The Struggle of Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda was the spiritual heir of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa. Given below are some quotes from Swami Vivekananda’s biography & conversations with his disciples:

After Sri Ramakrishna’s passing away, all forsook us as so many worthless, ragged boys… Then came a terrible time – for me personally and for all the other boys as well.

On the one side was my mother, my brothers [blood relations]. My father died at that time, [sometime before Sri Ramakrishna’s demise] and we were left poor. Oh, very poor, almost starving all the time! I was the only hope of the family, the only one who could do anything to help them. I [Swami Vivekananda] had to stand between my two worlds. On the one hand, I would have to see my mother and brothers starve unto death; on the other, I had believed that [Sri Ramakrishna’s ] ideas were for the good of India and the world, and had to be preached and worked out. And so the fight went on in my mind for days and months…. I was living in hell!

I could not bear to see those who were the nearest and dearest to me, suffering…. Who would sympathize with the imaginations of a boy – imaginations that caused so much suffering to others? Who would sympathize with me? None- except one [Sri Sarada Devi]. That one’s sympathy brought blessing and hope. Well, that lady, [Sri Ramakrishna’s wife] was the only one who sympathized with the idea of those boys. But she was powerless. She was poorer than we were.

I believed, as I was living, that those ideas were going to rationalize India and bring bring better days to many lands and foreign races. With that belief, came the realization that it is better that a few persons suffer than that such ideas should die out of the world. What if a mother or, two brothers die? It is one kind of sacrifice. Let it be done. No great thing can be done without sacrifice. The heart must be plucked out and the bleeding heart placed upon the alter. Then great things are done. I appeal to each one of you, to those who have accomplished any great thing. Oh, how much it has cost. What agony! What torture! What terrible suffering is behind every deed of success in every life.

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda

And thus we went on, that band of boys. The only thing we got from those around us was a kick and a curse- that was all. Of course, we had to beg from door to door for our food: a piece of bread here and there. We got hold [rented] of a broken-down old house [a ruin, left alone for a haunted house], with hissing cobras living underneath; and because that was the cheapest, we went into that house and lived there.

Thus we went on for some years, in the meanwhile making excursions all over India, trying about the idea gradually. Ten years were spent without a ray of light [any hope]. A 1000 times despondency came; but there was one thing always to keep us hopeful – tremendous faithfulness to each other, the tremendous love between us…. That is a great blessing. In happiness, in misery, in famine, in pain, in the grave, in heaven or, in hell, who never gives me up is my friend. Is such friendship a joke? A man may have salvation through such friendship…. If we have that faithfulness, why, there is the essence of all concentration….And that was there with us all throughout that hard time. That made us go from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin[Kanyakumari], from the Indus to the Brahmaputra.

Swami Vivekananda swam to that rocky island and meditated, before going to the West. Later a temple was erected in his memory.

Swami Vivekananda swam to that rocky island and meditated, before going to the West. Later a temple was erected in his memory.

This band of boys began to travel about. Gradually we began to draw attention: 90% was antagonism, very little of it was helpful. For we had one fault: we were boys- in poverty and with all the roughness of boys. He who has to make his own way in life is a bit rough, he has not much time to be smooth and suave and polite- “my lady & my gentleman,” and all that. [a fashionable attire to be socially acceptable; and verbal smoothness and deliberately polished behavior] He is a rough diamond, he has not much polish, he is a jewel in an indifferent casket. “No compromise!” was the watchword. “That is the ideal, and this has got to be carried out. If we meet the king, though we die, we must give him a bit of our minds; if the peasant, the same.” Naturally, we met with antagonism.

But, mind you, this is life’s experience; If you really want the good of others, [bring a lofty ideal into life, by living it] the whole universe may stand against you and cannot hurt you. It must crumble before your power of the Lord Himself in you, if you are sincere and really unselfish. And those boys were that. They were as children, pure and fresh from the hands of nature. Said our Master [Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa]: “I want to offer at the alter of the Lord, only those flowers that have not even been smelled, fruits that have not been touched with the fingers.”… People used to laugh at him [Guru Sri Ramakrishna] when he said, “You will see – this boy, that boy, what he becomes.” His faith was unalterable: “Mother showed it to me. I may be weak, but when She says this is so – She can never make mistakes – it must be so.” [Sri Ramakrishna could see and talk to Ma Kali, the mother of all worlds.]

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, the perfect bhakta, Jnani, yogi and devotee of Ma Kali

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, the perfect bhakta, Jnani, yogi and devotee of Ma Kali

[Amitabha Chatterjee: Swami-Vivekananda was an adept in meditation and a perfect karma-yogi, he was an incarnation of Nara Rishi, an emanation of Narayana, much revered in the Puranas. This fact was witnessed by Sri Ramakrishna, in his samadhi. What Swami-ji accomplished in a single short life span of 39 years, cannot be attained by a thousand men put together. The words inside brackets are mine, put there to clarify the subject. The name of the book from which the above is cited is: Swami Vivekananda, on himself, ISBN 81-7505280-5. ]


Who destroyed Nalanda University?

Destruction of Nalanda (from my earlier post in Tribe.net):
There is wild speculation about the actual culprits responsible for burning down the magnificent Nalanda Mahavihara, one of the largest seats of Buddhist learning in ancient India. The usual rumour that is circulated maliciously is, “Five Brahmin youths burnt it down!” That sounds so ridiculous, when one has seen the amazing spread of Nalanda, the vast area it covered!! Nalanda is nearly 100 Kms away Patna, in modern Bihar, India. In ancient times it used to be referred to as, Nalanda, center of Buddhist learning, spread over an area of 50 Acres, near Rajagriha, in the kingdom of Magadha. At the peak of it’s existence, Nalanda University was the biggest Buddhist stronghold in the whole of India. The sheer number of occupants in Nalanda used to be 20,000, taking into account students, tutors, Bhikshu-s, Nuns, etc. It was world famous for it’s collection of scrolls, learned Buddhist philosophers, Vajrayana adepts & masters and for the magnificent architecture. Pupils thirsty of knowledge used to pour in from other countries like Tibet, China, Central Asia, Persia, Kabul (Afghanistan. Remember the gigantic Bamiyan Buddha statues?). So, whoever started the belief of those so-called Killer-Brahmins, is quite ignorant and has never consulted ancient history.

Nalanda University ruins

Nalanda University ruins

Here are the actual facts, with names and figures and proofs backing them up.
The Nalanda University was plundered, sacked and utterly destroyed by the Moslem invader Bakhtiyar Khilji, (Turkish) in 1193 AD. This devastating event contributed considerably to the decline of Buddhism in India, since Nalanda and similar universities, libraries and monasteries were like Buddhist fortresses in India. They were the pillars, supporting Buddhism, both philosophically and otherwise.

terracotta seal of Nalanda with the emblem

terracotta seal of Nalanda with the emblem

Bakhtiyar Khilji was not only cruel but also an Islamic Fanatic. He entered Nalanda to plunder it’s riches, but found only books and statues of Deities. Just Imagine his frustration! He then asked if they had even a single copy of the Islamic holy book Koran in the library. His soldiers found none!

Allow me to put down a little bit of Linguistics here.
The Muslim Turks upon entering the mainland of India, attacked the Viharas and Sanghas, the Buddhist monasteries, suspecting that they could be plundered for riches and gold. But they were filled with books and numerous idols of Vajrayana Gods and goddesses and of course, images of Buddha. The Indo-Islamic words Buth, Buth-parasti, etc, were coined during these conquests. “Buth” meaning statue, or, idol, came from the word, “Buddh” or, Buddha. “Buth-Parasti” means “worship of Idols“. The Islamic invaders wanted to utterly destroy these idol worshipers. In that Vajrayana period, the doctrines of Shunyata, Void and pure thoughts had vanished and were replaced by the worship of various deities… like Tara, Vajradhara, Mahakala…etc. You can find many brass, copper, bronze and stone statues of those deities in the Nalanda museum today. They have been excavated from the ruins.

The senseless genocide that followed has been recorded in detail in the historical book “Tabaquat-i-Nasiri” from the account of eye-witnesses and soldiers who took part in the killings. The Persian poet/ author /historian Minhaj-i-Siraj in his chronicle the “Tabaquat-i-Nasiri” described the rise of Muslim rule in Bengal up-to 1259, including the exploits of Bakhtiyar Khilji. We can also refer to the coins found from this period and validate the truth.

Tabaquat-i-Nasiri goes on like this: Khalji’s soldiers were ordered to pull down the structures, kill the inmates and burn all the worthless books. Several thousands of monks were thrown into the fire, while they were still alive. Some were beheaded. Khilji wanted to punish those idol-worshipers and devastate their culture, wipe it off the face of the earth, if possible. The millions of rare and invaluable books, scrolls and manuscripts burnt for months!!! Even after they turned to ashes, the sky above the surrounding villages was covered by a dark smoke that hung for weeks.

Shakya-Shribhadra, the Grand Abbot of Nalanda somehow escaped this killing. He received invitations from the Tibetan translator “Tropu Lotsaba Byams-Padpal” and this safe refuge was a heaven sent offer in those troubled times. So, he went to Tibet in 1204 AD and started another Mulasarvastivadin monastery there.

Another famous Tibetan translator “Chag Lotsawa” (1197–1264 AD) returned to India and visited in 1235 AD, the site where once Nalanda stood proudly. To his dismay, he found the place in ruins. Chag however discovered “Rahula Shribhadra“, the last remaining hermit, then 90 years old, still teaching a class of 70 students! This old master was kept alive by his Brahmin student named Jayadeva. (In India, numerous religions have been born and they flourished for thousands of years because of the natural spiritual tolerance of the people here. The only resistance Brahmins ever offered was by way of peaceful debates!) Jayadeva, however, was imprisoned in Odantapura, for supporting idolatry, where he heard of yet another invasion to take place. He notified his master Rahula and requested him to leave before any such a mishap. Rahula was left with only one student, a Tibetan, who carried his master on his shoulders, along with a few books, some rice and sugar. They took refuge in a temple. In-fact, during the stay of Chag Lotsawa, the remaining few Nalanda students were again attacked by 300 Muslim Turks. When Old Rahula and his student returned, nothing recognizable was left of Nalanda. ~(from the chronicles of Chag Lotsaba)

This article was originally composed by Amitabha Chatterjee (me) for Tribe.net here and edited on Oct 19th, 2014, before posting in WordPress.

Tantra is Practical Yoga – part 1

Tantra is the practical side of Yoga Theory. Yoga, as found in scriptures like Patanjali’s Astanga Yoga Sutras, Shiva Samhita, Goraksha Samhita, Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati of Gorakhnath, Gheranda Samhita, Hathayoga Pradipika of Svatmaram, etc give us the ideas of what can be achieved by the performing Yoga, what is the philosophy of Yoga. Just like in Veda, there are 2 sides like the Samhita for mantras, fire-rituals and Upanishads for theoretical meanings. But the actual practical side of yoga is found among the Tantrik Yogis. The Lotuses, or, Chakras in the central channel (Sushumna), the various other channels (nadi-s), Kundalini energy, Kula and Akula points, Kama-Kala, these things have been extensively discussed in the Tantras. But this knowledge is lying scattered among many Tantra and Yoga scriptures. The Tantra-practitioners for ages were the prominent heads of Shiva (Shaiva, Nath, Siddha, Pashupata) schools (who were either householders or, recluse yogi monks), or, Shakti (Kalikula, Yamala, Kaula, Kapalika, Sri-kula) clans (who were mostly householder yogis). They held the secrets of the innermost esoteric yogic practices, which were only handed down from the Guru (master / adept yogi) to the chosen disciples. Often the Guru-s gave this secret only to their sons/daughters, to keep the family in a position of esteem and power. The students who received these verbal instructions were venerated and begged from for revelations by multitudes of Tantriks.

Gradually, due to slackness and ignorance, deformed practices began to creep in among the lineages. Tantra is supposed to be the art and science of living in direct communion with God. But as the path of tantra began to lead away from the highest ideal of spirituality, the sincere Yogi Masters felt the need to put down their knowledge into codified text, or, Tantrik scriptures, for fear of the original knowledge getting lost with time. The main form of Tantra is almost always, the Supreme Yogi Shiva answering the questions of the Mother Goddess Parvati. Devi Parvati asks the various intricate hidden secrets of Tantric lore, from many angles, the yoga behind it, the secret syllables, or, Bija Mantras, Nyasa-s for sanctifying the human body, Kavachas (armors) to bind and protect it from malefic forces. In this way numerous Tantras came into being, containing in them the esoteric lore of the masters, in the traditional form of Shiva-Parvati dialog.

Shiva Parvati Tantra origin

Shiva Parvati Tantra origin

The main purpose of Tantra is to weave spirituality with chores and activities of daily life. Tantra doesn’t command the yogi to throw away his needs and yearnings of mundane life and go to the forest alone as a recluse. On the contrary, Tantra understands the daily human needs and sympathizes with people with lesser control over their senses. Everyone has a right to ascend the spiritual ladder, but not everyone is destined to lead a monk’s life. Tantra is more inclusive than exclusive. It envelopes a very wide range of human traits and mental structures. Hence Tantra allows one to lead a normal life and slowly include the subtleties of yogic discipline into their lives, in stages.

It should also be noted that Tantrik Masters codified the secrets with multiple layers of meaning. It means a different thing for the Yogi of a higher level, and something else for a Beginner Yogi and something crude or, unintelligible for the layman. This was done intentionally to ward off onlookers and keep the delicate things hidden. The other purpose of writing Tantra in a cryptic language was to avoid persecution and abuse of the system by unbelievers. If you don’t understand something, you cannot pin-point a technique or, call it a profanation. Tantrik yogis were severely criticized in the past centuries and sometimes punished due to their creepy behavior, or, abhorrent practices. There are several scriptural verses supporting this secretive trend. There are other verses banning, prohibiting or, cursing some Tantrik texts that were considered “not so good”.


In modern times, all kinds of ritual worship of most gods/ deities in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism are performed by following the edicts of Tantrik discipline. Some Purana-s (Myths, Legends and ancient Hindu history) admit the efficacy and validity of Tantra. It is surprising to note that the earliest masters of Yoga were also the earliest originators of Tantra. (Like Shiva, Nandinath, Parashurama, Dattatreya, Matsyendranath/ Machchendra-Nath, Goraksha/ Gorakhnath, Rishi Durvasa, Rishi Vishwamitra, Rishi Agastya, Rishi-Vyasa, Adi-Shankaracharya, etc.) As the Shiva-Shakti structure of Tantra took hold of the Hindu world of spiritual practices, and as Tantra began to yield astounding results in a very little time, it began to be copied among other clans. In this way, five principal of deities of Hindu faith had their own Tantra scriptures. Thus we have Tantras for Shiva, Shakti, Sun, Ganesha and Vishnu. Tantras created around more than 2000 years ago are lost now. The oldest among the Hindu Tantras are Bhairava and Yogini Tantras. Many of the original Hindu Tantras have been copied verse by verse into Vajrayana Buddhist pantheon. Before that, during the later Vedic stages, the Tantras were called Prayoga Shastra-s, meaning Practical Scriptures.

To be continued.(30/09/2014)