The Chanting Fearless Philosopher
About the same period as Swami Dayananda, a different type of person lived in Bengal and his life influenced many. He was Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a simple man, no scholar but a man of faith. He was in a direct line with Chaitanya and other Indian saints. Essentially religious and yet broad-minded, in his search for Self-realisation he went to Muslim and Christian mystics and lived with them for years, following their strict routines. He settled down at Dakshineshwar near Kolkata, and his extraordinary personality and character gradually attracted attention.
Stressing the essentials of religious faith, he linked up the various aspects of the Hindu religion and philosophy and seemed to represent all of them in his own person. Indeed, he brought within his fold other religions as well. Opposed to all sectarianism, he emphasised that all rods lead to truth.
Ramakrishna's disciple Vivekananda, together with his brother disciples, founded the non-sectarian Ramakrishna Mission of service. Rooted in the past and full of pride in India's heritage, Vivekananda was yet modern in his approach to life's problems and was a kind of bridge between the past of India and her present. He was a powerful orator and graceful writer. He was a fine figure of a man, imposing, full of poise and dignity, sure of himself and his mission, and at the same time full of a dynamic and fiery energy and a passion to push India forward.
He expounded on the monism of the Advaita philosophy of Vedanta, something that was not only spiritual but rational and in harmony with scientific investigations of external nature." This universe has not been created by any extra-cosmic God, nor is it the work of any outside genius. It is self creating, self-dissolving, self-manifesting, One Infinite Existence, the Brahmn. The vendanta ideal was of the solidarity of man and his inborn divine nature, to see God in man is the real God-vision, man is the greatest of all beings. But the abstract Vedanta must become living-poetic in everyday life, out of hopelessly intricate mythology must come concrete moral forms, and out of bewildering Yogi-ism must come the most scientific and practical psychology".
Passionately Vivekananda condemned the meaningless metaphysical discussions and arguments about ceremonials, and especially the touch-me-not-ism of upper castes. He kept away from politics and disapproved of the politicians of his day. But he laid stress on the necessity for liberty and equality for all." Liberty of thought and action is the only condition of life, of growth and well-being. Where it does not exist, the man, the race, the nation must go". He wanted to combine western progress with India's spiritual background.
Progressively Vivekananda grew more international in outlook--"Even in politics and sociology, problems that were only national 20 years ago can no longer be solved on national grounds only. They are assuming huge proportions. They can only be solved when looked at in the broader light of international grounds".
Vivekananda's constant refrain was abhaya--be fearless, be strong. For him man was no miserable sinner but a part of divinity, why should he be afraid of anything? "If there is a sin in the world it is weakness, avoid all weakness, weakness is sin, weakness is death". That had been the great lesson of the Upanishads.