Wake-up Call Renewed

by M S Ramamurthy

Swami Vivekananda Reader; Edited by Makarand Paranjape; New Delhi: Penguin, 2005; pp 311, Rs 395

The final product gives fine glimpses of the personality as well as the path enunciated by the Swamiji. Paranjape goes behind the scenes to dig up the slip-ups.

The question arises automatically, why should there be another book on Swami Vivekananda’s speeches and writings when they are well documented already?

Makarand Paranjape, who has edited the book has an answer, though it is not expressed in so many words. He has a comment or two to make on the extant chronicles. He goes into the authenticity or otherwise of some writings and also takes pains to translate a few Bengali letters and essays into English. His selections are well-sourced and the division, chapter-wise, is scientific.

The final product gives fine glimpses of the personality as well as the path enunciated by the Swamiji. Paranjape goes behind the scenes to dig up the slip-ups. For instance, in one of his letters, the Swamiji had addressed his patron, the Maharaja of Khetri as “high up”, which was changed by a zealous editor to “his highness”. The ending too was changed from “yours obediently” to “yours in the lord”. This only proves that Vivekananda was human, and given to foibles like any other human-being.

The selections are varied and touch on all aspects of living. Duty takes precedence over other things. “If the householder has food and drink and clothes without first seeing that his mother, his father, his children, his wife, and the poor are supplied, he is committing a sin.”

“We may convert every house in the country into a charity asylum, we may fill the land with hospitals, but the misery of man will continue to exist until man’s character changes.”

His persuasive style is at its best when he delineates the common ground between a materialist and a person wedded to spiritual values. “I am a materialist in a certain sense, because I believe that there is only one. He calls it matter, and I call it god.”

Paraphrasing Manu, the Swamiji observes: “Giving spiritual life is the highest gift possible, the next gift is secular knowledge; the next, saving the life of man; and the last, giving food to the needy.”

The way to end caste distinctions, Vivekananda says, is not by bringing down the higher, but by raising the lover to the level of the higher. This has the sanction of scriptures.

The book is inspiring, and a worth addition to Vivekanada lore. A life of action was what Swamiji known for. If the book serves as a reminder of his sacrifice and action to readers, the purpose would be best served.

The article, which got published in Deccan Herald on Sunday, May, 08, 2005 can also be accessed using the following link: http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/may82005/books91114200556.asp

 

 

 


 
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