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The Universal Message of Sri Ramakrishna 

Swami Sarvalokananda addressing devotees at the annual function of Ramakrishna Math Aurangabad, in Aril 2016.

ॐ स्थापकाय च धर्मस्य, सर्व धर्म स्वरूपिणे, अवतार वरिष्ठाय, श्री रामकृष्णाय ते नमः

The context of Sri Ramakrishna’s advent
Today we are talking about the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna.

All of you are aware that there is a reason why God takes the human form and comes to this earth. It is not purposeless. Sri Krishna has also said in the Bhagavad Gita that an Avatara comes when dharma starts receding.

Many Avataras have come on earth. Sri Ramakrishna came in the 19thcentury. Why did he come?

If we examine the scenario at that time, we will see that there was a great religious crisis (धर्मसंकट). The British ruled India for a long time. The Christian Missionaries were preaching the message that there is no scientific truth in the Hindu Dharma. It is only hearsay religion, filled with negative rituals and practices. Most Hindu intellectual believed in this message of the missionaries. In fact, Karl Marx declared that religion is opium of the masses. They preach that if you want to reach God, it will not be possible through the Hindu religion. You will have to embrace Christianity.

Because of this, Hindus developed distrust and doubt in their own religion. They fell into a dilemma whether to follow or give up their religion and embrace Christianity. Some people held on, while many were converted to Christianity. History is witness to this.

We also see that science and technology progressed tremendously in the 19th century. Many inventions came at that time. People started relying on science for everything. What does science say? That if we should believe anything as true, only when there is a proof. Therefore, people started wanting proof of the scientific truths in Hinduism also.

At that time, India witnessed the rise of many social reformers. They thought that if some rituals and practices would be removed from the religion, people will probably start following Hinduism again. So they first proposed for the abolishment of idol worship from Hinduism. At that time many reforming sects sprung up– like the Brahmasamaj, Theosophical Society, The Arya Samaj of Sri Dayanand Saraswati, The Young Bengal movement in Bengal, etc. All of them tried to add and subtract from Hinduism, so that people would start adopting it again. However, that didn’t come to pass. People became more and more directionless, they wandered even more, asking what is Hinduism, is there a God or not? Etc.

At this critical junction saw the advent of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. He didn’t say anything new. He did not establish any new religion or sect. He preached and spread Sanatana Dharma – the Eternal Religion – according to the need of the age.

Each age has different purpose. In the 19th Century, there was a unique purpose. Sri Ramakrishna’s message was not for any particular country or sect. His was a universal message.

Sri Ramakrishna’s Universal Message (1) – Harmony of religions
The need of the age at that time was the harmony of all religions.

There has always been a constant conflict between religions – which one is superior, which inferior, which more powerful. Proponents of every religion have been trying to prove their religion as the best.

You will be aware, Swami Vivekananda participated in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. There was only one objective of that Parliament – to prove all religions as true. Swami Vivekananda went to this Parliament and announced that no religion is superior or inferior to others. All are true. And one can reach the same truth through all religions.

Swami Vivekananda had heard this from his Gurudeva – Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.Sri Ramakrishna had asked why this conflict when all are true? He said it was narrow minded to think of any one religion as better than another. He proclaimed that all religions are true, and there is no need to fight among religions.

Sri Ramakrishna declared – যতমতততপথ (jato mat, tatho pat) meaning ‘as many faiths so many paths’. And people can reach the ultimate by following any path. All will reach the same truth – because there cannot be multiple truths, Truth is only one. Paths can be many, but the goal is one – whichever path we take.

For example, you can come to this Ashrama from different routes. Everyone will reach the same place. Can any route be wrong? So in religion also, all the differences are in paths alone.

Sri Ramakrishna didn’t just say this, he also practiced this. No other Avatara before Sri Ramakrishna has practiced all religions in their life. Sri Ramakrishna is the only Avatara who practiced principals of all religions – all branches of Tantras, of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. And only after the practice and realization of all religions, did he declare – as many faiths, so many paths.

What is the harmony of religions?
When we talk of the harmony of religions, it means the peaceful co-existence of all religions. Which is what Sri Ramakrishna declared – that all religions are true. And the same goal can be reached by following any religion. This is a great contribution of Sri Ramakrishna to society.

This message was not for Hindus alone, or for Muslims, or Christians, or Buddhists. It is true for all – for all people of the world – belonging to any caste or sect or followers of any religion.

The conflict between religions has been present for thousands of years. Yes, there has been an increase in the recent years, but it has existed for a long time. It is said that the amount of blood that has been shed in the name of religion, and due to the narrowness of our outlook, has not happened even in the two World Wars! Even today, people are cutting each other throats and killing each other, in the name of a narrow religion. They have been brainwashed to believe that they will go to heaven if they kill believers of other religions. And no real reason is offered for this.This is why Sri Ramakrishna asked us to live harmoniously with people of all religions.

India is a country where followers of all religions can live together in peace. I had gone for a lecture tour to Turkey a few days ago. It is an Islamic country, and 99% of the population is Muslim. I shared with them that India is the one country where people of all religions co-exist in peace and harmony. They applauded and accepted this.

Swami Vivekananda said – Hinduism has one specialty – universal acceptance and universal tolerance. Tolerance means having shraddha towards every religion. This is why Sri Ramakrishna’s advent was necessary at that time.

Sri Ramakrishna’s Universal Message (2) – God Realization is the purpose of life
Why have we taken on the human form? What is the purpose of human life? Sri Ramakrishna asked this question. And his answer is relevant to all – not just to Hindus or Muslims or Christians. It is for all human beings.

I will mention an incident to elaborate this. Sri Ramakrishna had many devotees. One of them was Aadhar Chandra Sen. At that time, he was the Deputy Magistrate – a very influential man. Aadhar Chandra Sen invited Sri Ramakrishna to his house one day. Sri Ramakrishna accepted the invitation. Aadhar Chandra Sen had also invited many friends. One of them was Bankim Chandra Chaterjee. He was also a Deputy Magistrate and a very famous personality. He was also addressed as ‘Sahitya-Samrat’. He has composed our national song – Vande-Mataram.

Aadhar Chandra Sen introduces Bankim Chandra Chaterjee to Sri Ramakrishna, and a conversation ensues. Suddenly Sri Ramakrishna asks Bankim Chandra “Bankim Babu, tell me, what is the purpose of human life?” Bankim Chandra Chaterjee says – The purpose of life is to eat, drink and be merry, and then leave the world. What else? In fact, this is what many of us also believe. To eat, drink and be merry, earn a lot of money, and then leave the world!

When Sri Ramakrishna hears this from Bankim Chandra Chaterjee, he is very sad. He pulls him up and says – ‘You wretched fellow! Such words from you! You are such a great personality. And you say such things!’. Listen. What will happen with money? You will get a house, food and clothes. What else will you get with money? Earning money and to eat, drink, and be merry, cannot be the purpose of human life. The purpose of human life is much higher.

If it was only to eat drink and be merry, then there is no apparent difference between humans and animals. Humans also eat, animals also eat. Humans also rest, animals also rest. And so on..So there is no apparent difference.

However this is not truth. There is a basic, fundamental difference between humans and animals. God has given us a faculty with no other animal or species possesses. This is the faculty of ‘vivekabuddhi’ – the faculty of thought and discrimination. On this planet, only human beings have this faculty of thought and discrimination. This is why it is said – human beings are the best creation of God.

Only human beings can think what is good and not good for them. No animal or creature can think and discriminate. This is god-gifted.

That is why Sri Ramakrishna said – since you have received this faculty, the purpose of your life cannot be eating, drinking and making merry. Over and over again he proclaims in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, that the purpose of human life is God Realization.

We can realize God through internal purity
The question arises – What is God Realization? Is God sitting somewhere outside, that we have to pull and bring inside and acquired? No. God is sitting inside you. You have to realize him.

Swami Vivekananda has also said – that religion is not just about waving lamps and incense. That is the external form of religion. The internal form of religion is realization. It is Self-realization. It is to know oneself. One’s true self. And when we do that, we will attain to God realization.

There is a story of Michelangelo. The sculptures made by this famous sculptor Michelangelo used to be sold for great prices in the world. His friend asked him – how do you make these beautiful idols and statues? He said – I don’t make these statues. I bring a block of stone, and start carving it with a hammer and chisel. I remove the extra stone from the block. As I slowly chisel off the stone, the beautiful statue reveals itself from the block of stone.

Here also (in Ramakrishna Math Aurangabad where this lecture was delivered),there is a lot of stone work going on. A big block of stone is lying here. So many beautiful domes and figurines are being carved out of it. Where are these sculptures coming from? They were all inside the stone itself. I was watching the stone carvers from my room this morning in this campus – the carvers were slowly chiseling off the stone. And from the block of stone, beautiful figurines were emerging.

Similarly, God is residing inside us. Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji say that God dwells in all human beings. We have to see / recognize God. We are unable to recognize and realize God because, within us, there are also many unwanted blocks of stone. Those stones have to be chiseled off.

Sri Ramakrishna says that if we want to realize God, it can be done only by cleaning up the dirt inside us. For example, if there is some dust on a mirror, we will not be able to see our face in it. A dirty mirror will not reflect our image. Once the mirror is cleaned, you can see your reflection. Similarly, the heart has to be cleaned first.

We talk about the government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan now-a-days – Clean India Campaign. It is important, but this campaign is about external cleanliness. What is to be done about our inner cleanliness? This is a big challenge. External impurity is not as terrible as inner impurity. All the trouble in the world today is due to this inner impurity.

This is why Sri Ramakrishna said that the only goal of life is God Realization.

Sri Ramakrishna’s Universal Message (3) – Renunciation
One more universal message is that of renunciation.

You will find in the Gospel, that Sri Ramakrishna repeatedly talks about renunciation of kamini-kanchan (‘woman & gold’). We get upset with this teaching. But let us ask why he has referred to this over and over again.

It does not mean neglecting women – our wife, sisters and daughters. Sri Ramakrishna himself worshipped his wife as Shodashi. Therefore it is not possible that he is talking about rejection of women. Kamini-Kanchan means ‘kamana & vasanas’ – desires and passions. He says – if you want peace, then you need to renounce desires and passions.

There is no human being in this universe who doesn’t want peace. Even a wicked/ nasty person wants peace. So if we want peace and happiness, we need to give rein to our desires and passions. If we don’t do this, our mind will be unsettled, and we will not be blessed with ultimate happiness. This is why Sri Ramakrishna asks us to give rein to our desires.

We will ask – is it so easy to renounce desires and passions? We are householders, we need those to go on in life. Yes, we need that. But Sri Ramakrishna says, keep them in check. If you don’t, you will be like a horse without any reins. Such a horse runs wild. And anyone who comes in front of it is destroyed.

This is the same condition that we will be in. Without a check on desires and passions, we will be like a wild horse. And life will be terrible and will break down.

He says – remain happy with what you have. However human nature is not satisfied with what one has. If there is a BMW Car, we are wondering when will we get a Mercedes Benz? And then a Limousine.If there is a 2 BHK, when will there be a 3 BHK and then 4.If the bank balance is 2 crores, how can we have 10 and then 25 crores and so on.. There is no end to this!

That is why Sri Ramakrishna said that desires and passions are unending. There is no end! So don’t crave for things of the world. Give rein to your desires and passions, and live in joy and bliss. This is the meaning for renouncing kamini-kanchan.

What does renunciation mean?
To us, renunciation seems to imply leaving home and hearth and going away from the world – to an Ashrama, or to the forest or cave in the Himalayas. But that is not necessary. Neither did Sri Ramakrishna nor Swami Vivekananda nor Holy Mother say this.

They said that the renunciation has to be of the ego and of attachment. We have to live in the world, in a family, and carry out our responsibilities. All this in an unattached manner.

Conclusion: Why is Sri Ramakrishna’s message Universal?
He advocated of the Eternal Religion and (Sanatana Dharma)– that which has no beginning, no end. He spoke of the universal truth –that truth which is applicable to all. To any country, any human being, any sect.

An example of these teaching include ‘stayamevajayate’ – truth alone shall prevail. This is not some unique and special message for a Muslim or a Hindu, or any other religion. Speak the truth is a universal message. And Sri Ramakrishna preached such truths alone.

The role of scientists in tackling new challenges for development of modern India: An Indian perspective

Swami Sarvalokananda (Adhyaksha), talks at the Tata Institute  of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, on 29th April 2016

Dear Friends,

It gives me immense pleasure to be with you all in this prestigious institution. I am very delighted to see the galaxy of scientists and research scholars.

My talk will be in Indian perspective the role of scientists in tackling new challenges for development of modern India.

India is in need for scientific research for its development
Swami Vivekananda travelled the length and breadth of India, to know about India’s culture, tradition, its religion and spirituality. At that time, Swamiji was very pained to see the degradation or downfall of India.

Those who have read the history of India find that in the past India was great in all fields – in the field of science and technology, literature, music, dance, drama, architecture, etc. However, when Swamiji was traveling in India, he observed a tremendous degradation.

There are many reasons for this degradation. Swamiji realized that one of the main reasons for this is that science and technology were not cultivated and applied properly in India for many many decades. In those days, there was poverty, illiteracy, hunger, and no material prosperity. Swamiji wanted to bring science and technology to our country – so that India can rise again – economically, technically, and spiritually also. For this, he wanted a synthesis of science and spirituality.

 

Combining Indian asceticism and Western science: The meeting of Swami Vivekananda & JRD Tata
In this context, I would like to quote a very historic incident: The meeting of two great personalities of India – one, Swami Vivekananda – an all renouncing monk of 30 years old, and the other, Mr. Jamshedji Tata the great visionary and industrialist of 50 years. Both of them were traveling by ship from Oklahoma to Vancouver. Swamiji was going to Chicago to attend the Parliament of Religions and Mr. Tata was going there to attend the Columbian exposition on the occasion of the completion of 300 years of the discovery of America.

Both started talking to each other, and during the conversation Swamiji came to now that Jamshedji Tata is going to Japan. Jamshedji said he was in search of technical expertise and equipment for setting up a steel plant in India. Swamiji appreciated this idea and also said – yes, what you can bring to our country is technical expertise. Not only that, you can also bring material science. Swamiji also appreciated the idea of setting up a steel plant. He said,it will be wonderful if we could combine the achievement of science & technology of the West with the asceticism and spirituality of India.

Here you find two very important ideas: combining asceticism and spirituality or humanism with the achievement of science and technology. If any scientific research has to survive for a long time, and for the benefit of scientific research, spirituality or humanism is very important. The main objective of any scientific research in any field has been ‘bahujanahitaya, bahujanasukhaya’ – for the welfare of all and the happiness of many. This has been proclaimed by the great Lord Buddha.

So scientific research must be human welfare oriented. It should not be merely oriented towards the satisfaction or curiosity of knowledge. Neither should it be oriented towards money making or career making. Yes these are needed – career and money – but a humanistic approach towards scientific discovery is very important. That is why Swamiji wanted this combination.

When Jamshedji Tata heard these humanistic words of Swamiji, he was very moved, and inspired. They never met each other after this conversation, but after 5 years, Jamshedji Tata wrote a wonderful letter to Swami Vivekananda. This letter is very inspiring to all of us. He wrote:

Dear Swami Vivekananda,

I trust, you remember me as a fellow- traveller on your voyage from Japan to Chicago. I very much recall at this moment your views on the growth of the ascetic spirit in India, and the duty, not of destroying, but of diverting it into useful channels.

I recall these ideas in connection with my scheme of Research Institute of Science for India, of which you have doubtless heard or read. It seems to me that no better use can be made of the ascetic spirit than the establishment of monasteries or residential halls for men dominated by this spirit, where they should live with ordinary decency and devote their lives to the cultivation of sciences –natural and humanistic. I am of opinion that, if such a crusade in favour of an asceticism of this kind were undertaken by a competent leader, it would greatly help asceticism, science, and the good name of our common country; and I know not who would make a more fitting general of such a campaign than Vivekananda. Do you think you would care to apply yourself to the mission of galvanizing into life our ancient traditions in this respect? Perhaps, you had better begin with a fiery pamphlet rousing our people in this matter. I would cheerfully defray all the expenses of publication.

With kind regards, I am, dear Swami
Yours faithfully,
Jamshedji Tata

This is how Jamshedji Tata was inspired by Swami Vivekananda. He resolved to start a scientific research institute in India. Swamiji also wanted that. As a monk he could not accept this offer, but he gave all support and help to Jamshedji Tata. Though he was not directly involved in this project, he sent his disciple Sister Nivedita to him as an advisor. She was a very influential lady in those days. Mr. Tata, Sister Nivedita, his advisors and others formulated the plan for setting up the research institute in India.

Not only that, Swamiji directly appealed to the Maharaja of Mysore – Shyamraj Wadiyar for donating a piece of land for setting up the Indian Institute of Science. Shyamraj Wadiyar donated 100 acres of land for this purpose.

Swami Vivekananda died in July 1902, and Jamshedji Tata in 1904. Jamshedji Tata could not see his vision coming to reality. But after 4-5 years, this institute came to reality – in 1909. Now, Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore is the pride of India.

Internal & External challenges before the scientists
Scientists face many challenges in the development of modern India. Some include global warming, natural disasters and calamities, diseases like malnutrition, etc.

There are two kinds of challenges – external and internal challenges. We all understand external challenges, but we do not know the internal challenges. What are internal challenges for scientists, or any professional or human being? They are the negative forces/ emotion – of greed, jealousy, hatred, envy, selfishness, self-centeredness, and the like.

If we want to overcome any external challenge, we have to first face these internal challenges.

Time and again, Swamiji emphasized on unselfishness. He said unselfishness is the test of spirituality and religion. So, if we want to get rid of these negative forces and emotions, we must inculcate the great virtue of unselfishness.

In this context I would like to tell you what is the importance of unselfishness. Swamiji wrote a letter to the Maharaja of Mysore. He said: “My dear noble prince, life is short the vanities of life are transitory. They alone live who lives for others. The rest are more dead than alive.”

So whether you are a scientist or any other professional, you have to live for others. Those who live for themselves, though they are alive, they are dead! That is what Swami Vivekananda used to say. This unselfishness is therefore very important – whether you are a scientist, technocrat, bureaucrat, or any other profession.

There is a need to prioritize research areas around human needs
You must identify the priority of your scientific research. Yes, it is very amazing and wonderful that scientists could reach Mars. But today, Maharashtra – the state in which we live – is under drought. So the question is, is the scientific research for going to Mars more important than the priority of tackling the severe drought in Maharashtra?

When man was sent to moon, there was severe criticism in India and all over the world why so much of money had been spent on this? This money could have been spent on some other development.

Yes, we must have curiosity for knowledge – there is no doubt about it. We have to go a long way. But we need to understand and identify the priorities of our research. And based on that, research has to be done.

There are many imminent challenges and urgent needs – not just the drought of Maharashtra. For solving these, you have to carry out scientific research.

Yes there are many hindrances when carrying out scientific research – unnecessary interferences of political leaders, policy makers, lack of funds, etc. But you have to identify your priorities.

Dedication and devotion needed for research
When I had gone to the US, many devotees asked – Swamiji, you are not technically qualified, few monks are engineers/ doctors/ CAs, etc. How do you run this huge global, spiritual institution – Ramakrishna Mission so efficiently? I replied that we may not have academic qualifications, but we have two other qualifications: Dedication and Devotion.

Dear friends, you are scientists. When you do any scientific research, do it with dedication and devotion. If you do, you will get tremendous success and benefit out of this research. In other words, this is a sense of sacrifice.

There is no doubt that you have to sacrifice – sacrifice for others. If you have this attitude in you, you will be able to carry out scientific research successfully.

The outcome of scientific research must be long-term. We usually seek short-term benefits in life. But in research we must seek long-term benefits. This question: How can we achieve long term benefits – must be asked.

The research must have some foundation. Only then it can sustain and thrive. There are many instances in the corporate and business world where business houses collapse. Why is this so? Because such foundations are not there. What is this foundation? They are the spiritual values. These are the foundation on which you can create a great edifice – there is no doubt about it.

There are two aspects of science – humanitarian and technical aspects. We are taking care of the technical aspect. Unfortunately we are not taking care of the humanitarian aspect – which is very important. Both need to go side by side. Since the objective of any scientific research is bahujanahitaya, bahujanasukhaya – the welfare and happiness of many.

What is this spirituality which has to be combined with science?
We talk about spirituality. We want to become spiritual. Everywhere we find people who want to practice spirituality. You must understand what spirituality is, and how it can be combined with science.

Spirituality is nothing imaginary. In the language of Swami Vivekananda, it is the transformation of the inner being. The internal challenge – the change of the inner being – is called spirituality.

Swamiji also said – spirituality is to be good and do good. First you become good, and then try to do good for others.

So dear friends, if you become spiritual, you will become more scientific, more liberal, you will go beyond pettiness and narrowness, beyond self-centeredness, and you will become a complete human being – an integrated personality.

Today, the integrity of any professional – whether it be a scientist or engineer or doctor – is being challenged. For integrity – three things need to be practiced – transparency, accountability and credibility. These are important in any field

That is why Swami Vivekananda wanted to combine the achievement of scientific research of the West with asceticism and humanism of the East.

So there has to be a humanistic approach in scientific research. Only then will there be successful and fruitful scientific research.

Sarvebhavantusukhina, sarvesantuniramaya
Let all be happy, Let all be healthy.

What we can learn from Holy Mother, Sri Sarada Devi

Swami Sarvalokananda addressing devotees in the annual function at Ramakrishna Math Aurangabad, in the month of April 2016

Holy Mother is Jnanadayike – the giver of knowledge

All of us know that the Divine Mother – AdiShakti – has many forms: Durga, Kali, Sarasvati, Lakhsmi, Bhairavi, Katyayani, etc. Mother Sarada was also a form of Adi Shakti. Sri Ramakrishna himself said in Bengali –“O Aamaar Shakti. Sarasvati, Gyan dite eshe che” – “She is Sarasvati. My Shakti. And has come to give knowledge to all.”

Whatever form of Adi Shakti we see – whether it is Kali or Sarasvati or Lakshmi – all of them have so many powers and weapons. Mother Durga was mighty and powerful. She killed the Mahisasur and so many other demons. Mother Lakshmi is goddess of money; Mother Sarasvati is the giver of knowledge.

Externally, Sri Sarada Devi had no weapons or glamor.  Sri Ramakrishna said – this time she has hidden her real form. It was like a cat covered with ashes – which cannot be recognized!

She was always under the veil. Outwardly, she was a very ordinary, village woman, uneducated, she did not give any lectures or discourses. Sri Ramakrishna’s nephew Hridayram used to trouble both – Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother. Once she had a desire to read the ‘Varna Parichay’. She asked someone to get the book for her, and started reading the same. When Hridayram saw this, he said – What are you doing! You are a woman. Why are you reading all this?! This was 100 years back when reading, writing, going to school, etc. was a social taboo for women. So Hridayram snatched the book away from her! Thus, she remained ‘illiterate’! She didn’t get the opportunity to get education.

Mother’s ‘weapon’ of love

The greatest weapon of Mother was her love and affection. What can be a greater weapon! And not only that, she also had the weapons of tolerance and same sightedness.

We are awestruck when we read about her love. Her love was not bound by any limits! It was universal love and universal motherhood! It was no ordinary motherhood like ours. Our motherhood is limited. She was unlimited.

A devotee asked Mother – are you the Mother of all? She said – yes, I am everyone’s mother. I am the Mother of wicked as well as Mother of virtuous. He asked again – are you also the mother of all animals and creatures? She said yes, I am the Mother of all. All are my children.

You will not find any incident in her entire life where any individual was denied her love. Whoever came to her was embraced and loved. You will not find any hint of denial or exclusion of anyone in her life. Sri Ramakrishna once told Mother – many women come to you, some of them are also of a questionable character. You should not allow such women to come to you. To this, Mother says – I cannot do this. I will not be able to deny anyone who comes to me and calls me as mother, irrespective of character and nature. All are my children. Her motherhood was not selfish. It had no ‘shop keeping’ or conditions. It was unconditional love.Our love is conditioned. We do not do anything without interest. Sometimes, the love of our biological mother also has its own self-interest. But Holy Mother’s Love is unalloyed!

Holy Mother conquered everyone with her love. Though she had no outward weapons like the sword or spear, she has the greatest weapon of love, because it is love that can conquer even the most wicked person. The language of love is understood by all – even a ferocious animal. Love has a piercing power. No other force has such power. We can change a human being with love and bring about transformation in the people. You will find this in Mother’s life.

Mother’s forbearance

You will be surprised when you see her forbearance – which is such a necessary quality in today’s life. She was the embodiment of forbearance.

Where does this capacity for forbearance come from? By learning to adjust with any kind of situation. You can see in her life, how she adjusted to any adverse situation. As a young girl Mother lived in a village Jayarambati. She later came to Dakshineshwar, Kolkata in a completely different environment. Here she lived in the Nahabat and served Sri Ramakrishna and his devotees from there. She would cook for all in that small dwelling. If you have seen the Nahabat, you will realize how difficult it is to live in. It was so small – with no ventilation. She adjusted herself so well there.

Afterwards Mother goes with Sri Ramakrishna to Shyampukur for his better treatment, and serves him there. The environment there was again very different from Dakshineshwar. She adjusted herself in this new place very well. We cannot do this. If any changes in our environment or unfavorable happens to us, we are unable to adjust. We become unhappy, dissatisfied and sulk.

After this Mother goes to Kashipur Udyanbati with Sri Ramakrishna for his further treatment. He takes Mahasamadhi there. She again serves him there very cheerfully. After his Mahasamadhi, she goes to different places. Even in these surroundings she adjusts and accommodates herself very well. We see that she is able to adjust with all kinds of situations and surroundings. She emerges steady in any condition or challenge.

We do not see her disturbed, nervous or unhappy in any situation. She is always cheerful, calm and steady. In contrast, when we see our responses in adverse situations and challenges, we find ourselves wanting. We become scattered or break down under the pressure of challenges, but not Holy Mother. She had tremendous forbearance – a quality very essential in today’s situation.

Relevance of Holy Mother’s life in the modern times

A natural question arise in our mind: What is the relevance of Holy Mother’s life in today’s modern era of consumerism? Is her life a role model for us? She was not educated and didn’t talk in English like us. Yes it is. It is even more relevant and meaningful today.

We talk about modernism. What is the definition of modernism? Today we understand it as speaking in English! If someone talks in English, we say – how modern this person is! And if someone wears jeans, dark glasses and lipstick, and easily moves around the place, we call the person modern. However, this is not what being modern is. Then what is true meaning of being modern?

Being modern in thought and action is true modernism. Being large hearted, broad-minded and free in one’s thought. Are you modern in your mind? Are you broad-minded, free and progressive in your thought? Narrow-mindedness is not modernity. Only when we move out of being narrow minded and pettiness, we become modern – when our mind and heart is free of distinctions. We see this in Mother’s life. She was so modern and progressive in her thoughts.

When Sister Nivedita came to Mother for the first time, she wondered if Mother was modern. Is she old-fashioned or has a modern outlook? As she observed Mother closely, she came to the conclusion that Mother is completely modern. And that there is a wonderful integration of the ancient and the modern in her life. She is traditional in her actions, food, clothes, lifestyle, etc. But completely modern and progressive in her thoughts and attitude.

I will narrate some incidents to elaborate this. Nivedita came to India at Swami Vivekananda’s behest and opened a school. He wanted that she get engaged in women’s education and empowerment in India. She started her school for girls in Baghbazar in Kolkata. The school opened, but no girl came to study there. Nivedita got disappointed and thought that she had left her life in London and come here, and the school is not taking off. This was because in those times, it was a social taboo for girls to go to school. It was unimaginable that girls would study. And the second reason was that Nivedita was a ‘mleccha’ – a foreigner and therefore considered impure. No one from a respectable background would send their daughter to such a school. In this state of mind, Nivedita goes to Mother. She shares her disappointment – I had come to India with such hopes and started this school, but no one is coming to this school. Mother asks her to be patient and reassures her that thousands of girls will come to her school to study. They will stand on their own feet and become independent. After this reassurance Mother didn’t sit quiet – like many of us would have. She directed every woman devotee who would come to visit her, to send their daughters to this school – so that they can get educated and become independent. Slowly many girls start attending the school and got educated.

One lady comes and tells Mother –I am very sad. I have 4 young daughters in the house whose marriage is not getting fixed. In those times, it was a social taboo if any young girl in the house could not get married. People would talk about it behind their back. So the lady was very sad. Mother says – what if they are not getting married? Send them all to Nivedita’s school. They will study, learn crafts, and become independent. All four girls went to school and become independent – standing on their own feet. This is another example of her progressiveness.

Mother was also farsighted and a visionary. She insisted that the monks of the Ramakrishna Order learn English. Why was this necessary? In her times the Sangha was very small – with very few monks. But she said that when the Sangha grows in the future, and many centers will be opened in India as well as abroad, the monks will have to talk to devotees from all over the world. For this, it is essential that they learn English. Today we see this vision of hers come true – there are so many centers of the Order across the globe, and devotees all over the world come to the various centers in India. If the monks didn’t know English, they would not have been able to converse with all devotees.

She did not find fault in others. She said – everyone has deficiencies and faults. In his composition Sarada Stotra, Swami Abhedananda calls her ‘adoshadarshini’ – one who cannot see faults. She says – if my children are bathed in dust then it is my duty as their mother to clean them up and take them in my lap. Her last instruction to us is “Do not find fault with others. Rather see your own faults..”. We however don’t see our own faults. We see faults in our mother-in-law, our daughter-in-law, our children, our husband, our wife; but not in ourselves. So Mother said – “If you want  peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather see your own faults..”

You will see that fault finding is the cause of all disturbance in family and social life.

What we can learn from Mother

If the present generation has to learn anything from Mother’s life then we can take these 2-3 qualities. It is Mother’s unconditional love, her tolerance & forbearance, and her farsightedness.

Love and tolerance are in fact the most important attributes in today’s time. The society we live in is lacking in love and tolerance. We are unable to bear any challenge. Any little disturbance tremendously upsets us. Why is this? This is because of the ego. We see  families and societies breaking up all because of this ego.

Please learn to imbibe love and forbearance in your personal lives, and your lives will become filled with joy and peace, and this will reflect in the national life also.

On Hinduism

Swami Sarvalokananda delivering lecture in Zirve University, Gaziantep Turkey, on 30.12.2015

Introduction

असतोमासद्गमय।तमसोमाज्योतिर्गमय।मृत्योर्मामृतंगमय॥ॐशान्तिशान्तिशान्तिः।।

This is a wonderful Vedic prayer – a prayer to the Lord – Lead us from the unreal to the real, lead us from darkness to light, lead us from mortality to immortality.

Distinguished guests, esteemed faculty members of this great institution, students, ladies and gentlemen present here. My previous speaker has very beautifully explained and shown in his powerpoint presentation, the diverse culture, diverse language, diverse religion, diverse lifestyle and diverse dresses in India. Now you have a comprehensive idea about the Indian culture, civilization and tradition.

Though India is a land of diverse culture, language, religion and lifestyle, the characteristic of India is unity in diversity. This is very important. See how we live together in India – somebody mentioned that Muslims in India are considered second class citizens. This is a completely wrong idea and propaganda. I have asked many Muslim friends in India, How they feel in India? They say they are very happy, comfortable and are living with dignity. If they go to Islamic countries, they are not treated as they are treated in India – with all dignity! This unity in diversity is therefore a characteristic of Indian culture and civilization.

Clarifying some misconceptions about Indian religious practices

1. The logic of polytheism in Hinduism – the difference only in name & form

There is a misconception about India – its culture and religion. Many non-Hindu friends in India as well as abroad have mentioned to me that you worship many gods and goddesses. This confuses us. Yes, Hinduism believes in polytheism, and worship many Gods and Goddesses. Somebody worships Shiva, somebody Krishna, somebody Rama. God is one, Allah is one. But there are different manifestations of Allah of God or Atman or Brahman. These are all manifestations. We worship in different names and forms according to the taste, temperament and liking of the people.

I often give a classic example: you go to a mall and want to buy a coat. You will like one thing and your friend will like something else. Somebody likes a white coat, somebody a brown coat, somebody likes a short coat and somebody a long coat. There are different tastes and temperaments.

Similarly in Hinduism, there are different gods and goddesses – the  manifestation of the same God – different names and forms. That is why Hinduism believes in polytheism.

2. Image and nature worship

Another question often faced is that of image worship – photos and idols.

Let me tell you about one incident from the life of Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda was a great spiritual leader and saint of the 19th Century. This question was asked by king Alwar (of Rajasthan) to him. Swamiji was the King’s (Mangal Singh) guest. In his court they were discussing about image worship. King said – Swamiji I don’t believe in idol worship.

In the court there was a big picture of Mangal Singh hanging on the wall. Swami Vivekananda asked one of the ministers to take out the picture and put it on the ground. He then asked the minister to spit on it.

All people present were disturbed – you are asking us to spit on the picture of our own king? We respect our King. We cannot do that! Swamiji said why not? This is a simple picture. Made of color and canvas. The courtiers said we cannot do it because we see our king Mangal Singh in this picture. It is not just color and canvas. Swamiji then said, those who worship idols and images do it not as idols alone. They see God in the image. That is why this worship is done.

So the image is not worshipped as an image, or idol as idol. We see God in the image or idol. That is why we worship an image.

The previous speaker was saying that Hindus worship trees and nature. Some people say this is ridiculous. All religions admit that God is all pervading. Allah is not only in a temple or mosque, He is all pervasive. Present in living and non-living beings. Similarly Hinduism sees God everywhere – whether it be living or non-living beings. We see the presence of God in the tree, stone, mountain – everywhere. That is why trees etc. are worshipped.

3. Cow slaughter

Now a days, beef is not allowed in India. Slaughtering of cows is strictly prohibited. This was not the case earlier. Some non-Hindu friends ask why is this so? How does a cow become a mother?

Hinduism calls a cow mother – “गौमाता” (Gaumata). There is a philosophy behind this. The cow’s milk nurtures the baby. It is a balanced and nutritious diet – not found in the  milk of any other animal. There has therefore been a tradition of thousands of years where children are given cow’s milk. That is why the cow is considered as mother.

Therefore Hindus do not like taking beef. Just as Muslims do not take pork. All these are specific food habits of each and every religion.

What is religion and spirituality?

There are two aspects of religion. One is the external of religion and the other is the internal of religion.

All rituals – by any religion – are all the ‘external’ of religion. They are not the whole of religion. Therefore the other aspect is the internal of religion. This is the core of religion, and this core is spirituality – of any religion.

Now a days there is a lot of talk about becoming spiritual – in India as well as other countries. What is spirituality? It is the values to be practiced in human life. What are these human values? Why are we called human beings? What is the difference between man and animal? Apparently there is no difference between humans and animal. Humans also eat, and animals also eat. Humans also sleep, so do animals.The difference then is in one thing. Humans have the faculty of discrimination. Humans can think what is good and bad. Animals cannot. This is why humans are called the best creation on earth. No species other on earth has this faculty. In Sanskrit it is called “vivekabuddhi, vicharabuddi’.

This is why humans must display sterling human values. What are they? Love, affection, unselfishness, feeling of brotherhood, friendship, etc. A person who doesn’t possess these values cannot be called a human being. So you must possess them. All religions – whether it be Islam, Christianity, Hinduism or Zoroastrianism – declares and advocates the same thing – that you should be truthful, you must be accountable, creditable, loving, transparent, friendly, etc.

No religion asks people to speak lies or quarrel with other religions, or break the heads of people from other religions.There are, unfortunately, some people who do this. We hear that in Islam, a person who does not believe in Islam is a Kafir (traitor), and if a Muslim kills such a person, he will go to Allah. The more such people he kills, the sooner he will go to Allah. This is a misinterpretation. I was asking my friend Irfanji yesterday how is this so? Irfanji said that Kafir is misrepresented.

There are misconceptions about every religion – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity.. For example, other religions believe that Christianity had always emphasized on conversion. Hinduism doesn’t. Yes they may believe in it, but that is not the only motto or goal of Christianity.


Acceptance & Tolerance in Hinduism

There is another characteristic of the Hindu religion – universal acceptance and tolerance. If you read the history of India and Hinduism, you will find that these are two main characteristics. Hindus never reject anybody. They accept and respect all religions. Whenever anyone has come as a refugee, India has given shelter. For example, the Parsis came to India. They were driven away from their country. India gave them shelter, and they are living in India peacefully and with all dignity. This is the catholicity and liberal attitude of Hinduism.

Now a days we talk about terrorism. We are all scared of it. Why has it come up? Why are young boys trained and their brains totally washed to kill people of other religions mercilessly? Nobody knows the real philosophy or reason behind it. There may be some political interests, and people of ulterior motives just do to divide the people.

We have to live together. How can we live peacefully? This peaceful co-existence of religions in the world is very important. We should come forward and put an end to this terrorism. It is a burning issue – not only in India or Turkey, but all over the world.

There may be a difference in lifestyles, culture, dress, language. But basically there is no difference between human beings. The essence of any religion is that we are one and the same.

Religion always binds us, it never divides us.If religion divides us, it is not a true religion.


Conclusion

I am very happy to be here. I must appreciate the hospitality of the Turkish people. Wherever I have gone, they have welcomed and entertained us. This is a sterling human quality I have encountered. In Hinduism it is called “atithi devo bhava” – the guest is nothing but God. Here also I have experienced that. Any guest – whether from India, England or Germany, are entertained nicely here. And there is a feeling that they are one with all.

With these few words I would like to conclude my speech, and thank Indialogue Foundation of Mumbai. They invited us to Turkey to see the culture, religion, tradition, people and to realize & understand what Turkey is. We have seen everything. To some extent we have understood the tradition, culture and civilization. It has undoubtedly a very rich culture and tradition – one of the oldest in the world.

I would like to conclude with a Vedic prayer – “ ॐ सर्वेभवन्तुसुखिनः सर्वेसन्तुनिरामयाः।” (Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah|)”

Let all be happy, Let all be healthy.

Photo report of Spiritual Lecture-tour to Europe

22nd November to 3rd December, 2015

Swami Sarvalokananda, Secretary, Ramakrishna Mission Mumbai was on a spiritual lecture tour to Switzerland and Germany.
Parlor Talk at Zurich Swami Sarvalokananda addressing Vedanta Group at Zurich, on ‘Who am I’.

ved_shrine_socAt the Vedanta Center Geneva – in the Shrine and the calm environs.

swami baneshnandaWith Swami Amarananda – Vedanta Center, Geneva.

iskon-christmasVisits to the ISKCON Temple in Zurich, and participating in early Christmas festivity in Geneva.

hotel metropolSwami Vivekananda had visited Saas-Fee in the Alps in 1896, and stayed at the Grand Hotel there (now called Hotel Metropol). The hotel has a plaque outside that mentions his visit. Swami Sarvalokananada visited that Hotel, and also the a bronze bust of Swami in front of the Saas Fee Museum.

The inscription under the bust says “Swami Vivekananda lived in Saas-Fee 1896. He was mystic and reformer, and brought the highest ideas of East and West together.”

devoteesWith Swamis and Devotees in Vedanta Center, Germany; and Swami of ISKCON Temple Zurich.

talk at schoolWith students in a school in Zurich