As the world celebrates the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, there are still plenty of people who either do not know about him or have a slightly wrong view of him (more so because he was a Sanyasin). I shall try to narrate the influence that Swami Vivekananda had on me and how I have been positively influenced by him.
When I was studying in Sadvidya High School in Mysore, there was a plaque which read something like “During his days as a wandering monk, Swami Vivekananda stayed in Mysore for many days and had given many lectures in this hall”. This was my introduction to Swami Vivekananda. The only thing that I felt in my mind that time was that he should be some great man. That was it for about 6 years. After our CET exams in 2000, we had a very long holiday. I used to visit the Central Library in Mysore. I had a special inclination towards books. I read a good number of them. I also went through these BEST SELLING BOOKS by Dale Carnegie, Robert Schuller and the like. These best selling, though influenced me in the introductory part, started disgusting me towards the end. It was evident that they were speaking the same concept for all 300 pages!. These books disgusted me so much that I stopped reading books.
During my 3rd semester in Engineering, my friend Sudarshan C S brought me a small book, “Call to the Nation”, a compilation of the teachings of Swami Vivekananda. It was a very small book. I told him, “I have read many big books. I don’t think it is going to be of any interest or use to me”. He said, “Read this and it will hit you”. He said this in an affirmative tone. I took it. When I started reading it, I felt a great strength in those words. He was saying in one sentence what Dale Carnige was saying in a full book. In all my readings throughout my life, I had never come across something so worthy. Every sentence of his was filled with great power. I simply couldn’t resist my attraction to him. I felt such strength in his words that I almost cared nothing for my studies. I got some more of his books from the Ramkrishna Sarada Ashram in Ponnampet. His teachings seemed to contain a great truth in them and the man himself appeared as if he was the essence of creation and as if he was the substance and everything else was hollow. Even now that feeling lingers in my mind. It is no wonder why thousands of people have taken to monastic life after going through his teachings. Mine was a very weak case – unknown and might even be considered as a ‘soft person’ with even some funny remarks made at me. But even I could feel his power to such an extent that it transformed my life and what to speak of people who have much higher worth in them. There was a time when I have felt that I am nothing short of God! That is the level to which Swami Vivekananda can raise your mind to.
It is only after I started following Swami Vivekananda that I found my place and path in the society. It not only transformed me but also created an aura around me such that I got a good following and was respected as a man of integrity by most people around me. They might not have agreed with me in toto but they could not disregard me. It was also because of his influence that I did not join any group in particular. In our college there was the Coorgi group, Mandya group, Tamil group, Northy group, this Mallu group and so many of them. Some of them even used to fight with each other. I was probably one of those few guys who could be in peace with all. One of my non Karnataka friends has written in my scrap book that I was the only person who did such programs that everybody could join in. This tribute should go to Swami Vivekananda because he was an universal man and his teachings just rubbed on me. It became natural to me. His teachings gave me a clear view of life. I was quite sure of what I was doing. This has happened despite some turmoils that I was facing mentally. These turmoils had nothing do with Swamiji and were entirely inherent fights for which I had to find a solution by myself. These turmoils and external exploration were going hand in hand. If not for Swami Vivekananda and his teachings, I would have been drowned for sure.
The characteristic feature of his teaching is that it makes you both strong and happy. That is a wonderful combination. His teachings influenced me and some of my friends and juniors to start organizing ourselves. Thus we started Indian Revival Movement. Adrenaline runs high among the youngsters. isn’t it?. Anyway, it was a good ideal to have. We started two magazines. One General and the other technical. We started a mini library in the Hostel.. We started waking up early and did jogging, exercises and meditation in the morning. We used to have group discussion in the afternoon and some Bhajans in the night. It was quite remarkable. For the first time, we started the HOSTEL DAY. It was a very simple yet a very good program. We went a step further to organize, “IT Sarvabhoum”, a program to identify the best IT talent (in all aspects) in the college. I think we even used to conduct some preparatory exams for our members. The point that I am trying to make is how people like Vivekananda can influence you to become more gentle and also more productive at the same time. One of my feelings about Swami Vivekananda in those days was that he was “the essence” of humanity i,e if you boil the milk of this world and process it, Vivekananda is the butter, the essence that you get. In him, I found a man of real substance.
The actual life starts after graduation. I have read the teachings of Swami Vivekananda very religiously for about a year after my engineering. Life is very different when you meet people of different age groups. It is very easy when surrounded by the people of same age and juniors. You live like this for 4 years and come to the world. What you see is a different world. Your cadre is no more with you and life is a fresh challenge. I don’t think you can go and safely mix with this world without a personal ideal. And this ideal is not so easy to obtain. The world doesn’t let you form one. It comes by a constant interrogation in solitude. And here you need the help of people who have trodden the path. Some people have found their ideal in Bhagath Singh, some in Mahatma Gandhi, some in Adi Shankara etc. Somewhere you need that personification of your ideal. For me, Swami Vivekananda was the man. I also have the same respect for Adi Shankara.
When I started our business, we were getting only small orders. Once I got a reasonably big order of Rs. 50,000/- but it also required a long term commitment with the client. Since I was reading a lot of philosophical books in those days, I felt I may die some time in between and my client may get into trouble. I was hesitant to take up the order. Then suddenly one of Swami Vivekananda’s teachings flashed in my mind. He had quoted, “In matters regarding wealth, think as if you are never going to die but in matters regarding knowledge (and spirituality), think that death’s hand is upon your hair”. Since this was a matter regarding wealth, I took courage to believe that I will live forever and took the project. Now you see that I am still alive! 🙂
There is another major incident where Swami Vivekananda’s teachings have come into my rescue. Those were the tough days for our business. The liabilities had run high and there were lots of conflicts around. Then for some strange reason I was given the option of either passing on the complete ownership to another person or just to keep the liabilities to myself. Choosing the latter would have meant that I would just take the liabilities and nothing else, absolutely nothing else. But choosing the former would have meant that I loose control of my own life – something for which I had sacrificed everything. There were faults on my side but it could not be justified on any account that I had to give up everything – definitely not the complete ownership!. It surprises me even now on how the loyalties can change. Even the people whom I trusted asked me give up the complete stakes. I would have probably taken even 5%. Most times, I would have even given up the stakes even though I knew the demand was not justified. Those were some tough 15 days. Here I remembered Swami Vivekananda’s saying, “Business is no friendship”. He said, “Don’t trust even your father in money matters” It appealed to me. We parted ways. I took all the liabilities and continued the business. The decision did not let me down. It was probably good for me to make a fresh beginning even if it meant some debts and hardships. All through these tough times, Swamiji’s teachings have helped me. What more should I expect from him?
I have read his complete works, a set of 9 books once in English and once in Kannada and many lectures inside, I have gone through multiple times. But just about a month back, when I read his “Jnana Yoga”, his knowledge and realization took me by real surprise. Even though I was heaping praise on him and had all the respect for him, this was a different experience. The lectures were a good indication of what heights of spirituality that he had attained to. My reverence to him have reached higher levels since then. What an ocean of knowledge!.
I am still discovering what Swami Vivekananda was. Everyday he presents himself to me in a different and an higher form. During engineering, he appeared more like my guide, the one who gave me strength. When I studied him after Engineering, he appeared like a great humanist. Sometimes I have thought of him as a philosopher and patriot. But my settled conviction now is that he was a humanist. I don’t want to call him a philosopher, I do not want to call him a patriot, I do not want to call him a Saint even. For me he stands above all as the lover of mankind. Certain incidents in his life can very well melt your heart. I feel that everyone should evaluate himself by reflecting himself in the mirror that Swami Vivekananda is. What I am going to achieve in my life, the time will tell. But whatever good that I have done, have been doing and will do in future and all that you find good in me, I owe it all to him.
There are so many wonderful things about him that I can go on writing. But that is likely to be a repetition of what you can read in books. I wanted to write this article after about 10 years probably. But I felt that I should write something for his 150th birth anniversary. I am not trying to project myself as a big man or anything like that. But I am only reflecting on the effect that Swami Vivekananda can have on one’s life. If somebody asks me, give me the best thing that you know of, I will, unhesitatingly and with full faith point my fingers towards Swami Vivekananda and say, “whoever you are, whatever you do, this man will raise you further”.