Generally, the thoughts and words of sages transcend the times in which they live, and become a reality after their mortal lives and remain so, forever.
Swami Vivekananda exhorted that in Bharat, the land of charity, we have to take up the energy of the first charity, namely the diffusion of spiritual knowledge not only within India but all over the world. He believed that the perennial flood of spirituality has overflowed and deluged the world as an exclusive gift of India again and again. These are his significant words: “In this land of charity, let us take up the energy of the first charity, the diffusion of spiritual knowledge. And that diffusion should not be confined within the bounds of India; it must go out all over the world. This has been the custom….Again and again this phenomenon has happened. Whenever the world has required it, this perennial flood of spirituality has overflowed and deluged the world…. This has been the gift of India to the world again and again….Consciously or unconsciously, India rises up and pours forth her gifts of spirituality; and they will rush through these roads till they have reached the very ends of the world” (CW, Vol.3).
This is what he told the Indians and the world at large: “I do not see into the future; nor do I care to see. But one vision I see clear as life before me: that the ancient Mother has awakened once more, sitting on Her throne rejuvenated, more glorious than ever. Proclaim Her to all the world with the voice of peace and benediction” (CW, Vol. 4). As far back as 1897, he asked the people of India to adore Bharat Mata for the next 50 years, as the only god that is awake. His countrymen followed his words implicitly, thus gradually giving rise to India which he had envisioned. After the Mahasamadhi of Swami Vivekananda in 1902, the freedom movement got an added impetus when the freedom fighters began chanting vigorously and enthusiastically ‘Vande Mataram’, and adoring Bharat Mata. In 1947, exactly 50 years after Swami Vivekananda directed this wave, India became free.
The iconic spiritual leader in Swami Vivekananda saw the conquest of the whole world by Spirituality. This dream became the great ideal for which he told his beloved countrymen to strain every nerve for it. To conquer or to die in the journey towards expansion was his motto. An awakened national life was to be aimed at with the strong foundation of Adhyatma Vidya – the Indian spiritual lore. This is how Swami Vivekananda explained the need for an Indian spiritual mission to rescue the world from the darkness of spiritual ignorance. He said, “The whole world requires light. India alone has the light of the highest spiritual truth. That is why the Lord has preserved the race through all its vicissitudes unto the present day. Now the time has come; Up India, conquer the world with your spirituality” (CW., Vol.3).
Swami Vivekananda attributed his mission of going to the West to the will of God, guiding the destiny of India. He said that his going to America was not his doing or any other’s; but the Divine Will of India which is guiding the country’s destiny. God sent him and will send hundreds of such to all the nations of the world. No power on Earth can resist those who preach the universal religion to every nation: “That I went to America was not my doing or your doing; but the God of India who is guiding her destiny sent me, and will send hundreds of such to all the nations of the world. No power on earth can resist it…You must go out to preach your religion, preach it to every nation under the sun, preach it to every people. This is the first thing to do.”
In his address in the World’s Parliament of Religions Swamiji spoke thus: “If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world, it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: Help and not Fight,’ ‘Assimilation and not Destruction,’ ‘Harmony and Peace and not Dissention.’ ”
Further, he said: “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal tolerance, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to the southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to places by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: As the different streams having their sources in different places, all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to thee” (C.W., Vol.1).
Margaret Noble, a teacher and social worker who met and heard Swami Vivekananda speaking on Sanatana Dharma, chose to become his disciple, travelled to India and joined the service activities of the Ramakrishna Mission. As a missionary in the cause of Mother India, she worked for the Hindu Nation till her last breath. She pursued the mission of Hindu spiritual nationalism expounded by Swami Vivekananda, which inspired the Indian freedom fighters as the philosophy of the Indian freedom movement.
Sister Nivedita was no less than a venerable a sage, someone who was ‘not born in India, but born for India’. She was not born a Hindu, but she lived and died as one. Swami Vivekananda was clear about what he had in mind for Nivedita – that she must work for the upliftment and empowerment of Indian women. Important in this context is the gulf pf difference between the monotheistic Christianity and the Hindu philosophy in their respective approach to women, but Nivedita’s understanding of the ancient Indian womanhood had commenced with her close association with Mother Sharada Devi. She began admiring and revering Indian womanhood after she was renamed as ‘Nivediata’. This truly noble western woman who evolved as a Hindu woman icon, laboured to correct the distortions in the discourse on women in Bharat. Sister Nivedita’s life and message are an antidote to the colonial West that had largely demeaned Hindu India.
[This article is inspired by “The Global Vision and Mission of Swami Vivekananda, and how it inspired the Indian Spiritual Reach World-wide’ (32 pages), by Swami Jyotirmayananda, ‘Coordinator, Global Directory of Dharma Organisations’, www.disoa.org]