Monday 13 February 2017

Swamiji in Chennai 13 Feb 1897

On the evening of Saturday, February 13, the Swami addressed a very large audience in Pachaiyappa's Hall on "The Vedanta in Its Application to Indian Life". He said that Hindu religion is a collection of various religions, of various ideas, of various ceremonials and forms, all gathered together almost without a name, and without a church, and without an organization. The only point where all the sects agree is that they all believe in the Vedas. No man can he called a Hindu who does not admit the supreme authority of the Vedas. The Vedanta covers Dualism, Qualified Monism, and Monism or Advaita, and even takes in part of Buddhism and Jainism too. "It was given to me," said the Swami, "to live with a man who was as ardent a dualist as he was an Advaitist, as ardent a Bhakta as he was a Jnani." "And living with this man first put it into my head to understand the Upanishads and the texts of the scriptures from an independent and better basis than by blindly following the commentators.... I came to the conclusion that these texts are not at all contradictory... but wonderfully harmonious, one idea leading up to the other."


           The Swami tells his countrymen: "You have talked of reforms... for the past hundred years; but when it comes to practice, you are not to be found anywhere.... And what is the cause?... the only cause is that you are weak...; your body is weak, your mind is weak, you have no faith in yourselves.... Who will give you strength? Let me tell you, strength, strength is what we want." Where shall we get it from? From the Upanishads. This is the great practical application of the Upanishads, that they give us strength. They tell us that we are essentially Spirit--omnipotent and omniscient. "If the fisherman thinks that he is the Spirit, he will be a better fisherman; if the student thinks that he is the Spirit, he will be a better student." From this faith in the truth about ourselves, strength will come and fear will go; freedom will come and privilege will go. "Liberty is the first condition of growth. It is wrong, a thousand times wrong, if any one of you dares to say, 'I will work out the salvation of this woman or child.' I am asked again and again, what I think of the widow problem and what I think of the woman question. Let me answer once for all -- am I a widow that you ask me that nonsense? Am I a woman that you ask me that question...? ... Are you the Lord God that you should rule over every widow and every woman? Hands off! They will solve their own problems. Oh tyrants, attempting to think that you can do anything for any one!... Look upon every man, woman, and everyone as God. You cannot help anyone, you can only serve.... Do it only as worship. I should see God in the poor, and it is for my salvation that I go and worship them...... "


           Prof. Sundararama Iyer relates an amusing incident that happened during the lecture just summarized. Among those on the platform was G. Subrahmanya Iyer, who was later to become editor of The Hindu. At one point, particularly addressing the students in the audiences, the Swami said: "First of all, our young men must be strong. Religion will come afterwards. Be strong, my young friends;... You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the Gita.... You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger......" Even while the Swami was speaking, Subrahmanya Iyer exclaimed in Tamil to those near him, "I have said the same thing often, but none would give ear. The Swami says it now, and you all cheer!"


           The same evening, after the lecture, the Swami attended an entertainment given in his honour by L. Govindas, at Patters Gardens, Royapettah. The large gathering included quite a few Europeans. After addresses had been read, there was a recital by two well-known musicians. The Swami was presented with ochre-coloured silk cloths, garlanded, and served with refreshments.

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