From our childhood, we are all told to be truthful and honest. Tacitly, each of us know what is right and what is wrong. Our parents, our family members and our teachers are always exhorting us to speak the truth. As we grow up, this same environment also demonstrates to us that one needs to be truthful and honest only when it is convenient to us. When being truthful starts causing us discomfort, it becomes the first casualty. It is rare that we see somebody who holds on to the truth for truth’s sake. It is these remarkable persons who have the courage of conviction who change the course of history. Whether it is Mahatma Gandhi or Swami Vivekananda, their love for the truth was legendary. Swami Vivekananda always mentioned that “Truth does not pay homage to anyone, it is the Society that always pays homage to the Truth”.

I am reminded of an incident that took place in young Narendra’s life when he was in school. He was a master story-teller and when he spoke, his friends listened with rapt attention. He was narrating something animatedly to his friends in school. In the meanwhile, the teacher had entered the classroom and started his teaching. The students were all absorbed in Narendra’s story and did not pay attention to the teacher’s lesson. The teacher heard the whispering and was annoyed. He asked the students to explain what he was teaching. None except Narendra could answer. Narendra’s mind was capable of working simultaneously in two planes. He could tell his friends the story and concentrate on what was being taught in class. The teacher wanted to know who had been talking and disturbing his class. All the students pointed towards Narendra, but the teacher refused to believe this. He punished all the students except Narendra by asking them to stand on the bench. Narendra also joined his friends and stood up. The teacher asked him to sit down as he could not believe that Narendra could have been disturbing the class. But Narendra replied “No Sir, I must also stand up because it was I who was talking to them”. He could not be a silent spectator when his friends were being punished for his mistake. He was also clear that he had to be punished as he was the one who was the cause of the disturbance in the class. The inconvenience and discomfort of the punishment would not deter him for standing by the truth.

Incidents like these give us a window into Swami Vivekananda’s constant search for truth from his childhood itself. He once thundered, “Truth alone triumphs, not untruth. Through truth alone lies the way to the Gods. Those who think that a little sugar-coating of untruth helps the spread of the truth are mistaken and will find in the long run that a single drop of poison will poison the whole mass…”

Kannada version in Prajavani (05-Apr-12)