The Swami who showed the way

I still vividly remember that day. I casually picked-up a book from my grandmother’s library when I was visiting her during my summer holidays. I might be around 14 years of age and was more attracted to fun books than any serious reads but I somehow picked up this seriously titled book “Why I am a Socialist?”. I realized it a compilation of speeches by someone called “Swami Vivekananda” of whom I knew very little at that time. As I started to read the book in the small open area in the house, I was truly touched by this man and his compassion for the needy. It was my first introduction to the Indian society - the poverty and ignorance of the masses, the reasons for it and the actions to be taken. When Vivekananda declared in the book, “Even if a dog in my country is hungry, my first duty is to feed it”, I almost had tears in my eyes. After I finished the book, I remember that I was lost in thoughts for a long time. The book had such a deep impact on me that I decided to study Vivekananda more. Thus started my journey with Vivekananda, from the human side of him to his divine nature.

In the next few years, I read everything I could find on Vivekananda, mostly Telugu and English compilations of his speeches. Though I read his famous Chicago speech at Parliament of Religions and his talks on Vedanta, for me Vivekananda remained a motivator and an inspiring figure in these initial years and not a spiritual Guru. I still remember the small booklet of quotations I used to carry with me which contained some gems like -
“Arise, Awake and Stop not till the goal is reached”

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success”
I can say with confidence that this small book of quotations helped me to shape my character, a character which helped to stay away from the lures of the college days that followed. By this time, I became a big fan of this man. Everything about him excited me. I remember the excitement when "Swami Vivekananda" movie was screened on Doordarshan which I watched with ardent devotion and even recorded it with a VCR only to be disappointed later to realize that it did not record due to some problem! I was particularly attracted to a song in this movie, which I recently discovered again - “chalo man jayen” (Singer: Yesudas, Lyrics: Gulzar). I used to hum this song so frequently that my father once got irritated and scolded me! I also remember attending a rally of Vivekananda where I joined many students and adults and shouted “Jai Swami Vivekananda” with pride.

Around this time, when I was still in Intermediate (+2), I started reading his lectures on spirituality and religion including his lectures on “Practical Vedanta”. I did not fully understand everything he said, but nevertheless found his exposition of Hindu religion very interesting. I was utterly amazed when I read a Vivekananda’s lecture on Vedanta where he says if you touch a tree, you know only the sensations caused inside you but not the tree itself, in fact, you can never know what the tree is. He explains that we can perceive only what is inside us and can never know a bit of the external world. The “intellectual realization” of this truth fascinated me when I first understood it. I continued reading his spiritual works and regularly followed the monthly magazine of the Rama Krishna Mission titled “Rama Krishna Prabha” which contained of wealth of spiritual information. The librarian was surprised to see that I was coming every month to read this magazine while other guys of my age are reading filmy and commercial magazines!

I was so inspired by the teachings of Swamiji that when I saw an ad in the newspaper that the Vivekananda Kendra of Kanyakumari is looking for young guys who may be interested in becoming Brahmacharis, I seriously considered applying. I did not have enough courage to approach my parents but otherwise I would have possibly done that for sure! After I joined engineering and got busy in studies, this fervour for Swamiji reduced significantly but the love for him in my heart stayed intact. By this time, I became interested in studying other spiritual teachers and started reading Jiddu Krishnamurti and other modern teachers. I still read Vivekananda occasionally and remembered all his teachings.

When I was studying M.Tech at IIT Madras, Vivekananda came back into my life through the Vivekananda Study Circle started by some students. There was a small but dedicated group of students who discussed Vivekananda’s works. I enjoyed those discussions and the occasional lectures from the Swamis of the local Chennai Matt. After I finished my studies and got a job, I got busy with the routine of a typical MNC employee and Vivekananda kind of faded away from my day to day life. I still read his works every now and then, even after getting married. I continue to read him occasionally even now. He is very much a part inside me, if not a part of my life. And recently when I attended the 150th birth year celebration of Swamiji here in San Diego, I felt blessed to be part of this phenomenon called Vivekananda.

They say, “first love is the best love and will never be forgotten”. In my spiritual journey, Vivekananda was my first love and remains very dear to me even though I had the good fortune to experience the teachings and blessings of many other spiritual giants. Being the lethargic and lazy Leo I am, I find Vivekananda to be a great inspiration to make me act! I attribute my current loss of will-power less to my age and more to my moving away from the teachings of Swamiji. I think it is time to reconnect with the Swami and rejuvenate in his glorious teachings. He is forever young and forever energizing with his teaching to “be fearless and strong”. On this day of his Maha Samadhi (July 4th), I bow down to this great Vedantic lion from India!
The world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong.


Deepak said…
When I was 14, I won my first quiz. On the trophy I received, the words, "Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached" were etched. Every morning, I used to wake up and look at those words. I won many quizzes after that. But this one trophy will always remain special. It is still there at home. That was my connection with Swami Vivekananda.

But the silly thing is I never really had a real goal until I turned 27.

I really must say that this is a very good post. Like I've always maintained, you need to write more often in English.

Deepak Karamungikar

Phanindra Ksm said…
Thanks Deepak for the comment! Glad to know Vivekananda's influence on your life too. Thanks for the encouragement to write more.

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