Thursday 21 June 2018

Sister Nivedita’s Battle for Indian Ideals in America - 2

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

Nivedita thinking, at first, that she would tackle Swamiji's opponents, took up from where he left off. Pandita Ramabai, an Indian woman who had converted to Christianity and after traveling widely in India, she had observed the condition of Indian women and began to lecture and write about them. She had publicised the idea that Hindu widows were treated by Indian society like the Negro slaves were, in America. Speaking of only the sordid conditions of Indian women, Ramabai had played upon the sympathy of Americans to collect funds so she could start a school for child widows in India. She married, had a daughter and soon became a widow, herself. Throughout the US she founded Ramabai Circles to raise money from influential people. This seems all well and good. However, Ramabai did more harm than good to India: in order to elicit the sympathy of Americans, especially women, Ramabai painted a highly exaggerated and most pathetic picture of the condition of women in India. Swami Vivekananda going to America after her, on the contrary, only preached the noble ideals of Indian women. He said in a lecture at the Brooklyn Ethical Association of Dr Lewis Janes that 'Hindu wives and widows were protected by law to a greater extent than were nineteenth century American women', and 'the "help" given by the Christian missionaries and ...that given by the Ramabai Circle. ... was worse than none, for it sapped the self-respect of the nation which received it and thus served to ruin rather than to restore'.

A whole generation of Americans had been influenced not only by Ramabai, but by Christian missionary propaganda, preaching that Western culture and society were superior to Indian culture, and depicted Indians as barbaric. This belief had given sanction to Western imperialism. Nivedita had written to her confidante, Josephine MacLeod from her ship, on 21 July on her way to America: "My notion is to take deliberately all those towns in America where Ramabai has attacked Swami—and to go there as nun completely and give say 3 days' lectures—'What I have seen in India' some such title and deliberately acknowledge perhaps that the reports of R's [Ramabai's] presence there had made me feel the bond of a common interest—and propose, flatly, that they should finance my work to the limit of their power. My message will not be political or socialapart from the fact that I love Hinduism with my whole heart and soul, and have not one flaw to find in it."

Nivedita asked Miss MacLeod to get a list of Ramabai's places and costs of travel and if necessary to make some definite engagements for her. She wrote: 'Swami has just come and I have told him of the Ramabai motif—would it do? "Possibly," he says "Do what you like." To start counter-circles first in her territory seems to me sound policy' (1.189). Nivedita wrote to Swami Akhandananda: 'You must ask Sri Ramakrishna to let me be of some real use to Him, as well as my girls. I am sure He will let me find the money I want for them.' (1.195). Again, she wrote to Miss MacLeod: 'Work like this requires persons like you and myself who have no other object or thought in life'.

- Pravrajika Prabuddhaprana : Pravrajika Prabuddhaprana is a senior Sanyasini of the Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission.
To be continued...........

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