“In the eighties of the last century, two prominent religious personalities appeared before the public who were destined to have a great influence on the future course of the new awakening. They were Ramakrishna Paramahansa, the saint, and his disciple Swami Vivekananda. … Ramakrishna preached the gospel of the unity of all religions and urged the cessation of inter-religious strife. … Before he died, he charged his disciple with the task of propagating his religious teachings in India and abroad and of bringing about and awakening among his countrymen. Swami Vivekananda therefore founded the Ramakrishna Mission, an order of monks, to live and preach the Hindu religion in its purest form in India and abroad, especially in America, and he took an active part in inspiring every form of healthy national activity. With him religion was the inspirer of nationalism. He tried to infuse into the new generation a sense of pride in India’s past, of faith in India’s future and a spirit of self- confidence and self-respect. Though the Swami never gave any political message, every one who came into contact with him or his writings developed a spirit of patriotism and a political mentality. So far at least as Bengal is concerned, Swami Vivekananda may be regarded as the spiritual father of the modern nationalist movement. He died very young in 1902, but since his death his influence has been even greater.76
I cannot write about Vivekananda without going into raptures. Few indeed could comprehend or fathom him – even among those who had the privilege of becoming intimate with him. His personality was rich, profound and complex and it was this personality—as distinct from his teachings and writings – which accounts for the wonderful influence he has exerted on his countrymen and particularly on Bengalees. This is the type of manhood which appeals to the Bengalee as probably none other. Reckless in his sacrifice, unceasing in his activity, boundless in his love, profound and versatile in his wisdom, exuberant in his emotions, merciless in his attacks but yet simple as a child—he was a rare personality in this world of ours. …
Swamiji was a full-blooded masculine personality—and a fighter to the core of his being. He was consequently a worshipper of øakti and gave a practical interpretation to the Vedanta for the uplift of his countrymen. … I can go on for hours and yet fail to do the slightest justice to that great man. He was so great, so profound, so complex. A yogi of the highest spiritual level in direct communion with the truth who had for the time being consecrated his whole life to the moral and spiritual uplift of his nation and of humanity, that is how I would describe him. If he had been alive, I would have been at his feet. Modern Bengal is his creation—if I err not.
How shall I express in words my indebtedness to Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda ? It is under their sacred influence that my life got first awakened. Like Nivedita I also regard Ramakrishna and Vivekananda as two aspects of one indivisible personality. If Swamiji had been alive today, he would have been my My guru, that is to say, I would have accepted him as my Master. It is needless to add, however, that as long as I live, I shall be absolutely loyal and devoted to Ramakrishna- Vivekananda.
It is very difficult to explain the versatile genius of Swami Vivekananda. The impact Swami Vivekananda made on the students of our time by his works and speeches far outweighed that made by any other leader of the country. He, as it were, expressed fully their hopes and aspirations. [But] Swamiji cannot be appreciated properly if he is not studied along with Sri Sri Paramahansa Deva. The foundation of the present freedom movement owes its origin to Swamiji’s message. If India is to be free, it cannot be a land specially of Hinduism or of Islam—it must be one united land of different religious communities inspired by the ideal of nationalism. [And for that] Indians must accept wholeheartedly the gospel of harmony of religions which is the gospel of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda. …
Swamiji harmonized East and West, religion and science, past and present. And that is why he is great. Our countrymen have gained unprecedented self-respect, self-confidence and self-assertion from his teachings.
The harmony of all religions which Ramakrishna Paramahansa accomplished in his life’s endeavour, was the keynote of Swamiji’s life. And this ideal again is the bed-rock of the nationalism of Future India. Without this concept of harmony of religions and toleration of all creeds, the spirit of national consciousness could not have been build up in this country of ours full of diversities.
The aspiration for freedom manifested itself in various movements since the time of Rammohun Roy. This aspiration was witnessed in the realm of thought and in social reforms during the nineteenth century, but it was never expressed in the political sphere. This was because the people of India still remained sunk in the stupor of subjugation and thought that the conquest of India by the British was an act of Divine Dispensation. The idea of complete freedom is manifest only in Ramakrishna-Vivekananda towards the end of the nineteeth century. ‘Freedom, freedom is the song of the Soul’—this was the message that burst forth from the inner recesses of Swamiji’s heart and captivated and almost maddened the entire nation. This truth was embodied in his works, life, conversations, and speeches.
Swami Vivekananda, on the one hand, called man to be real man freed from all fetters and, on the other, laid the foundation for true nationalism in India by preaching the gospel of the harmony of religions.
Subhas Chandra Bose (1897—?)
Indian Politician. Supported Gandhi and joined Swaràj Party (1923); Chief Executive Officer of Calcutta (1924); President of Bengal Congress (1927); led Bengal delegation to National Congress (1928); advocated complete independence for India; many times imprisoned; wrote The Indian Struggle (1935) and Taruner Swapna; President of the Indian National Congress (1938) and Founder of Indian National Army