Opinion » Lead

Updated: April 10, 2013 01:04 IST

Vivekananda’s legacy of universalism

K. N. Panikkar
Comment (127)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

He believed that no religion was superior to another. There can be no meeting point between his message and that of the sangh parivar

A variety of activities is in the offing to commemorate Swami Vivekananda’s immense contribution to the making of India as a nation. The occasion: the 150th birth anniversary of Swamiji. Seminars, workshops, publications and such other means to perpetuate his memory and assess the significance of his contribution form part of the celebrations. Strangely, at the forefront of this celebration are the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its front organisations. Strange because Vivekananda hardly had anything in common with the sangh parivar, except being Hindu by birth.

Devoted Hindu, not communal

The ideology of the sangh parivar is rooted in religious hatred and Swamiji stood for social harmony and inter-faith dialogue. There can be no meeting point between these two. Yet, the Hindu fundamentalists trace their lineage to the neo-Hindu movement of which Vivekananda was the central figure. None of his observations on Hinduism, unless taken out of context, seems to give credence to the proposition that he had a communal outlook. He was a devoted Hindu, passionately involved in bringing about cultural and spiritual welfare of the people. He indeed realised that changes were necessary but he was unhappy about the course the reform movements had followed. He decried the primacy ascribed to caste in concepts and practices of social reform movement. Any attempt to find a solution, he believed, “was a difficult task, because religion had become rigid and inflexible,” on the one hand, and obscurantist and superstitious, on the other.

It is only in the light of early reform movements — their success, failures and limitations — that Vivekananda’s quest for a resurgent India could be assessed. By the end of the century, almost all early movements had lost much of their vigour and following. The decline in the reform atmosphere paved the way for the emergence of a powerful spiritual leader. This void was filled by Swamiji, by initiating a movement, based on individual worship in place of collective –congregational worship which Ram Mohan Roy and his contemporaries had favoured. The organised religious reform movement was an anathema to him, although he himself started one, though of a different order, which was based on compassion, social service and humanitarianism.

Vivekananda’s plan of action was not limited to the religious realm. He was equally sensitive to social and economic issues. In other words, Hindus should strive towards a total transformation and inclusive growth. Caste is omnipotent in Indian society but he discarded it without any hesitation. He had observed the working of the Brahmo Samaj and that experience seems to have coloured his general attitude to all reform movements. By the time Vivekananda came on the scene, except in a few pockets like Kerala and Punjab, reformation had lost its vitality. He believed that reform had already run its course. By the last quarter of the 19th century, the religious movements had almost vanished, even if popular religion was on the ascendant. To the Indian middle class which formed the social base of these movements, he had choicest epithets: “cursed by the wheels of divisions, superstitious, without an iota of charity, hypocritical, atheistic cowards,” etc.

This is not to argue that Vivekananda did not recognise the importance of the contributions of the middle class in creating an atmosphere of reform. Instead, he took great pride in what the Brahmo Samaj had already accomplished in the social and religious life of people.

Spirituality alone was not the only concern of Vivekananda. He spent a major part of his life travelling, which undoubtedly influenced his world view. He was particularly sensitive about poverty and the inhuman caste practices. He prophesied that, one day, the Shudra would rule. The stark reality of caste oppression in Kerala made a lasting impression on his mind.

The process of Indian reformation had three facets. The first was a liberal modernising phase in which reformers like Ram Mohan Roy attempted to change some of the traditional practices. The second was a rejection of all that was alien to society, and an attempt at indigenous mode of modernisation. The third was to build an alternative model of modernity which would embrace the traditional and the modern. The path chosen by Vivekananda was the third. The first group was that of the reformers for whom he had undisguised contempt, dismissing them as babu reformers. The conservatives and traditionalists formed the second group. The members of this group were mired in superstitions and ritualism. Swamiji’s method of reform was not merely advocacy of reform, but also through constructive social work.

The central idea in the life and teaching of Vivekananda was religious universalism. In the eyes of those who believed in universalism, there was no difference between the followers of different religions. All religions are universal — equal and true. Vivekananda, however, argued that in Hinduism, universalism found ideal articulation. And was hence a leader in spiritual matters. Equally important was his notion of social service for which he set up the Ramakrishna Mission. The mission gave an entirely new ambience to reform.

The popular and academic perceptions of Vivekananda’s role are highly influenced by his famous speech at the World Congress of Religions and the religious discourses he delivered during the extensive tours he undertook in India. In his highly applauded speech at the Congress, he tried to highlight the universalism inherent in all religions and then to demonstrate that it was best exemplified in Hinduism. Such a position was derived from his belief in Vedanta which, he argued, transcended the limits of any particular religion or cultural tradition. “Truth, alone is my god; the entire world is my country,” maintained Vivekananda. Thus he tried to reconcile his understanding of universalism with the Hindu philosophical system. His perhaps was the most creative understanding of universalism. Because he argued that all religions were universal and that there was no superiority of one over the other. He said “every religion is an expression, a language to express the same truth, and we must speak to each other in his own language.”

‘Language of Ramakrishna’

His language was not the language of puritanical Hinduism but “the language of Ramakrishna. Let Hindus call it Hindu religion — let others similarly name it (what they like). Does our master belong only to India?” asked Vivekananda. India’s degeneration is the result of the narrow attitudes that he argued against. Any beneficial outcome is impossible unless these are destroyed. The idea of religious universalism which preached that all religions are true, and not that there is truth in all religions, was central to the thought of every reformer, both Hindu and Muslim. He was not advocating reform which he perceived as a worthless preoccupation of the alienated English educated middle class. He did not expect anything tangible from this class. They were “crushed by the wheels of caste divisions, superstitious, without any iota of charity, hypocritical, atheistic cowards.”

He had nothing but contempt for this class which formed the social base of reform. The implication of this critique was that he made a clear break with the past efforts at reform from the time of Ram Mohan Roy. The alternative he envisioned was social change, to be effected through education and social reform. That is the reason for his initiative for the formation of the Ramakrishna movement which organised its activities in the field of education and social service.

Finally, did Hindu revivalist movements gain from his ideas? Unfortunately, they did. But if he were to be back in contemporary India, it is most unlikely that it would be in the communal camp.

(K.N. Panikkar is a former Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

More In: Lead | Opinion

Religion cannot be marketed... Atleast when it is funded for the wrong
reasons... Proselitization is a war on the cultural heritage... Swamy
had got the views that "Hinduism is the mother of all the religions"...
The almighty or the Paramathma is unique. But there are many a
difference of opinions with the modern religions about the entity
"GOD"... They consider the entity as a representative for a community...
The perceptions are false which may dump the perceiver into an
irretractable abyss... But the entity is always unique...

from:  Shiva
Posted on: Apr 12, 2013 at 02:10 IST

Why beat only the
Hindu with the communal stick, while actually encouraging other
religions to be communal? Why quote Vivekananda, one of the greatest
champions of Hindu spirituality, just to demean the RSS, whatever be
its real worth or lack of any worth at all? The author is just
mouthing the inanities of one particular reading of Vivekananda. If
Vivekananda was just what the leftists claim him to be, the
Ramakrishna Maths would be empty. I suspect that the author of this
article too has little in common with Vivekananda.

from:  Vamanan
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 23:38 IST

Religious universalism of SwamiVivekananda demands a pluralistic
understanding of the reality. Pluralism addresses the
existential problem that raises acute questions about how we are
going to live our lives in the mist of so many options. Pluralism
implies a positive acceptance of diversity. An existential
recognition of and sensitivity to radical diversity can emerge
only from a conviction that no single unit or group is capable of
embracing the totality of human experience. No thought is so rich
that it does not need to be complemented by others and no thought
is so poor that it has nothing to complement the others with.
Pluralism is in fact a blessing as it opens up vast possibilities
of truth. It is a constant invitation to dialogue, learning and
truth, and it can lead to a profound understanding of the other.
In fact the language of Ramakrishna was a language of pluralism.
Fr. Dr. Thomas P.J

from:  Fr.Dr.Thomas P.J
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 22:34 IST

It is undisputable that had the RSS not been found, the fate of Hindus
in many parts of India would have been miserable like that of Kashmir
Pundits. To date, no government has shown concern to punish the
perpetrators of pogrom & atrocity on the hapless pundits who were
driven out of Kashmir. Worse, cutting across all party lines, our
babus continue to bend backwards to serenade the minority electorate.
Less surprising that RSS treads the Shivaji way to protect the
interest of Hindus. But, this bellicose approach doesn’t deny them of
their right to worship Swami Vivekananda in the way they want to. I
take this stand with due apologies to some of the insane acts of the
militant Hindu force. The writer has turned a blind eye to the fact
that the objectives of RSS and that of Swami Vivekananda are totally
different. Clearly the Sangh Parivar has envisioned to play a larger
role than saintly Vivekananda who has at no point of time commented on
the callous, fanatic acts of Aurangazeb.

from:  M.R.Prabodh
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 12:33 IST

The teachings, principles, values and philosophy of Swami Vivekananda are relevant today as they were when he was alive. It's a great tragedy that despite his efforts, our people have been enticed and trapped into conversions. A lot of our people in the diaspora have now become "more white" than white people themselves. They have forgotten their cultures, traditions, and values of their forefathers and mothers. They are the lost generations who are now seek solace in drugs, alcohol and other anti-social activities.

from:  Subry Govender
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 11:52 IST

Communists have tried their best to make Swamiji as COMRADE! Phanikkar
is towing the same line once again. "THE HINDU" is always ready to
provide a space for such murky attempts. The people who have no real
intention to emulate Vivekananda in any manner or indulging to utilize
some of his thoughts to criticize RSS. There is no sincerity in
Phanikkar's attempt. His intention is bad in any angle.

from:  Krishna Rao
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 11:10 IST

Keep praising and bashing apart. The real intention it seems not to
praise Swami Vivekananda, but to beat RSS. The author has conveniently
left out Swami Vivekananda's views on religious conversion.

from:  kvjayan
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 10:30 IST

Mr panniker universalism was supported by Vivekanand but not at the
cost of religious conversions .He vehemently opposed religious
conversions of hindus and even criticised few national leaders of that
time like ANNIE BESANT etc in his speeches given in colombo , chennai
etc.In todays scenario if anybody says so then he will be branded as
right wing fundamentalist and u will surely lead among critics .So
don't fool people with this newly developed love for SWAMI VIVEKANAND
.We hindus are liberal enough to adhere universalism and history has
enough to prove but now we won't allow u people to insult us.And to
THE HINDU paper my question is where is your that sense which showed
us stubborn sense of masculanity in VIVEKANAND.

from:  chandan
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 09:59 IST

It is sad to see that people like Panikkar, who continue to live by their own dogmas, refuse to see the truth. There was absolutely no need to invoke the RSS in writing about the 150th year celebrations of Swami Vivekananda and his ideals. I hope The Hindu, the National Newspaper, in all fairness, would give space for an opposite view point too.

from:  S.Sridharan
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 08:55 IST

Writing about the greatness of Swamiji is o.k. , but why do you drag the Sangh Parivar into
it..... Either write about spirituality, or about politics, why mix both in this article?
Will you do the same when writing about spiritual leaders of other religions?
Try to maintain the high standards which were once your paper's hallmark.... But sadly no

from:  Satya
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 07:44 IST

Dear Mr. Pannikar,
Can you please give us th evidence from Muslim leaders who claimed that all religions are
universally valid? I am awaiting for the evidence from you and Amartya Sen.

from:  Jay Chetram
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 05:35 IST

In fact its Muslims and Christians who have non-universalist world-views.

There are three ideas that make a world-view dangerous:

1. We are more special / chosen over others

2. Our way is the only right way

3. Everyone should be like us

In fact, among the religions, Hinduism is the most universalist. So when Islam and
Christianity is converting Indians - especially the illiterate poor, how would you have
Hindus respond? What do you think the muslims would do if we tried to convert them
to Hinduism in a muslim country?

from:  Arvind
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 01:33 IST

I am born into a conservative Hindu family. I do practice my religion, and also believe that like the eminent Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper said, all knowledge is conjectural, and so subject to correction or as per evidence acceptable. No right thinking practicing Hindu can be dogmatic and doctrinaire or deterministic. In this setting, I should say that Prof. Panikkar indulges in suppressio veri, suggestio falsi. He should have looked into the origin of RSS: more as a reaction to what was happening to a faith called Hinduism: muslims and hindus themselves violating hindu sanctum sanctorums, breaking idols, and developing an inferiority complex for even being a practicing Hindu! It was never originally set up to condemn any other faith, as much as to defend its own faith, which is pretty legitimate considering that a majority of Indians are Hindus, and the local culture drew sustenance for a long time, and even now does, from this faith. But otherwise, all blood is the same.

from:  schar
Posted on: Apr 11, 2013 at 00:40 IST

prof.pannikar, one of india's premier historians, makes an attempt to
understand the historicity of swamiji's thoughts - how his ideas evolved
and which social circumstances influenced them.

i'd bet "conventional"lefists who "worship st.marx and st. lenin"would
be pissed off that pannikar has written this.
and right-wing goons and their supporters will be angry cos he rightly
distinguishes their terrorism from viv's humanism.

from:  anirban mitra
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 23:03 IST

I am happy with Article ...though I am a Swayamswak...He shows Swami
Vivekananda in good sense ...

from:  Mangesh
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 22:07 IST

It is a confusing article which fails to pinpoint its central emphasis. Is it trying to eulogize Swamiji or Is it trying to demonize the RSS. In any case, the author should not have confused between his disgust for RSS and appreciation for a great humanist like Swami Vivekananda. He should have chosen some other occasion to pen his political position. It is disrespectful to Swamiji to club him together in a vitriolic discourse.

Sorry, Prof. Pannikar you missed a great opportunity to write a great article about Swami Vivekananda!

from:  Atul
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 21:33 IST

The RSS can celebrate Swami Vivekananda's birth anniversary. But they are depicting him in the wrong the way. They are potraying him as a Hindutva hero, sort of communal leader which he was not. Let us spread his great ideals, but not confine him as a Hindu hero.

from:  Divya Raj
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 21:27 IST

a truth that people forgot a long time ago. a very good revival of the
teachings of an effective and greatly principled human being, never to
be forgotten. i feel this is the ultimate truth that people would
realize, remember and carry it with them to their final destination!!

from:  sharath
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 21:25 IST

If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if some people still dream of the exclusive survival of their own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity them from the bottom of my heart, and point out to them that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: "Help and not Fight", "Assimilation and not Destruction",; "Harmony and Peace and not Dissension."

from:  Bharat
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 20:21 IST

very interesting! It is sad to see how the hindu nationalists have hijacked this discourse, and used it to serve their own narrow communal ends.

Interestingly, albiet non-intentionally, the article also highlights why Swamiji would be against the idea of conversion, as he considered every religion to hold equal stand.

from:  dishil
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 20:10 IST

Science is nothing but the finding of unity. As soon as science would reach perfect unity, it would stop further progress, because it would reach the goal. Thus chemistry could not progress farther when it would discover one element out of which all others could be made. Physics would stop when it would be able to fulfill its services in discovering one energy of which all the others are hut manifestations, and the science of religion become perfect when it would discover Him who is the one life in a universe of death, Him who is the constant basis of an ever-changing world, One who is the only Soul of which all souls are but delusive manifestations. Thus is it, through multiplicity and duality, that the ultimate unity is reached. Religion can go no farther. This is the goal of all science.

from:  Bharat
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 20:08 IST

Glad to see this article. Any religion that does not promote peace and love should be branded as a "terrorist organization". And yes, Christians, Hindus, Muslims.. all have gone through a period when they acted like "terrorists", but, that is not a part of what the religious founders wanted. People just misinterpret and take advantage of writings for their personal gain. Hope that every person realizes that one can never achieve salvation by hurting or arguing with anyone. Love is the only way. Every religion says that - deep inside. Most people like to just do the superficial things without looking for the inner message. Wake up!!!

from:  George Alapatt
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 19:44 IST

Thank you Hindu,
An eye opening article, one of the contemporary evident on the way history and personalities were distorted for political goals.

from:  Muhammed Iqbal
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 19:43 IST

Though the views of the writer is his own, it saddens me to see a
newspaper like THE HINDU publishing an article that is deeply biased
and prejudiced with political agenda.In recent times, there have been
articles which, on one side, deride a particular argument but do not
mention a single bit about the other side.To maintain the standard of
yours esteemed daily, you must consider about publishing such biased

from:  Rishu Kumar
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 19:17 IST

"The works of Swami Vivekananda" published in six volumes contains Swamiji's speeches and interviews. Swamiji was an erudite scholar on religions with sentimental attachment to Indians. But, even with my scanty knowledge on religions, I can say his knowledge too on Hinduism was far from complete. The Vedas and Puranas (including Mahabharata, Srimad Bhagwatam, Bhagwat Geeta) contain materials that even Swamiji did not fathom well. So instead of any Hindu (individual or group) merely celebrating Swamiji's birth anniversary should try spreading the knowledge that our epics contain. I discovered that atom was known to us (read Bhagwatam) much before it was claimed to have been invented. Our time measurement and numbers dimensions were much more elaborate than in use today. Treatment of diseases through Mantras (Atharva veda) and through herbs (Charak Samhita) are worth exploring. Let Swamiji rest in peace, we move beyond him.

from:  VMN
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 19:08 IST

such a great paper THE HINDU is than why fear to produce original
thinking. Religious philosophy is different ball game it is not the
religion that common man perceive as religion. India has great
religion and Indians are proud of their culture & ethics. but there
are few who like to call themselves secular rather than Hindu.
Beacuse our intelligentsia have a sense of inferiority, self-
disbelief and shame at subconscious level due to centuries of slavery.
They are confused and they require the certificate of their masters
for their good deeds. And what they perceive as good action and deeds
are the refutation of Hindu Ideology in form of support to secularism.
They believe in fabricated concepts and ideals created by their
masters. The policy of stick and carrot made such havoc at their
mental faculty that they even can’t listen their own people.
Vivekananda is very much an R.S.S. icon. R.S.S. believes in cultural
nationalism and Vivekananda is a Hindu cultural icon.

from:  shivraj
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 18:49 IST

When Swami Vivekananda lived, there was no terroeism, there was no vote bank politics and biased media. If all had been there, he would have also exposed the double speak of media and polticians. RSS always preaches universal religion, and it is the media that makes it a monster. This paper either knows or acts as if does not know on the so many good works done by RSS and always get a bad name.

from:  Bala
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 18:35 IST

Thank you for sharing this well written and articulate article. I am however, disappointed at
some of the comments posted in response. This is an article about Vivekananda and a
synopsis of the movement he was involved in and in doing so the writer makes mention of
the RSS. He expresses his opinion about the RSS , an opinion that many like myself agree
with. Organizations like the RSS, MNS, shivsena and the lot are an embarrassment to the
nation and to Hindus.( again this is my opinion, before people start attacking this). It's is
not an article about other religions and the issues and stigmas attached with them. I always
wonder why people start thinking that just because somebody doesn't condone the actions/
policies of a particular so called pro Hindu group such as the RSS it automatically brands
that person as deriding Hinduism and the people following this religion.

from:  Stuti
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 18:34 IST

The left liberals of India seem to be the most confused lot. They are so risk averse that they
miss projecting many great people just because they misunderstand these people ,who are
appreciative of the tenets of Hinduism, as communal and casteist. Swami Vivekananda is
one such classic example. And now, why blame the Sanghis?

from:  D.Aravind
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 17:54 IST

Do you want Hindus call them Hindus or be ashamed of their identity? Are you proud of your identity or hate it? I have some questions for you, answer it if you have guts to do so. Why don't you ever try to celebrate Vivekanand's birthday? Who stopped you from doing that? Why don't you open your mouth on ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh or Pakistan? Why do you think MQM and Muslim league is secular and one who makes coalition with them are secular? Why don't you make any comment when Hindus are killed in west bengal by mob lead by a local MLA or don't mention59 Hindus died at Godhra or 300 Hindus doed post Godhra? Shouldn't Lalu Yadav tried for death of Godhra victims and Modi for the death of 300 Hindus afterward? Why should Modi be tried for killing of 900 Muslims but not for 300 Hindus? Is Hindu life worth less than life of a Muslims? Who is responsible for their death? Why don't you oppose when Muslims in Kolkata gather and oppose execution of Muslim extremist at BD?

from:  Preeti
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 17:32 IST

Whats wrong if you call yourself a hindu in India, Whats wrong if there is an organization to serve the hindu, Are there not similar organizations in other countries, Are there not YMCA and others in India which are serving their communities. Hinduism is tolerant religion like no other. Cotitutionally we have given the minorities the reservation and are treated more equal than majority and is justified. We have a presidents and others from minorities at important and influential positions in our country and still we degrade ourselfs as communal.

from:  Naresh N
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 17:24 IST

Vision of Swami Vivekanandji is a mission of RSS. RSS practices the
teachings of Swamiji. RSS is working tirelessly to uproot the cast
system and create the "Sanghthan" of people whose only goal in life is
to serve Bharatmata.

from:  Tejash Pujara
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 17:21 IST

I am amused that card carrying brigade like panikkar from JNU gets to voice his thoughts on Swami Vivekananda whose speech in Chicago opened the eyes of the believers of Semitic religions to look at the issue of belief / spirituality in a different way.Swami's thoughts grounded on hindu beliefs paves the way for the world to live in peace with itself and it is correct on the part of RSS/BJP to celebrate the life of Swami Vivekananda and carry the message of social equality and spirituality.Card carrying members who are atheists who have no belief in hindu religon.Please leave the swami to the peace loving hindus to celebrate/discuss/learn.After all hinduism had many reformers from time immemorial Basavanna comes to my mind, Swami is another,just leave us alone.

from:  shiv
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 17:06 IST

dear editor,
please, try to publish an article which explains RSS view on Vivekananda. debate on this issue is necessary. this is possible only by healthy discussion. Pannikar's article is one sided.

from:  siddharam patil
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 17:05 IST

A sensitive analysis by Prof.Panikkar. As many of us aware, the sangh
pariwar have hijacked Swamy Vivekanand from his Universal platform to
their narrow pseudo-nationalistic platform.Due to lack of specific stain
free icons in the saffron camp since their advent, they have now
hijacked swamiji in the 21st century. I accept the view of Prof

from:  Shafique Ahamed
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 16:51 IST

Although I personally do not condone some of the acts of the RSS but one has to
acknowledge the historical role played by RSS in the unification of India under one
umbrella irrespective of caste and creed. Some so called secular regard RSS as
communal by the logic that it simply tries to unite the hindus and not other religious
groups. This logic, however, doesn't hold water since RSS, de facto, is a religious
organization. More importantly, it doesn't spread hatred towards other religions and
preaches to respect the country before religion. What's wrong in that?

I've personally experienced and seen how some other religious organization or
ulemas hold their religion above India and make statements like "saying vande
matram" or "holding country above religion" is not allowed. RSS does the right thing
by condemning those organizations.

from:  Siddharth Pandit
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 16:47 IST

Well written article on Swamiji. However, Swami Vivekanand was
not only devoted Hindu, he was sanyasi. So to say "Vivekananda
hardly had anything in common with the sangh parivar, except
being Hindu by birth" is untruth and should not have been

His analysis of Indian Reformation is informative. Most of the
comments criticizing the article have missed the point that Swami
Vivekanande preached universalism as 'best exemplified in
Hinduism'. He kept Ramkrishna mission apolitical. He asked Sister
Nivedita to leave the order when she got herself embroiled in
independent movement.

When one organization is eulogizing Swami Vivekanand, this is
acceptable. However selectively using his thoughts for
propagating its agenda, should be condemned as done by

from:  Somnath
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 16:45 IST

A very relevant and true article. Swami jee was a true human being, his
views were quite secular as far as religion is concerned. But your
observation about RSS and his depiction of Swami jee more than 100%
correct. These RSS people even hijacked Sardar Bhagat Singh while here
it is point worthy to mention that Sardar Bhagat Singh was communist but
these people never spoke truth. So are RSS disciple half baked

from:  Pankaj Kumar
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 16:28 IST

In a country where majority of the population are still Hindus, it is
shameful and saddening that popular media wants to degrade Hindus who
are proud of their rich culture. Today when children are bombarded
with materialistic western ideals, it is the role of responsible media
to educate citizens about our traditions, not just because they are
our traditions but because they preach correct values of honesty,
hardwork and helping others.

If there exist Hindu fundamentalists today, it is because of the hurt
inflicted on them over centuries of Muslim and Christian rule. And
more than hating other religions, they are trying to keep alive our
culture. What is wrong with that?

It is ironical that a paper called The Hindu is giving prime editorial
space to those who hardly know what true Hinduism is, apart from being
ignorant of all the social upliftment and education the Sangh Parivar
has provided to millions of poor children across the country.

from:  Akanksha
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 16:25 IST

As time goes on, I find that The Hindu, until recently my first go to
newspaper, is becoming more and more a clarion for anti Hindu rants. I
read very little criticism of other religious beliefs and tolerance
(rather non-tolerance) in a country that is 80% Hindu. That a person
like Swami Vivekananda was born in India and that he was a Hindu
should be sufficient testimony of Hinduism's tolerance or other rigid
and fanatical religions that have been allowed to settle in the shores
of India. Therefore, one will find strident criticism of anything that
a person like Narendra Modi says or does but very little analytical
breakdown. This is not to say that there should be no criticism; but
let there be constructive. It is this stupid and ignorant "tolerance"
by Hindus that has led our slavish colonisation in the past by various
outsiders. Make no mistake, this is ongoing at the moment with the
divisive politics of UPA and, in large measure, by the so called
'intelligentsia' in India.

from:  Raseek Patel
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 16:17 IST

i do'nt know why this neo-liberas are so oblivious of the RSS social works.
The author said that Swami Vivekanand and RSS has only one this in common and that is ----by birth they are Hindu.
i think author is totally ignorant of the RSS as a social organisation or a hardline communist propagator in the veil of liberalism.

please rise above pubicity....
if you really want to criticize Rss then please do it in a constructive way instead of a destructive way and using Swami Vivekanand as a veil.

Remember Rss is working in those tribal areas where people like cannot even dream of going.
remember Rss dont believe in casteism....ony human and nationalistic feeling is needed to be a part of RSS which people like you are lacking a lot.
i dont know why you people always criticize others and not support their noble cause.

from:  abhimanyu
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 16:16 IST

This highly learned professor and his contemporaries are responible for the denigration of Hinduism.These pseudo secularist leftists have a hidden agenda in destroying anything and everything connected with Hinduism. They find nothing wrong in other religions which believes that people not beliving in their gods are Kafirs. They openly welcome these religions which oppresses women, advocates polygamy, wife beating and belives in death for non believers and blasphemy. These intellectuals and their supporters do not understand that the very reason a university with these biased professors exist is because India is a Hindu majority country.The moment Hindus reduce to less than 50% these are the guys who will be crucified first.

from:  Surendran Nair
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 16:13 IST

Next can we expect an article from The Hindu critical of activities of Missionaries and Madrasas which do not preach equality of religions. Rather the missionaries and madrasas teach 'superiority' of their religions which is against the spirit of the constitution.

from:  B Devadas
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 16:12 IST

I am surprised by the fact that so many people clain RSS to be non-
communal. Is it really a change in the ideology that they have done or
just weak defensive arguments to escape the label of being communal.
Their acts in past say a different story.

from:  LP
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:34 IST

The SC of India and RSS don't accept Hinduism as a religion...Why?

Because the so called Hindu scriptures(Vedas,Upanishads et al) not
only contain theistic views but perhaps as many as 16 schools of

Atheism,Agnosticism,Materialism etc are all represented. This forms a
sound basis for Swami Vivek's liberal outlook while being deeply
rooted in "Hinduism".

RSS like the BJP has both moderates(think ABV) and communal
fundamentalists, mixed with those who use divide and rule policy to
stay in power and not for the "greater good".

It still boils down to how much of a stomach educated liberals have to
fight with the rest.

from:  Rohit
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:31 IST

Yes. Vivekananda Swami was someone about whom India should be proud.
He adopted a more intellectual and social approach to the issues of
the day compared to his mentor Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who was
totally religious. For Vivekananda, religion was a means to social
As a believer in the path of Gnana Yoga, he erred that you can
understand truth by meditation. This is erroroneous. Empirical
knowledge can never be achieved by logic alone. The only negative
legacy of Swamiji, like many others is that his followers have
trouble challenging his beliefs out of reverence.
Every scientist admires the great work of Einstein; but everyone has
a right to challenge his assumptions. Indeed a few of these have
been shown to be erroneous and even he acknowledged it during his
own life time. When will this come about in religious philosophy?

Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:29 IST

It would have been fine, if Panikkar wanted to eulogize Vivekananda who, of course, is a great person who could analyze Hindu Vedas and Puranas for common man's benefit and also for correct understanding of Hindu dharma for people of western cultures. But why the professor should bring in only RSS in the discussion while leaving out missionaries and madarsas whose perception of Indian tradition and culture is totally at a deviation from what is perceived and practiced by RSS. It has become a fashion among some intellectuals to deride the people following Hindu principles.

from:  MVJRao
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:22 IST

I wonder why JNU professors are always in a hurry to comment on RSS and others. If you want to write about Vivekanand, please do but why comment on any other organisations. I have attended RSS Sakhas for 5 years before I left India and I am proud of that. You should read Mr Golwalkar ji who was the second head of RSS if you want to know about RSS. Just using a tag of JNU to express your unfounded thoughts about any organisation through a reputed and genuine platform like THE HINDU is nothing but unfortunate.
Further I wonder why you intellectuals never do similar comparisons with muslim organisations, aren't they a part of the same country?
And by the way I feel qualified to write here because I have read fairly good amount of books on Vivekanand ji which I came to know after I attended a few camps of RSS.

from:  shekhar
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:19 IST

On the very contrary, one massive and blindingly obvious meeting point
I can see between Swami Vivekananda's message and the Sangh Parivar is
the ideal of service to humanity, exemplified by the work done by the
Sangh's affiliate / associated organisations like Seva Bharati, whose
extensive relief work during so many major calamities - the 2004
tsunami, the Gujarat earthquake, the 2009 floods in Karnataka and
Andhra to name but a few recent examples - came in for praise from all

I am not a member of the RSS or any of its associated organisations,
but I can see that Prof. Panikkar makes a lot of sweeping statements
about the Sangh, while never bothering to substantiate any of them,
and while being so obviously oblivious about the Sangh and its
activities. I expected better than this kind of loose and utterly
pointless talk from a former professor at a university as reputed as
JNU, and a better utilisation of its column space than The Hindu seems
to be permitting these days.

from:  Anil Suri
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:19 IST

O.K. it is understandable that you praise Vivekananda as Hindu or as
Indian or as reformist or whatever but why are u crying against R.S.S.
Do you know in R.S.S. nobody ever ask you what your cast is? They only
put "ji" after your name.

from:  shivraj
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:19 IST

Liberal intolerance ! This is precisely what this newspaper shows while picking the comments to be moderated and this is accurately what the professor shows while deliberately hiding facts which can support his antagonist.Moreover, I even know that the my comment will be so heavily moderated that it will never see day light.I have never seen any propaganda machine like yours and what`s most amazing is the fact that in order to play fair you publish such silly and hollow adverse comments made against you and hide any substansive adverse comment in order to show how shallow others on the opposite side are. Disgraceful and vulgar dispaly of moral superiority.

from:  Ashish
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:05 IST

Agree with the two preceding comments.
That's a typical case of Criminalizing an organization just because its
working for the majority. I wonder if the author would view the
celebrations of the same event by a Muslim organization with the same
lens; with the same logic.

from:  Rakesh
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 15:04 IST

The social activities of Sangh Parivar alone is mentioned in the comment. History speaks of other activities too. Instead of repeating them all, let me cite a few statements from two popular leaders of BJP.

Regarding the incidents after the Godhra incident, Vajpayee was very unhappy with Modi. In his autobiography, L. K. Advani says Vajpayee made this statement "Atleast Modi should have offered to resign on this issue". The Parivar could not convince the most popular leader of India those days who started his career from RSS.

After Babri Masjid incident L.K.Advani said "It was the saddest day in my life". This from the proponent of the Ram Mandir movement and again came from the RSS. He keeps telling I am proud of the movement, but the destruction was his saddest day. Why?

In both cases, it was Swami Vivekananda speaking from their inside.

Anything more is required to prove how Swami Vivekananda would have reacted to the Sangh Parivar of these days?

from:  prem
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 14:59 IST

rss criticizer.....jnu fellow.....communist....

from:  Anurag
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 14:50 IST

I would like to thank you to publishing your view for Hindu and Vivekanand but I do not totally agree with your opinion about RSS. I also attended many time camp by RSS but never find any kind of negative impact. they always support the country.

from:  Rishi Shukla
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 14:47 IST


this is the final teaching of swamiji and the guiding force behind the ramakrishna order...salute to the stalwart!!!!

from:  subbu
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 14:42 IST

What a joke of an article by a known Hindu baiter. Mr. Panikkar, can you please publish what the Swami thought about Muslims and their kings ? Do you have the guts to endorse it here ?

from:  Arun Subbu
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 14:41 IST

People talk of uniform civil code without knowing what it will be, let
there be a draft of it, then debate. Same people talk of faith as basis
in legal suit.
I expect protagonist of uniform civil code to also ask for uniform
employment code, uniform education code,etc

Personal laws are applicable to adherents of its faith & not to those
professing other faith. It doesn't deprives others of anything.
Having reservations in education,employment, etc deprives others of
their livelihood, education, etc.
Uniform education & employment code will in real sense do justice to
the children of Mother India.
Its almost six decades we have reservations, it was introduced for a
decade. We should ask ourselves if it has served its purpose?, if not
then is treatment appropriate for ailment?
If some caste fell backward & continues so, its the result of what?
what lead them to be so, that mind set has to be addressed. Reforming
our mindset towards our other brethren will be a real affirmative

from:  mohajir
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 14:24 IST

I do not understand why some people are attacking the author and becoming defensive about RSS - while the author was giving a cogent argument/analysis. In fact, it saddens me that this group seems to be big in number - by the number of anti-comments. God save India and the innocent people.

from:  Venkat
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 14:22 IST

Swami Vivekananda belongs as much to RSS as to everyone else. RSS ideology may be different, but they have accepted Swami Vivekananda as their ideal and are engaged in social work for the betterment of the poor and the downtrodden all over the country. To belittle their work in the guise of writing an article about Swami Vivekananda is indeed unfortunate. RSS has as much right to celebrate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swamiji as anyone else, more so as they have accepted him as their ideal.

from:  Solomon
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 14:22 IST

A very well written piece on Swami Vivekananda. The author has studied swami vivekananda and written about his thoughts well. I did not understand one thing. Why does the author have problems with RSS? Irrespective of who celebrates the 150th birth year and spread the message of Swami vivekananda, it is good. Is it not? So, why should we oppose it.

I also see that RSS runs many good social service projects (I have personally visited one such - 'Nele' in Bangalore. I saw that it is run very well and the Ex-rag pickers there are transformed like any other middle class kids now!! Great to see..) And, I also spoken to a full time worker of RSS ('Pracharak' if I remember correctly) and found that their ideas are really good. I have seen many RSS volunteers who are working selflessly for the society. In what way the author said that sangh parivar's ideology is rooted in hatred, is something that I could not understand. No religious violence by them till now. Where is hatred coming from?

from:  Thammayya
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 13:52 IST

Is this an article on "comparative analysis on RSS and Swami
Vivekananda" or about the greatness of the Swamiji? If you would like
to describe Swamiji's legacy of universalism, that is great. Why would
you need to bring some sweeping generalising statements against RSS and
the author fails to provide any facts against the same. Helplessness is
what exacerbates desperation. Thank you.

from:  Rajshekhar R K
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 13:44 IST

Swami Vivekananda's religion was Universal religion. He taught the universe the theory of tolerance. K N Panikar, the eminent scholar had always taken a substantial stand when communally inclined safron caders tried to paint History with the color of thier religion. His well proven argument during sensitive issues like Ayodhya, communal riot in Gujarat, India Shining camapign of NDA government through his writting style and prefound knowledge in History. This article is an addition to the coverstory appreared in Frontline fortnightly a couple of months before. There is clear evidence that Hindutva forcess is using Swami Vivekanada as the religious icon. In Indian cities, Swami Vivekanandas big cutout and pictures are placed together with the portraits of thier leaders who always spread communal hatred. I would like to share my personal experience by attending a seminar organised by Swani Agnivesh, at Jabalpur when communal riot errupted at Gujarat. He emphsised on universal religion.

from:  Appade Rajeevan
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 13:42 IST

Are comments moderated or censored? I am a reader of `The Hindu' for the last 45 years and I find that my comments are censored and not moderated. Just as I find a bias in the article, I also find bias in the moderation. Unfortunately, I am not leftist in my thoughts!

from:  Vasudevan
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 13:38 IST

Perhapsh istorically, Buddhism practiced the ideas of Universal humanism with
excellence .. history is witness. The reason is simple: In the core of Buddhism, even
the enlightened Buddha is considered as human as everyone, the only difference
perhaps being that he was awakened to his own Buddha nature . a path of
enlightenement being always open to all humans alike. Traditional forms of
Buddhism may have lost it, but the sincere forms of Buddhism did not ever put the
"truth" outside human life investing into any "almighty" or any "cosmic" entity outside
of oneself. Vivekananda's occassional criticism of traditional/lost forms of Buddhism
might have come from his sense of universalism, but he might not have realized that
the core of Buddha's teachings was a high order of Universalism/humanism with
"life", " common living beings" and their "living relations" being at the centre of it all.

from:  Harshwardhan
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 13:31 IST

Totally biased article as the ideology of the Sangh Parivar is not rooted in religious hatred and objects only to special privileges / treatment being given to Muslims despite PARTITION of INDIA in 1947 where MUSLIMS got Pakistan ( including current Bangladesh)and still demands exclusivity. Hindus can have inter-faith dialogue, but Muslims will not as followers of ISLAM do not recognise other FAITHS and called others KAFIR. Muslims need to understand reality that Faith is Personal and living has to be in terms of local culture and circumstances i.e. they should live like Indians and not Arabs. But JNU stuff can not understand / dare teach it.

from:  Atma Gandhi
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 13:16 IST

...professor takes usual route of oversimplifying the thing and for the intellectual giant like him to miss this complexities regarding the matter.

from:  Manish
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 13:10 IST

(1)It is unfortunate that we are mot ready for any debate and prefer
to make wild accusations, against some one who has a different view.
(2) By contemptuous rejection of good or bad influence of English
education and also introduction of reforms sought for by social
reformers like Ram Mohan Roy and others, did Swami Vivekananda close
doors on dialogue with the likes Ram Mohan Roy? It is easy to dismiss
some one else as useless but can some one dismiss his or her thoughts?
How can any justify such dismissal? (3) Despite the appeal of
universalism of all religions, we find that there is a small but
growing section of population in all countries which is fed with
propaganda of worst kind. The propagandists often proclaim that those
who belong to a religion different from theirs have no right to live
in this world. And instead of countering such propaganda,
fundamentalists in all religions prefer to become more communal. Can
this trend not be reversed?

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 13:05 IST

Did we have 'English educated middle class' around the time Swamiji
lived? Why such cloaked dislike for 'English educated middle class' and
so called Hindu revivalist? Why mislead?

from:  Nishant Zutshi
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 13:00 IST

Professor is historically correct in his observation about Swami but banal when talking about RSS and goes on with over simplified notion of RSS as hate mongers.

from:  Manish
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:57 IST

The Writer must go through the Chicago Speech which was delivered by
Vivekanada on 11sep 1893, where Swamiji , greeted the youngest of the
nations on behalf of "the most ancient order of monks in the world, the
Vedic order of sannyasins, a religion which has taught the world both
tolerance and universal acceptance. The Ideology of Sangh Parivar is
rooted in Swamiji's thoughts & Belief's.

from:  sravanthi boinala
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:55 IST

He preached impersonal form religion which mean GOD has no form, which
not authorized in sastars or vedic literature. He doesn't preach
universal message.

from:  Bhakta Dasa
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:53 IST

The author is trying to dilute the cause for which Swami Vivekananda stood by trying to forge Swamiji's life and works with the ideals of secularism - a term which has now come to stand for anything and everything that is not essentially secularism but perceived secularism based on people's inherent beliefs and values. Having studied Swamiji's works in detail, I can tell that Swamiji stood for Hinduism at a time when its very foundations were shaken by Christian missionaries sent from abroad and when Bengal's youths were being fed a so called 'secular' education that made them debunk their own religion (Hinduism). While Sangh may be wrong in trying to impose its opinion on how this nation should be shaped,it is equally wrong on the part of authors such as the one who has scripted this article to promote secularism as the panacea for all ills. Because, India still remains stricken with poverty, hunger and disease even after having so-called 'secular' parties in power for five decades.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:49 IST

Mr Panikkar is just making it more communal and political by taking guard behind Swami Vivekanand. Whats worng if RSS or Hindus celebrate birth anniversary of Swamiji and infact all other communities are welcome to celebrate the same, instead of jumping on the opportunity to target the RSS & Sangh Parivar.

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:42 IST

In his speech at world parliament of religion, Chicago Vivekananda said-

"As the different streams having their sources in
different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which
men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all
lead to Thee."

"Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling
through paths which in the end lead to me"

First quote implies that "Religion is a just way to reach god" and second implies that "God is one and he will come to you in the form you pray to him."

This is very much in contrast to what RSS does. Accepted fact is that RSS is a disciplined organization but it is communal.

from:  Madhav
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:36 IST

It is unfortunate that certain “elements” use Swami Vivekananda to build their idea of religious exclusivism and chauvinism.

Though there are enough reasons to believe that he was a proud follower of “Hinduism” (or Sanatana Dharma), he derived this pride not from some misplaced sense of religious superiority.

The very foundation for his pride was the fact that he found the religion to expound views of universalism. This is in stark contrast with what the elements perceive to be the greatness of “their” religion is.

If they are really proud of their religion they should follow the ideals of “ahimsa”, accept the ideals of universalism and other noble ideas which the Swamy had staunchly followed.

I am not sure if these ideals can be even remotely associated with these groups. Without this, these groups forfeit their right to claim the legacy of Swamy Vivekananda which they emphatically do now.

from:  Manohar S
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:35 IST

Hinduism, by its nature, is universal and inclusive. Those who seek spirituality will find their facet in Hinduism. Those who seek a religion will find it else where. It is the accommodating and accepting nature of Hinduism is where its beauty lies! Any human entity, without any conversion, is a Hindu by and large. Hinduism developed as a compendium of thoughts from many people with wisdom and as such has no prophetic and prescriptive influence on its followers. Although some see Lord Krishna as one! The other welcome thing of Hinduism is its malleability and ductile nature of it, allowing it to be further debated and changed. Hinduism would remain as a spiritual vehicle for many who are seekers on the subject. Sri: Vivekananda was probably the first to take this philosophy to the West and propagate the idea of Hinduism there.

from:  Saratchandran
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:33 IST

RSS views are not those which are Mr. Pannikar's view which he tries to tag RSS with. I request Mr. Pannikar to study RSS view and then correct them if they are wrong. We will be obiliged.

from:  Karan V
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:32 IST

It is surprising the author finds it `strange’ that RSS and its front organizations are at the forefront of the 150th Birth Anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekanand. Swamiji said that serving the poor is the equivalent of serving God. The teachings of Swamiji form the cornerstone of the work of RSS and Vivekananda Kendra and they are doing yeoman service among the poor, downtrodden and the tribals all over India. Unfortunately, because of their so called `ideology’ (this is a highly debatable topic), they are always shown in a negative light. As a reader of `The Hindu’ for the last more than 45 years, I find that Modi, BJP and RSS receive only negative coverage in your daily, while Congress and other political parties as also militant organizations of other denominations are treated with kid gloves. This trend is very disturbing as Newspapers are expected to be neutral and not biased. For a change, will your esteemed daily carry an article on the good work being done by RSS?

from:  Vasudevan
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:24 IST

India is the only country where bashing its majority religion and its workers, while hailing other religions is a fashion.While I admit I am an ardent fan of the ideas of Vivekananda,I also want to condemn the crucification of the Sangh Pariwar whenever someone gets an opportunity.I live in a small town.You wouldn't believe,on Swami's 150th birthday every street and every shop in a place like mine had a framed picture of Vivekananda with a small garland kept on a chair visible to the passers by.There were no sign boards saying who had done this.While I was about to be amazed at how India has fondly tried to remember the great saint,I was told by the shop keepers I enquired,that this was the work by the Sangh Pariwar.Though I condemn all religious extremists activity by any religion,I see this only as an act in bringing an awareness about Swami and his teachings.Please do not try to find political motivation behind every good act of Sangh Pariwar,rather write about the real wrongdoers

from:  Sowmya S
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:23 IST

Pannikar does selective reading in order to frame Vivekananda in the
vision of the Leftists. While the Swami inherently stood for
universalism, let there be doubt about the fact he questioned the
dogma inherent in the claim of Abrahamic religions which laid an
exclusive claim on the road to truth. This inconvenient fact is
brushed under the carpet to project the claim that the Swami stood for
the premise that all religions were true. To quote -

"Moreover, the Jew, the Christian, the Muslim each has his own book.
The Books are at variance. Each says his books alone are right. How is
the contest to be settled?"

from:  Ritesh
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:20 IST

The author seems to biased against RSS.
Without getting into debate about his rightness of the opinion, let me point out -
- BSP who hails Dr. Ambedkar - does it really understands and follows his philosophy
- Congress who hails by Mahatma Gandhi - I do not see any remote connection between what he preached and what Congress does.

Is it not a national phenomena? Historical leaders are meant for holidays .... without any allegiance to philosophy of the leaders.

from:  Jayesh
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:17 IST

It is highly regrettable that the legacy of Swami Vivekananda is being hijacked by the fundamentalistic organizations, whereas Swami has advocated for a radical change of society specially with regard to caste system to be discarded altogether and superstitions are to be kept at bay by adopting scientific temper.

Even the youth who adore him as an icon,are practicing in contrary to the above preachings under the influence of fundamentalism.Now-a-days they are feeling proud to exhibit the caste names by adding to their names shamelessly.
Until and unless,the preachings of Swami Vivekananda are practiced in letter and spirit,the organizations or the youth have no right to own or adore him as their icon any more.

from:  ram chandar
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 12:14 IST

Incomplete knowledge is dangerous. I think the "The Hindu" should maintain its quality. It is this article which is all about hatred.

from:  Shanky
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 11:51 IST

This article sounds very false and author has no knowledge of RSS
ideology and holds grudges and prejudices against RSS.

Readers don't expect such a partial article which targets a social
organization like RSS from the newspaper like The Hindu.

from:  Amol
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 11:51 IST

Be it Swami Vivekananda, Bhagat Singh, Asfaqualla Khan, Bal Gangadhar
Tilak, Subhash Bose, Sardar patel or Ambedkar or APJ Abdul Kalam, all
staunch nationalists are icons for the Sangh. Afterall for RSS
patriotism and love for the motherland can't be the exclusive preserve
any one ideology or faith. The branding that Sangh was communal did
not stick as RSS had no history of attacking people of other faiths
merely for their beliefs. It had opposed only stands taken by some of
their organisations or individuals. So, there is little reason for the
author to consider the Sangah as narrow-minded in the name of an
individual who stood for the highest form of patrotism and humanism.
If a Swayamsevak Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee can attend the
funeral of a Communist like Namboodripad it only shows that in front
of nation and humanism the ideological believes can't come as a
separating wall. In fact, ideology of the Sangh has been to stand for
everything that is in the interest of India.

from:  Abhisek
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 11:51 IST

Late Sarasanghachalk of RSS Shree Guruji was sanyasi in Ramakrshna Mutt before heading RSS in 1940. He was a disciple of Swami Akandananda. Swami Vivekananda and Swami Akandananda were disciple of Shree Ramakrshanm Parama Hamsa. Shree Guruji was head of RSS from 1940 to 1973 and he provided the idealogical base for RSS. Shree Guruji molded the RSS ideology based on the teachings of Swami Vivekanda.Please read the book "Vision Swami Vivekananda and mission of Rashtreeya Swayamsevaka Sangha"published from Channi.

from:  C S Sundaresha
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 11:42 IST

Not sure why the writer wanted to condemn sangh parivar here. do note:
1) but for sangh hardly any one would have bothered to remember swamiji
2)the writers understanding of sangh seems to be extremely biased.
3)Writer needs to appreciate that supporting the minority cause if not is communal, supporting the majority is also not communal . Sangh parivar still recommends Uniform civil code , what more is more inclusive and universal than having preferentail treatment in the name of relegion , caste and creed !
It looks to be fashionble for the media and the socalled intellegentia to mudsling Sangh , while they force themselves to comfortable slumber when its with other socio-political organizations .

from:  sreedharan
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 11:16 IST

To all Hindus--please stop defending our faith. Hinduism is the best of religions for Hindus, not perfect but the only one. Let us focus on how we can make Hinduism better. let us stop comparing Hindu faith to other faiths. If we make our religion the most advantageous to Hindus others, including those who left it or whose ancestors left it, will flock back.

from:  Jai Lal Kishen Khosla
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 11:10 IST

I find it very nice that this lead column has coincided with my current
reading of Vivekanda's works. I am in the process of reading his
letters and essays; and I completely concur with the author that "But
if he were to be back in contemporary India, it is most unlikely that
it would be in the communal camp.". Though Ramakrishna was initially a
priest in a Kali temple, subsequently his worship of the almighty
included the christian and islamic way, as well.

I would like to implore everyone to read of his letters and essays,
they make for a very rewarding read.

from:  Sampath
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 11:09 IST

Overshadowed, as it seems by his personal bias to belittle RSS in the
light of no greater personas than Swami ji; Mr. Panikkar should have
instead given us a better glimpse into the valuable insights of Swami

from:  Dushyant Rajput
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 11:04 IST

Dear Hindu,

Thanks for publishing the party line on Vivekananda. For those who are not in the know, it might me enlighting to understand even communists now feel the need to write about vivekananda , whom until now they were insulting.


from:  Praveen
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:58 IST

Before commenting about RSS, please go to RSS camp for few days and then
please come here and comment! All their actions and words leads only to

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:58 IST

May we know as to how and from where the prof understood the ideals of RSS. Has he ever worked with them?? Has he ever spent time in RSS shakhas where the ideology is shared?

I agree that Ramakrishna did say "Let Hindus call it Hindu religion — let others similarly name it (what they like)". But Ramakrishna was not the first person to say it. Hinduism was multi religious even before Ramakrishna. To the extent that atheism is accepted in Hinduism. Show me one document where a RSS head has said Hinduism is the greatest and everything else must be nullified!! I could show you several documents where Islamists or Jesuits have proclaimed that theirs is the best way. When there are such forces, Hindu fundamentalism becomes essential. Defending hindus becomes essential, you will find this in every speech that a RSS head makes.

Please do not give th/is tussle a political color to push your limited ideas on the public.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:36 IST

Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar who was the 2nd sarsanghchalak of RSS was a disciple of Swami Akhandanada who was one of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.If you read Golwalakrs 'Bunch of thoughts' there is no difference what vivekananda had said about religion and Sri Golwakars view.

from:  Jayesh
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:34 IST

One can presume from the footnote the comments that are 'abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant' cannot be published, but can one assume the comments that express disagreement will be published without any censorship? May one hope 'moderation' is not meant for curbing dissent.

from:  Neerav Patel
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:32 IST

When ever the so called "Sangh Parivar" or its most visible version
,BJP asserts in Delhi we can always expect its echo in your daily in
the form of one sided discourse harping on the negative aspects of
this political philosophy.That is your way of fighting the
majoritarianism ( a euphemism for hindu communlism) Mr K N Panicker's
article has to be seen in this back ground.But any way it is welcome
to see that he is acknowledging the contributions of a Hindu monk who
advocated that only spiritualism and not materialism is the way for
future of India.Belated wisdom is better than no wisdom at all.I wish
this learned professor who was so far under the spell of thinkers like
Engles,Marx,dictators like,Lenin, Stalin,Mao,Tito etc pursues this
further and imbibe the swamiji's true spirit.

from:  Ramakrishnan P
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:32 IST

A big thank you to the Hindu for publishing distinguished historian Dr. K.N.
Pannikar's interpretation of Swami Vivekananda. As it often happens, forces of
communalism, hatred and divisiveness find ways to co-opt and misappropriate
unifying messages to further their own agenda. This is a timely warning to all of us
to be cognizant of such matters.

from:  G Parameswaran
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:23 IST


It is heartening to see that Prof. Panikar has almost been successful in illuminating Swamjli,s views relating Universalism.That he dismissed the westernized version of reforms because of their constant railing against Hinduism without the least knowledge about its basic tenets.As Swamiji attributed their failure to the fact that "They hadnot learnt the great lessons to be their haste,they laid all the evils in our society at the door of religion;and like the man in the story, wanting to kill the mosquito---,they're trying to deal such heavy blows as would've killed man & mosquito together."This equally true for all the social movements prevalent in our country.
Let us all learn from our past mistakes and pay heed to what Swamiji actually meant when he declared that "man making is my mission".What the nation actually requires is a movement by which production of honest,diligent & hardworking citizens is ensured.Akhil Bharat Vivekanand Yuva Mahamandal has been doing it.

from:  apurba das
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:18 IST

Panikkar should appreciate RSS taking forward the thought of Vivekananda instead branding one organisation with intentions is nothing but deep rooted hatred in his thoughts about section of the society-Vivekananda many times declared and gave vast references to vedantic teachings as an inspiration to his universal brotherhood,instead of recognising this fact ,whatever appreciation panikkar want to provide is of no use

from:  GLNMurthy
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:11 IST

Prof Panikkar has lost sight of the fact that Swamiji himself was a disciple and the philosophy he enunciated so articulately was that of Sri Ramakrishna. He railed against the mores of the middle class and not the middle class itself. Pity that his life on this earth was so short, like that of Jesus Christ.

from:  val
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:10 IST

Professor Pannikar has rightly pointed out that Swami Vivekananda would have put a great distance between himself and the sangh parivar, who many believe have developed an exotic form of Hinduism unrecognizable to most Hindus. Pannikar has also underlined the great difference in perspectives and goals that existed between Swami Vivekananda and the earlier reformers. But surely he is too good a historian not to recognize that in the braiding of historical movements it is the existence of the earlier legacy that helps produce a better synthesis. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Pandita Ramabai, Dadabhai Naoroji, and even the warrior Rani of Jhansi, left trails of social history indispensable for the emergence of the times of Swami Vivekananda.

from:  vithal rajan
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:09 IST


It can be & could be in the sense of adoption of the leading and eminent personalities like H.E. Swami Vivekanand.

Our beloved citizens shall be little bit serious than before to eliminate if not at least freeze the thought process from the root itself and empowering the mass "HOW DANGEROUS & DISASTROUS THE HATE POLICY PROPAGATION FOR THE NATION" especially in a time of the election period.

Each one of has a duty, get in to the service of the human beings for a safe & secured living condition to save the Nation at large. Let us join hands with a slogan "BUILD THE NATION LEAD THE NATION" ...... "A CHANGE WITHIN".

We re-salute Br. Panikar sir for his outstanding contribution by revealing the fact & figures how the animosity taking advantage when the common mass in silence.

from:  Omar Abu Backer
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 09:59 IST

You rush to condemn the Sangh Parivar. Muslims too believe that all other relgions are inferior to Islam and say as much in all mosques during Friday prayers. I have been working in Saudi Arabia since 1989 and I have heard this denunciation of other faiths repeatedly.It is people like you that keep this myth about BJP alive.

from:  Dr Gopinath
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 09:58 IST

'Vasudaiva Kutmbakam' - The universe is one family is the sub-strata of Hinduism and Swamiji made that clear to people from all walks, religions and to the atheists. Swamiji's message was understood and assimilated by Hindus predominantly as this univarsality is embeded in the DNA of every Hindu. Few people from the Christian faith did subscribe to his views but was not accepted as the basis of universal truth by various deniminations of Christianity. Regarding Islamic religious leaders the less said the better as they proscribe to the notion - 'My way or No Way'.
Mr Panikkar has to realise that Swamijis birthday can be celebrated by each and everyone of us and if the Sangh Parivar makes it a big celebration why criticize it. Sangh Parivar did not and cannot hijack Swamiji or his idealogy. It is immaterial if Sangh Parivar sees eye to eye with Swamijis ethos.

We can differ; still can have respect and love for each other.

A nice article sullied by political undertones.

from:  mani sandilya
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 09:46 IST

The Rss has at least got you remember the man and come up with articles to commemorate his contribution.Does Indian left including the hindu have time for Indian heroes?All you remember is 2002 & Modi.

from:  abhishek kumar baranwal
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 09:39 IST

Thanks to The Hindu,this article has changed my views about Swami
Vivekananda,I am becoming less ignorant day by day as I have started
reading The Hindu editorials daily.

from:  Rohan
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 09:38 IST

Swami Vivekanandha was a saint who stood for universal values and principles. His world view was very liberal and in total contrast to the narrow world view of organizations such as RSS and VHP. It would be welcome if RSS and VHP try to imbibe the true spirit of Smami Vivekanandha and transform their own thinking in the light of these values

from:  P V Rajeev
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 09:37 IST

Swami Vivekananda has become a tool for MR.K.N. Panikkar to bash RSS. Condemn RSS is a fundamental right of JNU professors!!

from:  C S Sundaresha
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 09:05 IST

If one reads Swami Vivekananda's literature work, the spirit of universalism and
humanity comes across consistently -- all that the Hindutva proposes is not
spirituality but political religiousness just like what Wahhabi Ideology does.

from:  Yashwanth P
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 08:56 IST

Mr. Panikkar should clarify if he subscribes to fellow fellow-traveler
Romila Thapar's view that Vivekananda was responsible for 'Militant
Hinduism' ( refer to her introduction to the tract: "Khaki shorts,
Saffron flags")

from:  Satam Choudhury
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 08:55 IST

It seems the writer has only used Vivekananda's message as an instrument to abuse the Sangh. Eventually the wordings on Vivekananda is good but does not ratify the writer spewing venom on RSS.

from:  Vikas V Prabhu
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 08:50 IST

" Devoted Hindu, not communal " ! That is Hinduism. The Christians arrived here in the early periods of AD. Islam reached in AD624. There were several theological derivatives existing here from time immemorial. There had never been any secularists of the present day type to guard the minorities ! That is the beauty and level of spiritualism in Hinduism. They believe in peaceful coexistence. They don't want to convert anyone saying that their belief is the only truth and way to salvation. It would have been a boon had the other religions too followed the Hindu concept in this regard. But alas !

from:  Viswanath C
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 08:43 IST

Vivekananda say?
There is a wonderful chapter on
‘Mohammed and Islam’ in a
book titled Teachings of Swami
Vivekananda, which has a moving
30-page introduction by British writer Christopher Isherwoood.
The chapter is a collection of
quotes from a speech
Vivekananda gave to an
American audience. This is what he says:
“Mohammed – the Messenger of
equality. You ask, ‘What good
can there be in his religion?’ If
there was no good, how could it
live? The good alone lives, that alone survives… How could
Mohammedanism have lived, had
there been nothing good in its
teachings? There is much good.” “Mohammed by his life showed
that amongst the Mohammedans
there should be perfect equality
and brotherhood. There was no
question of race, caste, colour
or sex.

from:  kaleem
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 08:32 IST

Vivekananda had given lectures on universal religion. He based his
teachings on advaita vedanta. He criticised caste system prevailing at
that time which he felt is reason for backwardnesss of indian society.
He never talked about supremacy of any religion. He often quoted his
guru statement " All paths lead unto thee". The present day communal
politics is based on creating fear and hatred among different
religious communities based on irrational grounds. Deliberately the so
called leaders representing a community practice these kind of
politics to serve their narrow political ends. Ideally politics should
have nothing to do with religion as religion is a private matter of
He is against communalism and infact regretted in parliament of
religions that religious fanaticism and bigotry has been cause for lot
of bloodshed in world history. He exhorted people to serve god in
human beings.
He gave popular slogan " Daridra Narayana Seva".

from:  sreeramkumar v
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 08:24 IST

I find it rather odd that a national newspaper of your stature would publish an article - where the author starts the article by making a statement that the "idealogy of the Sangh Parivar is steeped in religious hatred"- where is the evidence for that and what does the author offer in support- that is a broad statement with no facts to support it- yet you publish it - because you believe in it - now wonder the WSJ calls you the mouthpiece of the communist party of India.

from:  smrita
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 08:23 IST

One question : What is Religion ?
Is it the Holy texts per se , its interpretation or actions or
practices of the so called religious persons? How can we discover
universalism , when there is so much contrasting and conflicting views
of different religion ? Reconciliation of value perspectives is
actually extremely arduous.
Religion should always be in consonance with the Constitution and law
of the land and spirituality or ritualistic beliefs should be totally
limited to and regulate private/individual life.
Atheist and not coward.

from:  Vikrant Singh
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 08:01 IST

Swami ji was an Indian, above all. The Sangh too has proved to be patriots, as may have other organisations.

Please do not use his name to promote your own narrow sectarian prejudices.

from:  Andrew Pereira
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 07:24 IST

In a larger perspective "Vasudhaiba Kutumbakam" stands for true sense of
the term secularism. Thus a Hindu ceases to be a Hindu if he or she is

from:  nabarun dey
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 07:17 IST

It feels bad, when some group's do politics in whatever opportunity they
get.swami vivekananda great person, in real term. he was not attached to
any specific religion group,but he acknowledges all religious group's.
once he said"All Weakness,All bondage is imagination...Do not
Weaken!...stand up & be strong! That is all the religion I know.

from:  krishan kumar
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 06:36 IST

It is true that even His Master Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, validated
that all religions are equal by practicing Islam and Christianity and
reaching highest state each time. But Sangh Parivar's relevance is
more of a reaction and desperation of Hindu community to safe guard
itself against Christian Conversions and Muslim vote bank politics.
Under present social and political conditions, Hindu way of life,
values and traditions are under tremendous pressure. What do you
expect Hindus to do, if their religion is being neglected and
systematically destroyed in their own country? and their patience is
being tested to the limits?

from:  Murali USA
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 06:32 IST

A very good article indeed. Neither the sangh parivar nor any politically motivated or supportive outfit aligns itself with the ideologies Swami Vivekananda stood for. For swamiji, the whole prospect of having a religion was to recognise the divine in every one of us and serve the same irrespective of religion, nationality, caste, creed and sex. It is paining to see him being misquoted by many to their motives. May good sense prevail!

from:  Karthik
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 06:27 IST

I am aghast at such sweeping generalizations by Mr. Panikkar. Swami
Vivekananda was determined to fight against the 'sepoys' of McAulay
ideology influenced (English educated) Indians who reinforced foreign
practices like Caste into our society. This was done by design by
colonial masters to break up Indian society. He fought clearly against
Western Universalism. Even cursory reading of his voluminous works
shows how well he defended Hindu philosophy. He certainly raised his
voice against such 'sepoy' class of Indians who oppressed others.
Indian Varna and Jati system is the biggest social net India has, and
should never be discarded. It is people like Dr. Panikkar who lead
people astray. Western and Islamic Universalistic views are the ones
that make them convert Hindus. Viveka's views on conversions are well
known. You ignored all those. I am neither a BJP worker nor a
superstitious Hindu. I live in USA, so hold no candle to any party.
Other religions do not hold a parity with Dharma.

from:  Krishna Kumar
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 05:43 IST

Very neatly written article about Swami Vivekananda. I believe he worked
for common people and peace. I personally do not recognize religions and
races.I believe there is one religion and one race called man. Bible,
Quran or Hindu scriptures or any other holy book has one main theme and
it is the existance of a creator. You call him Bramha I call him Allah
or Somebody calls him Apa or Jusus o what not. Very unfortunate to see
an organization like this take the credit of such a wise and great
induvidual and mis represent it for their gain. Power truly corrupts.

from:  Durgesh Kalya
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 05:41 IST

In the run up to 2014 elections, it seems, some find it easy to engage in
a spot of Hindu bashing, as if all other religions/communities/societies
have no faults and there is nothing they need to improve upon!

Another way of looking at it could be that the Hindus are peace-loving,
reflective and tolerant, and permit criticism by others because they want
to continuously improve their society, despite centuries of brutal
dominance and oppression by people of non-Hindu faiths.

from:  D Mahapatra
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 04:47 IST

Mr.Pannikar should read Vivekanand Swami one more time .He has no knowledge of RSS(Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh).Before writing such article , he should study both Swami V and RSS.

from:  pankaj
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 03:21 IST

If the Sang Parivar alone celebrates Swamiji,s birth anniversary , it is not its fault . You also refer to Swamiji,s Chicago address in which he mentioned the speciality of his religion , but still say all religions were equal to him . Will the so called seculiarists agree to his speech being read everyday in schools as a prayer

from:  ganesan
Posted on: Apr 10, 2013 at 02:04 IST
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