The Advaita system is nondestructive. This is its glory, that it has the boldness to preach. “Do not disturb the faith of any, even of those who through ignorance have attached themselves to lower forms of worship.” That is what it says – do not disturb, but help everyone to get higher and higher; include all humanity. This philosophy preaches a God who is a sum total. If you seek universal religion which can apply to everyone, that religion must not be composed of only the parts, but it must always be their sum total and include all degrees of religious development.
We want to worship a living God. I have not seen anything but God all my life, nor have you. To see this chair you first see God, and then the chair in and through Him. He is everywhere, saying, “I am.” The moment you feel “I am,” you are conscious of Existence. Where shall we go to find God if we cannot see Him in our own hearts and in every living being? “Thou art the man, Thou art the woman, Thou art the girl, and Thou art the boy. Thou art the old man tottering with a stick. Thou art the young man walking in the pride of his strength. Thou art all that exists” – a wonderful living God, who is the only fact in the universe.
Swami Vivekananda (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda – II)
The fifteenth President of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission, Revered Swami Atmasthananda breathed his last on 18th June this year. The first two statements that I have reproduced here were made by Swami Vivekananda. In a way, those two statements together form the fulcrum of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission movement. In the studies of history of organizations, institutions, religions, or sects, it is most often seen that even the organization that had the most well meaning, self-effulgent individuals as their founders or guiding light, the organization itself changes its shape and form in a matter of two to three generations. In some cases, it doesn’t take more than one generation after the founder to falter. This is either because of the ever-changing times and survival race or changing value system of the people in charge of such movements.
Cut to Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, its history throws up a different kind of example. Rather than changing its course and violating the founding principles of the movement, it has only strengthened in purpose and rejuvenated in intentions decade after decade. The movement has spread out to carry out activities across the world and has helped people in need wherever needed. Basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing or a step further to spiritual needs notwithstanding, the movement has benefitted millions across the globe and continues to inspire many to serve the society in the most selfless manner possible. The single-most reason that dawns on my mind for this kind of infallibility is the simplicity of the message of the founding figures of this movement – ‘Jeev Seva, Shiv Seva’ (meaning – to serve a life is to serve God). The Mission drives its motto from there – Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha, (meaning – for one’s own salvation and for the welfare of the world). This motto was simplified by Swami Vivekananda himself through his actions and further by the monks of the order who personified selfless service without a grain of desire for name, fame, or wealth. So long as such souls keep sacrificing their lives at the altar of humanity, any movement will grow only stronger with each passing generation. That you don’t hear much of them in mainstream media is not a happenstance but a well thought policy of the movement that Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission is.
The lives of the monks of the Mission are kept under wraps till they are no longer there and when they pass away, a brief note on their lives is released as one was released for Swami Atmasthanananda. This is all that you will be able to see on most of the news agencies which broke the news of his demise. One more kind of story that you will see on him is his relationship with our present Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. They have that because Mr. Prime Minister has spoken about it on more than one occasion. The mission might publish a more detailed account of his life and work in due course of time.
I had met Swamiji sometime in year 2005-2006. He had graced the Ramakrishna Mission in Ranchi to initiate a few aspirants into their spiritual sojourn. I had an idea of the work he had carried out in his life. For a young boy who wanted to be of some help to the society he was part of, it was an awe-inspiring moment. I had decided to get a photograph with him, to savour it for a lifetime. I didn’t have a camera, my friend did. However, I was known to be a relatively self-confident guy around, so the onus of requesting the photo fell on me. I approached him and blurted out faster than I could myself comprehend – ‘Swamiji, we want to click a snap with you?’
He heard me and answered – ‘Do you want to get a photograph with me? Say that louder so that I understand.’ His voice was bold like a thunderbolt and he was smiling. I smiled and said yes with a voice firmer and more confident. That was my lesson – Be Bold. If you must ask, ask without hesitation. We had a photo. It was an achievement.
Last week when I got the news, I didn’t have an immediate reaction. I called home and asked my father to find out the photograph from old photo-albums. He spent a few hours but couldn’t find it. Thanks to my friend with the camera, he had saved and given us digital copies and Papa found them on our computer at last. Papa sent me the photograph today and I couldn’t be happier. Such impressionable stage of life and so fortunate to be in the company of such a great soul, what else could one ask for?
I hope when I die, I have the satisfaction of giving more to this society than I would have taken away from it by then.
Om Shantih Shantih Shantih.
ॐ शांतिः शांतिः शांतिः।