Friday 2 August 2013

Swami Vivekananda’s Impact on B. G. Tilak

वीरेश्वराय विद्महे विवेकानन्दाय धीमहि । तन्नो वीर: प्रचोदयात् ।

Today is 1 August, Punyatithi of Lok Manya Tilak. - Homage to Him

Swami Vivekananda, in pursuit of his plan to travel all over India up to Cape Comorin as a mendicant, passed through many parts of Maharashtra. In April to September 1892 he visited Bombay, Mahabaleswar, Pune, Kolhapur, Belgaum, and Indore. Some of the letters Vivekananda wrote in 1892 provide a sketchy idea of his itinerary. These letters have been collected in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda vol. VIII. This was at a time when he was not yet famous. Fame came to him next year when he went to the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. In 1892 he was a little known sannyasi, hosted by various local landlords and this picture comes out clearly in the reminiscences Tilak recorded in January 1934 in Vedanta Kesari.

About the year 1892, i.e., before the famous Parliament of Religions in the World's Fair at Chicago, I was once returning from Bombay to Poona. At the Victoria Terminus a Sannyasin entered the carriage I was in. A few Gujarati gentlemen were there to see him off. They made the formal introduction and asked the Sannyasin to reside at my house during his stay at Poona. We reached Poona, and the Sannyasin remained with me for eight or ten days. When asked about his name he only said he was a Sannyasin.

Vivekananda seemed to be keen at that time to be anonymous. Incidentally, at this time Vivekananda sometimes used another name, Sacchidananda. There is at least one document signed by him under that name.written at Margaon, Maharashtra, in 1893. To get back to Tilak's story, he writes

At home he would often talk about Advaita philosophy and Vedanta. The Swami avoided mixing with society. There was absolutely no money with him. A deerskin, one or two clothes and a kamandalu were his only possessions. In his travels some one would provide a railway ticket for the desired station. The swami also believed like me that the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita did not preach renunciation but urged every one to work unattached and without the desire for fruits of the work.

We may specially note this particular statement of Tilak's. The idea of highlighting the concept of Karma Yoga in the Gita figures very prominently in Tilak's commentary Gita Rahasya. Vivekananda like wise emphasized Karma Yoga and often quoted from the Gita the well-known verse, kailebyam ma sma gamah Partha .... He thought that 'in this one shloka lies embedded the whole message of the Gita  As Frank Rhodehamel and Sister Nivedita have recorded in their notes on his 'Gita class', Vivekananda up-held the Gita text as the New Testament for the Hindus.

Tilak also writes in his memoirs: Two or three years thereafter Swami Vivekananda returned to India with world-wide fame owing to his grand success at the Parliament of Religions and also after that both in England and America. He received an address wherever he went and on every one of such occasions he made a thrilling reply. I happened to see his likeness in some of the newspapers, and from the similarity of features I thought that the Swami who had resided at my house must have been the same. I wrote to him accordingly inquiring if my inference was correct and requesting him to kindly pay a visit to Poona on his way to Calcutta. I received a fervent reply in which the Swami frankly admitted that he was the ame Sannyasin and expressed his regret at not being able to visit Poona then.

This lost letter from Vivekananda to Tilak must have been written between 1896 and 1899, the period between his two visits to USA. Tilak says that police search in his home led to the destruction of this letter from Vivekananda. The last contact between Tilak and Vivekananda took place in 1901.

'During one of the Congress sessions at Calcutta', Tilak recalls, 'I had gone with some friends to see the Belur Math of the Ramakrishna Mission. There Swami Vivekananda received us very cordially. In
the course of the conversation Swamiji happened to remark somewhat in a jocular spirit that it would be better if I renounced the world and took up his work in Bengal while he would go and continue the same in Maharashtra. "One does not carry," he said, "the same influence in one's own province as in a distant one."

Tilak's meeting with Vivekananda

Tilak says this meeting with Vivekananda took place during a Congress session in Calcutta without mentioning a date. Now, there were two such sessions in Calcutta, one in 1896 and the other is 1901. My guess is that Tilak met Vivekananda during the 1901 Calcutta session of the Congress because I infer from dates of his letter that during the earlier session of 1896 Vivekananda was out of Calcutta.

To sum it up, from the time when Vivekananda was an unknown itinerant sannyasin in 1892, till 1901, the year before his death, Tilak had fleeting contacts with him. The relationship between these two
thinkers was more in the domain of ideas than its terms of personal contacts and conversation. No letter between them has survived. Tilak's name does appear in Vivekananda's correspondence occasionally, when he recommended to his disciples Tilak's publications. In one such letter Vivekananda mentions Tilak's historical work, Orion, on the origins of the Aryans.But Vivekananda did not accept Tilak's speculations and seems to say that the facts are uncertain and in any event how did it matter in history where Aryans came from?

In many towns which Vivekananda had visited in Maratha country in course of time social groups were formed to study his writings, eventually leading to foundation of ashrams. Swami Saradananda, senior monk in the Mission, visited Bombay Province several times from 1920 to 1930. In 1927 the Vivekananda Society was set up in Pune and in course of time 25 such societies came up all over the province. After Tilak introduced Ganapati worship and Shivaji festival increasingly the political and the cultural elements merged. On the other hand, Vivekananda study remained generally apolitical.  Needless to say, one can see both resemblances and differences between Tilak's approach and Vivekananda's ideas.

At this point let us note the evidence we have about the extremist nationalists who were attracted to Vivekananda. Tilak was, it is well known, one of the leaders of the extremist section of the Congress who rejected the path of constitutional negotiation with the British Indian government.

Initially, in early part of the 20th century mainly the militant nationalists were attracted by the ideology of Vivekananda.

(From Swami Vivekananda's Impact on B. G. Tilak and the Nationalist Movement , SABYASACHI BHATTACHARYA)

Today's-Special : 1-August in Swami Vivekananda Life

Letter To Swami Brahmananda from  SRINAGAR,
 1st August, 1898.

 You are always under a delusion, and it does not leave you because of the strong influence, good or bad, of other brains. It is this: whenever I write to you about accounts, you feel that I have no confidence in you. . . . My great anxiety is this: the work has somehow been started, but it should go on and progress even when we are not here; such thoughts worry me day and night. Any amount of theoretical knowledge one may have; but unless one does the thing actually, nothing is learnt. I refer repeatedly to election, accounts, and discussion so that everybody may be prepared to shoulder the work. If one man dies, another — why another only, ten if necessary — should be ready to take it up. Secondly, if a man's interest in a thing is not roused, he will not work whole-heartedly; all should be made to understand that everyone has a share in the work and property, and a voice in the management. This should be done while there is yet time. Give a responsible position to everyone alternately, but keep a watchful eye so that you can control when necessary; thus only can men be trained for the work. Set up such a machine as will go on automatically, no matter who dies or lives. We Indians suffer from a great defect, viz we cannot make a permanent organisation — and the reason is that we never like to share power with others and never think of what will come after we are gone.

 I have already written everything regarding the plague. Mrs. Bull and Miss Müller and others are of opinion that it is not desirable to spend money uselessly when hospitals have been started in every Ward. We lend our services as nurses and the like. Those that pay the piper must command the tune.

 The Maharaja of Kashmir has agreed to give us a plot of land. I have also visited the site. Now the matter will be finalised in a few days, if the Lord wills. Right now, before leaving, I hope to build a small house here. I shall leave it in the charge of Justice Mukherjee when departing. Why not come here with somebody else and spend the winter? Your health will improve, and a need, too, will be fulfilled. The money I have set apart for the press will be sufficient for the purpose, but all will be as you decide. This time I shall surely get some money from N.W.P., Rajputana, and other places. Well, give as directed . . . money to a few persons. I am borrowing this amount from the Math and will pay it back to you with interest.

 My health is all right in a way. It is good news that the building work has begun. My love to all.

 Yours affectionately,


The real Guru is the one through whom we have our spiritual descent. He is the channel through which the spiritual current flows to us, the link which joins us to the whole spiritual world. Too much faith in personality has a tendency to produce weakness and idolatry, but intense love for the Guru makes rapid growth possible, he connects us with the internal Guru. Adore your Guru if there be real truth in him; that Guru-bhakti (devotion to the teacher) will quickly lead you to the highest.

 Sri Ramakrishna's purity was that of a baby. He never touched money in his life, and lust was absolutely annihilated in him. Do not go to great religious teachers to learn physical science, their whole energy has gone to the spiritual. In Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa the man was all dead and only God remained; he actually could not see sin, he was literally "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity". The purity of these few Paramahamsa (Monks of the highest order) is all that holds the world together. If they should all die out and leave it, the world would go to pieces. They do good by simply being, and they know it not; they just are. . . .

Books suggest the inner light and the method of bringing that out, but we can only understand them when we have earned the knowledge ourselves. When the inner light has flashed for you, let the books go, and look only within. You have in you all and a thousand times more than is in all the books. Never lose faith in yourself, you can do anything in this universe. Never weaken, all power is yours.

 If religion and life depend upon books or upon the existence of any prophet whatsoever, then perish all religion and books! Religion is in us. No books or teachers can do more than help us to find it, and even without them we can get all truth within. You have gratitude for books and teachers without bondage to them; and worship your Guru as God, but do not obey him blindly; love him all you will, but think for yourself. No blind belief can save you, work out your own salvation. Have only one idea of God — that He is an eternal help.

 Freedom and highest love must go together, then neither can become a bondage. We can give nothing to God; He gives all to us. He is the Guru of Gurus. Then we find that He is the "Soul of our souls", our very Self. No wonder we love Him, He is the Soul of our souls; whom or what else can we love? We want to be the "steady flame, burning without heat and without smoke". To whom can you do good, when you see only God? You cannot do good to God! All doubt goes, all is, "sameness". If you do good at all, you do it to yourself; feel that the receiver is the higher one. You serve the other because you are lower than he, not because he is low and you are high. Give as the rose gives perfume, because it is its own nature, utterly unconscious of giving.

 The great Hindu reformer, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, was a wonderful example of this unselfish work. He devoted his whole life to helping India. It was he who stopped the burning of widows. It is usually believed that this reform was due entirely to the English; but it was Raja Ram Mohan Roy who started the agitation against the custom and succeeded in obtaining the support of the Government in suppressing it. Until he began the movement, the English had done nothing. He also founded the important religious Society called the Brahmo-Samaj, and subscribed a hundred thousand dollars to found a university. He then stepped out and told them to go ahead without him. He cared nothing for fame or for results to himself.

 There are endless series of manifestations, like "merry-go-round", in which the souls ride, so to speak. The series are eternal; individual souls get out, but the events repeat themselves eternally; and that is how one's past and future can be read, because all is really present. When the soul is in a certain chain, it has to go through the experiences of that chain. From one series souls go to other series; from some series they escape for ever by realising that they are Brahman. By getting hold of one prominent event in a chain and holding on to it, the whole chain can be dragged in and read. This power is easily acquired, but it is of no real value; and to practise it takes just so much from our spiritual forces. Go not after these things, worship God.

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
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