Today, 11 September, is Thiruvonam.
It is also the anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s address to the Parliament of World Religions.
Is there a way in which both can be celebrated at the same time?
The boy was short. A midget for even his young age. In the assembly of giants that had gathered at the sacrificial hall of the great emperor, he looked even shorter.
Yet he stood there. Calm and silent.
Right before him was a long queue. The yagna assembly was a proclamation of the pious generosity of the emperor. But it was also a statement of imperial power. An expression of expansionism.
The Dwarf waited. Patiently.
The young man was a bit too young to represent what he represented. He had come from across the great ocean. From a land that was known as ‘the land of darkness’, ‘land of idolatry’, ‘land of men who burnt widows alive’, ‘land where children were thrown to crocodiles’.
In that great assembly that hosted all great religious traditions from across the world the young man sat --- perhaps the youngest of them all.
The assembly proclaimed tolerance although with an explicit knowledge of the supremacy of the imperial civilising mission of Christianity. The civilizing mission, like all proselytizing missions, had clear economic aspects.
Draining the colonised nations of their natural resources. Exporting cheap man power as indentured labourers, not to mention depriving them of their self-worth and erasing their native cultures.
The young man waited. Patiently.
The Danava emperor Mahabali had ruled wisely. But the elder of the bear clan, Jambhavan knew that for all the talk of welfare of the empire, the elite of the Danava clan alone held power.
The benign face of the empire held within it the ability to turn to cruelty and imperialism at any time. His people needed a liberator who would unite all the worlds in harmony --- not through the ego of a dynasty cult of Mahabali but through understanding and humility before the magnificence of the Infinite.
And then he watched the Dwarf standing in the queue to receive alms from the emperor. The Dwarf was waiting patiently holding his wooden umbrella.
As they looked at that youth, they could not suppress a subtle smile which was condescendingly sympathetic. At an assembly where the greatest of scholars --- the who’s who of theology --- had come, there was this boy, barely out of his teenage.
And here, where they discussed the grand theologies and deep philosophies, what would this boy-like youth add, they wondered?
Already, he had passed his opportunity to others. Could he even talk?
Or would he just concede his time to others again and again and then vanish into the crowds of the ‘New World’, as they called their land?
The young man, with his turban of flaming saffron, was waiting patiently.
The seer who guided the Danavas had an eerie feeling. He could feel the presence of him whom the seer held as the enemy of all expansionism. He would contain all movements within himself.
Where then, could anyone expand their egoistic marches? He was the one-horned one who had saved the ‘progenitors of all diversity’ from the greatest natural catastrophe they had gone through.
He had saved them through the compassion the great Manu had for a small fish. He was the one who had held the Universe during the great churn when the celestials became egoistic and lost their golden aura.
He was the one who would tunnel deep into the heart of chaos and bring back to the planet the order of evolution. He was the one who had defied all categories of certainty and had devoured the Danava emperor, whose imposition of a monopolistic ego-deity made of his own image led him to persecute even children.
And now the seer of the morning light could feel his presence. Right here in the assembly. And then, he saw the Dwarf.
The Dwarf was waiting patiently with his tender feet under the sun as he let others pass to receive their alms.
The youth sat meditating on the essence of his land – the Goddess of all learning. His land and his culture had suffered all kinds of attacks and humiliations from the civilization and monopolistic nature of the religion of the very people who had organised the Parliament of World Religions.
He cried within his heart for his Mother, Mother India and her glorious Dharma. He knew that the shining pomp and splendour around him was built on the suffering of ancient peoples all over the planet.
Still, hatred would not and could not enter him. He still wanted to get within them and touch their inner divine core that was deep within the oppressive effervescence of their pyramidal civilization.
He meditated for the words she would give.
The Dwarf stood remembering how the forces of imperial Danavas had unleashed their cruelty on the Mother of the Devas to vivisect her into pieces. He had no hatred for them. When the time comes the right words would come to him.
The Dwarf stood in meditation as the Vak would emerge to play the part.
Then the emperor approached the Dwarf. The seer now knew it was him. He pleaded with the emperor. He would even give his eye to stop the encounter. But the emperor knew his destiny. In giving, was his greatness. In giving alms and doing charity was his power.
Tomorrow, he would become the emperor of all the worlds and for that he should give now. It was to him a perfect trade in Dharma. So he took the ceremonial water and gave the Dwarf his word that anything the little Brahmana asked would be given.
The Dwarf looked at the gigantic emperor right in the eyes.
‘Three strides of land,’ the words emerged from the Dwarf.
At last the young man stood. For the first time he stood before such a huge crowd. And then the words came right, from his mouth, ‘Sisters and Brothers of America…’
The Dwarf grew. His first stride filled all the terrestrial worlds and the second stride filled all the celestial space and directions. He filled every form. He filled every space.
The youth spoke of the ancient land – the land that sheltered every persecuted people from every corner of the land. He spoke of that ancient Dharma, which being the great ocean saw every stream of human spiritual tradition enter into the infinite greatness of the Divine. He spoke not of tolerance but universal acceptance.
There is no trade in Dharma, the emperor realized. The seer had lost his eyes. But the emperor gained his. He saw everywhere His shining form. Everything that was, is and will be!
‘Where shall I keep my third step that you promised Mahabali?’ thundered what was the tender voice of the now gigantic Dwarf.
Mahabali, the emperor, removed his crown and bowed before Vamana in his loin cloth. His head bowed and with that so did his ego and all his urge for expansion. Before the ego in submission, the Dwarf resumed His human form and placed His foot on the head of the king.
Swami Vivekananda spoke and the entire audience rose with his words touching the common divinity that resides in all humanity irrespective of caste, creed, race, religion or nationality.
Breaking all shackles of social stagnation, colonial impoverishment, racial prejudices, fanatical supremacist theologies, the light of the Upanishads assumed a form that embraced all humanity, nay all existence, and it pulsated with the love of non-duality.
The imperial ego bowed down unknowingly. India of the ages started assuming her Universal form.