3.22 Seva: Swami Vivekananda the awakener and inspirer

-K.Suryanarayana rao

Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the Divinity personified, the mentor and spiritual master of Swami Vivekananda, had prophesied, whenVivekananda was just a youthful Narendranath that, “Naren would shake the world to its foundations through his intellectual and spiritual powers. There is much more work to be done by him”.

It is an undisputed fact that, in modern times, it was Swami Vivekananda who first held aloft the banner of Hinduism as a challenge against the materialism of the West. With his profound thoughts and electrifying words he moved total strangers of high intellectual calibre, occupying equally high positions. Dr. John Henry Wright, a professor of Greek classics at the famous Harvard University, U.S.A., whose learning was said to be encyclopedic, after his talks with the Swami for some time, had, in his letter of introduction of the Swami, to the office bearers of the World Parliament of  Religious, held at Chicago, stated “Here is a man who is more learned than all the learned professors of America put-to-gether.”

Vivekananda’s first speech at the Parliament, was only for a few minutes. There was a standing ovation and applaud. The American papers wrote “He is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions.”  “It is foolish to send our missionaries to that learned county.” “Our professors are pigmies before him” etc. etc.

This way the Swami established the truth of his master’s prophecy.

Swami Vivekananda was a rare combination of head and heart. His sorrow and concern for the suffering of the poor millions of Bharat many a time, overpowered his blazing intellect.

In the midst of all the immediate acclaim and popularity his appearance at the Parliament of Religions, had brought to him, he had no thought for himself ; his heart continued to bleed for the poor of Bharat. On the very first day of his triumph, he was invited by a man of wealth and distinction to his home in one of the most fashionable part of Chicago city for a banquet held in the Swami’s honour, as a glaring contrast to the earlier insults and hostile rebuffs he had to face. Here he was entertained Royally; a Princely room, furnished with a luxury beyond anything he could have conceived, was assigned to him. But instead of feeling happy in this splendid environment, he was miserable. He could not sleep as the plight of his brothren of his country came to his mind. The bed down seemed to be a bed of thorns. The pillow became wet with tears. He went to the window and gazed out into the darkness. At length, overcome with emotion, he fell into the floor, crying out “O Mother! What do I care for name and fame when my motherland remains sunk in utmost poverty! To what a sad pass have we poor Indians come, when millions of us die for want of a handful of rice and here they spend millions of Rupees upon their personal comforts! Who will raise the masses of India? Who will give them bread? Show me , O Mother! How I can help them?.”

In his letter, from America, of Dec.28,1893, to Shri Haripad Mitra, the Swami writes: “I came to this country not to satisfy my curiosity, nor name or fame, but to see if I could find any means for the support of the poor in India. If God helps me, You will know gradually what those means are.”

During his wanderings as a parivrajaka from Himalayas down he reached Kanyakumari, the southern tip of our motherland in the last week of December 1892. Aftr prostrating before  the Godess Kanyakumari, he selected the rock in the middle of the sea to plan his future programme.


Sitting on the last stone of India, he passed into deep meditation on the present and future of his country. With the vision of a seer he understood why India had been thrown from the pinnacle of glory to the depth of degradation. In his anguish he gazed over the ocean through mist of tears. In the midst of despair, inspiration came to him. Yes, he would go to America. There he would earn money by the power of his brain. Returning to India, he would devote himself to the regeneration of his countrymen — or die in the attempt. To him in this hour the bliss of experience of Brahman, in the Nirvikalpa Samadhi, became subservient to the overwhelming desire to give himself utterly for the good of the Indian People. Yes, indeed, at Kanyakumari the Swami became the patriot and prophet in one. No wonder he later spoke of himself as “a Condensed India”

(25,26,27 December 1892)

Seva– the first lesson

In 1884, one day when Narendranath came to Dakshineshwar to meet Shri Ramakrishna, he was seated in his room surrounded by a few of his followers. Shri Ramakrishna was explaining to them a few spiritual matters. The conversation drifted to the Vaishnava religion. The master gave the gist of the cult of Lord Gauranga and finished by saying, “this religion enjoins upon its followers the practice of three things: relish for the name of God, compassion for all living creatures, and the service of the vaishnavas, the devotees of the Lord”….. hardly he had uttered the words “compassion for all living creatures” he went into Samadhi. After a while he came back to a semi-conscious state of mind and said to himself: “compassion for creatures!…. you fool! An insignificant worm crawling on earth, you to show compassion to others! Who are you to show compassion. No, it cannot be. Not compassion for others, but rather the service of man, recognizing him to be a veritable manifestation of God.”

Everyone present there, no doubt, heard those words uttered from the Master’s inmost consciousness, but only Naren could gauge their meaning. When Naren left the room he said to the others: “What a wonderful light I have discovered in those words of the master! How beautifully he has reconciled the ideal of Bhakti, with the knowledge of the Vedanta, generally interpreted as dry, austere, and incompatible with human sentiments! What a grand, natural and sweet synthesis! But from those words of wisdom that the master uttered in an ecstatic mood, I have understood that the ideal Vedanta lived by the recluse outside the pale of society can be practiced even at home and applied to all aspects of daily life. Whatever man’s vocation let him understand and realize that it is God alone who has manifested himself as the world and created beings. He is both immanent and transcendent. It is He who has become all the diverse beings, objects of our love, respect or compassion and yet he is beyond all these. Such a realization of divinity in humanity leaves no room for arrogance. By realizing it, a man cannot be jealous of, or have pity for, any other being. Serving man, knowing him to be the manifestation of God purifies the heart; and in a short time the aspirant who does this realizes that he is a part of God – Existence – knowledge – bliss absolute……. All his activities should be directed to the service of man, the manifestation of God on earth, and this will accelerate his progress towards the goal. If it be the will of God, the day will soon come when I shall proclaim this grand truth to the world at large. I shall make it the common property of all, the wise and the fool, the rich and the poor, the Brahmin and the Pariah.”

Shree Ramakrishna’s love and concern

Mathuranath Biswas was the son-in-law of Rani Rasamani who built the Kali temple as Dakshineshwar.  He was managing the vast estates of the Rani.  During 1868, he arranged a pilgrimage to Varnasi and other sacred places.  The party contained 125 persons including Sri Ramakrishna.  The party first stopped for a few days at Deoghar to visit the famous shrine of Shiva.  A nearby village was affected with severe famine conditions.  Seeing this Shree Ramakrishna was overcome with intense grief and concern for the plight villagers.  He said to Mathur: “You are a manager of Mother’s estate.  Give these poor people one piece of cloth and one good meal each, and also some oil for their heads”. But Mathur was reluctant.  He said: “Father, this pilgrimage is going to cost a great deal, and there are many people here.  If I give them what you ask, I may find myself short of money later.”  Shri Ramakrishna cried bitterly.  “You wretch!, I am not going to Varanasi.  I am staying here with these people.  They have no one to care for them.  I won’t leave them.”  Mathur, of course yielded.  He had cloth brought from Calcutta and fulfilled all of the Master’s other requests.  Then only the journey continued to Varanasi.

The Disciple like His Guru

An incident took place at Belur Math after Swamiji’s return from the west. Swami Vijnanananda, a brother disciple of Swamiji, was in the next to Swamiji’s room, his sleep was broken on one night by the sound of sobbing of Swamiji and rushed to his room. Their he found Swamiji bitterly crying. ‘Are you not feeling well Swamiji?’ asked Vijnanananda. Swamiji was startled and said, ‘I presumed you were asleep, No, my dear, I am not sick, But I cannot sleep as long as my country suffers. I was crying and praying to Shri Ramakrishna that we would soon see better days.’ Swamiji was an embodiement  of love for India and her people.

(Swami Vivekananda the Friend of All, Page 25)

The Swami’s call

Swami Vivekananda has poured out his heart at all places he visited in Bharat giving the call of service to the poor, particularly to the youth of the country”.  He says:

“This is the gist of all worship – to be pure and to do good to others. He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Shiva; and if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary. He who has served and helped one poor man seeing Shiva in him, without thinking of his caste, or creed, or race, or anything, with him Shiva is more pleased than with the man who sees Him only in temples.”

(Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol.3, Page 141-142)

“Blessed are we that we are given the privilege of working for Him, not for helping Him. Cut out this word “help” from your mind. You cannot help; it is blaspheming. You are here yourself at His pleasure. Do you mean to say, you help Him? You worship. When you give a morsel of food to the dog, you worship the dog as God. God is in that dog. He is all and in all.”

(C.W., vol.5, Page 246)

Swamiji has coined the word “Daridra Narayana”, he says: you must give your body, mind, and speech to “the welfare of the world” you have read – “Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava – Look upon your mother as God, look upon your father as God” – but I say, “Daridra Devo Bhava, Moorkha Devo Bhava” – the poor, the illiterate, the ignorant, the afflicted – let these be your God. “Know that Service to these is the highest religion.”

(C.W., Vol 6, P.288)

“In one word, the ideal of Vedanta is to know man as he really is, and this is its message, that if you cannot worship your brother man, the manifested God, how can you worship a God who is unmanifested?”

(C.W., vol.2, Page 325-326)

Our only God — Mother India

 So give up being a slave, for the next fifty years, this alone shall be our keynote – this great Mother India.  Let all other vain Gods disappear for the time from our minds.  This is the only God that is awake, our own race.  And the first Gods we have to worship are our countrymen.  These we have to worship instead of being jealous of each other and fighting each other.

Feeling for the poor

“Let each one of us pray day and night for the downtrodden millions of India who are held fast by poverty, priest-craft and tyranny – pray day and night for them………I love the poor.  How many there are who feel for them! Who feels for the two hundred millions of men and women sunken forever in poverty and ignorance? Let these people be your Gods – think of them, work for them, pray for them incessantly – the Lord will show you the way.  Him I call a Mahatman (great soul) whose heart bleeds for the poor, otherwise he is a Duratman (wicked soul).  My heart is too full to express my feeling; so long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense pays not the least heed to them! I call those men who strut about in their finery, having got all their money by grinding the poor, wretches, so long as they do not do anything for those two hundred millions who are now no better than hungry savages!”

Service & Spirituality

You may build a temple in which to worship God, and that may be good, but a better one, a much higher one, already exists, the human body. If you cannot worship your brother man, the manifested God, how can you worship a God who is un-manifested?

Serve the living God! God comes to you in the blind, in the halt (lame), in the poor, in the weak, in the diabolical, what a glorious chance for you to worship.

Be thankful that you are allowed to exercise your power of benevolence and mercy in the world, and thus become pure and perfect.

The hand was made to give always. Give the last bit of  bread you have, even if you are starving . You will be free in a moment, if you starve yourself to death by giving to another. Immediately you will be perfect. You will become God.

The Shastras say that work or service for the good of others leads to the state of ‘Jeevan mukti!’

The highest aim of all disciplines, all spiritual paths, is the attainment of the knowledge of the Atman. If you by being devoted to the service of others and getting your heart purified by such work, attain to the vision of all beings as the Self, what else remains to be attained in the way of self-realisation?

Service & Sacrifice 

The national ideals of India are Renunciation and Service. Intensify her in these channels and the rest will take care of itself.

“India wants the sacrifice of atleast a thousand of her young men – men, mind and not brutes.. How many men, unselfish, thorough going men … to struggle unto life and death to bring about a new state of things, sympathy for the poor and bread to their hungry mouths, enlightenment to the people at large – and struggle unto death to make men of them who have been brought to the level of beasts, by the tyranny of your forefathers?”

Men are wanted 

“My faith is in the younger generation, the modern generation.  Out of them will come my workers.  They will work out the whole problem like lions.  I have formulated the idea and have given my life to it”.

“My plan is to start institutions in India, to train our young men.  Men, men, these are wanted, everything else will be ready, but strong, vigorous, believing young men, sincere to the backbone are wanted.”

Inspiration comes from the heart

Feel from the heart, what is in the intellect or reason?  It goes a few steps and there it stops.  But through the heart comes inspiration.  Love opens the most impossible gates; love is the gate to all the secrets of the Universe.  Feel, therefore, my would be reformers, my would be patriots!

Set yourselves to work

“Come out of your narrow holes and have a look around, see how nations are on the March!  Do you love Man? Do you love your country? Then let us struggle for higher and better things.  Look not back, no not even if you see the dearest and nearest cry.  Look not back, but forward!”

“Die you must, but have a great ideal to die for and it is better to die with a great ideal in life.  Preach this ideal from door to door, and you yourself will be benefitted by it, at the same time you are doing good to your country.  I feel extreme pain to see you leading a life of inaction.  Set yourselves to work—to work! Do not tarry – the time of death is approaching day by day! Do not sit idle!”

Believe! Believe! The decree has gone forth, the fiat of the LORD has gone forth—India must rise, the masses and the poor are to be made happy.

“Rejoice! That you are the chosen instruments in his hands”.

 Arise! Awake! Stop not till the goal is reached.

This is the gist of Swamiji’s outpourings, coming from the innermost depths of his patriotic heart, full of love and concern for the pitiable plight of our brothers, and his appeal to the young men and women not to sit idle but to involve in some activity to ameliorate the misery in our country.

To the sanyasis of the Ramakrishna order, Swami Vivekananda has given the Motto “Atmano Mokshartham Jagad-hitayacha” – “for personal salvation and welfare of the world.” He inspired and induced all persons to involve actively in doing ‘Seva’ to the poor selflessly.

Let us pray Swami Vivekananda for his blessings so that we may rise to his expectations to regenerate and raise our sacred Motherland once again to the pinnacle of ancient glory.




K.Suryanarayana Rao

Ma. Shri.  K.Suryanarayana Rao (20.08.1924- 18.11.2016) , was the Sangh Pracharak, Senior leader and a renowned thinker- RSS,







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