The intellectual prowess of Swami Vivekananda

//The intellectual prowess of Swami Vivekananda

The intellectual prowess of Swami Vivekananda

More than a century ago, Rabindranath Tagore wrote “If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative”. Romain Rolland, the French Nobel Laureate had this to say: “I cannot touch these sayings of his…without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock…what transports must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero”. Romain Rolland is known to have expressed that his greatest regret in life was not to have met Swami Vivekananda and learnt at his feet. Understanding Swami Vivekananda and his personality is more than a life-time study for many. Gauging his intellectual prowess is not something that all and sundry can indulge in. One needs to study his life, understand his message and try to live it – before one can even come close to commenting on them. I have always been fascinated on how Swamiji who lived more than a hundred years ago continues to inspire people even today.

In August 1893, Swami Vivekananda met with Prof John Henry Wright of Harvard University to request him for an introduction to enable him to get invited to the Parliament of Religions at Chicago. After a brief interaction with him, Prof Wright told Swami Vivekananda “To ask you, Swami, for your credentials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine”. One also needs to recall that Swami Vivekananda was the first Indian to be invited to chair the Department of Oriental Philosophy at the Harvard University, though he politely turned it down saying ‘as a wandering monk, he could not settle down to work of this kind’.

We see examples of Swamiji’s brilliant intellect and the way he could explain the complexities of Vedanta and Advaita philosophy in simple and understandable English. He himself had this to say about it (in his letter to Alasinga Perumal, dated 17-Feb-1896):

To put the Hindu ideas into English and then make out of dry philosophy and intricate mythology and queer startling psychology, a religion which shall be easy, simple, popular, and at the same time meet the requirements of the highest minds – is a task only those who have attempted it can understand. The dry, abstract Advaita must become living – poetic – in everyday life; out of hopelessly intricate mythology must come concrete moral forms; and out of bewildering Yogi-ism must come the most scientific and practical psychology – and all this must be put in a form so that a child may grasp it. That is my life’s work.

Such was the extraordinary genius of Swamiji that he could not only teach his many disciples about it, but has also left behind huge collections of his writings that are both relevant and necessary for mankind even today.

Kannada version in Prajavani (02-Feb-12)

By |2017-05-23T11:09:45+00:00May 23rd, 2017|Public Articles|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Ramaswami Balasubramaniam (Balu) is a development scholar, author, public policy advocate, leadership trainer and activist, known for his pioneering development work with rural and tribal people in Saragur of Heggadadevana kote taluk, near Mysore in Karnataka, India.He founded Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), a development organization based in Saragur when he was 19. After spending 26 years in development work among rural and tribal people, he pursued academic degrees in leadership, organisational development and public policy. He was the Frank H T Rhodes Professor at Cornell University between 2012 to 2014, and continues to hold academic positions in other universities. His book I, the citizen is a compilation of narratives and reflections of a development activist and was released in 2015 by the Prime Minister's office. He is also the Chairman of Grassroots Research And Advocacy Movement (GRAAM)at Vivekananda Institute for Leadership Development, Mysore.