Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot

Publication : History

The Subtle Influence Of Spiritual Literature

The Subtle Influence of Spiritual Literature

One day Sri Keshab Chandra Sen, the famous Brahmo leader, approached Sri Ramakrishna and said to him: 'Sir, if you permit, I want to make known your message to the public. It will definitely do people good and bring peace to the world.'

Sri Ramakrishna replied in an ecstatic mood: 'It is not the time to spread the message of this place [i.e. his message] through lectures and newspapers. The power and ideas that are within this body will automatically spread all around in course of time. Hundreds of Himalayas will not be able to suppress that power.'

The spiritual power of a divine incarnation manifests and unfolds in a subtle manner, almost imperceptible to gross human intellect and understanding. This is the reason why the vast literature associated with great spiritual movements like Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Movement gives us only a faint glimpse, like the proverbial tip of the iceberg, of its immense magnitude, vitality and future possibilities. Literature, however, plays a major role in furthering the cause of a spiritual movement. It introduces a vast majority of the people to the ideas that shape it. Though the process of spiritual transformation--individual and collective--of individuals and society takes place slowly and subtly, the role that literature surcharged with the spiritual power of World Teachers plays, cannot be under- estimated in effecting such transformation.

What is literature? According to the famous English statesman and writer J. Morley, 'Literature consists of all the books… where moral truth and human passion are touched with a certain largeness, sanity and attraction of form.'

Swami Vivekananda was of the opinion that no literature could be termed as classical unless it was written with good taste or it set a high ideal. He said that ordinary people, who consider sensory enjoyment to be permanent and real, try to idealize what is apparently real; and such people can never create classical literature. There are, however, a select few who are not satisfied with such sensory and temporary enjoyments and strive to realize the ideal in and through all their thoughts and actions. Only such people can create true literature. Swamiji also said that such people generally eschew worldly life and 'he had only seen Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa of Dakshineswar who fully embodied the highest ideal in his life, and that's why he revered him.'

Speaking of the need to revitalise a language, Swamiji once told his disciple, Priyanath Sinha: 'I think, language and thought also, like all other things, become lifeless and monotonous in course of time. Such a state seems to have happened now in this country. On the advent of Sri Ramakrishna, however, a new current has set in, in thought and language. Everything has now to be recast in new moulds. Everything has to be propagated with the stamp of new genius.'

A Literary Awakening

Sri Ramakrishna's phenomenal life of intense spirituality infused enormous strength and vitality into all the branches of Hindu religion: art, literature, culture, and even scientific research. The Indian civilization had been at the lowest ebb for over a hundred years from about the middle of the eighteenth century. In this dark period of Indian history devoid of all creativity, no literature or art of any great significance was produced in almost any Indian language. Even the devastating invasions and conquests from across the borders in the past had not produced a result of this kind, and the Indian mind was thrown off its balance, as it were, during this period.

Renaissance in religion, literature, arts and other aspects of Indian culture began in the nineteenth century Bengal. It gradually spread to the other parts of India. These cultural and intellectual stirrings received a fresh impetus through the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, whose 'simple, sweet, colloquial language breathed a superhuman purity,' as described by Keshab Chandra Sen.

Sri Ramakrishna was introduced to the educated class of Calcutta in 1875 by Keshab Sen through the journal Indian Mirror. Most of the early literature on Sri Ramakrishna was published in Bengali. The first major collection of Sri Ramakrishna's teachings in book form, Paramahamsa Ramakrishner Ukti, was published by Suresh Chandra Dutta in December 1884 followed by Ram Chandra Dutta's Tattwasara (in 3 volumns), published during 1885-87. Ram Chandra Dutta also wrote the first biography of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sri Ramakrishnadever Jivanvrittanta in 1890. The first volume of the monumental literary work in Bengali, Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita, was published only in 1902, though it was being published in instalments in seventeen popular Bengali journals like Udbodhan, Tattwamanjari, Navabharat, Sahitya etc., from 1897 onwards. It was, however, Swami Vivekananda's inspiring and life-giving message delivered on the world-stage in English language, beginning with the historic Chicago address (September 1893), which rapidly spread all over India through the different vernaculars.

Gujarati Literary Scene

Gujarat, on India's western front was privileged to get exposed to Ramakrishna-Vivekananda thought during Swamiji's Bharat Parikrama in 1891-92. During his tour of Gujarat, Swamiji came in contact with some of the most prominent literary personalities of those days and exerted a great influence on many of them.

This is the reason, perhaps, why one of the earliest biographical sketches of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda to be published in any vernacular, came out in Gujarati as early as in the year 1896. The author of the encyclopaedic work, Mahajan Mandal (a book of more than 1325 pages of 1/8 demy size), Maganlal N. Patel, (b. 1859) was a native of Baroda State. In this book he has given a short but comprehensive bio- graphical sketch of Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji in more than ten pages. Mahajan Mandal gave the life sketches of a large number of saints, rulers, dewans, litterateurs and other eminent personalities like Mirabai, Narasimha Mehta, Tukaram, Keshab Chandra Sen, Max Muller, Sayajirao Gaekwad and Haridas V. Desai. Many of them like Swamiji, were still alive then. When this book was published in 1896, Swamiji was only 33 years old and was in England preaching Vedanta. This was just a year before his historic return to India as a prophet. And yet we find the author, already proclaiming him as a prophet of Vedanta.

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