.
I have also realized that there are many other institutions outside the ambit of the ramakrishna mission and math that have been influenced by the works of vivekananda, NARDEP as part of the vivekananda kendra has become a constant source of inspiration in our work in rural development, the ulundurpet sri sarada ashram run by over 50 nuns today we have come to see as another source of inspiration. when we launched our own organization, we named it "samanvaya" based on a lecture by swami rangananthananda that i was reading at that time (meaning harmony in sanskrit and a very old word appearing in the rig veda) that suited the work we envisaged for ourselves - harmonizing efforts for better future creation. we also made several social connections through the math since then, Dr. Sudarshan of BR Hills who had worked among the tribal there and perhaps the only one to stand up to the dreaded Veerappan.
Indeed it is an honour that several monks in the order look at us as an organization inspired by Swami Vivekananda and we could during his 150th birth year institute two awards - one for youth involved in organic farming and another for those doing exemplary work emphasizing self-reliance in education. these were awarded in a gathering of over 1000 voluntary agencies on the 6th of January in trichy.
To me Vivekananda has said several things that i later found in Gandhi as well - "abhi, abhi', fearlessness is all that the upanishads have taught us, another thought i carry within me is, 'don't be afraid to articulate the ideal just because you can't stand scrutiny by its standing today, you articulate something for yourself as much as for others as a goal post', this he repeats through the brilliant two bird analogy from katha upanishad, emphasizing that one doesn't have to worry about our limitations and needs to move on, this i found is something some intellectuals lack in india limited as they are by their own inabilities and often having to reduce their articulation of ideas to what they can justify by their own life; the need to look at peoples' potential rather than their current weakness has been another guiding force in people management for me, we cannot be limited by what people can do today, and no one is given an idea without being given the potential to manifest it, the statement on each soul being potentially divine and the goal is to manifest the same is by far the best english articulation of vedanta i have encountered; i find that when i talk these days many times i am borrowing words from him almost by default because they also are the best words to express my own convictions today.
His words render a power that is amazingly refreshing any day, his ideals provide us a benchmark and his convictions, if we can own up to them, provide us with a strong bedrock from which one can choose whatever one wants to do. i owe much to his work and words and it has been very humbling to discover some of the most dedicated grass root workers in remote places under difficult situations also look up to his words as their inspiration...it only deepens our resolve to work for and work with the healing forces in humanity, those who are preoccupied with manifesting the idea of deep connectedness of all beings that is much needed today. for me it is very personal, the statement, 'atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha' which he gave as a motto to the ramakrishna mission that means, 'attaining spiritual goal through working for the betterment of all beings'.
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