Religion in today’s world has taken such a tumultuous overturn, that people have almost forgotten what religion stands for: Religion leaders and saints have always preached that religion has a calming effect on the people. But people tend to forget that, and end up fighting with each other on the context of religion itself.
Eternal Wisdom of India depicts the way religion has been seen through the ages and how it affects the whole structure of mankind. It reviews the ancient ideals, and points out how the power the power of religion has been abused. The book analyses religion and social tensions and also tells us how harmony should be maintained. It also emphasises on universal brotherhood and asks people to draw inspiration from Buddha, Mira Bai, Sri Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Chaitanya, The Holy Mother Sarada Devi, swami Vivekananda and many more.
The book thoroughly delineates the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda movement which steered the entire world towards its betterment. A whole new set of logical ideas has been dealt with, as the readers get food for thought about how and why people manipulate religion. Swami Lokeshwarananda shows how we can stop it and take milk out of water like the paramhans.
Born on 19 april 1909, Swami Lokeshwarananda was an eminent monk of the Ramakrishna order. He founded the famous Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narendrapur in Kolkata. He wrote and edited many books in Bengali and English. This book is a collection of the best of his writings and talks, compiled by young and profound Swami Chidrupananda.
Much has already been written about and her rich cultural heritage, and much more will be written in the future. But compilation of this particular volume is an effort to represent all facets of the eternal truth of India essentially through the prism of the lives of Sri Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa Dev, the Holy Mother Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda, loved and revered by people all over the world for whom they were even more than what they said. Max Muller called Sri Ramakrishna 'not only a high-souled man, a real Mahatma, but a man of original thought'. Tolstoy declared Sri Ramakrishna 'a remarkable sage' while Christopher Isherwood believed he was a 'phenomenon'. Romain Rolland described him as 'the symphony of India'. As for Swami Vivekananda, when Romain Rolland wanted to learn more about India, Rabindranarh Tagore reportedly said him, 'If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative.' On the orher hand, Sarada Devi represents (he real motherhood of India. Sister Nivedita says, 'Sarada Devi, our Holy Mother as we call her, is only a simple Hindu woman, and yet, as I think, the greatest woman in the world today ... the most wonderful thing of God-She is Sri Ramakrishna's own chalice of His Love for the world .. .'
Apart from these three great lives, this volume tries to represent India and her wisdom through her rich philosophy, civilisation, art, culture, education, religion, spirituality, monasticism, and biography of different saints and notable personalities.
Swami Lokeswarananda was an eminent monk of the Ramakrishna Mission and a brilliant spiritual leader of his time. A scholar, philosopher, educationist, writer, orator, art and music lover, he was, above all, a selfless seer who dedicated his life to the service of humanity. He was also the founder of the reputed Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narendrapur, and spent the last twenty-five years of his life as the head of the renowned Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture in Calcutta.
As an authority on education and an able exponent of Indian philosophy and the philosophy of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, Swami Lokeswarananda was invited by various Universities and other learned bodies within the country and abroad to speak on these subjects. His weekly lectures and discourses at the Institute of Culture on various subjects, mainly on Indian philosophy, drew large appreciative audiences.
He thus spread the message of Indian philosophy to the United States, Canada, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Vatican, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and delivered lectures at the Vatican Radio and the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Berlin, and Moscow, to name a few.
The present volume has been compiled from his lectures as well as selected articles originally published in various Bengali and English periodicals. We hope that this volume will help in spreading the message of Swami Lokeswarananda in India and the world outside.
We gratefully acknowledge Ms Susan Walter's assistance during the initial stages of this project. We also owe much gratitude to all those who have helped, both directly and indirectly, to source material from different journals, transcribe from voice recorded data, and translated the Bengali lectures and articles (marked*) into English.
A County is considered great neither by the number of people living in it nor by the wealth it has, but by the character of its people. Swami Vivekananda used to say 'Man-making is my mission', which was all about moulding men of honesty, integrity and a sense of oneness with others. Character is built based on these basic eternal principles.
'The sages of ancient India proclaimed two major ideals. The first was Tat-tvam-asi-‘you are That' or 'you are that infinite Atman', i.e. the Supreme Divinity is within you and it is present everywhere and in all beings. The second was Vasudhaiva kutumbakam- ‘treat the whole world as your own.' This is the message of India and the collective message of eternal Vedanta philosophy. The idea of Vedanta is oneness, that we are all one. The Vedanta says that the goal of life is to realise that divinity is within oneself, i.e. that God is not up there in heaven, but here within us. The Vedanta shows us the way to realise that divinity lying hidden in us and apply it in our day-to-day lives through the path of Yoga, meditation and prayer.
Our ancient Indian scriptures exhort us to enjoy our wealth, health, beauty, power and family but not to be a slave to these things nor let these things enjoy us. They say, 'be in the world but not of the world.' This is what is meant by non-attachment. The Bhagavad Gita says, be in the world like a lotus leaf which floats on water but it does not itself get wet. Instead of saying 'I', let us learn to say 'You', i.e. referring to God. I belong to You. Everything here belongs to You. It is the 'You' that is permanent in this world while all else remains impermanent in this perishable world. Sri Ramakrishna always said, 'Turn your mind to God, only God.' Therefore, we say, 'God, this property is yours. I only look after it and take good care of it. This is the spirit with which we have to live in this world. Whatever I do, I do as a token of my love and my devotion to God. Indeed, work is worship and that should be our motto.
Always treat your body as the temple of God. He is right here in our hearts. Within us is the temple, the church, the holiest place. God is here. I can see Him. I can feel His presence. I worship' Him. I love Him. I talk to Him. We make distinctions between the spiritual and the secular, but our scriptures say everything is spiritual. Everything I do, say and think is spiritual, provided I dedicate my action, my speech, my thought to God. Always feel that you are with God, in God, on God, God within, God without, God onward. God is with me all the time. You belong to God. He is your guardian, protector, friend, master, father, mother-in short, your everything.
However, every individual has to discover for himself the best way to approach God. To us, it is a matter of great fortune that there have been so many great souls down the ages who have shown us the path. The life of Sri Ramakrishna is especially relevant to our age and time. He says people are safe if they just depend upon God, if they love God, if they are able to think that God is their own. His message is nothing but to love God. I may be in the world but my mind should be with God. God is my dearest, my nearest. I will love you whether you love me or not. Swami Vivekananda used to talk of 'selfless love'-love for love's sake that declares I do not want anything in return; I love you because I love you. This is how we have to live in this world.
This volume is divided into twelve chapters, with an appendix briefly sketching the life and times of Swami Lokeswarananda. The first chapter begins with the message of India with its eternal Vedanta philosophy, culture, civilisation and democracy. The message of India is nothing but oneness. Every individual soul is nothing but Brahman. You are Brahman. You are God whether you are aware of it or not. You may not be aware of it but at least try to think that God exists, everything is God, that God is everywhere. This concept is established by the three pillars of Vedanta-the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita, also known as the prasthana traya or the 'three paths' of Vedanta. The Upanishads (Sruti prasthana) are based on the scriptures, the Brahma Sutras (Nyaya prasthana) on logic, and the Bhagavad Gita (Smriti prasthana) on the Smriti or subsidiary scriptures. These scriptures teach us about self-knowledge.
The second chapter describes the ends and means of religion and spirituality. It tells us how to live with God, i.e. through prayer, meditation and selfless service. There is no distinction between secular and spiritual. Everything is spiritual. What does religion do? It helps man manifest this infinite power, this infinite purity. It transforms him, makes sinner a saint, man a superman. It tells man, 'Look, there is your goal, follow that goal, go on and on till you get there.' It tells him that he must be his own true self. It lends meaning to life. 'The real goal of life is freedom to its fullest. All religions promise this freedom, although they describe it differently. It is embodiment of this freedom which is called God. 'The goal of life is communion with the Supreme. It is a life of realisation, gnosis and an inner intuitive vision of God when man achieves absolute freedom and escapes from the blind servitude to ordinary experience.
The third chapter briefly outlines Hinduism, known as sanatana dharma or eternal religion because it does not derive from a single teacher but from many teachers, most of whom are nameless. Nothing, in fact, is known about those teachers except that they were very extraordinary persons, judging from the nature of their thought and experiences. The most important characteristic of those great souls was that they taught only that which they themselves had experienced, not in their day-to-day careworn existence, but in a state of superconsciousness they attained through many years of struggle. They did not guess at the truth, or speak about it from second-hand information or from what they had learnt through study and reasoning; they spoke about it only when they had known and verified it from their personal and direct experience. It is the direct, personal experience of many teachers over many hundreds of years which form the corpus of what is known as Veda. The knowledge which the Veda represents is accepted as valid because it is verified and verifiable through personal experience. It explains that the goal of life is to penetrate this veil of ignorance and realise that we all are one and the same, differing only in name and form, but not in substance; the goal of life is also to realise that however weak we may appear now, we are essentially one with Brahman and thus, divine and infinitely powerful. The body is subject to decay and death, but not the soul, which is beyond the pale of birth and death, joy and sorrow, being one with that Supreme Soul called Brahman.
But how do we overcome our ignorance and recognise our true nature-that we are all one and that we are one with Brahman? By both physical and mental disciplines, in other words, by practising Yogas. Hinduism preaches four Yogas, viz., Karma (work, selfless work), Bhakti (devotion),jnana (knowledge, discrimination, etc.) and Raja Yoga, i.e. control of breath and such other methods of physical discipline by which perfect control of the mind is obtained.
The fourth chapter is a brief history of Buddhism as the fulfilment of Hinduism. Swami Vivekananda famously said that the Buddha was a rebel child of Hinduism. He says 'Shakya Muni himself was a monk, and it was his glory that he had the large-heartedness to bring out the truths from the hidden Vedas and broadcast them all over the world.' Buddha was also the first 'missionary' in the history of religion, but he did not claim to preach anything new. He said he was preaching the Aryan Path, the eternal Dharma, only because Vedanta, with its literature mostly in Sanskrit, was a closed book to the common man. What. Buddha taught was essentially a practical Vedanta that people would understand, independent of dogma, priesthood and sacrament. He presented Vedanta in a new garb, stripped of vague phrases, laying the greatest stress on reason and experience and taking care not to quote from the scriptures in order not to confuse and confound people.
The fifth chapter illustrates the teachings of some of the medieval saints of India, viz., Jnanesvara, Namadeva, Ekanatha, Saint Dadu, Mirabai and Chaitanya, which show us that the goal of life is realisation of God and that Truth is our religion and our God, that indeed, there is no alternative to truth and honesty.
The sixth chapter defines the religion of Sri Ramakrishna. Though he was born a Hindu, he practised other religions as well. It is important to note that Sri Ramakrishna's attitude towards other religions was not one of 'tolerance'. Sri Ramakrishna would say, 'Not tolerance, but acceptance; you have to accept. This is also a path leading to the goal; it may not be your path. Never mind, allow that man to follow his own path and respect him.' Sri Ramakrishna said that religion is not creed or dogma; what is important is nor just worship or knowledge, but practice. Practice is important; being and becoming is the core of religion. You have to become aware of your inner divinity and manifest it in your daily life, in your conduct. That is what Sri Ramakrishna taught; that was his religion. And, he himself was its best exemplar.
The seventh chapter illustrates the unique and simple life of the Holy Mother Sarada Devi who is, in Sister Nivedita's words, 'the greatest ideal of Indian womanhood.' Sri Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi did not propagate any new religious doctrine; rather they showed everyone the basic principle of religion by living example, through their own lives and conduct.
The eighth chapter describes the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. As an individual, he embraced the whole world, rising above all racial or geographical limitations. He taught three truths- oneness of the world, divinity of man and harmony of religions. He used to say that the whole world is my home, I belong to the world. India and Truth were one and the same to him. He spoke at the Parliament of Religions at Chicago for the regeneration of India. Once, he declared, 'I am condensed India.' He wrote, 'May I be born again and again, and suffer thousands of miseries so that I may worship the only God that exists, the only God I believe in, the sum total of all souls; and above all, my God the wicked, my God the miserable, my God the poor of all races, of all species, is the special object of my worship.' He spoke about history, philosophy, religion, literature, and science, but the gist of whatever he taught was his supreme love and concern for man.
The ninth chapter details the contribution of Sister Nivedita (Miss Margaret Elizabeth Nobel) who gave herself wholeheartedly to India because she saw in India the personification of the universal Truth that is valid for all countries, all religions, all times. The supreme goal of life is to manifest that oneness in all our thoughts, words, and deeds. In adopting India as her own country, she was in fact adopting the whole world, because India's ancient ideals and truths are meant not for just one country, but for all people everywhere. It is well known that Sister Nivedita was one of the architects of the Indian renaissance, but we know very little about what she did specifically for the revival of Indian art. We know she considered art very important in any scheme of a country's development. In her essay 'The Function of Art in Shaping Nationality' she says, ' ... art offers us the opportunity of a great common speech, and its rebirth is essential to the up-building of the motherland.'
The tenth chapter is about Swami Lokeswarananda's reminiscences about the great men of India. He had the good fortune to meet in his lifetime, including his spiritual guru Swami Sivananda, eminent personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Bose who influenced him in his early life and spiritual leaders such as Swami Visuddhananda and Swami Madhavananda.
Swami Vivekananda said, education is the panacea for all evil. "The eleventh chapter is a compendium on the Indian education system- its role in theory and practice, its impact, goals and strategies toward the same. Education means many things but, first and foremost, it is about preparing a child to face the challenges of life. Education is about training in skills, thoughts, ideas, outlook and attitudes. There is no limit to a child's growth and development, and hence he must be taught the right kind of thoughts and attitudes. He is born with infinite potential and the business of education is to help him realise that potential. His growth should be all-embracing and help him evolve into a man of character in the truest sense of the term.
Chapter twelve discusses the Sri Ramakrishna Movement which has become a great power for unity, peace and happiness in India as well as outside. The strength of the Sri Ramakrishna Movement is not in money or men or organisation, but in the ideas it tries to present. In India, which is the home of numerous religious seers and communities, the idea of tolerance and brotherly feelings towards each other has great relevance. Another factor which contributes much to its popularity is the rational approach it brings to bear upon every vital problem of life. The Ramakrishna Movement lays great stress on selfless service as a means of God-realisation. The service it gives is open to all, irrespective of caste or creed or language.
The final chapter sketches the life and times of Swami Lokeswarananda which is sure to inspire the younger generation.
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