Monday, March 27, 2006
Shri Guruji: A saint who renounced his sainthood
India, Maharishi Aurobindo said, is not just a geographic piece. It is Parashakti concealed in physical landscape. It would require more than a mere reason and intellect to understand the consciousness that is India. A seeker who endeavours to explore the consciousness of India has to transcend the limits of reason. He has to travel into mystic and metaphysical domains to capture her deeper and mysterious inner personality. This is the substance of Maharishi Aurobindo’s understanding of India. The course of her history too cannot be grasped without such understanding of this mystic dimension of her personality. Her survival—when all her sister civilisations had been reduced to archival materials by armies driven by religious fanaticism that marched across the face of the earth—and her re-emergence are not explainable except by the mystic element in the Indian civilisation, which seems to guarantee a kind of durability and continuity to the Indian civilisation, something that destiny seems to have denied to others. Even the way the freedom movement of India evolved too cannot be captured purely in rational terms. It needs penetrative contemplation to see the drive of mystic India behind physical and manifested India in powering the freedom movement. The Indian people, let down by its divided traditional military and intellectual leadership and fatigued for nearly a century, suddenly woke up and worked themselves to kinetic effect and rose up to win freedom in the 20th century. That is, the masses of India, substituting for their traditional leaders, rose up and agitated to free India. How did this happen? Was it just an accident of history or the reassertion of the Soul of India? The rise of the Indian people to assert their nationalism was not an accident of history. There were mystic powers working to drive India’s freedom. There was, of course, a direct and perceivable link between Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and Swami Vivekananda, who rearticulated the idea of this ancient nation in the modern world. But, there was a mystic and unseen link between the spiritual penance and mission of Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda in the 19th century and the intense wave of nationalism that swept across India in the 20th century. It is this subtle link—not fully comprehended by Indian intellectuals—that triggered massive and exponential growth of nationalist activities that eventually led to freedom. A rational or superficial study of Sri Ramakrishna, without factoring this mystic phenomenon, would hardly link him to the nationalist movement to free India while a deeper contemplation would make it difficult to de-link his disciple and rebellious Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda, from the nationalist spirit that constituted the soul of the freedom movement. While the spiritual penance of Sri Ramakrishna constituted the secret reservoir of energy for the nationalist drive of Swami Vivekananda, the explosive ideas of Swami Vivekananda became the inspiration for hundreds and thousands of nationalist initiatives all over India. It is undeniable that the ideology of the RSS is clearly and explicitly traceable to the gigantic nationalist ideas and thoughts that emanated from Swami Vivekananda. But apart from this ideological inspiration that there was a live and direct spiritual link between the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda spiritual nationalist penance and the evolution of the RSS, it is least noticed in Indian intellectual discourse. Perceived from this domain of mystic India, one of the silent, but most powerful, initiatives in the cause of this ancient nation, that was subtly but not explicitly linked to Ramakrishna-Vivekananda spiritual-nationalist tradition was the emergence of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS]. It is undeniable that the ideology of the RSS is clearly and explicitly traceable to the gigantic nationalist ideas and thoughts that emanated from Swami Vivekananda. But apart from this ideological inspiration that there was a live and direct spiritual link between the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda spiritual nationalist penance and the evolution of the RSS, it is least noticed in Indian intellectual discourse. The bridge that constituted this direct spiritual link between Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda tradition and the RSS, was Shri Guruji Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghachalak of the RSS who shaped the intellectual and spiritual foundations of the RSS. But this subtle, least known, link between the kinetic RSS and spiritually potent Sri Ramakrishna Order is not within comprehension of rational India, which does not recognise mystic aspects of existence. The spiritual vision to rebuild the ancient nation in India, which had slipped into centuries of drift, re-emerged in the advent of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa. Sri Ramakrishna was among the greatest of the saints of India who lived and demonstrated that all faiths are ultimately harmonisable. But the condition for harmony is mutual and true respect among the different faiths. The mutual respect of different and even differing faiths towards one another is the essence of Sanatana Dharma, the timeless Indian wisdom for all times and its unique contribution for the entire humankind. The absence of true, mutual respect of faiths leads to civilisational, cultural and religious clashes. But the mutual respect has to be rooted in the faiths themselves, not to be left to the option of the faithful. This is the essence of Sanatana Dharma. As Swami Vivekananda said Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa took avatara to save Sanatana Dharma which, decades later, Maharishi Aurobindo defined as the nationalism of the Indian nation. Sri Ramakrishna was the answer to the urge of the times in the 19th century that called for consolidating the scattered spiritual forces of India. Sri Ramakrishna, the potential energy, turned kinetic in form through Swami Vivekananda to prepare the ancient nation to battle for freedom to pursue its mission. Sri Ramakrishna spoke of Sanatana Dharma, but not of the Indian nation. But, Swami Vivekananda, who constituted the expression of the soul of Sri Ramakrishna emphasised and mandated the worship of the nation, the Hindu nation, as the only God for the next 50 years, for Sanatana Dharma to re-emerge. Maharishi Aurobindo’s conception that Sanatana Dharma and India are one and the same and they cannot be severed and one cannot survive without the other explains that when Sri Ramakrishna spoke of Sanatana Dharma he actually spoke of India and when Vivekananda spoke of India he actually spoke of Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana Dharma constituted the potential of which India was the kinetic effect; if Sanatana Dharma was the contemplative thought, India was its action-platform. So if Sri Ramakrishna’s work constituted the contemplation, Swami Vivekananda’s work was the resultant action based on the contemplation. When Swami Vivekananda gave Indians the mission to rebuild India and to position India as the spiritual guide to the world—the Jagat Guru—he was saying what Sri Ramakrishna had left unsaid for his chosen disciple to say. But Sri Ramakrishna did give a clue to what he had contemplated and spiritually directed his disciple Swami Vivekananda to expound. He told his disciples: “While other religions which are also true will come and go it is Sanatana Dharma which will ultimately prevail” [Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, 20-10-1884]. So taking cue from his Master, Swami Vivekananda prescribed this mission to rebuild India to save the world from intolerance and violence promoted by exclusive faiths, by reinstating, reliving and protecting Sanatana Dharma, which was central to Sri Ramakrishna’s experience. Swamiji also made this mission of India clear in his spectacular address to the World Parliament of Religions. Sri Ramakrishna did give a clue to what he had contemplated and spiritually directed his disciple Swami Vivekananda to expound. He told his disciples: “While other religions which are also true will come and go, it is Sanatana Dharma which will ultimately prevail” [Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, 20-10-1884]. So taking cue from his Master, Swami Vivekananda prescribed this mission to rebuild India to save the world from intolerance and violence promoted by exclusive faiths, by reinstating, reliving and protecting Sanatana Dharma, which was central to Sri Ramakrishna’s experience. But this expansive mission that Swami Vivekananda called upon this nation to undertake was not to be exclusive task of the Ramakrishna Order. But it would appear from his address at Madras how Swami Vivekananda wanted the Hindu society to be organised, namely through man-making training for youth. The instrument that was chosen by destiny to concretise the mission of Swami Vivekananda on the field and to spiritualise and consolidate the patriotic forces of India was the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The mystic and spiritual link between this clarion call of Swami Vivekananda and the RSS was Shri Guruji as Shri Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar was first known to his students in Benaras Hindu University. Before destiny willed him to carry on, on the ground, the mission unveiled by Swami Vivekananda in his lecture titled My Plan of Campaign at Madras through the RSS, he had been initiated into the spiritual stream of Ramakrishna Mission by Swami Akhandananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. Given his deep spiritual leaning, had Shri Guruji been born in early part of the 19th century, he would perhaps have become a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and also perhaps a monk in the Ramakrishna Order. Had he been born in the later part of the 19th century he would have become a companion-disciple of Swami Vivekananda. But, he was born in the 20th century when the need of the times had changed from consolidation of spiritual forces to the kinetic task of rebuilding the ancient nation—the Hindu India. This called for more intense physical activity on the ground than a monastic order could engage in. So the potential energy of Sri Ramakrishna transformed into kinetic energy in Swami Vivekananda who began urging particularly the youth of India to undertake work of nation-building. The mandate of Swami Vivekananda became the agenda for the forces fighting for India's freedom. The freedom movement that took shape in diverse ways—from revolutionary dimensions of Maharishi Aurobindo to the extremist politics of Balgangadhar Tilak to the moderate campaign of Mahatma Gandhi—was undeniably influenced by Swami Vivekananda’s idea of worship of Bharatmata, the Motherland. Whether it was Gandhi or Tilak, Nehru or Rajaji, all were one in acknowledging that Swami Vivekananda had laid the moral and intellectual basis for Indian freedom movement. Thus the movement for Indian freedom was only apparently political but its real foundation was rooted in the spiritual dimensions implicit in Sanatana Dharma. While those who fought for freedom only thought how to win freedom, one of the freedom fighters, Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, was deeply disturbed by another issue and that was how India lost its freedom. He diagnosed that lack of unity, even strategic unity, among the Hindus was the reason why we lost freedom. He wanted to address this lacuna in the national character of Hindus which made conquest of India by foreign and colonial forces possible. He intensely contemplated for a remedy for this structural weakness of the Hindu society. The result was that Dr Hedgewar founded the RSS to repair and remove this distortion in the national psyche. He set as mission of the RSS man-making and nation-building, which Swami Vivekananda had mandated for India and its global mission. Shri Guruji came in contact with Dr Hedgewar a little more than a decade after Dr Hedgewar had founded the RSS. Thus Shri Guruji met Dr Hedgewar not as an impressionable child or as a boy, but as a grown-up man and as the initiated disciple of the Ramakrishna Order. Shri Guruji soon began experiencing Dr Hedgewar as a spiritualist in intense action, a karma yogi. So he decided to dedicate himself to the mission that Dr Hedgewar wanted to hand over to Shri Guruji, namely, the mission of RSS. Just as a young and rebellious Narendra, who came in contact with Sri Ramakrishna, spiritually transmigrated into Vivekananda, a saint, the touch of Dr Hedgewar transformed Shri Guruji, the other way, from a saint-in-the-making into a servant and worshipper of Mother India. Dr Hedgewar diagnosed that lack of unity, even strategic unity, among the Hindus was the reason why we lost freedom. He intensely contemplated for a remedy of this structural weakness of the Hindu society. The result was that Dr Hedgewar founded the RSS to repair and remove this distortion in the national psyche. He set as mission of the RSS man-making and nation-building, which Swami Vivekananda had mandated for India and its global mission. Thus Shri Guruji subsumed his high personal spiritual stature and abandoned his penance for personal spiritual advancement, which would have led him to sainthood, to undertake the more and perhaps the most arduous dimension of Swami Vivekananda’s agenda, namely man-making and nation-building through the RSS. This decision of Shri Guruji might have in effect denied him of his rightful place among the great saints of India. Renunciates give up normal life, name and fame, but they are eternally elevated to rank among the revered saints. But Shri Guruji consciously and gladly renounced sainthood and turned a social scavenger to rid the Hindu society of the evils that it had accumulated over centuries. So apart from renouncing fame, which would have accrued to him as saint, he willingly accepted, as gift for the nation-building he committed himself to, the dirt with which his uninitiated detractors smeared him. He knew that a nation that was undermined by invasions and colonialism and a nation that had a message for harmony of faiths and cultures of the world cannot rise to give that message to the world without experiencing excruciating pain for its transformation and undergoing great sacrifices. He unreservedly accepted Dr Hedgewar’s dignosis that a nation is only as great as its ordinary people are and not as great as its great men are. So he accepted with determination the onerous challenge of man-making and character-building work among ordinary Hindus for re-establishing Sanatana Dharma by unifying Hindus with a non-conflicting and assimilating agenda. He was firm in his convictions that all who were born in India are Hindus by culture, irrespective of whatever faith and worship practices they followed as suited to their spiritual needs. He saw no conflict between worship practices of different faiths and cultural nationalism of this ancient nation. This, he believed, is the real assimilation and integration. This is precisely the assimilative concept in which the Western countries commend to themselves and practice today for assimilating and integrating the minorities into the mainstream culture and identity of the respective nation. But it was precisely for this noble assimilative thought and concept of cultural nationalism based on it—which Shri Guruji articulated perhaps ahead of times—that the Indian establishment led by powerful men like Pandit Nehru undermined, even delegitimised, Shri Guruji and his work. But Shri Guruji stood by his conviction, which was good for all times and not by convenience of times. In this sense, he substantially moved away, from contemporaneity to see and work on the future of not just his motherland but also the whole world. Now, the whole world, whether it is the West or the Rest, seems to be inclined to accept his view that minorities should be assimilated into the mainstream of a nation for unity and integrity of nations. The mystic and spiritual link between this clarion call of Swami Vivekananda and the RSS was Shri Guruji as Shri Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar was first known to his students in Benaras Hindu University. Before destiny willed him to carry on, on the ground, the mission unveiled by Swami Vivekananda in his lecture titled My Plan of Campaign at Madras through the RSS, he had been initiated into the spiritual stream of Ramakrishna Mission by Swami Akhandananda. Shri Guruji was thus both a spiritualist and a nationalist visionary who considered atomised spiritualism only an individual’s selfish advancement when Sanatana Dharma was under pressure unless it was practised for promoting and preserving Sanatana Dharma for the collective good of the society. Shri Guruji thus renounced personal spiritual pursuits and sainthood, which would have made him reverent and famous. Thus, abandoning his spiritual pursuits he turned into an ordinary servant of Mother India. He, a saint, dwarfed himself into a mason for nation-building through mighty effort of RSS. Now it is the rising India and its global influence, which is the result of the organisation’s work, which will stand high, not even the name of the organisation, nor the names of millions who were inspired by Shri Guruji, the architect and mason of the temple of Mother India, himself. All of them, including Shri Guruji, will remain anonymous unless future history, fairly written, chooses to record their great work. If history did its job fairly, it would do credit to it as a truthful discipline, but that would not make any difference to Shri Guruji who commanded his colleagues not to make any memorial for him. This is real renunciation, real sainthood. When great leaders like Rajaji and Jayaprakash Narayan paid tributes to Shri Guruji they particularly referred to him and revered him as a saint. Yes, Shri Guruji was a saint but he was not just a saint in the sense of one who pursued moksha for himself. But, he was a saint who renounced his sainthood also in the mission of re-establishing Sanatana Dharma, which Maharishi Aurobindo defined as the soul and the very idea of Indian nationalism. The motto of his life was: Rashtraya swaha; Idam namaha. (The writer can be contacted at email@example.com) Shri Guruji saw no conflict between worship practices of different faiths and cultural nationalism of this ancient nation. This, he believed, is the real assimilation and integration.