From Colombo To Almora With Swami Vivekananda
by Nitin Chandola
The journey of Vedas to the west started by Swami Vivekananda in late nineteenth century is still on its way to create new horizons of understanding spirituality. In May 2017, Ramakrishna Mission will be observing its 120th anniversary. Swami, after a successful journey to the west continued his effort to aware the citizens of India. In that era, our country was suffering under the British rule and barbarism of catholic missionaries to adopt Christianity. His speech at parliament of religions is still imprinted in streets of Chicago as “Swami Vivekananda Street”. Known as the best known orator monk from India, Swami found his way to develop the milestone mission of Ramakrishna Paramhansa in the Himalayas. A man born in the era of none to less technology, journeyed across India more than twice.
In late nineteenth century, just after the twenty years of first war of independence, after losing his father in early age, Thakur (Paramhansa) showed Narendra Nath Dutt the way to the eternal kali of Dakshineshwar. He was followed by the continuous thirst of knowledge, due to which all three wishes to kali, granted by Paramhansa was volunteered for welfare of the world. It’s been about 130 years since Swami Vivekananda met Thakur. After 115 years of swami’s passing away, His soul and its ambition is manifested in adamant youth of India. He was shown a way by Thakur, but being unable to decode it for a decade made him unrestful to such an extent that a dive in Kanyakumari and regular journey to Himalayas made his mission of “Shri Ramkrishna Paramhansa” possible. It is not possible to reincarnate the whole journey of his work in the Indian subcontinent to spread the message of Advait and Vedantism. People know about his memorable speech in Rammanad, but the speeches in Graaskhanda and Kedarkhanda of Outer Himalayas in Uttarakhand are the one which traces the evolution of Swami’s perception. Himalayas always attracted Vivekananda to such an extent that, he expected to spend the last years of his life in Almora. Unfortunately, his immediate death by heart- attack made it an unaccomplished task.
Today, Lala Bazar of Almora is successful in preserving the reminiscence of place where Swami stayed and revealed his plan to start Ramkrishna Mission. He was addressed on behalf of Kumaon in following statement, “We have heard with great pleasure that you intend establishing a Math (monastery) here, and we sincerely pray that your efforts in direction may be crowned with success. Kumaonese will derive special spiritual advantages and we shall not see the ancient religion gradually disappearing from our midst”. Swami not only influenced the people of Almora and Kathgodam but also, his visit in Dehra was a game changer for the future. Swami Karunananda started Ramkrishna Mission Ashram in early twentieth centuryas an orphanage in Rajpur, which is now one of the exotica for spiritual seeker in Dehra. In an era, when most of us are in a dilemma of stereotyping “Hinduism” to a particular sect, Swami described Hindutva in Jaffna of Sri Lanka as the sect of whom Hindus, Mohammedi’s, Christians, Jains and other people who lived in Aryan civilisation were part of. Vivekananda elaborated this concept in every lecture from Colombo to Almora, he coined the term “Vedikas” for the citizens who belonged to India as whole.
Among Swamiji’s group, Charlotte Sevier visited Shyamatal, Almora and Champawat in search for calm environment to start her spiritual journey. Advait Ashram in Mayavati of Champawat district is robust example of the influence of Himalayas on Vedanta and its philosophy. With thousands of publications till date, Advait Ashrama is focused in providing cheap and best quality of books all over India. Swami Vivekananda never got distracted from his objective of starting Ramkrishna Ashram, his struggles were mostly affected by the death of his brother and sisters either due to disease or by psychological instability. Many letters of Swami Vivekanada to Swami Brahmananda describes that after being in depression by continuous deaths of siblings, swami was adamant to advance in accomplishing Ramkrishna Mission. Travelling all overIndia on foot with less transportation facilities was a mighty decision that moved the Vedanta society of India too. Swami’s stand on ending the dogmas and bigotry as quoted in one of his lectures in Parliament of religion at Chicago stayed strong as far as Hindu rituals were considered. In Kakrighat of Almora, when Swami realised the micro and macrocosm, according to him, his ideas were expanded. The same message of “believe in relevancy” is a part of the mission till today.This primal realisation of cosmos under a tree in Kakrighat temple still attracts the followers of Vivekananda. Brahmanic rituals in later nineteenth century were orthodox and superstitious. Most of the Brahman sects were shifted to “Tantric Vidya”. Ramkrishna Paramhansa (Thakur) in kali temple of Dakshineshwar, was low caste priest to whom the only materialistic thought left was food he eat and Kali he worships. Narendra for him was not only a disciple but also an incarnation of his god. Paramhansa once described Vivekananda as a “rishi” in the constellation of Big Dipper (Sapt-rishi) who came on earth to complete the mission of engaging the Hindus in Vedic venture. Belur Math in Belur village of West Bengal was the first Ramkrishna Mission Ashram, which latergrew to a Franchise. Vivekananda describes Uttarakhand in one of his memoires as “the land of dreams of our forefather, in which Parvati was born, the holy land where every ardent soul in India wants to come at the end of his life, and to close the last chapter of its mortal career.” Swami’s visit to a close friend in Almora is where he delivered a lecture on “Vedic teaching in theory and practice” where he described the basic concept of Vedanta and rituals related to the spiritual practices. Late nineteenth century was an era when Vedic interest of west rose to an extent. India, which was looted by Mughals, British and other invaders was still rich in the spiritualistic knowledge.
Vedas were spread to the world by Swami Vivekananda, ParamhansaYogananda presented Patanjali Yoga Sutra to the west and still this land of gods and Renunciation is excelling its way of interpreting Vedas with western science and technology. Natraja at front entrance of CERN headquarters is an adamant example of what Swami Vivekananda predicted about influence of Hinduism to the west. After 115 years of swami’s death, the condition of Hinduism in India is at worst, the illiterate rut is taking over the religion without knowing the real sentiments of it as per the Vedic literature. The Himalayas are the only place at which multiple religions were born and spiritualistic sects developed the philosophies. The Vedas compiled near the bank of Ganges were the collection of ancestral legacy in understanding this universe. From banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh to the Mansarovar in Aksai chin, legacy of the Vedas is still in existence. Vivekananda’s journey to the west and in India during his course from Colombo to Almora was a boost to the Vedanta and Advaita philosophies.