International Forum for NeoVedantins
NeoVedanta of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda


Swami Vivekananda and his compassion
Year 1902, Place: Belur Math

Swami Vivekananda was staying in the Math. Some Santhal laborers used to work in the Math. They were poor, uneducated and simple. Swamiji had great sympathy, bordering on love, for these laborers who, despite honest and hard labor, could not feed their family adequately. The compassionate heart of Swami Vivekananda would grieve and melt for these poor fellows. He would inquire about their family, say simple jokes, and mix with these 'lowly fellows'. The spiritual personality of Swamiji would see suffering Narayana in them. His heart would get filled with unparalleled pity, compassion, and kindness towards these Santhal workers.

Like Gopis of Vraja, who would protest to Krishna not to play the sweet music on his flute, for it attracted them to Him and His Raas Lila with such great intensity that they used to forget their homes and husbands, these workers would also protest: "O my Swamiji, do not come to us when we are working, for while talking to you our work stops and the supervising swami rebukes us afterwards." With such intensity of love, Swami Vivekananda would attract these poor laborers.

One day Swamiji had a desire to feed these workers. Accordingly, he made arrangements for their lunch. At his orders, bread, curry, sweets, and curds etc. were arranged for the Santhals. Sitting before the Swami, all of them relished the sumptuous food. One Keshta said: "O Swami, whence have you got such a thing! We never tasted anything like this." Feeding them to their heart's content, Swami Vivekananda said, "You are Narayana, God manifest; today I have offered food to Narayana."

Turning to the disciple, the Swami said: "I found them the veritable embodiment of God - such simplicity, such sincere guileless love I have seen nowhere else." And later addressing the sannyasins of the Math, Swami Vivekananda had said: "Can you mitigate their misery a little! Otherwise, of what good is the wearing of the Gerrua (ochre) robe? Sacrifice of everything for the good of others is real sannyasa..." "Seeing the poor people of our country starving for food, a desire comes to my mind to overthrow all ceremonial worship and learning, and go around from place to place to serve these poor and afflicted..."

Such love for suffering humanity had come to the heart of Swami Vivekananda from the teachings of his Master, Sri Ramakrishna. Seeing God everywhere, and in particular His most dramatic and full expression in human beings was the main emphasis of the teaching of New Vedanta as propagated by Sri Ramakrishna. Innumerable examples can be cited to highlight this point. For instance, Sri Ramakrishna once remarked, 'I wondered why should be God meditated upon only with eyes closed, He should be seen all around us in all human beings even with eyes wide open!'

One more touching incidence is worth recounting from the life of Swami Vivekananda. Once the Swami was delivering a talk on Vedas to the sannyasins of the Math. The whole country was in the grip of famine; people were suffering and even dying of hunger. Girish Chandra Gosh, a close associate of Swami Vivekananda and devotee of Sri Ramakrishna was listening to the erudite talk, but felt that such a talk was useless and misplaced, for it did not help mitigate the pangs of hunger of millions. Hence, intervening, Girish said, 'Swamiji, would this talk bring peace and solace to the suffering humanity? Can Vedanta and Vedas bring food to the hungry mouths? How I feel for them, what should I do! What can I do?'

Listening to the fervent appeal full of pathos and sincere feeling, the broad and tender heart of Swami Vivekananda melted, and tears rolled down his cheek. Not to embarrass the sannyasins, Swami Vivekananda rushed away to his chamber in great distress. Turning to the group of sannyasins, Girish Babu said, "See, how compassionate your swami is; we householders do not much understand Vedas and Upanishads, but we see genuine love for humanity in Swami Vivekananda and hence love him and his sangha."

The emphasis on seeing God in every being forms the new Advaita teachings of Hinduism for the modern age. This point alone can appease and appeal the scientific minded westerners, and Indians also, who have accepted and adopted 'reason' as the new religion. Without living this truth in one's life it may be difficult to make Vedanta acceptable universally. The Holy Trio have shown in their lives that we are really one, and may I say it should be our endeavor to get at least a glimpse of this truth in our life also!
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C S Shah


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