01 December 2013

Jawaharlal Nehru On Swami Vivekananda

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889—1964) was the first Prime Minister of independent India. Nehru was born on 14 November 1889 in Allahabad. His father Motilal Nehru was a renowned barrister of his time. In 1907 Jawaharlal was sent to England where he studied law at Trinity College, Cambridge. After returning to India, he started practising at the Allahabad High Court. He also joined Indian National Congress and freedom movement of the country. In politics, gradually Mahatma Gandhi became his mentor. After the independence of India, Nehru was elected as the first Prime Minister of the country. he retained the position till his death. He died in "early afternoon" of 27 May 1964. His daughter Indira Gandhi was also a political leader, who became the country's Prime Minister later.

Jawaharlal Nehru delivered public lectures on Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda on three different occasions.

First lecture

The first lecture was delivered at the Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi, on 20 March 1949, on the occasion of Ramakrishna's 114th birthday anniversary. In that lecture Nehru told—
Whatever Swamiji wrote or said had a great significance.
He had an enlightened brain, a sharp brain.
—Jawaharlal Nehru
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
  • I do not know how many of the younger generation read the speeches and the writings of Swami Vivekananda. But I can tell you many of my generation were very powerfully influenced by him and I think it would do a great deal of good to the present generation if they also went through Swami Vivekananda's writings and speeches, and they would learn much from them. That would, perhaps, as some of us did, enable us to catch a glimpse of that fire that raged in Swami Vivekananda's mind and heart and which ultimately consumed him at an early age. Because there was fire in his heart— the fire of a great personality coming out in eloquent and ennobling language— it was no empty talk that he was indulging in. He was putting his heart and soul into the words uttered. Therefore he became a great orator, not with the orator's flashes and flourishes but with a deep conviction and earnestness of spirit. And so he influenced powerfully the minds of many in India and two or three generations of young men and women have no doubt been influenced by him. . .  . . .
  • If you read Swami Vivekananda's writings and speeches, the curious thing you will find is that they are not old. It was told fifty-six years ago, and they are fresh today because, what he wrote or spoke about dealt with certain fundamental matters and aspects of our problems or the world's problems. Therefore they do not become old. They are fresh even though you read them now.
    He gave us something which brings us, if I may use the word, a certain pride in our inheritance. He did not spare us. He talked of our weaknesses and our failings too. He did not wish to hide anything. Indeed he should not. Because we have to correct those failings also. Sometimes he strikes hard at us, but sometimes points out the great things for which India stood and which even in the days of India's downfall made her, in some measure, continue to be great.
    So what Swamiji has written and said is of interest and must interest us and is likely to influence us for a long time to come. He was no politician in the ordinary sense of the word and yet he was, I think, one of the great founders— if you like, you may use any other word— of the national modern movement of India, and a great number of people who took more or less an active part in that movement in a later date drew their inspiration from Swami Vivekananda. Directly or indirectly he has powerfully influenced the India of today. And I think that our younger generation will take advantage of this foundation of wisdom, of spirit and fire, that flows through Swami Vivekananda.
  • . . . Our nationalism must not be a narrow nationalism. Swami Vivekananda, though a great nationalist, never preached anything else. His was a kind of nationalism which automatically slipped into Indian nationalism which was part of internationalism. So, it is that broad approach that we must learn from those great men and if we learn it and act up to it to the best of our ability, then we shall honour their memory and we shall serve our country with some advantage, and possible also serve humanity.

Second lecture

Nehru delivered the lecture on 17 January 1963 at Ramlila Grounds (Ramlila Maidan), New Delhi, during Vivekananda's birth centenary celebrations. The lecture was originally delivered in Hindi. In this lecture Nehru told—
You must try to learn from the teachings of Swamiji.
Whatever he has written,
you must read and take advantage of;
that is the most important thing.
—Jawaharlal Nehru
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Often we recall the glorious deeds of Vivekananda. He was a great man. People forget that he almost belonged to this age because he died young at the age of forty. It was only sixty years back that he had passed away. Various problems, such as the question of the slavery of India and the degradation of the country, were all faced by him, and he raised his voice against them. That, perhaps, was the voice of India. . .  . . .
  • You know that he became a Sannyasin at a young age, and became a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. But, along with his spiritual pursuits, he had such a deep love for his country that whatever he said or wrote had a strange effect on us.
  • . . . We can remember him only by recalling his great voice, his words, and if you study— which of course you must do— what he said fifty or sixty years ago, you will realize how strange a man he was. He had a flame in each of his words. If you study his speeches and writings— it may be in English, the language in which he often spoke and wrote, or in Bengali— you will find them most suitable for the present time. It is not that whatever he said a few years ago has become stale or a historic thing. He had a powerful grip of things. First of all, he strongly believed that Hindustan or Bharata had a special status. It does not mean that she is higher than other countries. All the other countries have their own status. They cannot be compared with India. The thought and culture of India have their own individuality. The people of India have always been imbued with higher ideals. . .
  • I would have been very happy to meet Swami Vivekananda, had I been so fortunate. I was not a child when he passed away. But I could not see him as I studied in Europe in those days. But whatever he has spoken or written I have read.
  • Whatever Swamiji wrote or said had a great significance. He had an enlightened brain, a sharp brain. Our brains should function properly along right lines, not that we become simply ostentatious. We should harbour no ill will towards anybody. We should always think about the future of our country. Swamiji awoke the people, made them understand the truth, and asked them to follow the right path. As and when I went through his books or articles, I was very much impressed by him, in fact, everybody will be impressed. I would say that you must read them; and having read, you must analyse them in your mind.
  • When Swamiji went to America he was hardly thirty. It was very difficult for him to go there, as he had no money. But he had heard that some religious conference was going to be held in America. He had a desire to go there. He had to face difficulty in getting money. Some people collected money for him. So far as I remember the Raja of Khetri also helped him. He was friendly with Swamiji. He got a ticket for him, gave him an overcoat and helped him to go there. He did not go there on behalf of any institution. He had to face difficulty there. But, when he reached there, he saw that speeches were being made in the conference. People were listening to the speeches. All of a sudden they saw a strange person, Vivekananda, clad in Sannyasin's robes. The audience was wonder-struck, and grew anxious to know who the strange man was. He created altogether an atmosphere.
  • You must study what Swamiji wrote. If you do that you will gain immense strength. He had a capacity to tolerate things with fortitude. He raised the head of India in the eyes of the world. We gained strength.
  • Swami Vivekananda gave us strength at a time when India was demoralized. The country was split up in various parts. Where can you find a brave man like Swamiji? He had courage, I mean strength, and whomsoever he addressed to, received strength in him. What I mean to say is that on this day we should remember him, and whatever he taught us, we must try to get full advantage of it.
  • You must try to learn from the teachings of Swamiji. Whatever he has written, you must read and take advantage of; that is the most important thing. Some people, however, are in the habit of making noise or creating fuss. But you will see that they do it only out of fear. It happens only where there is fear. One who is fearless never does this sort of thing. I have come hereto pray my homage to Swamiji, but while remembering him, so many thoughts come into my mid. I am simply fascinated by his personality.

Third lecture

Nehru delivered the lecture in Hindi at Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi, on 3 March 1963. On that day he told—
  • I have been asked to deliver a presidential address. I do not know what I, or for that matter anybody, should say on such an occasion. Perhaps the best presidential address would have been to recite to you the words of Swami Vivekananda himself, because whatever he said or whatever he wrote throbbed with life. If someone translates his words— puts them to you in a different language— they lose their vitality.
  • As we all know, Swami Vivekananda was a unique personality. India has produced great men since ancient times, and Swami Vivekananda was one of them.
  • Vivekananda saw that India had degenerated into a weak nation. Indians are intelligent; they are brainy, they become doctors, they become engineers. This is all very good. But they are weak. The foremost quality that a people require is strength. If they do not have it, all their intelligence, and all their knowledge become ineffective. Therefore, the lesson he imparted was of infusing strength in the people, in every individual, in every nook and corner of India. During his short life he went all over India and preached; and what he taught made a powerful impact.
  • . . .what Swamiji told us is very important, and it is to be fearless. We should be strong as individuals and as a country. I shall say only this to you that you, particularly our young men, should have opportunity to get acquainted with the ideas of Swamiji. We cannot be so fortunate as to hear his voice, but we can at least read what he taught and what he wrote, and learn from it. You will find that even his words are packed with vigour. Whoever reads them feels their impact.
  • On this occasion I shall say that we should receive some light in our hearts from Swamiji. It will make it easier for us to find the way, because, as you know, Swamiji had a combination of both the old and the new.
  • . . .He knew the ancient Indian ideals and learning shaped by our great men, and he knew the world of today as well. That is why his words have so much power, and accordingly Indians must be powerful.
  • . . .In a short span of life he moved India, not only for a few days, but in a way that the movement still continues even after him.
  • I did not come here to tell you anything. I came here to offer my homage to Swamiji and express the hope that the people of today, of tomorrow— our countrymen, particularly our children and young men— will keep before them the example and memory of Swami Vivekananda and learn from his writings and his life.

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