Vivekananda and his
Year 1902, Place: Belur Math
Swami Vivekananda was staying in the Math. Some Santhal laborers used to
work in the Math. They were poor, uneducated and simple. Swamiji had great
sympathy, bordering on love, for these laborers who, despite honest and
hard labor, could not feed their family adequately. The compassionate
heart of Swami Vivekananda would grieve and melt for these poor fellows.
He would inquire about their family, say simple jokes, and mix with these
'lowly fellows'. The spiritual personality of Swamiji would see suffering
Narayana in them. His heart would get filled with unparalleled pity,
compassion, and kindness towards these Santhal workers.
Like Gopis of Vraja, who would protest to Krishna not to play the sweet
music on his flute, for it attracted them to Him and His Raas Lila with
such great intensity that they used to forget their homes and husbands,
these workers would also protest: "O my Swamiji, do not come to us when we
are working, for while talking to you our work stops and the supervising
swami rebukes us afterwards." With such intensity of love, Swami
Vivekananda would attract these poor laborers.
One day Swamiji had a desire to feed these workers. Accordingly, he made
arrangements for their lunch. At his orders, bread, curry, sweets, and
curds etc. were arranged for the Santhals. Sitting before the Swami, all
of them relished the sumptuous food. One Keshta said: "O Swami, whence
have you got such a thing! We never tasted anything like this." Feeding
them to their heart's content, Swami Vivekananda said, "You are Narayana,
God manifest; today I have offered food to Narayana."
Turning to the disciple, the Swami said: "I found them the veritable
embodiment of God - such simplicity, such sincere guileless love I have
seen nowhere else." And later addressing the sannyasins of the Math, Swami
Vivekananda had said: "Can you mitigate their misery a little! Otherwise,
of what good is the wearing of the Gerrua (ochre) robe? Sacrifice of
everything for the good of others is real sannyasa..." "Seeing the poor
people of our country starving for food, a desire comes to my mind to
overthrow all ceremonial worship and learning, and go around from place to
place to serve these poor and afflicted..."
Such love for suffering humanity had come to the heart of Swami
Vivekananda from the teachings of his Master, Sri Ramakrishna. Seeing God
everywhere, and in particular His most dramatic and full expression in
human beings was the main emphasis of the teaching of New Vedanta as
propagated by Sri Ramakrishna. Innumerable examples can be cited to
highlight this point. For instance, Sri Ramakrishna once remarked, 'I
wondered why should be God meditated upon only with eyes closed, He should
be seen all around us in all human beings even with eyes wide open!'
One more touching incidence is worth recounting from the life of Swami
Vivekananda. Once the Swami was delivering a talk on Vedas to the
sannyasins of the Math. The whole country was in the grip of famine;
people were suffering and even dying of hunger. Girish Chandra Gosh, a
close associate of Swami Vivekananda and devotee of Sri Ramakrishna was
listening to the erudite talk, but felt that such a talk was useless and
misplaced, for it did not help mitigate the pangs of hunger of millions.
Hence, intervening, Girish said, 'Swamiji, would this talk bring peace and
solace to the suffering humanity? Can Vedanta and Vedas bring food to the
hungry mouths? How I feel for them, what should I do! What can I do?'
Listening to the fervent appeal full of pathos and sincere feeling, the
broad and tender heart of Swami Vivekananda melted, and tears rolled down
his cheek. Not to embarrass the sannyasins, Swami Vivekananda rushed away
to his chamber in great distress. Turning to the group of sannyasins,
Girish Babu said, "See, how compassionate your swami is; we householders
do not much understand Vedas and Upanishads, but we see genuine love for
humanity in Swami Vivekananda and hence love him and his sangha."