Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot

Publication : History

Eminent Personalities Touched By Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature

The transforming influence of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda touched many other eminent personalities in Gujarat. Some of these were:

1. Kakasaheb Kalelkar

A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, the great prose-writer, personal essayist of the highest order, beautiful travelogue writer, freedom fighter, and above all an apostle of Indian culture, Dattatreya Balakrishna Kalelkar (1885-1981) was lovingly known as Kakasaheb Kalelkar in Gujarat and all over India. Though a Maharashtrian by birth, Kakasaheb was, in the words of Gandhiji, a Savai Gujarati. His mastery over the Gujarati language was unique and he is considered to be among the ten great prose-writers of Gujarati. He taught in Shantiniketan, and after Mahatma Gandhi established the Gujarat Vidyapitha, he was appointed its Vice Chancellor in 1928.

In his collected works, Kalelkar Granthavali, published during his birth centenary, we find many articles and quotations on Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and the activities of the Ramakrishna Mission. In his Atmavrittanta (autobiography), he writes how he was inspired by the works of Swamiji in his early youth.

In the section Charitra Sankirtan he gives a biographical sketch of Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji. Elsewhere in the same section he glorifies the contribution of Master Mahashaya, the recorder of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.23 In his travelogue Himalayano Pravasa, he describes in graphic detail, his pilgrimage to Belur Math, Kankhal Sevashrama and many other places associated with Ramakrishna-Vivekananda.24 In many other works he echoes Swamiji's thoughts. For instance, speaking about Indian history he says: 'The ideal of Indian people is religion. Hence, in spite of diversity of creeds, there is a unity of the ultimate ideal of the individual and society. The direction of attaining this ideal is the same. This provides a unity to the view-point and conduct of the whole people.'

In another place he attributes the greatness and permanence of Hindu culture to: 'the ascetic who has given up all worldly contact, who has converted the fruit overhanging his hut into a beggars bowl, who has coloured his cloth with red earth, who has offered to the world the cup of immortality and religion with the words, "Not with wealth, not with progeny, but with self-abnegation alone can immortality be attained."'

In a lecture delivered in 1963, which was printed in a souvenir published by the Rajkot Ashrama during Swamiji's Centenary, Kakasaheb spoke in glowing terms about the tremendous impact Swamiji's powerful personality and message created on the national leaders of those days like Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Tagore, Tilak, and others.

2. K. M. Munshi

Another close associate of Gandhi at one time, Kanhaiyalal M. Munshi (1887-1971) dominated the Gujarati literary scene for many years. He wrote novels, short stories, plays, biographies, essays, articles, literary criticisms and a history of Gujarati literature. He has left behind 56 books in Gujarati and 36 in English. He started a quarterly journal Bhargava Traimasika in 1912 and Gujarata, a leading literary journal, in 1922. After establishing the Gurjarat Sabha in 1913 and the Gujarata Sahitya Samsada in 1922 he almost single-handedly managed the affairs of Gujarati Sahitya Parishad from 1937 to 1955.

The last few years of his life were devoted to the consolidation and strengthening of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan which he had founded in 1938. In his life span of 84 years, he left a stamp of his genius on varied fields such as religion, philosophy, literature, arts, culture, journalism, education, and administration. He was deeply influenced by Swami Vivekananda which Munshi has himself acknowledged thus:

'Few can understand, unless they belong to my age-group, the great influence which Swami Vivekananda had on us, in the first decade of the 20th century, when we were at College. We were then subject not only to political but also to cultural and religious humiliation. . . But it was only when we began to read the books of Swami Vivekananda that our eyes were opened. Reading these books, we derived considerable knowledge of Hindu culture and religion from the modern point of view. . . Indian Renaissance was not merely an artistic and literary movement like the European Renaissance. Nor was it only a religious movement. It was essentially cultural and spiritual. . . it was Swami Vivekananda who brought to us, the younger generations, the message of the renaissance. . . We knew about Ramayana and Mahabharata but we found in them fresh inspiration only when we read Swamiji's summaries in his works. Yoga was a word of mystic implication, but it was only when we read his Raja Yoga and Karma Yoga that we realized what it was. . . it was Prof. Aurobindo Ghosh (at the Baroda College) who suggested to me to read Yoga Sutras and the works of Swami Vivekananda. . . Swami Vivekananda took us back to the fundamental values of our culture and brought God into our life. We offer him our tribute not merely for what he has done, but because it provides us with an opportunity to mobilize our own spiritual aspirations by dwelling on him, his works and his ideas. This way we light our little lamp from the flaming torch that he was.'

3. Swami Ananda

Swami Ananda (1887-1976) was another famous literary figure who was inspired by Ramakrishna-Vivekananda ideology. Educated in Bombay, he had a good command over Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Urdu, Sanskrit and English. His writings include several original works as well as translations and adaptations of a large number of books on religion, science and social issues. His close contact with Mahatma Gandhi also enriched his mind and was reflected in his view of life.

In his famous work Dhartini Arati (p.411, 439) he writes in great detail about his study of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature, his stay at Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama, Kankhal, and the dedicated service of the monks there that convinced him about the uniqueness of Ramakrishna Mission monasticism, inspired by which he had tried to build up his own life.

In his collection of essays, Ananta Kala (p.114) he speaks in glowing terms about those dedicated monks of the Ramakrishna Mission, in whose holy company he had the privilege to live for some years, and from whom he had learnt the true meaning of daridra-narayana seva and sarvadharma samanvaya. In his travelogue Uttarapathni Yatra (p.198), he writes about Sri Ramakrishna's wonderful renunciation. In two of his works Samaj Chintan and Himalayna Tirthasthano he highlights in several places, Swamiji's influence on national leaders from Aurobindo to Radhakrishnan. He also writes about Sister Nivedita, with whom he had regular interactions, and her contribution to the nation.

4. Ramnarayan N. Pathak

Ramnarayan N. Pathak (1905-1988) was another close associate of Gandhiji and Vinoba Bhave and a well-known novelist who wrote mainly on nationalistic themes. His invaluable contribution to Gujarati literature is his translation of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda into Gujarati (Swami Vivekananda Granthamala, in 10 volumes) published by Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot during 1962-63, as stated earlier.

In a letter of condolence dated April 30, 1990, Swami Bhuteshanandaji, the twelfth president of the Ramakrishna Order writes: 'I found in Ramnarayanbhai not only a gifted writer, whose simple and clear style of translation made the Swami Vivekananda Granthamala popular among the Gujarati readers in all parts of Gujarat and elsewhere, but I found in him a sincere follower of the ideal of Gandhiji, which made him a lover of all sections of people without any prejudice for their social barriers and difference of view-points.'

Among the contemporary literary personalities there are quite a few who have been deeply influenced by Ramakrishna-Vivekananda thought. Ramanlal Soni (b.1908) is one of the most prolific writers of children's books in Gujarati. He has published an amazing number of titles - short stories, poems, plays, rhymes, biographies including those on Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita. He has also translated a large number of Bengali books written by Tagore, Sharatchandra Chattopadhyaya, Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, and others into Gujarati. There is a touch of refinement and a stamp of higher values of life in his writings. In a letter dated 7 June 1905 and an article on Sri Ramakrishna written by the 97 year old Ramanlal, both of which have been published in the July 2005 issue of Sri Ramakrishna Jyot (Gujarati monthly), we get a glimpse of the great veneration, love and devotion he has for Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji.

Natwarlal Pandya (b.1920), a highly creative poet and winner of the Rashtriya Sahitya Academy Award (1976), better known by his pen name Ushnas, has composed a poetical masterpiece Ramakrishna Darshandohana, which is a beautiful rendering of the important teachings of Sri Ramakrishna in 818 verses.

Conclusion

There are several other literary personalities who have been directly or indirectly influenced by Ramakrishna-Vivekananda thought. They have tried in their own humble way to produce good classical Gujarati literature and have thus enriched the field of Gujarati literature by their contribution. Surely the quiet but far-reaching effect of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda on Gujarati literature will continue to guide millions of Gujarati knowing people across the world.

You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.- Swami Vivekananda

A few heart-whole, sincere, and energetic men and women can do more in a year than a mob in a century.- Swami Vivekananda

Arise ! Awake ! And Stop Not Till the Goal is Reached.- Swami Vivekananda

All power is within you, you can do anything & everything !- Swami Vivekananda

To be good & to do good, that is the whole of religion.- Swami Vivekananda

Purity, Patience & Perseverance are the three essentials to success, and above all Love !- Swami Vivekananda

Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny !- Swami Vivekananda

We are what our thoughts have made us, so take care about what you think.- Swami Vivekananda