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Updated: October 20, 2013 06:02 IST

Father and son: a study in contrast and convergence

Padma Koty
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Illustration: Satwik Gade
The Hindu
Illustration: Satwik Gade

Endless were the contrasts in personality and in view points. Frail, soft-natured Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: physically and intellectually ebullient Vivekananda.

Once upon a time, in a little village, there lived a young man. He was sweet-tempered, pure of heart and loved by all.

In course of time, he became a priest at a big temple in a city. But rumours reached his mother that he was going mad with spiritual ecstasies, so she got him married, and as was the practice those days, to a bride much younger than him.

Years passed, and there came to this unusual couple a son who was a prince among men. He and the boy were destined to gravitate to a never-before-seen father-son relationship. The former, with his “intuitive genius for souls,” knew of it but the latter did not.

Earlier, the father, perhaps wanting challenge, had prayed to his Divine Mother, Kali, to send him someone who would doubt his spiritual realisations — and she readily obliged, sending him this antithesis of a Son who would not bow down before Her image and ridiculed those who did.

The dialectical spiritualism that exploded between this equally-matched pair was the most incredible and far-reaching the world has ever seen. It was a clash of opposites; Thesis colliding with Antithesis.

Endless were the contrasts in personality and in view points. Frail, soft-natured Father: physically and intellectually ebullient son. Practically illiterate priest: book-devouring youngster, groomed like a “Renaissance” prince, in intellectual pursuits, languages, sports and music. The senior’s deep spiritual trances: the 18-year old rationalist who brutally labelled them as “hallucinations.” The acknowledged Master who simply stated he could see God clearly: this strange boy who spouted Reason, but simultaneously was a “roving threat” asking every hapless holy man in sight, “Sir! Have you seen God?” The Father artlessly, humbly expressed love and high regard for the Son: the wary sophisticate rubbished them as “infatuation.”

Sometimes, the Son would absent himself for days, and the Father would inconsolably scour the streets and haunts looking for his “lion-cub.” And then a comical role-reversal — the Son would come, and the Father would studiously ignore him for weeks!

The Father enjoyed and encouraged the crossing of (s)words, the sparring, since a sizzling, “active” Mt. Vesuvius had moved in next door to an unflappable Mt. Everest. The years flew. The Father’s flock increased.

Then came that bone of contention: career choice. The Son wanted the highest bliss and to renounce life. But the intuitive Father told him these were “self-centred” “luxuries”; he was born to be a great banyan tree sheltering thousands, uplifting and serving them.

The synthesis in this world-impacting dialectic came after six years. Thesis-Father’s endless love, patience and forgiveness had sculpted Antithesis-Son into a grateful disciple who would “shake the world to its foundations.”

Now began the tumultuous chapters of the Son’s Book of Life. He faced life-altering hardships. Simultaneously, his beloved Father, diagnosed with a fatal cancer of the throat, expedited his succession plan. Before the end, he bonded all his “great children” into a monastic order.

The Son spent the next few years travelling penniless all over India, witnessing as well as experiencing starvation, misery, disease and despair — a stringent “adult” education.

Destiny next transported him to America as a delegate at a major convention. He created history — and philosophy and spiritualism too — by declaring to the in(credulous) natives (in a civilisational reversal of roles) that they were not “sinners, but were “heirs to immortal bliss.” The leitmotif of suffering followed him here too, with calumny added to it.

He returned to India, to start work on his Master’s injunction: serve the Daridra Narayana — “the-poor-who-are-God.” He worked incessantly through terminal illness, and, mission and mission established, cast off his body “like a worn-out garment”. The Son was not yet 40.

His work — and his Collected Works — continues to inspire millions to introspection, action, service for they prod the collective conscience into contributive-mode. Father and Son ... such a pair of opposites; such a harmonising of them. Was it Kali again who, like earthly mothers, engineered their conciliation? For, it is believed, She is the primordial cosmic power, “the glorious harmony of pairs of opposites.”

May all sparring/warring father-son “pairs-of-opposites” on this great planet take heart from this true story and bring love, forgiveness, flexibility and the bliss of discrimination, i.e., Vivekananda, into their conflict resolution.

(The writer’s email:

Illustrations: Satwik gade


Guess who it wasOctober 20, 2013

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Interesting and inspiring article on two contrasting figures. Thumbs up

from:  Shafeeq
Posted on: Oct 22, 2013 at 12:02 IST

It was an eye opener and a fantastic write up. A really novel way of looking at people who have opposing styles yet connected by a common objective.

from:  krishnan
Posted on: Oct 21, 2013 at 13:59 IST

Swami Vivekanand,a great saint inspires, even today, both Scientists
and Religious people,also, spirituals.Strong
conviction,dedication,love for Bharat and poverty-hit
people,POSITIVITY personified!In only a short span of less than 40
years, he has left behind a great heritage of work and Inspiration to
keep generations after generations motivated to manifest TRUE SELF!
Salutes to the Avatar!

from:  M.B.Deshpande.
Posted on: Oct 21, 2013 at 11:45 IST

Excellent article and an amazing way of looking at situations.

from:  Sunanda
Posted on: Oct 21, 2013 at 11:12 IST

Beautifully written and so very true !

from:  Ananth
Posted on: Oct 20, 2013 at 15:18 IST

What a read! What an inspiration 'the lion-cub' was/is!!

from:  Kiddy
Posted on: Oct 20, 2013 at 09:32 IST
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