The true greatness of a man is felt and understood years after the person’s death. Whether it is Gandhi or Swami Vivekananda or Ramana Maharshi or Martin Luther King, they leave behind indelible impressions in the minds of thousands of people for generations to come. These are people one not only likes to adore and admire but also to emulate and follow. Swami Vivekananda was such an exceptional and well-rounded personality that his thoughts and works are relevant even today. His ideas and ideals resonate with not just the youth but with people across all age groups. The greatness of such a person is further enhanced when they are idolized and spoken about by other great men and women.

The great statesman and first Governor General of India C. Rajagopalachari said, “Swami Vivekananda saved Hinduism and saved India. But for him we would have lost our religion and would not have gained our freedom. We therefore owe everything to him. May his faith, his courage and his wisdom ever inspire us so that we may keep safe the treasure we have received from him.”

Christopher Ishwerwood, the Anglo-American novelist and playwright had this to say of him. “Vivekananda was, as I said, profoundly moved by the realization of India’s poverty and the state of her oppression under the British colonial rule. And he proposed a revolution. The spirit of this revolution enormously influenced Gandhi and influences Indian political thought to this day. Vivekananda in this sense is a great figure in Indian history, one of the greatest historical figures that India has ever produced. But it must be noted that Vivekananda’s revolution, Vivekananda’s nationalism, were not like the kind of revolution, the kind of nationalism which we associate with other great leaders, admirable and noble as they may be. Vivekananda was far greater than that. In fact, when one sees the full range of his mind, one is astounded. Vivekananda looked to the West, not simply as a mass of tyrants exploiting various parts of Asia, and other undeveloped areas, but as future partners, people who had very, very much to offer. At the same time, without any false humility, he faced the West and said, ‘We have fully as much and more to offer you. We offer you this great tradition of spirituality, which can produce, even now, today, a supremely great figure such as Ramakrishna.’”

Will Durant, the great American historian and author of the famous book ‘The Story of Philosophy’ wrote this of Swami Vivekananda. “He preached to his countrymen a more virile creed than any Hindu had offered them since Vedic Days. He redefined God as ‘the totality of all souls’ and called upon his fellow-men to practice religion not through vain asceticism and meditation, but through absolute devotion to mankind.”

Our former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wrote, “I had the good fortune to know about the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda as well as about the activities of the Ramakrishna Mission. And I must say that the teachings of Vivekananda had inspired all the members of the Nehru family both in their political activities and day-to-day lives. Swamiji’s teachings, writings and speeches which appear on every page of his works, are indeed stimulant. Swamiji provides us courage, strength and faith and teaches us how to be self-sufficient. These are the basic tenets of life which India needed most and which would be relevant for all time to come. It was Swami Vivekananda who has given us the ways and means to reconstruct a new India. Swamiji preached the message of universal brotherhood. And a single word which echoed and reached in all his speeches was Abhih, i.e. fearlessness.”

Philosophers, academicians, historians, politicians, authors and people from different walks of life were inspired by Vivekananda and have had words of appreciation and admiration for him. Swamiji was one who has been written about by not just other great Indians, but people from different walks of life from around the world. This reflects his universal appeal and acceptance.

Kannada version in Prajavani (29-Nov-12)