From Joy to the Task Ahead

Swami Vivekananda was given a rousing, unprecedented welcome by the people of India. But the one who was welcomed had a great task ahead. Swamiji saw the accomplishments in the West as the beginning of the work in the East. Even the people who welcomed him knew to some extent that it was not just the triumphant return of Swami Vivekananda but it was also the beginning of the great task ahead.

To India, the whole episode of expedition of Swami Vivekananda in the West was like an insight, a realization about the relevance of Hindu Dharma. It appeared to them like this: Swami Vivekananda when he went to America, he was a penniless unknown sanyasi unaware of the ways of the Western world. There was no one there in USA who knew him or would take care of him. When he took the plunge to go to a country 8000 miles away, what was with him other than his firm conviction and deep understanding of the Hindu Dharma and his great love for the toiling masses of his country? Was that adequate to survive in those unknown and strange lands? Why to talk of survival Swami Vivekananda? To their utter joy, the people of India found that when Swami Vivekananda returned from West, he was the world-renowned person who had a mission for the survival of humanity! How this must have impacted the people of India then we can imagine. They realized that the right understanding of Hindu Dharma is the key for the greatness of India as well as development of human being.

In addition to the triumphant return of Swami Vivekananda, there was also a great visual impact on the people of India when they saw Swami Vivekananda returning with his foreign disciples who had adopted Hindu Dharma. Mr. and Mrs. Sevier, Mr. Goodwin and other disciples had come not just as admirers of Swami Vivekananda but had accepted Hindu Dharma. For the people enslaved for centuries it was no less than a wonder to see that the persons from the conquerors’ race had accepted the Dharma of the conquered. At Jaffna the people were so thrilled to see these foreign disciples that following the lecture of Swami Vivekananda, Mr. Sevier was urged by the audience to address the assembly explaining why he had accepted Hinduism and why he had come to India with Swamiji. Mr. Sevier obliged the audience and they were delighted to listen to him and we are sure that their hearts must have swelled with pride. At Madras, the people were stunned to see Mr. Goodwin who was clothed in purely Indian and that too in a Brahmin costume and was taking dutifully the notes of lectures of Swami Vivekananda. We can imagine what a great visual impact it must have made on those simple people who were again and again told by their rulers as well as the educationists (the missionaries) that their Hindu Dharma was a bundle of superstition and their god and goddesses as devils.

First time a concrete realization came to people of India that Hindu Dharma is the need of the humanity, India has a purpose to her existence, and she has a mission to accomplish and a message to deliver. But for that, she would have to prepare herself, and Swami Vivekananda was the right person to do this work for India and for humanity. They from the bottom of their heart wished well to Swamiji in his future task. At Jaffna, the welcome address mentioned, “May God, who has hitherto crowned your noble work with conspicuous success, spare you long, giving you vigour and strength to continue your noble Mission.” At Pamban, people expressed their feelings through the welcome address as, “We truly rejoice to see that the efforts of Your Holiness in sowing the seeds of Hindu philosophy in the cultured minds of the great Western nations are being crowned with so much success that we already see all around the bright and cheerful aspect of the bearing of excellent fruits in great abundance, and most humbly pray that Your Holiness will, during your sojourn in Aryavarta, be graciously pleased to exert yourself even a little more than you did in the West to awaken the minds of your brethren in this our motherland from their dreary lifelong slumber and make them recall to their minds the long - forgotten gospel of truth.”

In spite of the eagerness to listen to him, the slavery of all these years also had taken its toll and thus though all were clear that the great task of regeneration of India was ahead, some just wished Swami Vivekananda well for it, clearly giving indication that they themselves were incapable of doing anything and only persons like swami Vivekananda alone could do such work. Swami Vivekananda had also the task of instilling confidence in the people and to organize them for work.

Gradually as people listened to and read about the addresses of Swami Vivekananda since he landed in Colombo they realized that Swami Vivekananda was having great plans for the regeneration of India and they cannot simply wish him well but should be part of the that great task ahead. Their desire to work for nation got aroused and the tone of the welcome addresses changed from fervent well-wishing to concrete assurances.

Thus first time the welcome address at Madras made reference to associating with the work of Swami Vivekananda in these words, “…Had you contented yourself with simply discharging this high and holy duty entrusted to your care, even then, your Hindu co - religionists would have been glad to recognize with joy and thankfulness the inestimable value of your work. But in making your way into Western countries you have also been the bearer of a message of light and peace to the whole of mankind, based on the old teachings of India's "Religion Eternal". In thanking you for all that you have done in the way of upholding the profound rationality of the religion of the Vedanta, it gives us great pleasure to allude to the great task you have in view, of establishing an active mission with permanent centres for the propagation of our religion and philosophy. The undertaking to which you propose to devote your energies is worthy of the holy traditions you represent and worthy, too, of the spirit of the great Guru who has inspired your life and its aims. We hope and trust that it may be given to us also to associate ourselves with you in this noble work.”

Further at Calcutta, in the welcome address given by the citizens of Calcutta the same feelings were reflected, “You have begun the work in a spirit which commands our admiration, and have already achieved a success to which many lands bear witness. But a great deal yet remains to be done; and our own country, or rather we should say your own country, waits on you. The truths of the Hindu religion have to be expounded to large numbers of Hindus themselves. Brace yourself then for the grand exertion. We have confidence in you and in the righteousness of our cause. Our national religion seeks to win no material triumphs. Its purposes are spiritual; its weapon is a truth which is hidden away from material eyes and yields only to the reflective reason. Call on the world, and where necessary, on Hindus themselves, to open the inner eye, to transcend the senses, to read rightly the sacred books, to face the supreme reality, and realise their position and destiny as men. No one is better fitted than yourself to give the awakening or make the call, and we can only assure you of our hearty sympathy and loyal co - operation in that work which is apparently your mission ordained by Heaven.”

Gradually it was not just the assurances but youth came forward dedicating, offering themselves for the work envisaged by Swami Vivekananda. On the very day, Swamiji reached Calcutta, some young men offered themselves among them were Sudhir and Khagen who later became Swami Shuddhananda and Vimalananda respectively. Many more young men including his own brother Bhupendranath Dutta were inspired by him to work for the freedom of India.

Thus people at first applauded Swamiji, then wished him well, then assured their help and ultimately realized that it is they who have a mission to translate into reality the vision of Swami Vivekananda of establishing Bharat as Jagatguru for good of the humanity. Swami Vivekananda had said even before starting for his journey to India, “India must listen to me! I shall shake India to her foundations! I shall send an electric thrill through her national veins! Wait! You shall see how India would receive me. It is India, my own India, that knows truly how to appreciate that which I have given so freely here with my life's blood, as the spirit of Vedanta. India will receive me in triumph.” Truly, Swami Vivekananda saw India in front of him, overjoyed in his triumph, wishing him to raise the people of India, pledging their support and even beginning to offer herself for the great task ahead. India was ready for the message of swami Vivekananda and that he gave it boldly.

©Copyright Vivekananda Kendra 2011-2050. All Rights Reserved.