The essence of India is its spirituality. Each and every century in India’s calendar has its own great seers and saints of that age. While spiritual personalities are dime a dozen in this land of mystic charm, it requires more than some revelations and miracles, for a person to be revered and followed even after 100 years of his death. Every Guru and Saint is unique in his own way. But there is something which makes Swami Vivekananda special and very relevant even today. To know that we must know about the circumstances in which Swami Vivekananda grew up. Our nation was reeling under extreme poverty and hunger during the period in which he was born. Between 1850 and 1899, India suffered 24 major famines, a number higher than in any other recorded 50-year period, resulting in millions of deaths. Three years after his birth India suffered one of the worst famines ever. Nearly 10 million people died in Odisha alone during that famine. Bengal saw around 1.5 lakh people perish during that time because of that famine. Seeing all these sufferings of the poor around him impacted Narendranath Dutta, which later evolved into his wonderful exposition of Practical Vedanta when he became Swami Vivekananda. This also led Swami Vivekananda to lay more emphasis on social service. Swamiji was never interested in a world negating spirituality. He was one who didn’t want to disconnect himself from the sufferings seen around, in the guise of spirituality.
Swamiji thought that it is a sin to preach religion to a man when he is suffering from hunger. He said,”I do not believe in a god who cannot give me bread here, giving me eternal bliss in heaven! Pooh! India is to be raised, the poor are to be fed, education is to be spread, and the evil priestcraft is to be removed”. He insisted that, So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every person a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them!”. So, for swami Vivekananda spirituality is not some elitist otherworldly idea, but a synchronization of that wonderful Realisation with the reality around us. He believed and rightly so, that the misery of our countrymen can be wiped off only with this kind of synchronization.
With this undercurrent Swami Vivekananda went to the rock on December 25th 1892. He sat there on meditation for 3 days in order to find his life’s mission. He meditated on India’s past, present and future. During that meditation he got the vision that he should work for the resurgence of Dharma, which alone will make India come out of its pathetic situation and become great once again. It is this resolve and the work pursued thereafter which makes him special and very relevant. Not stopping with himself Swami Vivekananda created a monastic order which trains people for this onerous job of selfless service, and in the last hundred years many great monks have emerged from that Institution. This speaks volumes of his intense desire to awaken his Motherland from the slumber of ignorance. Swami Ranganadananda, another illuminating soul who got moulded in the Institution started by Swamiji feels that,failure of having this synchronization led to the social decadence and loss of political freedom. He says that, “We failed to stress this whole gamut of social virtues and graces, and to impart the relevant secular education which is the source of them. Instead we stressed an other-worldly excellence with its passive virtues, with inaction as its watchword; we failed to understand that social welfare comes from an activist ethics in the context of interaction with other members in society. The result was that we failed to achieve the more attainable ideals of character, work-efficiency, public spirit, and general well-being, while equally failing to achieve the high ideal of mukti and the virtues and graces associated with so great an ideal. The high spiritual inaction of the mukti path and ideal became deformed into laziness, inertia, and human unconcern, along with a type of worldliness, or “a piety-fringed worldliness” as I prefer to call it, more harmful than the worldliness of the modern Western type, which has at least character-efficiency and human concern to enrich it”.
Those 3 days of meditation which paved way for India’s Freedom and awakening is celebrated as “Samarth Bharath parva”. A period to remind ourselves about the Great Monk, about the need to dedicate ourselves for the still unfinished work of social regeneration. Swamiji’s Vedanta starts with our self-purification through selfless service. When this purification happens, the detachment, which is a prerequisite for liberating ourselves from the bondages, will happen. It is not a detachment from this world, but being in this world by working to alleviate the miseries of poor and at the same time doing it as a sadhana, which is the essence of karma Yoga.