The Bold Voice of J&K

In memory of Ahbedananda

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 Anirban Ganguly 

This year as we commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Abhedananda, we must meditate on the spiritual nationalist’s epochal contribution to India’s selfhood. Such a rekindling of interest is imperative for the success of our national quest for an integral self-reliance.
This year and 2017 mark crucial centennial and sesquicentennial landmarks in the evolution of the Bharatiya self and self-consciousness. In fact since 2013 we have entered such a phase which gives occasion to commemorate those lives which made decisive interventions in the definition and renewed expression of the Bharatiya psyche, its world view and its essentiality.
The year 2013 marked the 150th year of Swami Vivekananda’s eternal birth. Then, 2014, apart from the political sea-change that it announced, was also the centenary of the Mother’s (Mirra Alfassa) first visit to India and her first meeting with Sri Aurobindo in Puducherry (then Pondicherry). It was a meeting that inaugurated a new era in India’s unending spiritual evolution.
The year 2014 was also the centenary of that seminal treatise, Radha Kumud Mookerjee’s The Fundamental Unity of India, which asserted, for the first time, in modern idioms and in response to colonial rejection of Indian unity, the thesis of India’s cultural unity and articulated cultural nationalism.
This year marks the birth centenary year of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, a visionary nationalist who, through his politics and political philosophy, gave a mighty push that gradually re-oriented the course of post-independence India’s political march. While 2017 herald’s the 150th year of Sister Nivedita’s birth, that idealist who wished to serve India till her last breath, this year herald’s the 150th birth anniversary of another epochal mind – a spiritual nationalist who was a monk and a revolutionary at the same time.
Kali Prasad Chandra (Swami Abhedananda) was born on October 2,1866, in Calcutta and at the age of 18, a certain restlessness brought him to Sri Ramakrishna. Abhedananda’s life was marked out by a spirit of directness, of independence, of an unwavering goal of achieving spiritual mastery, a towering intellectual capacity and an intrinsic and inseparable identity with the spirit and soul of India.
His early years with the master saw Abhedananda rapidly ascend the ladder of yogic realisation, the master once told him, “I consider you to be one of the most intelligent of the boys.” The early days at Baranagore, after the master’s samadhi saw Abhedananda engrossed, like Naren, in “study and meditation.” “Kali”, observed Vivekananda “was the most studious of us all. He even surpassed me in this respect.”
Indeed Abhedananda’s life was a multi-dimensional one. While his chief identity and driving force was that of a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, Abhedananda was also an interpreter of Indian traditions and knowledge, a defender of India’s civilisational achievements and high-water marks – he combined in himself the philosopher and the historian – an articulate and consistent advocate of its freedom and a dreamer of its self-reliant future – each of these blended and enmeshed seamlessly with the other.
This passion for India, this obsession for its greatness, this pre-occupation with its state of bondage, Abhedananda, like his “guru-bhai”, Vivekananda, absorbed from the soil and the air of India. Before he came onto the world scene, Abhedananda too “travelled throughout the length and breadth of Hindusthan, from the Himalayas down to Rameshwaram and from Jagannath to Dwarka, barefooted, without touching money, without thinking of the morrow and with one blanket as his bed and garment.”
It was this phase of internalising India that saw him later, in 1905, in the peak of the Swadeshi movement in India; deliver his “Brooklyn lectures” at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, in New York on India and her people. As one of his outstanding biographers, Moni Bagchi noted, “The patriot emerged out of the preacher and since, 1905, he fought almost single-handed with unabated zeal and undaunted heart for the cause of India in the face of vehement opposition, bitter criticism, racial prejudice and the sectarian jealousy then prevalent in America.”
(The writer is director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi)

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