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Updated: January 6, 2013 23:45 IST

Was Vivekananda a turning point in modern history of India and world?

Indrani Dutta
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Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda

Was Swami Vivekananda a turning point in the modern history of India and the world, and did he trigger a new spiritual wave? This is the point of reflection of a commemorative volume that studies how 30 years after his birth in 1893, the monk had taken the Western world by storm with his ground-breaking ideas on religion and philosophy.

The tome, prepared to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, says that the nationwide celebration of the iconic figure’s birth anniversary this year should become a second turning point, expediting the process of change that he initiated over a century ago.

Foreword by President, PM

A glimpse into the book, which has a foreword by the President of India, the Prime Minister, and the President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, reveals a rich trove of thoughts from scholars across the world, as well as monks and nuns of the order. The book will be formally released in mid-January. It includes a poem, titled ‘Hold on yet a while braveheart,’ written by Swami Vivekananda.

Several sections of the book, which deals with the monk’s teachings and sayings, show how prescient he was. An article on him and the ideal woman of the future refers to the portion where an observation made by Vivekananda over 100 years ago is to the fore again now. “In India there are two great evils — trampling on women and grinding of the poor... There is no hope for the rise of that family or nation where there is no estimation of women or where they live in sadness,” he wrote.

One of the most endearing parts of the 645-page book would perhaps be the letters of J.J. Goodwin, Swami Vivekananda’s stenographer, which gives an idea of the man.

Rousing reception in Jaffna

A letter written by Goodwin to Sara Bull in January 1987 narrates how Vivekananda received a rousing reception in Colombo and at Jaffna, where there was a procession of about 20,000 people. Goodwin says that his work in the West had caused a tremendous spiritual revival. Visits were also made to Anuradhapuram. According to eyewitnesses, the Swami enjoyed a following wherever he went within the country and outside.

While the book is divided into five sections, the ones on his personality and his teachings may just as well turn out to be the most avidly read. The book published by the Advaita Ashrama will be available from all outlets of the Ramakrishna Mission at a discount.

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