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The Protector of National Mission

Swami Vivekananda on his return to India-7
The Protector of National Mission

Swami Vivekananda had faced many opponents in America. But he never publicly talked about it. While some of his friends had stood up in his defense, he had personally kept aloof from it as he followed the principle that 'a monk does not defend himself'. Swamiji’s heart was limitless where everyone a friend or a foe had a place. But while giving a talk “My Plan of Campaign” in Madras, Swami Vivekananda was very forthright in exposing what all the opponents had done to him. One wonders why Swami Vivekananda chose to speak like that. Even though, Prof Subramania Iyer and others had counseled silence as the theosophists of Madras held Swami Vivekananda in highest regard, yet he chose to speak about not just theosophists but all his opponents in his first public speech at Madras.

The reason was very simple. Swami Vivekananda was not just a monk he was a monk with a national mission. As he was being given unprecedented welcome and whole India was looking up to him, many wanted to take credit for his success. Some tried that he joined their rank. Some wanted to create impressions in society that they were very close to Swami Vivekananda. Swamiji knew that the work that was to be done for national regeneration would get sidetracked or deviated and even destroyed if it went in wrong hands. His disciples and followers should be the core of the work and not his detractors. Thus, as a nation builder Swamiji wanted to establish his sincere followers and credit his success to them and not to his critics. He saw to it that it was put on record so that even in future no false claims would be made, and Swamiji would not be appropriated by his opponents, nor his work would go in wrong hands. Swamiji started forthrightly in his speech,

“As the other day we could not proceed, owing to the crowd, I shall take this opportunity of thanking the people of Madras for the uniform kindness that I have received at their hands. ….With all my faults, I think I have a little bit of boldness. I had a message from India to the West, and boldly I gave it to the American and the English peoples. I want, before going into the subject of the day, to speak a few bold words to you all. There have been certain circumstances growing around me, tending to thwart me, oppose my progress, and crush me out of existence if they could. Thank God they have failed, as such attempts will always fail. But there has been, for the last three years, a certain amount of misunderstanding, and so long as I was in foreign lands, I held my peace and did not even speak one word; but now, standing upon the soil of my motherland, I want to give a few words of explanation. Not that I care what the result will be of these words -- not that I care what feeling I shall evoke from you by these words. I care very little, for I am the same Sannyasin that entered your city about four years ago with this staff and Kamandalu; the same broad world is before me. Without further preface let me begin.

First of all, I have to say a few words about the Theosophical Society. It goes without saying that a certain amount of good work has been done to India by the Society; as such every Hindu is grateful to it, and especially to Mrs. Besant; ….But that is one thing … There is a report going round that the Theosophists helped the little achievements of mine in America and England. I have to tell you plainly that every word of it is wrong, every word of it is untrue. ...There are others, again, who have their own axes to grind, and if anything arises in a country which prevents the grinding of them, their hearts burn, any amount of hatred comes out, and they do not know what to do. What harm does it do to the Christian missionary that the Hindus are trying to cleanse their own houses? What injury will it do to the Brahmo Samaj and other reform bodies that the Hindus are trying their best to reform themselves? Why should they stand in opposition? Why should they be the greatest enemies of these movements? Why?-- I ask. It seems to me that their hatred and jealousy are so bitter that no why or how can be asked there.”

It was claimed by the theosophist that they who had paved a way for Swami Vivekananda I America. To put the records straight, Swamiji continued,

“Four years ago, when I, a poor, unknown, friendless Sannyasin was going to America, going beyond the waters to America without any introductions or friends there, I called on the leader (Col Olcott) of the Theosophical Society. Naturally I thought he, being an American and a lover of India, perhaps would give me a letter of introduction to somebody there. He asked me, "Will you join my Society?" "No," I replied…"Then, I am sorry, I cannot do anything for you," he answered. That was not paving the way for me.

I reached America, as you know, through the help of a few friends in Madras. Most of them are present here. Only one is absent, Mr. Justice Subramania Iyer, to whom my deepest gratitude is due. He has the insight of a genius and is one of the staunchest friends I have in this life, a true friend indeed, a true child of India. I arrived in America several months before the Parliament of Religions began. The money I had with me was little, and it was soon spent. Winter approached, and I had only thin summer clothes. I did not know what to do in that cold, dreary climate, for if I went to beg in the streets, the result would have been that I would have been sent to jail. There I was with the last few dollars in my pocket. I sent a wire to my friends in Madras. This came to be known to the Theosophists, and one of them wrote, "Now the devil is going to die; God bless us all." (This letter was written to a Buddhist monk who gave it Swamiji’s gurubhai. At Madras on his return Swamiji’s Gurubhai showed that letter to him. Thus Swamiji was speaking with full proof. That letter is in archives of Belur Math as per the book ‘Comprehensive Biography of Swami Vivekananda’ by Sri S N Dhar) Was that paving the way for me? I would not have mentioned this now; but, as my countrymen wanted to know, it must come out. ...After I had got name and fame at the Parliament of Religions, then came tremendous work for me; but at every turn the Theosophists tried to cry me down. Theosophists were advised not to come and hear my lectures, for thereby they would lose all sympathy of the Society, …Thus they prepared the way for me all over America!”

After this Swami took on Christian missionaries and the converted Christians in India and the Brahmos,

“They joined the other opposition -- the Christian missionaries. There is not one black lie imaginable that these latter did not invent against me. They blackened my character from city to city, poor and friendless though I was in a foreign country. They tried to oust me from every house and to make every man who became my friend my enemy. They tried to starve me out; and I am sorry to say that one of my own countrymen took part against me in this. He is the leader of a reform party in India. This gentleman is declaring every day, "Christ has come to India." Is this the way Christ is to come to India? Is this the way to reform India? And this gentleman I knew from my childhood; he was one of my best friends; when I saw him -- i had not met for a long time one of my countrymen -- i was so glad, and this was the treatment I received from him. The day the Parliament cheered me, the day I became popular in Chicago, from that day his tone changed; and in an underhand way, he tried to do everything he could to injure me. Is that the way that Christ will come to India? Is that the lesson that he had learnt after sitting twenty years at the feet of Christ? Our great reformers declare that Christianity and Christian power are going to uplift the Indian people. Is that the way to do it? Surely, if that gentleman is an illustration, it does not look very hopeful.”

Then was the turn of reform societies who had again tried to be very patronizing with Swamiji,

“Now I come to the reform societies in Madras. They have been very kind to me. …Some of these societies, I am afraid, try to intimidate me to join them. That is a strange thing for them to attempt. A man who has met starvation face to face for fourteen years of his life, who has not known where he will get a meal the next day and where to sleep, cannot be intimidated so easily. A man, almost without clothes, who dared to live where the thermometer registered thirty degrees below zero, without knowing where the next meal was to come from, cannot be so easily intimidated in India. This is the first thing I will tell them -- I have a little will of my own. I have my little experience too; and I have a message for the world which I will deliver without fear and without care for the future. To the reformers I will point out that I am a greater reformer than any one of them. They want to reform only little bits. I want root - and - branch reform. Where we differ is in the method. Theirs is the method of destruction, mine is that of construction. I do not believe in reform; I believe in growth. I do not dare to put myself in the position of God and dictate to our society, "This way thou shouldst move and not that." I simply want to be like the squirrel in the building of Rama's bridge, who was quite content to put on the bridge his little quota of sand - dust. That is my position.”

After talking thus which was very uncharacteristic of Swamiji, he very effortlessly entered in his topic about “My Plan of Campaign”. The audience must have wondered at the equanimity of Swami Vivekananda. He had brushed aside the fake claimants to his success, established the sincere Karykartas and then unfolded his plan for the regeneration of India. This talk stirred the patriotic souls but his criticism gave rise to some prolonged controversies in the press but as less and less people took interest in it, the controversies came to an end but the people continued to take inspiration from the rousing call of Swami Vivekananda. The feelings with which he ended his speech touched the hearts of all and continued to motivate men forever,

“This national ship, my countrymen, my friends, my children -- this national ship has been ferrying million and millions of souls across the waters of life. For scores of shining centuries it has been plying across this water, and through its agency, millions of souls have been taken to the other shore, to blessedness. But today, perhaps through your own fault, this boat has become a little damaged, has sprung a leak; and would you therefore curse it? Is it fit that you stand up and pronounce malediction upon it, one that has done more work than any other thing in the world? If there are holes in this national ship, this society of ours, we are its children. Let us go and stop the holes. Let us gladly do it with our hearts' blood; and if we cannot, then let us die. We will make a plug of our brains and put them into the ship, but condemn it never.

Surely, the people must have wiped their tears while listening further from the lips of Swami Vivekananda these words drenched with love of Bharat,

“Say not one harsh word against this society. I love it for its past greatness. I love you all because you are the children of gods, and because you are the children of the glorious forefathers. How then can I curse you! Never. All blessings be upon you! I have come to you, my children, to tell you all my plans. If you hear them I am ready to work with you. But if you will not listen to them, and even kick me out of India, I will come back and tell you that we are all sinking! I am come now to sit in your midst, and if we are to sink, let us all sink together, but never let curses rise to our lips.”

published date: 
Wed, 02/29/2012
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