The Master Communicator
Due to slavery of centuries, Indians had lost all the faith in themselves and were divided in many castes, regions, faiths etc. The nation had become immaterial, not ‘what connects us’ but ‘what divides us’ dominated our minds due to colonial education and British policy of ‘divide and rule’. The narrow-mindedness, possessiveness about one’s own creed was more important than the unifying principles of our culture. To lift them from this muck of selfishness and petty divisions and to take them to vision of oneness was a great task in front of Swami Vivekananda. He successfully attempted it. He rebuked Indians, cajoled them, exhorted them, made them feel proud about the national mission that they have and also made them feel repentant about the depth to which they had sunk and yet encouraged them to come out of it. All this Swami Vivekananda did in a short span of 4-5 years after his return from the West.
Swami Vivekananda with enormous empathy for the people of India, the concern for the man-kind and clarity of the destiny of India gave his message to people of India. He was a master communicator. How he established rapport with the people of every region at the beginning of his speech and then gave his message fearlessly, effectively, transforming the lives of the listeners is worth studying though is impossible to see it in limits of one article, we shall see it in couple of articles.
The welcome accorded to Swami Vivekananda since Colombo had filled his heart not for his petty selfish interest but for the future of India. As it proved again that the destiny of India is to guide the world in spirituality. He could see the light at end of the tunnel. He also saw that his success was slowly spurring his earlier opponents to claim credit for his success. At the speech at Ramnad thus we see that Swamiji gives a very clear credit to Maharaja of Ramnad of first suggesting to him about the participation in Parliament of Religions.
He started almost with these profound words, “The longest night seems to be passing away, the sorest trouble seems to be coming to an end at last, the seeming corpse appears to be awaking and a voice is coming to us -- away back where history and even tradition fails to peep into the gloom of the past, coming down from there, reflected as it were from peak to peak of the infinite Himalaya of knowledge, and of love, and of work, India, this motherland of ours -- a voice is coming unto us, gentle, firm, and yet unmistakable in its utterances, and is gaining volume as days pass by, and behold, the sleeper is awakening! Like a breeze from the Himalayas, it is bringing life into the almost dead bones and muscles, the lethargy is passing away, and only the blind cannot see, or the perverted will not see, that she is awakening, this motherland of ours, from her deep long sleep. None can resist her any more; never is she going to sleep any more; no outward powers can hold her back any more; for the infinite giant is rising to her feet.
Your Highness and gentlemen of Ramnad, accept my heartfelt thanks for the cordiality and kindness with which you have received me. I feel that you are cordial and kind, for heart speaks unto heart better than any language of the mouth; spirit speaks unto spirit in silence, and yet in most unmistakable language, and I feel it in my heart of hearts. Your Highness of Ramnad, if there has been any work done by my humble self in the cause of our religion and our motherland in the Western countries, if any little work has been done in rousing the sympathies of our own people by drawing their attention to the inestimable jewels that, they know not, are lying deep buried about their own home -- if, instead of dying of thirst and drinking dirty ditch water elsewhere out of the blindness of ignorance, they are being called to go and drink from the eternal fountain which is flowing perennially by their own home -- if anything has been done to rouse our people towards action, to make them understand that in everything, religion and religion alone is the life of India, and when that goes India will die, in spite of politics, in spite of social reforms, in spite of Kubera's wealth poured upon the head of every one of her children -- if anything has been done towards this end, India and every country where any work has been done owe much of it to you, Raja of Ramnad. For it was you who gave me the idea first, and it was you who persistently urged me on towards the work. You, as it were, intuitively understood what was going to be, and took me by the hand, helped me all along, and have never ceased to encourage me. Well is it, therefore, that you should be the first to rejoice at my success, and meet it is that I should first land in your territory on my return to India.
Great works are to be done, wonderful powers have to be worked out, we have to teach other nations many things, as has been said already by your Highness. This is the motherland of philosophy, of spirituality, and of ethics, of sweetness, gentleness, and love. These still exist, and my experience of the world leads me to stand on firm ground and make the bold statement that India is still the first and foremost of all the nations of the world in these respects.”
At Lahore Swami Vivekananda found that the people were divided in three groups, The Sanatanis, Arya Samajis and Sikhs. In his lecture Swami Vivekananda connects them to the common ideal very smoothly, touchingly by reminding them they are the children of great land. The song of the land springs forth from him thus,
“This is the land which is held to be the holiest even in holy Aryavarta; this is the Brahmavarta of which our great Manu speaks. This is the land from whence arose that mighty aspiration after the Spirit, ay, which in times to come, as history shows, is to deluge the world. This is the land where, like its mighty rivers, spiritual aspirations have arisen and joined their strength, till they travelled over the length and breadth of the world and declared themselves with a voice of thunder. This is the land which had first to bear the brunt of all inroads and invasions into India; this heroic land had first to bare its bosom to every onslaught of the outer barbarians into Aryavarta. This is the land which, after all its sufferings, has not yet entirely lost its glory and its strength. Here it was that in later times the gentle Nanak preached his marvellous love for the world. Here it was that his broad heart was opened and his arms outstretched to embrace the whole world, not only of Hindus, but of Mohammedans too. Here it was that one of the last and one of the most glorious heroes of our race, Guru Govinda Singh, after shedding his blood and that of his dearest and nearest for the cause of religion, even when deserted by those for whom this blood was shed, retired into the South to die like a wounded lion struck to the heart, without a word against his country, without a single word of murmur.”
Standing in front of the followers of great ones like Guru Nanak, Swami Dayananda Saraswati etc Swami Vivekananda appealed to them as a brother and not as preacher. His sweetness and humility was such that no one could resist him. Thus he continues further,
“Here, in this ancient land of ours, children of the land of five rivers, I stand before you, not as a teacher, for I know very little to teach, but as one who has come from the east to exchange words of greeting with the brothers of the west, to compare notes. Here am I, not to find out differences that exist among us, but to find where we agree. Here am I trying to understand on what ground we may always remain brothers, upon what foundations the voice that has spoken from eternity may become stronger and stronger as it grows….Gentlemen, this is the motive that brings me before you, and at the start I may declare to you that I belong to no party and no sect. They are all great and glorious to me, I love them all, and all my life I have been attempting to find what is good and true in them. Therefore, it is my proposal tonight to bring before you points where we are agreed, to find out, if we can, a ground of agreement; and if through the grace of the Lord such a state of things be possible, let us take it up, and from theory carry it out into practice.”
Very smoothly, thus, Swami Vivekananda brought the audience to the question of unity of Hindus. And it was after preparing the emotional ground the hearts of the listeners that his wonderful lecture of “Common bases of Hinduism” was delivered. How he connected with other audiences as well as why he was very forthright about his opponents in public speech at Madras that too when the people were in a mood to celebrate his victorious return, we shall see about it in the next article.