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From Captivity to Absolute Liberty
~ Excerpt taken from 'Prabuddha Bharata'
Essence of Happy Life: Love, Beauty, Truth
The earth is beautiful because it teems with life. The universe looks beautiful because it is perceived by humans. Beauty is the nature of life, and whatever is devoid of it becomes ugly and loathsome. Beauty is one of life’s higher dimensions. If we are alive to this dimension, life with all its myriad manifestations will become beautiful. Alas, we run after skin-deep beauty because our conception of life is skindeep. Those who can understand this law of life are lifted from sordidness and loneliness and become capable of connecting to beauty all around. Even what is labelled, according to contemporary ideas, as disagreeable and nasty will, due to its fact of being alive, become beautiful. And this happens due to the underlying sublime order. When life becomes narrow and selfish the world correspondingly transforms into a nauseating place. Such a life becomes a long-drawn trial.
Above beauty there is still a higher law: Love. Love nurtures life and seeks its continuity binding us to other forms of life. Without love and beauty everything in the world would be insipid and meaningless. People who do not experience life’s essence are miserable and psychologically dead, and the extremely miserable commit suicide. Life bereft of beauty and love remains merely on the biological level, driven by selfish genetic impulses. No progress in civilization and knowledge is possible without love. Every living being is subject to this glorious law.
Still higher and most evident than love is the law of truth. Life never thrives without truth, and that is the reason why nature does not create anything that is untrue. One needs no special training to detect truth from untruth, as truth is innate in every being. In individual lives whatever is false and counterfeit is opposite to the laws of life, and those who live by falsehood are most sorrowful. The whole of nature works against such lives by crippling and destroying them. Many learn to hide falsehood from others, but their bodies react violently against this, proving that falsehood is not consonant with nature. The mind that harbours untruth is a conflagration destroying peace, prosperity, and finally the personality. Sanity, fortitude, courage, altruism, fearlessness, and all the other virtues that make life worth living are derived from truth.
We wrongly believe that the little consciousness we know through our brains and bodies is the only thing there is to life, and if that little consciousness goes, everything goes. In reality, the domain of consciousness is immeasurable and the science of experiencing its full range is called ‘Yoga’. With the consciousness of real beauty, deep love, and unfading truth, life indeed becomes meaningful at all moments. We just have to expand our horizons of heart, say ‘Yes’ more than ‘No’, practise forgiveness and gratitude more regularly, forbear during tough times, speak the truth more readily, practise fearlessness under every practical situation, build ourselves as courageous and more happy humans.
Embodiment of Strength
The life and message of Swami Vivekananda are a source of great inspiration to many in their individual as well as collective life. His words give courage to a drooping soul, his message brings new hope for a sinking nation. Swami Vivekananda was the embodiment of strength, and if all his teachings were to be summed up in one word, that word would be STRENGTH - a dynamic strength. It is for the want of strength that individuals fail in life, nations suffer, and the world is in torment. As such, the number of persons who are likely to be benefited by his message is huge.
The future Swami Vivekananda was born in the famous Datta family of Simla, in Calcutta. His family name was Narendra Nath Datta. Vishwanath Datta, father of Swami Vivekananda, was also endowed with many qualities of head and heart, for which he commanded great respect from one and all. He was a man of deep compassion and great sympathy, and his charity very often knew no discrimination. Vishwanath was a great lover of music and had a very good voice. Vishwanath was blessed with a wife who was his peer in all respects. She was exceptionally intelligent and possessed royal dignity and fire of one born, as it were, to regal estate. Calm resignation to the will of God in all circumstances, strength, and reserve characterized this Hindu woman. The poor and the helpless were the special objects of her solicitude. She was noted for her unusual memory and knew by heart long passages from the great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which she read daily.
Of such parents was born, on Monday the 12th January 1863, Narendra Nath, who afterwards as Swami Vivekananda shook the world, and ushered in a new age of glory and splendour for India. The influence of the mother in the formation of the character and the development of the mind of a child is always very great. Naren - as he was now called - liked to play at meditation. Though it was play, sometimes it awakened in him deep spiritual emotions which made him unconscious of the outer world. One day he lost himself so much in this mimic meditation in a secluded corner of the house that his relatives had to force open the door and shake him to bring him back to normal consciousness.
A Story is told of him showing how dauntless in spirit and impatient of superstition he was: Narendra Nath was in the habit of climbing a tree in the compound of one of his friends, not only to gather flowers, but to get rid of his superfluous energy by swinging to and fro, head downward, and then somersaulting to the ground. These antics annoyed the old, half-blind grandfather of the house, and he thought to stop them by telling Naren that the tree was haunted by an evil spirit that broke the necks of those who climbed the tree. Naren listened politely; but when the old man was out of sight, he again began to climb the tree. His friend who had taken the words of the old man seriously remonstrated. But Naren laughed at his seriousness and said, “What an ass you are! Why, my neck would have been off long before this if the old grandfather’s ghost story was true!”
Though the boy was full of wild pranks, he had no evil associate. His instinct kept him away from the dubious ways of the world. Truthfulness was the backbone of his life. Occupied during the day in games and various amusements, he was beginning to mediate during the night and soon was blessed with some wonderful vision. As Naren grew older, a definite change in his temperament was noticeable. He had a preference for intellectual pursuits, and he began to read books and newspapers, and to attend public lectures regularly. He was able to repeat the substance of these to his friends with such original criticism that they were astonished, and he developed an argumentative power which none could compete.
Swami Vivekananda founded Belur Math in 1898. Besides being the home to the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, the Belur Math is well known for its architecture elegance, clean environs, sacred associations and its spiritual atmosphere. Located on the western bank of the Ganga, it is a haven of peace, drawing thousands of people to it every day from all over the world.