Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam,
Prime Minister of Mauritius
( Excerpt from a speech by the
Prime Minister of Mauritius delivered on the occasion of the centenary celebrations held
on June 15, 1997 at the Ramakrishna Mission, Vacoas, Mauritius )
hundred years is a long time in the life of an organization, especially a socio-religious
organization. Centered round the teaching of Sri Ramakrishna, the saintly- man, this
Movement is as unique as Sri Ramakrishna himself. As remarked by Mahatma Gandhi, his life
enables us to see God face to face.
Whenever humankind has suffered great miseries
and sorrows, abject poverty, innumerable problems and difficulties, God has always sent
his messenger to prevent man from falling into the abyss of total despair. One such Master
was Sri Ramakrishna who lived up to this philosophy of service to Man. The advent of Sri
Ramakrishna was for the regeneration of the whole of humankind.
Sri Ramakrishna arduously practiced the various
paths of Hinduism Islam and Christianity. After realizing the highest Truth through all of
them, he declared in unequivocal terms that all religions lead ultimately to the same
goal. Let us pause and think about it. Is it not amazing that this simple truth
that all religions lead to the same goal is not obvious to everyone? We are all
Gods children, so why should this obvious truth be so difficult to understand? This
is the essential teaching of Sri Ramakrishna. From his spiritual realizations, he came to
the conclusion that man, as the embodiment of divinity, was himself an object of service.
A young man, Narendra Nath Dutta, fell in the
thrall of his appeal. He became his disciple, changed his name, and was later known as
Swami Vivekananda. He was ordained to take up the spiritual heritage of the Master and to
disseminate his thoughts.
Swami Vivekanandas appearance in the
Parliament of Religions in Chicago, in September 1893, brought him into the limelight and
he was recognized as an orator by divine right. No sooner had he uttered the words:
Sisters and Brothers of America, than a wave of enthusiasm caught the
Parliament. The speech that followed is well-known to us. It was Swami Vivekananda who
presented Hinduism in its right perspective to the westerners. He spoke of Hinduism as the
mother of religions, a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal
acceptance. His message of unity in a variety of religions is as relevant today as it was
a hundred years ago.
When Swami Vivekananda
established the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897, he remembered the words of his Master,
Man is the greatest manifestation of God. If you seek God, then seek him in
Man. He therefore formulated the ideal of the Order in one sentence: For
ones own liberation and for the good of the world.
Swami Vivekananda stirred the imagination of so
many young intellectuals by preaching the common thoughts present in Hinduism and western
religions. Though the pathways are different, the goal is same. He passed on the message
that Indian spirituality had a secret that could distinguish and blend the materialistic
view with a heightened view of Hindu self-realization through the teachings of
Ramakrishna. He showed the way India could learn from the technology of the West while
allowing the West to drink from the fountain of Indian spirituality. It was a message that
lifted the spirit of a demoralized India in its struggle for independence and in gaining
its self-confidence in its perennial philosophy. We all know how Vivekananda stirred the
minds of young demoralized Indian youth by his famous exhortation: Arise, Awake, and
stop not till the goal is reached.
Service to man, seeing God in Him, is the
Swamis greatest gift to the modern world of strife, competition and war.
We are today at a critical period, with a
distortion of values, loss of standards and a feeling of frustration. Swami
Vivekanandas call can bring a great change in us. He brings a message of hope and of
faith. He said, Faith is power. His teachings bring fortitude in suffering,
hope in distress and courage in despair. We must not be led away by appearances. Deep
down, deep, deep down, there is a providential will, there is a purpose in this world.
An important aspect of the life
of Swami Vivekananda is his inspiration for nationalism. Though the Swami never gave any
political message, every one who came in contact with him developed a spirit of
patriotism. He brought about an awakening among his countrymen. He gave them self-respect,
self-confidence and self-assertion. In him everything was positive. When he went to the
West, he spoke like an inspired Rishi, in a simple but powerful language. He presented the
universal gospel, the Vedanta, in a new form, which was easily appreciated and assimilated
by the modern western mind. He sowed the seed for the harmonious union between the East
and the West the spiritual message of the East blended with the material
savoir-faire of the West. Just like his Guru, Swami Vivekananda came not for
one community but for humanity at large. His message has a universal appeal.
Today, the Ramakrishna Mission has centers spread
all over the world and is serving people irrespective of caste, creed, color or position.
The Mission has earned recognition for the commendable work it is conducting everywhere in
spiritual, cultural, educational and philanthropic fields. It stands out from other
religious organizations for the philanthropic and humanitarian activities it undertakes.
That is why it is growing from strength to strength. I wish the Ramakrishna Mission every
success in its noble task."