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Swamy Vivekananda – Women Empowerment

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Chandramohanrao Neelamraju
Dharma & Yoga Fest - LogoSwamy Vivekananda was born on the 12th January, 1863. The world is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of the great monk and man who was instrumental in the revival of Hinduism in India, instrumental in the concept of nationalism in colonial rule and introduction of Indian ethos to the west. On this august occasion it is apt to remember him for his respect towards the fairer sex. It is more so at a time when India is finding itself at the crossroads, when more and more women are occupying pride of place in nation building but sadly, where her modesty is under constant attack.

Swamy Vivekananda believed that the first manifestation of God is the hand that rocks the cradle. In fact in few civilizations we find a cow giving milk, the earth bearing grains, a tree bearing fruit and the mother tending babies being revered equally as manifestation of God, like in the Indian civilization. Swamyji very boldly said in those days that in the West woman was treated as wife while in the East she was treated as the mother. Thus, he tried to draw a distinct line between materialism and spiritualism in the treatment of women. Though unfortunate it is a ‘fait accompli’ that the once revered mother in India is today wailing at the malnutrition of her babies and outrage to her modesty. Allegorically, it is true in case of the healthy Mother Cow that is slaughtered, the rich mother earth that is exploited selfishly and the mother tree that faces near extinction. It’s right time to remember the ‘immortal’ soul and mend our ways.

Swamy Jee was a monk, who renounced material pleasures for spirituality. In early days, it is said, he saw women as an obstacle in his path. But once he realized the highest Truth, he saw in them Mother the Divine. It is a case of seeing objects not with eyes but with soul.  “ The soul has neither sex, nor caste nor imperfection”, he averred. A great lesson to be learned here and that which he told the West was that once one realizes soul through meditation, he would see a mother in a woman rather than a wife, but for the duty ordained by God to sustain human race through the Divine union. He further elucidated the point by stating, ”Soul has no sex, it is neither male nor female, it is only in the body that sex exists and the man who desires to reach the spirit cannot at the same hold sex distinctions.

The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of women”, he said. It shows the vision of Swamy Vivekananda for a nation to progress. In fact, his words are equally important to the contemporary East as with the West. He refers to the Vedanta Philosophy and quotes from the Books how women were treated by Hinduism. He lamented why women were treated like that. Woman suffered for aeons and that gave her infinite patience and perseverance. ” What great words to say! How many of we, men, that feel we are running the family, have a sense of the invisible income she is accruing through her sacrifice for children through physical toil?” He laments that writing down Smritis and binding them by hard rules, men have turned women into manufacturing machines. Great words from a saint that renounced all sensory pleasures nor exposed to vagaries of family life.

He lamented why women are treated as aliens when the same conscious Self is present in all, as per Vedanta. “Unless you uplift women, men can never rise in the eyes of the Divine” he stated. He aggrandizes women stating that irrespective of caste they were eulogized by the Vedas. He quotes the example of Gargi, who in the presence of a thousand Rishis boldly challenged Sage Yagnavalkya for a discussion on the Brahman. He laid stress on women education in days when women were deprived of the basic privilege. No family or nation that does not respect women never rises, he averred.

In a veiled attack on the ‘masculinity’ of man being eulogized with reference to the ‘weakness of women’, he asks men whether man can deliver a baby. He says the Universe is one of perfect balance. “If women can not fight nor can man suffer or endure the vagaries of life”, he said.

In recent times a trend developed in India where the teachings of the Swamy Jee, were sought to be misinterpreted in a way unbecoming of our culture, where as the West started seeing in him a sage that defined womanhood as Divinity in human form.

In my next blog, I will deal with the topic “ Women in the East and West: then and now” from my personal experiences in India, the Europe and the USA.

Editor’s Note – this blog was originally published in the blog “Frankly Speaking…“.

Guest Author: Chandramohan Rao Neelamraju

Chandramohanrao Neelamraju Frankly Speaking...

Chandramohanrao Neelamraju
Frankly Speaking…

Chandramohanrao is a blogger  who writes on socio political issues in India. He is based in Hyderabad and travels across the world including United States and Europe. He holds a Masters degree in Communications and Journalism, a Masters degree in Astrology and a Bachelors degree in Science. His interests include reading, writing, and social media (Facebook and Twitter).

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Vivekanand Express

Indian American youngsters trace the footsteps of Swami Vivekananda in America

More than a century after Swami Vivekananda traveled to America, youngsters of Indian origin, are hitting the trail and visiting places where the Swami visited, stayed and delivered lectures. The program named ‘Vivekananda Express’ has been facilitated by the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA, to mark the 150th birth anniversary celebrations.

Swami Vivekananda, the Hindu monk from India, is widely known to have introduced Yoga to the American masses. His famous speech at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1893, made him very popular in America and several of prominent Americans including author J D Salinger, philanthropist John D Rockefeller and the legendary inventor Nikola Tesla were greatly influenced by his teachings.

As part of the series of visits planned, over a hundred young professionals of the Silicon Valley and students of nearby Universities and schools visited the First Unitarian Church of Oakland where Swami Vivekananda gave a speech in the year 1900. The speech is known to have brought many residents of Berkeley in contact with his message and later led to the establishment of the Vedanta Society at Berkeley.

“Swami Vivekananda was indeed one of the foremost cultural ambassadors of Hinduism and India to America. Also his message naturally connects with the youth. This is what makes him an icon to the Indian American youngsters” said Sairam Thyagarajan who works at Cisco and is one of the volunteers who organized the event.

In the Church, the participants were shown the wooden chair where Swami Vivekananda sat as he waited for his turn to speak and the podium through which he delivered his speeches. The group later also participated in hiking, team games and group discussions on Swami Vivekananda’s message of Dharma and Yoga.

“Of late, we have been reading quite a bit about Swami Vivekananda, but it is indeed a special feeling to have visited the place where he spoke, he sat and moved about. It was as if I were experiencing the moment when Swamiji stood up to speak” said Sowmya Bhatia, a high school student from Cupertino, who is born and brought up in America.

“It was a combination of fun and inspiration, but more than that it helped me connect with my roots” said Ramya, an engineering graduate student at San Jose State University.

The group plans to visit other places associated with Swami Vivekananda in San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda in the coming days.

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