Monday, April 4, 2011

Vivekananda : The Monk who liked Ice-Cream.

In a recent review of a new book titled: The Monk as Man: The Unknown Life of Swami Vivekananda, it is reported that Swami Vivekananda was fond of ice-cream. The reporter, , also states:

``... The 20th century visionary from Bengal, who inspired millions of young people across the world with his secular views on religion and progressive philosophy was intuitive about food. ..." (emphasis mine)

one of the commenter, Mutluru Venkata, below the news item states:

As a layman I am of the opinion that Swami Vivekananda is a Bramhachari who practiced meditation and dhyana., It is quite surprising to see that He liked ICE CREAM., which I feel will be above the practical living by the great soul., Please for heavensake don't try to impose ur personnel ideas about the habits of the legends., Thank you.,

This very effectively summarizes the confusion we seem to have about religion, realization, and spiritual life, at least as regards Sanatana Dharma, also known popularly as Hinduism, and so on.

1. Secular views on Religion!

Firstly, notice the characterization of Swami Vivekananda as someone who had secular views on religion. Whether Swami Vivekananda indeed had such views is a matter that can be debated on a different platform, possibly by more knowledgeable individuals. However, it is surely never obvious that he had such views.

Secondly, the phrase ``secular views on religion'' in this article, in my opinion, portrays as if it was a great thing to have secular views on religion. This too is never obvious, except to those who whole-heartedly subscribe to or have surrendered to the ideology of secularism. And those who have such ideological subscriptions will always slip in a phrase, which can later be referred to as evidence, that Swami Vivekananda had secular views on religion, and that it is a good thing to have such views. One needs to constantly be on guard against such tricks.

In my opinion, Swami Vivekananda always emphasized verifiability of spiritual truths, exactly like all other truths, and thus was one of the earliest articulators of Sanatana Dharma as Truth Based Civilization.

2. Monks do not like Ice-creams!

Notice the earnestness with which the comment is made: ``... It is quite surprising to see that He liked ICE CREAM., which I feel will be above the practical living by the great soul. ...". But earnestness is not enough!

Krishna, it is said, used to like ``Butter and Crystal sugar''. Does that make him any less? The purANas are full of stories and details which are mind-boggling and can cause delusion to even the wisest.

If a detail, of an exalted person, is brought to fore, the knee-jerk reaction should not be that of denial! Please know that it is the same Vivekananda who thundered: "Truth does not pay homage to any society, ancient or modern. Society has to pay homage to Truth or die." So, if the fact is that Swami Vivekananda like Ice-cream, so be it! Also, recall that it is the same Vivekananda who boldly declared: ``... Be strong, my young friends; that is my advice to you. You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the Gita. These are bold words; but I have to say them, for I love you. ...".

It would be foolish of us to evaluate the spiritual persona of Vivekananda by knowing if liked or disliked Ice-cream. It is high-time that we stopped indulging in such foolishness, or worse still, stopped falling into traps laid by the Secularists.

Thus, let Vivekananda's liking for ice-cream not worry us, but let us not be entrapped by the statements like ``secular views on religion''.

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