வியாழன், 9 ஜூன், 2016

Swami Vivekananda in the foot-steps of Bhagwan Ramanuja


  “Elevation of the masses without injuring their religion”-this was the unique way of Swami Vivekananda to uplift the down-trodden.

And this was marvelously in tune with the spirit of Ramanuja in dealing with the oppressed community whom he affectionately called as “Thirukulathars.”

The society was in limbo ever since Ramanuja breathed spirituality in the oppressed and ordinary. 

There was nobody to grasp the spiritual baton from Ramanuja though many appeared after him in the national scenario of Social Reformers.

Such reformers held religion accountable for the pitiable plight of the down-trodden, not knowing the real culprit-“priest craft”.

In their zeal to crush caste system, they ignorantly pulled down the grand structure of religion too, but all their attempts miserably failed.

“…beginning from Buddha down to Ram Mohan Roy…” all held caste as a religious institution while all the time caste was a “…crystallized social institution…”  Vivekananda affirmed.

It was Vivekananda who took the cue from him after a gap of nine centuries and rejuvenated the ideas of Ramanuja injecting fresh blood. 

  Vivekananda, an ardent disciple of Gurumaharaj who cleaned the toilets of the down-trodden with his hair, emulated the spiritual strategy of Ramnuja.

  Both Ramanuja and Vivekananda converged on many points.

  • Common man was the cynosure to them
  • Communication of spirituality was the unshakeable aim of their mission
  • Service to Jivas as Shiva ,more than showering compassion on them
  • Spiritual-oriented restoration of their lost individuality
  • God-centered revolution
  • Institutions are for human beings and not human beings for institutions
  • Temple-entry of the oppressed
  • Hindu-Muslim amity
  • Any system, not built on spiritual foundation is bound  to crumble
  • All their reforms were at the back drop of the vital national theme and message-Spirituality
  • Never did a word of curse emanate from their lips but only blessings flowed…creating self-confidence in all
Ramanuja defined a Vaishnavite as one whose heart bleeds seeing the poor and suffering without attributing it to the previous birth’s misdeeds. Love reigns supreme in the heart of a Vaishnavite.

“Feel my children, feel, feel for the poor, ignorant and down-trodden till your heart breaks, head reels and you think you go mad”-this was the outpour of Vivekananda perceiving the poor after his nation-wandering.

Even the so called Socialists have not empathized with the poor and miserable in this vein.
Both are true Vaishnavites.

Repudiating the theory that the world and life are nothing but dreams, Ramanuja insisted that this world is very much real and man must live full, doing selfless service to God and humanity, thus uniting Vedanta with the worldly life, making it Practical Vedanta.

Practical Vedanta was the prime focus of Vivekananda which can be implemented in real life situations by bringing out this time-tested Vedic treasure from the dense jungles, dark caves and locked books.

Both were practical much to the objections of the orthodox priests who limited the Vedic jurisdiction to a handful.

Both achieved what the popular social reformers, political parties and established regimes could not in up-lifting the oppressed. 

Both didn’t care for the individual soul-liberation. Their Tapaz was for the liberation of the humanity more than their own.” Atmano Moksaartham Jagat Hitaaya Cha”

One thousand years ago, even when the orthodox doctrines were at their peak, Ramanuja had the guts to take the prohibited community into the temple at ThiruNarayanapuram. The first to do this bold venture, we can boast.

Spirituality and society cannot be two separate entities; without spirituality, society would degenerate- was their focus always.

Ramanuja saved Pillaiuranga Villidasan from the cruel clutches of lust and gave him spiritual shelter along with his harlot-turned wife Ponnachi .Not only that. Much to the disgust and chagrin of the so-called orthodox pundits he performed the last rites after their death. It was an eye-opener for others to see God in every soul. 

A court dancer removed the scales from the eyes of Vivekananda by teaching him that all are children of immortal bliss and he should not discriminate. This world renowned Sanyasin who was the chief-guest  of the king of that region humbly corrected himself. Swamiji himself acknowledges that. 

Caste was no barrier to teach or learn. Ramanuja sincerely accepted the low-caste Thirukkatchi Nambi as his Guru, though latter was scared of societal approval. But Ramanuja knew that this Guru was so great and righteous that he used to have his divine conversation on daily basis with Lord Varadharaja Perumal in the night. Through him God clarified all the doubts of Ramanuja.

On the grounds of caste-discrimination, when Ramnuja’s wife Thanjamambhal disrespected his Guru Thirukkatchi Nambi, Ramanuja was driven to despair and he thought that he lost all meanings of marital life. But he was smart enough to send her back to her parent’s home never to meet the uncongenial consort afterwards. Thus he migrated perennially to Sanyasa Ashrama from Grugastha Ashrama. A blessing in disguise from God.

Idols of Thulukka Natchiar and Bibi Natchiar were installed by the side of Lord Renghanatha at two temples by Ramanuja whose heart could accommodate all, cutting across caste and religion too. Spirit of perfect amity!

“ Advaitism is the last word of religion and thought…and it is the religion of the future enlightened humanity” and yet Vivekananda was always harping upon “ Practical Advaitism which looks upon and behaves to all mankind as one’s own soul…” would be developed only when we say that “ We accept all religions as true.”-- thundered Vivekananda at Chicago. “For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam- Vedanta brain and Islam body-is the only hope.”

Vivekananda perceived organizational skill everywhere in the Western world which India was missing here in all aspects. He wrote to his brother disciples,” The term ‘organization’ means division of labour. Each does his own part, and the parts taken together express an ideal of harmony.” In that spirit Ramakrishna Movement was launched with “unflinching adherence to Advaita as the movement’s philosophy, inspiration and fulfillment”.

Ramanuja streamlined SriRengam temple administration so meticulously that decentralization of responsibilities- right from maintaining temple garden, picking flowers, making garlands, performing rituals, conducting festivals and propagating Nalayira Divya Prabhandham as ‘ Dravida Vedam’ along with Vedas and Upanishads - was implemented. Marvelous administrative and organizational skill of Ramanuja!

Vedic doctrines became metamorphosed when interpreted by these two spiritual personalities. They were very particular that these life-giving principles should reach the nook and corner of the society and awaken them to their original status –‘Divinity’.

“Om Namo Narayana”- a Vedic mantra which would take one to Lord Vishnu’s abode, was taught by Thirukkoshtiyur Nambi with all its profound meanings to Ramanuja and his two disciples after his 18 tireless trips to his Guru’s ashrama with an assurance that he should not divulge it to anyone. Otherwise he would be thrown into hell.

Defying the strict warning of his Guru, Ramanuja  called all and sundry, especially the oppressed and downtrodden and from the top of the temple Gopura,Ramanuja in high pitch chanted this divine mantra to everyone assuring that anybody who chants this mantra with total devotion and all sincerity would reach God.

Ramanuja ,when chided by his Guru ,told him that he would not mind going to hell, if the helpless ordinary people would reach heaven.

Grasping the essence of the ancient scriptures Vivekananda offers the Vedic message in a capsule form- “Each soul is potentially Divine…to preach unto mankind their divinity, and how to make it manifest in every movement of life.” He assures that this message, if it reaches the world, will wipe out from the face of the Earth disease, grief, sin and sorrow in three full days. This is the prescription of this spiritual doctor.

Both wanted to rescue humanity from the clutches of evil by instilling confidence in human beings. Their avatar was meant for that.

Many Sanyasins of recent times like Swami Narayanaguru and Swami Chidbhavananda were deeply influenced by them.

Narayanaguru inculcated self-confidence in the suppressed Ezawa community people of Kerala and today they could establish their lost individuality and shine in all fields swimming against the current of stiff competition successfully. It is the spiritual succor of Narayanaguru that saved  them.

Swami Chdbhavananda had a cosmic view and in all his Andharyogams and Gurukulams Man-making is the major thrust. The Gayathri mantra, once restricted to a few, is being chanted here by all irrespective of caste, creed and religion and Character-building exercises are going on still.

The modern champions for the cause of the down-trodden have to learn a lesson from these great spiritual personalities. Instead of sowing hostility and aversion in the hearts of the oppressed against other communities for their own political mileage and financial gain, if self-confidence is generated in the down-trodden, that would be a permanent solution for them.

Sacrifices and Tapasyas are of no use to redeem the man-kind in the Kali Yuga .Only the Karma of giving-the best one being the gift of spirituality that can lift a man up from backwardness.

Again let us remember the words of Swami Vivekananda,” Elevation of the masses without injuring their religion”


Dr.R.Ilango is the Former Vice-Principal, Vivekananda college, Thiruvedagam, Madurai.

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