INDIA DIES NOT

We have an idea that we Indians can do something, and amongst the Indians we Bengalis may laugh at this idea; but I do not. My mission in life is to rouse a struggle in you. Whether you are an Advaitin, whether you are a qualified monist or dualist, it does not matter much. But let me draw your attention to one thing which unfortunately we always forget: that is — “O man, have faith in yourself.” That isle the way by which we can have faith in God. Whether you are an Advaitist or a dualist, whether you are a believer in the system of Yoga or a believer in Shankarâchârya, whether you are a follower of Vyâsa or Vishvâmitra, it does not matter much. But the thing is that on this point Indian thought differs from that of all the rest of the world. Let us remember for a moment that, whereas in every other religion and in every other country, the power of the soul is entirely ignored — the soul is thought of as almost powerless, weak, and inert — we in India consider the soul to be eternal and hold that it will remain perfect through all eternity. We should always bear in mind the teachings of the Upanishads.


Remember your great mission in life. We Indians, and especially those of Bengal, have been invaded by a vast amount of foreign ideas that are eating into the very vitals of our national religion. Why are we so backwards nowadays? Why are ninety-nine per cent of us made up of entirely foreign ideas and elements? This has to be thrown out if we want to rise in the scale of nations. If we want to rise, we must also remember that we have many things to learn from the West. We should learn from the West her arts and her sciences. From the West we have to learn the sciences of physical nature, while on the other hand the West has to come to us to learn and assimilate religion and spiritual knowledge. We Hindu must believe that we are the teachers of the world. We have been clamouring here for getting political rights ant many other such things. Very well. Rights and privileges and other things can only come through friendship, and friendship can only be expected between two equals When one of the parties is a beggar, what friendship can there be? It is all very well to speak so, but I say that without mutual co-operation we can never make ourselves strong men. So, I must call upon you to go out to England and America, not as beggars but as teachers of religion. The law of exchange must be applied to the best of our power. If we have to learn from them the ways and methods of making ourselves happy in this life, why, in return, should we not give them the methods and ways that would make them happy for all eternity? Above all, work for the good of humanity. Give up the so-called boast of your narrow orthodox life. Death is waiting for every one, and mark you this — the most marvellous historical fact — that all the nations of the world have to sit down patiently at the feet of India to learn the eternal truths embodied in her literature. India dies not.

-Swami Vivekananda

Natchiketas and Yama

V.I Lenin, The Awakening of Asia

Was it so long ago that China was considered typical of the lands that had been standing still for centuries? Today China is a land of seething political activity, the scene of a virile social movement and of a democratic upsurge. Following the 1905 movement in Russia, the democratic revolution spread to the whole of Asia—to Turkey, Persia, China. Ferment is growing in British India. 

A significant development is the spread of the revolutionary democratic movement to the Dutch East Indies, to Java and the other Dutch colonies, with a population of some forty million. 

First, the democratic movement is developing among the masses of Java, where a nationalist movement has arisen under the banner of Islam. Secondly, capitalism has created a local intelligentsia consisting of acclimatised Europeans who demand independence for the Dutch East Indies. Thirdly, the fairy large Chinese population of Java and the other islands have brought the revolutionary movement from their native land.

Describing this awakening of the Dutch East Indies, van Ravesteyn, a Dutch Marxist, points out that the age-old despotism and tyranny of the Dutch Government now meet with resolute resistance and protest from the masses of the native population. 

The usual events of a pre-revolutionary period have begun. Parties and unions are being founded at amazing speed. The government is banning them, thereby only fanning the resentment and accelerating the growth of the movement. Recently, for example, it dissolved the “Indian Party” because its programme and rules spoke of the striving for   independence. The DutchDerzhimordas[1] (with the approval, incidentally, of the clericals and liberals—European liberalism is rotten to the core!) regarded this clause as a criminal attempt at separation from the Netherlands! The dissolved party was, of course, revived under a different name. 

A National Union of the native population has been formed in Java. It already has a membership of 80,000 and is holding mass meetings. There is no stopping the growth of the democratic movement. 

World capitalism and the 1905 movement in Russia have finally aroused Asia. Hundreds of millions of the down trodden and benighted have awakened from medieval stagnation to a view life and are rising to fight for elementary human rights and democracy. 

The workers of the advanced countries follow with interest and inspiration this powerful growth of the liberation movement, in all its various forms, in every part of the world. The bourgeoisie of Europe, scared by the might of the working-class movement, is embracing reaction, militarism, clericalism and obscurantism. But the proletariat of the European countries and the young democracy of Asia, fully confident of its strength and with abiding faith in the masses, are advancing to take the place of this decadent and moribund bourgeoisie. 

The awakening of Asia and the beginning of the struggle for power by the advanced proletariat of Europe are a symbol of the new phase in world history that began early this century.

Portrait of Vladimir Lenin

Gandhiji on Vivekananda

“I have come here to pay my homage and respect to the revered memory of Swami Vivekananda, whose birthday is being celebrated today. I have gone through his works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country became a thousand-fold. I ask you, young men, not to go away empty-handed without imbibing something of the spirit of the place where Swami Vivekananda lived and died. -Mahatma Gandhi

Mani Mallick and Bhavanath: “Many maharajas have sent precious articles to the exhibition — gold couches and the like. It is worth seeing.”

MASTER (to the devotees, with a smile): “Yes, you gain much by visiting those things. You realize that those articles of gold and the other things sent by maharajas are mere trash. That is a great gain in itself. When I used to go to Calcutta with Hriday, he would show me the Viceroy’s palace and say: ‘Look, uncle! There is the Viceroy’s palace with the big columns.’ The Mother revealed to me that they were merely clay bricks laid one on top of another.

“God and His splendour. God alone is real; the splendour has but a two-days existence. The magician and his magic. All become speechless with wonder at the magic, but it is all unreal. The magician alone is real. The rich man and his garden. People see only the garden; they should look for its rich owner.”

Sw. Vireswarananda, President, Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Preface to Sw. Vivekananda’s Rebuild India

All over the country, since Independence, there has been a great deal of enthusiasm amongst the people, particularly among our young men, to rebuild our nation. It is very commendable. But then, before one takes up this work one must have a clear idea of the India that is to be. A painter paints a picture on the canvas only after he has a clear image, as it were, in his mind of what he wants to paint. Similarly, an engineer, before he begins the construction of any building, first gets complete information as to what purpose the building will be used for—school, hospital, public office, or residence. After that he draws the plan and then constructs the building accordingly. So we too must have a clear picture of the future India and then begin building the nation. Are we going to make India a great military nation? I am sure we are not, for no military power has lived long. Just see the fate of Hitler and Mussolini.

We are a poor nation, and we want wealth to be able to feed our masses. But will mere bread and butter solve our problem? Have the people of America and other advanced nations peace of mind and true happiness in spite of their wealth? They do not seem to have. Look at the young people of some of these countries, children of affluence, boys and girls, who feel frustration with nothing to achieve in life, wandering about. Some of them are very, very rich, but often they feel a sort of terrible purposelessness, having no goal in life. We want military strength to protect our freedom and not to rob our neighbours; we want wealth to feed our masses who are poor, but this cannot be the ideal of the nation. Something more is required besides these two. What is that which will bring peace to us along with wealth and power?

It is possible to go through our ancient history and see how great India was in power, wealth, and happiness during the times of Ashoka, Chandragupta, Kanishka and others. During the Vedic period and during the Buddhistic period evidently we had great ideals that could make India so great in the past. But then how has this degeneration come about? We have to find out the causes that led to our downfall. So in constructing the future India we must accept the ideals that made us great, reject what caused degeneration, and supply newly what were not there at that time, viz. science and technology.

We nowadays swear by science. We say, if something is not scientific, it is superstitious. But is it scientific to ignore altogether our past, not caring to know what good it contained and what has sustained us as a nation for the last three thousand years, and to run after Western ideas which have not stood the test of time, which are at best two hundred years old and some of them of even more recent times? Have these ideals solved the problem of the Western nations? Are they happy and at peace? They do not seem to be. So why go after those ideals?

We are human beings. God has given us reason to be used, and not to allow ourselves to be driven like cattle by anyone and everyone who comes and tells us something vehemently. So I feel that we should gather all materials, all information about our past and present, think well, and plan the future. We should not be led by emotion.

First of all, the most necessary thing is character. Without character nothing great can be achieved. Look at Mahatmaji. See how by his character he swayed the nation and forced England to quit India. He did not use guns, atom-bombs, etc. So if we want to make India great, we must build our character first, then use our reason and find out what sort of India we want to build, and then begin to work for it, even if it means sacrificing our lives for it. For this kind of study, Swami Vivekananda’s works will be a guidebook to us to introduce us to the greatness of Indian culture and ideals.

This brochure collected from Swamiji’s works will give at a glance his ideas about the causes of India’s fall, her present condition, and the way to her regeneration. I hope this book will help our young men who are aspiring to build a great India.

23 December 1980 (Swami Vireswarananda)

President Belur Math Ramakrishna Math and

Ramakrishna Mission

ഭൂമിദാനം / भूदान / Bhoomidan

Bhoomidanam (“land gift”) was a movement led by Acharya Vinoba Bhave, an Indian sage and Gandhian disciple who walked hundreds of miles through India for 13 years with the mission of convincing landlords to renounce some of their holdings, for the social uplift of the poor and downtrodden and in order to promote village self-sufficiency. Chief amongst his many accomplishments was the founding of the Brahma Vidya Mandir, an ashram where women practiced agriculture, prayer, and nonviolence in order to achieve self-sufficiency.

Like Gandhiji, he sought peace, freedom, and self-determination for the Indian people from the tyranny of the British Empire through the method of ahimsa (non-violence). Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. met with him in 1959 during his trip to “the Land of Gandhi,” where he engaged in a deep study of the tradition of nonviolence in Indian philosophy and its practical application in the freedom struggle of his people here in the United States.

I painted this portrait because last year, we undertook a celebration of the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi in the United States in an effort to raise national and world consciousness about Gandhiji, a singular personality whose example of perpetual truth-seeking, humility of conduct, depth of intellect and perception, compassionate action and eloquence of tongue and thought, brought together the starving multitudes of India, who were left destitute by more than three hundred years of British exploitation. Gandhiji taught us that education was not simply the assimilation of books and theorems but cultivation of the human personality, the sum total of a man’s actions which together constitute his character.

It behooves us to celebrate such a world historical personality in the twenty-first century as a new beast slouches towards India, the American Empire, which has arguably caused even more ruinous consequences to Indian industry, agriculture and folkways albeit in a much shorter span of time. Education has deviated from the Gandhian ideal as Indian labor is forced to work for Western powers for a mere pittance, while corporations greedily devour India’s intellectual and physical products, sucking out the very lifeblood of the Indian man and woman.

Central to this terrible saga is the aggressive advance of the Indian elite and petty bourgeoisie in America, which enjoys the fruits of exploited Indian labor along with the white bourgeoisie and indeed, the bourgeoisie of every race. Together they even suppress the working poor here, particularly the black poor, who are exploited in ways quite similar to the poor and downtrodden in India, denied education, housing, and basic civil rights. All the while these personalities claim to be “experts” on India and South Asia. It was for these rights that Dr. King and Vinoba Bhave were fighting.

America, which is presently facing a grave crisis of governance and an even graver crisis of violence, must return to Dr. King’s prognostication that the choice today is not between nonviolence and violence but in fact, between nonviolence or non-existence. As superpowers like Russia and China, along with the fast-failing behemoth of Europe, contend for power with the capsizing American Empire, the masses are once again left floundering and bewildered.

In his report about his trip to the Land of Gandhi, Dr. King observes that “the bourgeoise—white, black or brown—behaves about the same the world over.” He implores the American people to partake of the gifts of Mother India “in a spirit of international brotherhood, not national selfishness.Herein lies the significance of Dr. King’s two-day meeting with Sri Vinoba Bhave during his trip to Ajmer, pictured below: the desire to join the Satyagraha of African-Americans who had recently desegregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama with the Satyagraha of the Indians, who had newly won independence after having successfully ejected the British from Indian soil.

Bhave was a disciple of Gandhiji who continued to transmit Gandhiji’s message of peace after the physical form of the Mahatma was assassinated. Vinoba ji is said to have been admired by Gandhi, particularly for his strict and sincere observance of brahmacharya or the law of celibacy, which was a key component of the Satyagraha program.

Rev. King visited with Vinoba Bhave for two days on March 2 and 3, 1959. During their meeting, Vinoba referred to King as the American Gandhi; he himself was known amongst followers as the “Second Gandhi.” Sadly in the recent years, the city of Ajmer, where King visited with Vinoba ji has been neo-colonized by the Americans. Thus, whereas Dr. King’s pilgrimage to the city and visit with Vinobaji was an effort to fight Western imperialism through the method of ahimsa, President Barack Obama’s visit in 2010 was its very antithesis–history as a consequence became farce and nonviolence has degenerated into mere rhetoric in the hands of the neoliberal class, who have coopted the language of nonviolence for the perpetuation of war, poverty, and injustice rather than their ultimate eradication.

Obama and his ilk might be best served to remember Dr. King’s advice, to quote an article of his about Gandhiji in an issue of Bhoodan magazine, “Gandhi’s method of nonviolence and the Christian ethics of love is the best weapon available to Negroes for this struggle for freedom and human dignity…His spirit is a continual reminder that it is possible to resist evil and yet not resort to violence.”

जय जगत्

Mahatma Gandhi in Sudan

“In 1935, Mahatma Gandhi stopped over in Port Sudan (on his way to England through sea) and was welcomed by the Indian community there. In 1938, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru stopped over in Port Sudan on his way to Britain and was hosted through a function at the home of Chhotalal Samji Virani. The Graduates General Congress of Sudan formed in 1938 drew heavily on the experience of the Indian National Congress.”

“British Indian troops fought alongside Sudanese in Eritrea in 1941 winning the decisive battle of Keren (Bengal Sappers won a Victoria Cross for mine clearance in Metemma, now on the Sudan-Ethiopia border). The Sudan Block at India’s National Defence Academy was partly funded with a gift of one hundred thousand pounds from the Sudanese Government in recognition of the sacrifices of Indian troops in the liberation of Sudan in the North African Campaign during World War II.”

“At the 1955 Bandung Conference, the delegation from a still not independent Sudan did not have a flag to mark its place. Taking out his handkerchief, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote “Sudan” on it, thus reserving a place for Sudan in the international community.”

Source: http://www.eoikhartoum.gov.in/India-Sudan-Bilateral-Brief.php

GETHSAMANE: A BALLAD

1. Come sing with me and I will sing you a song of the greatest lie, most heartbreaking.

2. In the Garden of Gethsamane, my sweet Lord spoke precious litanies, there I held your head in my lap’s cradle, its shallow grave.

3. fear is not a virtue of the weak, my love, but the simmering somnambulance of those who know not they are free.

4. In you lies freedom’s key. You who walked with the Buddha and the Christ,

5. you who spake the truth that both Al-Koran and Bible be holy:

6. will you reveal that which we cannot see?

7. Evermore shall I slumber with you in the night heavens,

8. Remember now, amidst the sliver of moon and sounds of the night

9. muttering, like a witch’s whisper in her wake.

10. As softly do I tread your heart’s private chambers

11. as dearly does it break.

12. Meantime a cry escapes me;

13. my gossamer gown slips across the dark corridor;

14. As shadow danced against form in the evening firelight, in a flickering pas de deux.

15. Now tell me: haven’t you found that silence is naught but the length of the time lost between lovers,

16. the long ponderances and grand epistles

17. authored in love’s mighty castles, buried in its erstwhile graves?

18. jokers, knights, and knaves are we all, jointly bonded in love’s velvet cave

19. sleeping perchance to dream, dreaming perchance to awaken

20. And so, you lovers, love on, knowing that you live to die again,

21. for as the soul remains soul, love can neither slay nor be slain.

22. Brisk is the breeze and tender is the night and me in a borrowed veil,

23. I’ll await you in the garden with my crown of thorns and roses, my love,

24. I know our love was not in vain.

Observation of Vivekananda’s 157th Jayanti

Today marks the 157th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. Vivekananda was only 29 when he gave his address at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. As he put it in his lecture, “I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects…. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.”

A staunch critic of Western imperialism, he railed against American Christian missionaries who traveled to India to “convert the heathens”: he remarked acerbically in one speech he gave while in America, “You train and educate and clothe and pay men to do what? — to come over to my country and curse and abuse all my forefathers, my religion, my everything. They walk near a temple and say, ‘You idolaters, you will go to hell.’ But the Hindu is mild; he smiles and passes on, saying, ‘Let the fools talk.’ And then you who train men to abuse and criticize, if I just touch you with the least bit of criticism, but with the kindest purpose, you shrink and cry: ‘Do not touch us! We are Americans; we criticize, curse, and abuse all the heathens of the world, but do not touch us, we are sensitive plants.” Like Gandhi and the vast majority of Indian people, Vivekananda recognizes that Christianity of the West was a bankrupt enterprise, deployed in the justification of slavery and empire.

Well versed in Western philosophy, logic, and science, and the greatest disciple of his master, Sri Ramakrishna, he sought to bring to the Western world the knowledge of the Vedas, the ancient learning of India. Though largely uncredited for his contributions, he, in fact, developed a new science of the mind. It was in America that he composed his major work, Raja Yoga. His role in the founding of modern psychology has been relatively unacknowledged. He had a profound influence on William James, who was one of W.E.B Du Bois’ professors at Harvard University. James met him in 1894 and again in 1896 when Vivekananda gave a lecture at Harvard, on the religions of India and comparative religions. Many of of James’s colleagues at Harvard (and Du Bois himself who drew on Hindu philosophy constantly in his own work) and the wider community of Cambridge, MA were drawn to the truth of Vivekananda’s teachings about religion, science, and the freedom of the soul. One sees the influence of Vivekananda in James’s 1902 work The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, particularly in the connections between religion and neurology, the reality of the unseen, and the fundamental unity of the self and the universe.

William Stuart Nelson, Mohandas K. Gandhi: The Nonviolent Answer

Article by African-American theologian William Stuart Nelson on Gandhiji in the Friends Journal: Quaker Thought and Life, October 1, 1969. Nelson was a satyagrahi who marched with Gandhi in Noakhali, Bengal in support of Hindu-Muslim Unity against Western imperialism. He was a very important mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. and played a decisive role in facilitating Dr. King’s visit to India in 1959.