Swami Vivekananda: The monk as man


Swami Vivekananda: The monk as man
Translated from an article by Dinesh Aminmattu, Prajavani, 16th Jan, 2012

Swami Vivekananda was a “dull” student. He lost his job as a teacher because he was ‘not able to impart lessons’ to students. By birth he was diseased. And by the time of his demise not one or two, but was suffering from 31 different ailments. Matching with his Bengali descent, he was an obsessive junk food eater. Until the last day of his life he was eating non-vegetarian food, and was also able to cook non-vegetarian recipes derived from national and international cuisines. He would smoke cigars and hukkas like an addict. Without distinction of it being Hindus, Muslims or Christians, he would eat at all their homes, Even while he was devoted ‘Sanyasi’, he would be engaged in all the get together parties that were organised throughout the day in the hotels, while he was in the USA….

If these snippets be propagated, to all the people currently engrossed in celebrating the 150thbirth anniversary of this “Revolutionary Hindu Saint”, they would be taken aback with terror. Nonetheless, these are true facts.

Even though from a backward class (shudra), Vivekananda took up Sanyasa going against the Hindu tradition. He denounced the same tradition again by crossing the oceans. Rebelling against the ancient traditionalists he would stay put at the ‘unholy’ places of westerners. For the very same reason, High Court judge Murthy Gurudas Mukherjee refused to head the Welcome Committee after Vivekananda was returning from the Chicago World Religious Forum address. After the renouncement and the ‘sainthood’, numerous eminent people from the ‘upper castes’ would address him a friendand not as swami. He expressed his infuriation about the hoaxes, customs prevalent in Hinduism and other perils like casteism, untouchability, blind superstitions, temple rituals and these outbursts would for sure have earned him the tag of an enemy to Hinduismfrom the fanatic proponents of Hinduism. 
 
Swami Vivekananda at Jaipur, ca.1885-1893

Ideas like “Head is superior, and legs are inferior”, which instilled disparity within one’s own body and other disparity installing mechanisms that are inherent to Hinduism had frustrated Vivekananda, and in rebuttal he would say that people should have “Muslim bodies, with Vedic minds”. When the Maharaja of Khitri, a disciple, expressed his dissent about Vivekananda eating at a Muslim home. Vivekananda retaliated by saying, “I would even eat with the scavengers. I wouldn’t be scared of people like you. You don’t know anything about God or religion.” Once, an emotional Vivekananda went on to say, “If I were alive during the time of Jesus, not with my tears, I would cleanse his feet with the blood oozing from my heart”.

He would also defer the argument that Hindus were converting to Islam because of the force of Muslim rulers. He would attribute this migration to the inherent casteism, untouchability and exploitation in Hinduism. When a religion does not recognise and respect the fundamental rights of humans, then it no longer is a religion, but “dance of the devil”, and the place becomes “hell”, was his perception. He would also reminisce words from his teacher Ramakrishna Paramahansa, “Mutual respect between religion is not sufficient, there must be a cognizance of the fact that all the religions are true”.

Hoping that the 150thbirth anniversary celebrations of Vivekananda “Utsavamurthi” would increase the awe and respect towards him, but when experienced turn out to be a disappointment. Even after 110 years after the demise of the maverick saint who lived for only 39 years, 5 months and 24 days, after endorsing sainthood at an age of 24 years, life of the real Vivekananda is still shrouded in obscurity. Often in recent times, Vivekananda is being projected as the “Brand Ambassador” of Hinduism and in this process, traits which weren’t his are being fabricated and portrayed exaggeratedly to elevate him to the place of God! 
 
Vivekananda in South Pasedena
This misrepresentation is nothing new. People who have wanted to transform the society by social reforms have all been made ‘deities’ and have been distanced from the common people. The notion that, if not for an incarnation of God, no normal human being can grow to have any substantial impact has been shrewdly planted and perpetuated by various religious leaders with political leaders as accomplice. Starting from Buddha to Basavanna, Vivekananda to Narayan, all these people leaders have been escalated as deities amidst their ‘worshipers’ and are today drowned in the anointments and chants of their ‘devotees’. Sinking under the worshiping of these these devotees, the real life and ideas of these great leaders are going oblivious in the pages of history.

Last year, Penguin Publishers published a book “The Monk as Man” by famous Bengali writer Mani Sankar Mukherjee. This is the English translated version of a research based Bengali book (Sankar’s novels “Seemabaddha” and “Jana Aranya” were made into movies by Satyajit Ray). Apart from the ideas and philosophies of Vivekananda, the little known private life is featured in this book. Also other books about their elder brother by Vivekananda’s younger brothers and letters from Sister Nivedita throw light upon the life and times of Vivekananda. 
 
Another group picture in South Pasadena
Vivekananda would in future enchant the western world with his knowledge and mastery over the English language, in spite of faring not academically well in his intermediate and B.A exams. He scored 46 % and 56% respectively is worth a mention. Out of 500 marks he scored 261 (in Sanksrit he scored 43 and in philosophy 45).
After the death of his father, Vivekananda, out of compulsion had to work to maintain the family. He joined Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s education institution. And because Vivekananda was not able to teach students well, he was sacked from his job by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar himself. If not for his mother – Bhuvaneshwari Devi, the world would not have seen Vivekananda, maybe. Like the thousands of Narendranaths from Kolkata, he too would have drowned amongst the crowd.

Vivekananda was from a rich family, but with the untimely death of his father, their ancestral property was swindled by his relatives, leaving the entire family onto the streets. Narendranath was the eldest of the eleven children and the responsibilities of taking care of the family was already on his tender shoulders. While he was unemployed, there were times when he would wander on the streets wearing torn clothes, having no food to eat on many occasions. The fight in a court that was going on incessantly for seventeen years got resolved only a month before the death of Vivekananda.

Shrugging off family responsibilities, Vivekananda renounced the world and took up Sanyasa, passing all of his burden onto his mother. His mother did not loathe him because he had quit the responsibilities of the family in times of deep despair. Instead, she would be proudly talk of her son saying, “My son took up Sanyasa at an age of 24”. After Vivekananda’s demise, she lived for another eight years in tremendous trouble, sustaining only on the monthly grant of a hundred rupees from the King of Khitri. Today, the Indian population who are glorifying and celebrating him were of no use when he was alive. He had once lamented, “ Should I always beg to the foreigners”. 
 
Mother of Vivekananda Bhuvaneshwari Devi
Man of a big heart, broad shoulders, bright eyes…”, are the usual text book descriptions of Vivekananda, projecting him to be the He-Man of Hinduism. Little would the people claiming these know that Vivekananda was always ill and was suffering from numerous ailments. From severe headache to heart problems, he was suffering from 31 health problems. Apart from kidney, liver and throat problems, he was suffering from hypertension, diabetes, asthma, acidity, constipation, weakened nerves, joint pain, swollen legs and was constantly in pain. He had been an insomniac for a long time, and during the end of his days he would sleep as little as a couple of hours only per day. Even a touch would cause excruciating pain in his body. He had written to his disciple Mary Hale at the age of 34, “My hair has grown grey much before my age and my face has wrinkled”. Disheartened by his illnesses once he sighed, “ I have become like a limping horse unable to run the race. At least bestow me peace by granting euthanasia (mercy killing). I can no longer bear this pain”, records Sister Nivedita in her documents.

Even amidst all the ailments, the sharpness of his words hadn’t mellowed a bit. Being the foodie he was, he would eat lot of junk food. “I would add chunks of meat in boiling water with some spices and serve a dish to Thakur (Paramahamsa). Whereas, Naren (Vivekananda) would cook varieties of non-vegetarian dishes”, says Sharadadevi in one of her writings. Sister Nivedita has also elaborately documented the culinary skills of Vivekananda, comprising of national and international recipes. The day he died is when the Hilsa fish had entered the Hoogly river; he had got it cooked, had it for lunch and later in the day when he was resting is when he breathed his last that night.

A dull student as per academic standards, ailing from tens of health issues, shaken by family responsibilities, food obsessed common people can also grow to become “Vivekananda”, was proven by Narendranath to the world. While being entangled in these difficulties also, he had studied all the religions and philosophies of the world. He would travel countries and give speeches. He would relentlessly write books and letters. He had thousands of disciples and millions of followers. He started the Ramakrishna Mission in service to his Guru. All of this, he had accomplished within a span of 15 years.
Can a commoner accomplish all of this? Certainly he/she can. One has to be a Vivekananda for that!

PS:  Audio excerpt of Vivekananda’s address at the Parliament of World Religions, Chicago in September, 1893

About Raghav/Raghu

A fortunate mass of hydrogen cloud conscious enough to be contemplating that very fact.
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15 Responses to Swami Vivekananda: The monk as man

  1. anupama says:

    It is important to present such people as they are. While their exceptional qualities might have been emphasized as a motivation for others, it is venomous to exalt them to God-like status or , at the other extreme, harp only on their weaknesses. A true account of their lives would make people understand and admire them, and at the same time imbibe the characteristics they appreciate in their role models

  2. shiv says:

    Ya I completely agree with that. at the same time we should not forget that Jesus and prophet Mohammad too were assholes like him who screwed more than 60% of the population.

  3. shiv says:

    You should also write an article on other shitheads like Jesus Mohammad…

  4. Caesar says:

    Shiv,much as I appreciate the book,and the article,calling him an 'asshole' is not done.Because the approach to religion undertaken by him,was in many ways forward than the clutches of Brahmanical ritualism.

  5. Well, shiv. Whatever your views are about any person, do refrain from using abusive language! And like Caesar has pointed out, Vivekananda did push beyond the fanaticism of Hinduism!

  6. Anupam S says:

    Fools will always blabber about the intelligent in the most insulting manner.Hope some light enter your heads one day.

  7. Anupam S says:

    Fools will always blabber about the intelligent in the most insulting manner.Hope some light enter your heads one day.

  8. john says:

    agree with Anup

  9. Francis says:

    DINESH AMINMATTU IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF MUDDLE HEAD WHO WRITES WITHOUT KNOWING. PLS. GO THRU GOSPEL OF SRIRAMAKRISHNA BY ONE OF HIS FOLLOWERS (NOT BY VIVEKANANDA OR RAMAKRISHNA) TO KNOW WHO THEY WERE AND WHAT WAS THEIR BACKGROUD.. PLS. DO IT BEFORE U IMAGINE AND WRITE.. THANKS

  10. pulong1979 says:

    Copied from Sri Chinmoy ReflectionsSri Ramakrishna’s dearest disciple next to Vivekananda was Brahmananda. He reached higher heights than Vivekananda did. In every way, he was dearer than the dearest to Sri Ramakrishna.Brahmananda’s childhood name was Rakhal. His father arranged for him to get married at a young age. His father was a Brahmin, and it was a matter of extreme importance to him that his son be married. He literally forced Rakhal to get married.After Rakhal was married, most of his spiritual brothers said, “Alas, our brother has fallen! He has fallen so badly!”Sri Ramakrishna immediately scolded them. He said, “I do not want to hear any of this talk! You know how fond I am of my dearest Rakhal.”Then Rakhal and his wife had a baby boy. Once again, the disciples mercilessly criticised Rakhal. They said, “He is completely gone from the spiritual life. He has totally fallen.”Again Sri Ramakrishna admonished his disciples. “You must not criticise Rakhal. Do not criticise him!”One day Rakhal’s son died. He and his wife were so sad to have lost their dearest son.When the disciples heard about it, they were sincerely sympathising with their beloved brother. “What a terrible thing has happened to Rakhal. Our brother and friend has lost his only son,” they said.The disciples came running to Sri Ramakrishna screaming, “Master, Master, Rakhal’s son has just died!”To everyone’s surprise, Sri Ramakrishna started singing and dancing. He was extremely happy. Then Sri Ramakrishna said, “Rakhal had a little bondage. Now Mother has taken away that bondage. I am so happy! I am very, very happy.” CommentaryWho can understand a spiritual Master’s ways? With the ordinary human mind, we can never, never know the Master’s ways. They are inscrutable.Sri Ramakrishna would tell one person, “Go and eat meat. Nothing will happen.” To another person, he would say, “All restlessness will enter into you if you eat meat. You must never eat meat!” If the first person ate meat, his consciousness would not be disturbed in the slightest. If the second person ate meat, the restlessness of the animals would enter into him instantly and take him into the abysmal abyss of his consciousness.After he realised God, Swami Vivekananda used to eat meat and fish. His fellow brother-disciples and other critics used to say, “O my God, he is eating meat! He has definitely fallen.”Swami Vivekananda would answer, “When I was poverty-stricken, you did not give me even one rupee. Such kind-hearted people you were! Now I am in a position to eat meat and you are criticising me mercilessly. Is eating meat taking away my spirituality? Am I descending? You are such well-wishers! Where was your sympathy when I was without money for weeks on end?”Sri Aurobindo used to eat chicken quite regularly for a year, even when he was in his high, higher, highest consciousness. Nothing affected him. And while he was writing his magnum opus, The Life Divine, his servant used to come to him with a very large Burmese cigar. Sri Aurobindo would smoke to get inspiration. This is all written in official books on Sri Aurobindo’s life.Another great Master of the highest heights, Sri Ramakrishna, used to smoke a hookah frequently before he entered into his highest meditation. In most cases, if people smoke, they cannot raise their consciousness even an iota. Even if someone is smoking next to another person who does not smoke, it is all finished for the non-smoker! That person will not be able to go higher at all.In Lord Buddha’s case, a man gave him poisoned meat and then the Buddha died. As he was dying, when someone asked him about the man who had poisoned him, Lord Buddha said, “Forgive him! Forgive him! He has not done this intentionally.”In our spiritual life, we all have to know how much capacity we have.

  11. pulong1979 says:

    Also part of the following text will help understanding:FOOD AND DRINKby Swami Narayanananda (Chapter 4 from The Secrets Of Mind Control, 1959)Food and drink play a very important part in mind-control. With unwholesome food and a heavy stomach one cannot practise meditation and gain concentration of the mind. Besides, a man who is a slave of his tongue or palate is also a slave of lust. For, there is a very close connection between the tongue and the genital organ. A man keen on observing perfect Brahmacharya, must exercise full control over his food and drink.Non-vegetarian dietMany sects and people have very crude ideas about food and drink. Some prescribe strict vegetarian diet, while others have no objection to non-vegetarian food. What generally happens is that, if the founder of a particular sect is a vegetarian he extols vegetarian diet and commands his followers to be strict vegetarians. If, however, he happens to be a non-vegetarian himself he allows his followers to eat fish, meat and the like. Such views, however, are rather one-sided and narrow. It is certainly neither possible nor advisable to prescribe one and the same kind of food for all men in different climes. In deciding what food and drink should be taken we must use our common sense. We must take into consideration the time, clime, constitutional agreement and local availability. Nature has Her own plan concerning this. The fauna and flora of different places and different seasons differ and the people who make use of the local easily available articles of food and drink, remain healthy and feel happy.In India, some narrow-minded and bigoted people have much hatred for non-vegetarian diet. The very idea of meat-eating is galling to them and puts them off their moorings. They can never tolerate meat-eating. In this connection we would like to mention a little incident. Ten years back while the author was living at Haridwar, a certain Vaish gentleman (i. e., belonging to the merchant class), who was a strict vegetarian put the following question to his Guru (spiritual teacher ): "Sir, a man is a strict vegetarian, but he commits adultery, tells lies, indulges in black-marketing and commits all sorts of evils. Another man is a meat-eater, but he is kind, gentle, chaste, pure and charitable. He commits no adultery and tells no lies. Out of these two men, who is the better and nearer to God? The Guru gave the following answer:"Dear me, in my opinion, both of the men are sinners but the man who eats meat is the worse sinner." Does not such an answer betray the height of stupidity? And many such awfully stupid persons posing as religious guides are leading some thousands of people along erroneous path. It is such people and their followers that engender quarrels and cause blood-shed under the garb of religion and in the name of God.

  12. kamu says:

    Hey the writer is clear fool without knowing anything clearly he writes about swami vivekanda. he does not know abt him. he u better go through all the gospel of him man rather then simply balbering kk.i am not able to control my laugh when he said he was poor in stidies. ha ha ha. u better give viveknada in youtube u wil nknow any way thanks for enterning me for giving a wrong news.

  13. kamu says:

    Fool c this linkhttp://quoteplus.blogspot.in/p/about-swami-vivekananda.html

  14. kamu says:

    http://www.indianetzone.com/6/ishwar_chandra_vidyasagar.htmstupid and fool c this link of wt u said that ishwar send vivekanda outhttp://www.indianetzone.com/6/ishwar_chandra_vidyasagar.htmnon sense before writting anything just thinki think ur chirstainsoon i will put ur religion to death knell

  15. valiantvimal says:

    You said…By birth he was diseased. And by the time of his demise not one or two, but was suffering from 31 different ailments.What do you want to portray with this statement?You said…Without distinction of it being Hindus, Muslims or Christians, he would eat at all their homesWhat is wrong in this? This is his philosophy that all religions are different path towards God. It is well-known to all..So, what do you want to say with this…?You said…Even though from a backward class (shudra), Vivekananda took up Sanyasa going against the Hindu tradition.This clearly shows you haven't read Gita or Vedas..Your perception is wrong… You said…After the renouncement and the 'sainthood', numerous eminent people from the 'upper castes' would address him a friend and not as swami.The problem lies within those people not Swami Vivekananda..Now the problem lies in you. In supporting those people you prove you are one among them…You said…He expressed his infuriation about the hoaxes, customs prevalent in Hinduism and other perils like casteism, untouchability, blind superstitions, temple rituals and these outbursts would for sure have earned him the tag of an enemy to Hinduism from the fanatic proponents of Hinduism. Of course, most people's view about Hinduism is wrong. He tried to make you all understand the religion well…But you say he is against Hinduism..Who will save you??..You said…When the Maharaja of Khitri, a disciple, expressed his dissent about Vivekananda eating at a Muslim home. Vivekananda retaliated by saying, “I would even eat with the scavengers. I wouldn't be scared of people like you. You don't know anything about God or religion.” Is there anything wrong in eating in Muslims' home? I like to know your answer..You said…Once, an emotional Vivekananda went on to say, “If I were alive during the time of Jesus, not with my tears, I would cleanse his feet with the blood oozing from my heart”.I could find nothing wrong in this..It proves your attitude.. You said…“Muslim bodies, with Vedic minds”You quoted this for an ugly reason. But the real reason is belowhttp://theseventhwaves.blogspot.in/2008/11/vedanta-brain-islam-body.htmlYou said…“Mutual respect between religion is not sufficient, there must be a cognizance of the fact that all the religions are true”. Well this is what Vedanta philosophy is. This is what he promotes. This is what Gita says. Is there anything wrong in this? You said…Often in recent times, Vivekananda is being projected as the “Brand Ambassador” of Hinduism and in this process, traits which weren't his are being fabricated and portrayed exaggeratedly to elevate him to the place of God! Well Vivekananda never said this. Problem lies in you!!!You said…While he was unemployed, there were times when he would wander on the streets wearing torn clothes, having no food to eat on many occasions.Only intolerant people will dislike poor people..Shows you are one among them…Still lot to go in your "article"..I could see most of the quotes given by you are baseless..I think you did some of them yourself…From all those I pointed above, I finally conclude that you are wrongly motivated and your article is intentionally fabricated to spread wrong beliefs.My above findings from your article is the proof for that..Cheers man..God bless you…

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