Where is Vivekananda’s India?

Vivekananda’s short address in Chicago is still remembered, 125 years later, as a historic marker in the march of ideas.

Published: 16th September 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th September 2018 12:04 PM   |  A+A-

Swami Vivekananda (File | EPS)

Here is the noblest summing up of civilisational values by an Indian:I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, 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... Sectarianism, bigotry and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth.

They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often with human blood, destroyed civilisation and sent whole nations into despair.... The present convention is in itself a vindication of the wonderful doctrine presented in the Gita: ‘Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him. All men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to Me.’ 

— Swami Vivekananda
Here are the most despicable understanding of values that Indians can possibly have:
Please donate to help Kerala Hindus. The Christians and Muslims worldwide raising lots of money to help mainly their own people and agenda. 

— Rajiv Malhotra (USA). 
Floods in Kerala are due to tantric and mantric worship. Tsunami was God’s wrath in India for idol worship. 

— Evangelist Lazarus Mohan (Tamil Nadu)
In a way it is abhorrent to mention in the same breath the names of Vivekananda, the swami of enlightenment, and the latter-day peddlers of religious hatred. Chicago, where Vivekananda addressed the World Parliament of Religions, was picked as the venue for the World Hindu Congress recently. But Chicago heard this time a different voice that called for a sectarian war lest “the lone lion is destroyed by wild dogs”. This lone lion must be a new contraption because Hinduism can never be destroyed, not even by those who are misusing it from within.

Vivekananda’s short address in Chicago is still remembered, 125 years later, as a historic marker in the march of ideas. At the assembled “parliament” of spiritual leaders from all corners of the world, Vivekananda stood out as a majestic figure—a 30-year-old in saffron a robe with a maharaja-like turban. His opening words, “My sisters and brothers of America”, led to applause that made the speaker pause for a while.

The message of brotherhood and universal tolerance he conveyed in the next few minutes made him the star of Chicago. It was the first time the West heard a credible Indian voice from India, and it helped demolish the British-projected view of a benighted India lost in primitive superstitions.

Vivekananda’s India, too, appears to be lost. These are days when, for every genuine holy man, there are a dozen fakes. Some flourish with ashrams spread across vast acreages. Some start business empires that conquer everything they set their sights on. Some are in jail. The religious exploiters come in many robes. Madrasas are rife with scandals of child abuse while convents are exploding with charges of nuns being used for the pleasure of priests. Perhaps for the first time in the history of the church in India, nuns have come out in the open protesting against the sexual escapades of a bishop.

Under our prevailing criminal law, a formal charge by a woman is enough to take the accused into custody for interrogation. But this bishop has proved to be special. Forces stronger than God are protecting him.When Vivekananda said, “I am proud to be a Hindu”, he must have had in mind the Hinduism that respected all. The greatness of Hinduism—and the uniqueness of it—is that you can reject all the gods in the Hindu pantheon and still be a Hindu. But the corollary is that you can worship all the gods in the pantheon and still be not a Hindu. The politicians who divide people on religious grounds are not helping their religion. They are just exploiters. 

A saint who said “we accept all religions as true” is being appropriated by a party that suppresses minorities for political gains. Vivekananda was an original liberal. He promoted the cause of modern education and modern science. The casteism in Kerala provoked him to describe that state as a lunatic asylum. How would he describe the states where people lynch people in the name of religion? How would he describe Raja Singh Lodh, BJP MLA in Telangana, who said, “Till the cow is accorded the status of Rashtra Mata, killings for gau raksha will continue”? Swami Vivekananda was blessed that he lived in another, civilised, India.

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Comments(8)

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  • Mattur Sameer

    I want to know whether the author has even cared to ask why Rajiv Malhotra remarked so...it is because Rajiv Malhotra is one of persons who has seen through his own eyes during Tsunami in Tamil Nadu how evangelists are preying upon people in vulnerable times and how government of the day was not willing to give land to Swami Dayanand Sarawati but was giving away the land to missionaries. He saw in front of his own eyes Nagapatanam district getting converted with exception of few religions here and there. If this were not enough let me quote Swami Vivekananda whom the author seems to appropriate. "If the whole of India stands up and throws all the mud beneath the Indian ocean
    1 day ago reply
  • Mr Shailesh Kumar

    A converted author talking about Vivekananda with authority and we are expected to read his skewed opinion as Gospel Truth.!
    1 day ago reply
  • Akaula

    You claim <> this as quote from Rajiv Mahotra. Your double speak in the article was obvious
    1 day ago reply
  • V Lakshminarayanan

    Many western organizations collect money and spend it on proselytizing. Why should any Hindu donate money to such organizations and face their own destruction? There is nothing wrong in what Rajiv Malhotra suggesged.
    1 day ago reply
  • Sai

    Foreign NGOs use calamities as opportunities to convert and proselytize people. They help people who agree to convert in return. There are so many examples of this
    2 days ago reply
  • vanthia thevan

    His vision of India was destroyed in 70 years of congress rule. BJP has just started rebuilding.
    3 days ago reply
  • Bala

    Let Mr George read history the atrocities done by Muslims for over 400 years. Hindus couldn't get over it. Every family suffered. In my family two women were just taken away by them while ladies doing Rangoli. It takes time to cool down. Still the conversions is going on all the places!!!!. So projecting a confused idea is dangerous. Mr Geoege is a highly learned man and he is going little wayward from his neutral path God bless Bala
    3 days ago reply
  • Chandrasekaran

    It is sheer dubicity that those who claim to own Vivekananda do not buy his liberalism.
    4 days ago reply