Sunday, May 14, 2017

Swami Vivekananda on Himself - Book Review

An inspirational life!

Well, I have read the books on Yoga written by Vivekananda, the books he has written on meditation techniques, his lectures on the Bhagavad Gita, even the hardships about his master which was kind of depressing to see the pains he had to go through.

But this book reveals the real pain and torture Vivekananda went through. India was a wealthy country but the way Vivekananda carried himself was disheartening to read. Begging in the streets with glimpses of food being offered once in three days. He had fainted in the streets so unconscious in a dense rain that he could not realize what happened later. And these things he did not endure in days or weeks but for lots and lots of months. He had immense patience. Anyone who is attached to materialistic lifestyle would have easily jumped on the other side which was always available to him - see he was a learned scholar, he had the entire set of material life in front of him, but then he deeply realized and practiced them being just Maya. All those times he was having the idea and teachings he learned from him Master to stay away from the materialistic pleasures.
"Without himself being free, how can he make others free?" - was his argument. From the outset and with the inclination going towards a lot of material and there are books written in abundance and the community as the whole trying to adopt the occidental at the max would lead us to happiness that comes with the cost of equivalent or more sorrow. I could only understand certain things he says perhaps only in a logical plane (which his Jnana work is all about). However, I could not commit to completely give up everything; what I was before reading this text is different than after I've read it.

This book again is the perspective of Vivekananda about himself. There are not many insights one could get about the works he has done, for instance, the four major books on Yoga he has written - Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti. He might have just hinted as if he was done with them, but each of these is deep work when viewed in isolation. The time he spent in the west and all the hundreds of letters written in a chronological order shows how focused he was in his works and the innumerous resistance he had to face from religious leaders of those times.

The more I reached towards the end of the book, the heavier it felt as this was a man who chose when to exit. Although he could well have attained Mukthi (if you agree with the Advaita Principle), he chose and clearly mentioned that he wanted to be born again. Not just that, he and his master would come again and continue there as forecasted by Shri Ramakrishna. For him, death was simply dropping the body and taking a new one. The best thing I loved about this book was the authenticity and an unadulterated POV as it does not involve a third person penning down his life, but it was all written by himself. If you are a fan of his work, you will find this book very interesting. If you are just going to start with this book, I would recommend reading his 4 books on Yoga.


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