1. India is the Motherland of civilization: And an American Lady of strong character, firmly held this view and traveled across the globe inspiring the high and mighty of the world, as well as all classes of people, to be aware of and to seek to know of the spiritual wisdom of Vedanta, of India’s idea on harmony of religions, of One God but many religious paths to it.
From January 1895 till 1949 when she passed away in Hollywood at the age of 90 years, she traveled all over the world, communicating this truth to the people who matter, the movers and shakers of the world, to the best scientists, philosophers, authors, actors, statesmen, and general public, throughout the world. She was on intimate terms with the Viceroys and Governors in India, as well as the Royalty, Lords, Statesmen in Britain and Europe, the Presidents and their families in USA.
Our Gratitude: It is to her and to many others, specially the women of America and England, that India owes eternal gratitude, for it is their inspiration that awakened us to our own spiritual treasures which the world needed! It is they who opened the road to the galaxy of Indian spiritual gurus now spreading the universal ideal.
Josephine Macleod (pronounced Macloud): Of Scottish ancestry from a rich family, with the pioneering spirit of those who built America, she was one who commanded immediate attention in whatever gathering she entered! She was attractive, most fashionably dressed in the latest designs of Paris, distinguished by her noble bearing, head held high, back straight, of elegant manners and genteel conversations, be it in palaces or in public places!
Yet, she was unconcerned with comforts of money, luxuries and parties of fashionable ladies of the era. She had the spiritual bent of the pioneering spirit of mid-nineteenth century, of whom Emerson said, ‘Every man showed a spark of divine and self-reliance was God-reliance.
From the moment she first heard Vivekananda, whom she called her ‘friend’, five years her junior in age she, for seven years funded, facilitated and/or accompanied Vivekananda in his travels; she wasn’t his devotee as she emphasized! In the years to come when the professional historians will begin to write about the growth and spiritual regeneration and rejuvenation of India, Joe or Tantine (Aunty), as she was known, would find her special place. Her photo hangs in the sacred Belur Math!
How can I help you, she had asked Vivekananda, and he said, ‘love India’! And, she must have been spiritually ready to recognize, from the very first meeting, that Vivekananda was the greatest man she would ever meet. From that moment she felt that life had a different meaning; he made one realize that we were in eternity! It never changed; never grew. It was like the sun that one never forgets having seen it once! As she says, ‘His presence was dynamic; you cannot pass on that power unless you have it…’. Joe doesn’t remember what he said, but from the first words she heard him speak, ‘instantly to me that was truth, and the second sentence he spoke was truth, and the third sentence was truth. And I listened to him for seven years and whatever he uttered was to me, truth’.
She was not at all interested in knowledge and books but she was like a fisherman, who created a nexus of like-minded people who could help spread the spiritual ideal of harmony of religions. She dedicated herself to the twofold ideals she heard from her ‘friend’ – to recognize and manifest our divinity and serve others looking upon them as divine. She understood and helped spread the ideals of common spiritual identity as the only valid base for character building and that this ‘oneness’ must be realized and is the fruit of a religion. And, this ideal of universalism became the typical worldview of the 20th century.
It is Spirituality which unites East and West: At that time India was under English rule and the Missionaries had termed India as illiterate, superstitious, uncivilized idol worshippers! Vivekananda talked in simplest words about the abstruse philosophy of Advaita and his universal spiritual ideas, as much as his very presence, made a tremendous impact in England, Europe and America at a time when Darwin’s theory of evolution, had already dealt a blow to fundamental Christianity. And, in England, Royal Society for sciences had emerged with the motto ‘nullius in verba’, not to accept words of authority (of the Church). The intellectuals were seeking a spiritual ideal which did not contradict science and reasoning and this ideal of spiritual unity of all men appealed to them.
NEP20 and five Human Values: In the garb of secularism, we’ve allowed religions to continue teaching the narrow idea that ‘my way is the only way’; and have neglected teaching of this spiritual unity of religions; thus, we see separatist elements terrorizing and dividing societies.
Fortunately, the new education policy asks that schooling must help all citizens to imbibe the universal citizenship and human values of love, truth, righteous conduct, ahimsa, peace, thru’ their respective religious practices. Hopefully, religions will help academia in this process and awaken to the universal ideal of One God and various religions as paths to it.
Gandhiji, Pt. Nehru and freedom fighters have all acknowledged that it was Vivekananda who inspired them and made them love and respect India and its universal spiritual ideals, which we had forgotten. Accordingly, the government of India has nominated Vivekananda as the National Youth ideal as was announced by the then PM, Sh. Rajiv Gandhi. His life and works, along with Gandhiji, Subhas C Bose, and other freedom fighters must be made a compulsory part of studies in schools and colleges, and this is in accordance with the Fundamental Duties, of our Constitution.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.