The Fake ‘Secularisation’ Of Swami Vivekananda Needs To Be Called Out

Jaideep Mazumdar

Jan 12, 2023, 03:45 PM | Updated 03:45 PM IST

Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda
  • Swami Vivekananda advocated tolerance towards other religions, but held Sanatan Dharma as supreme and called for the return of Hindu converts to the Sanatan Dharma fold.
  • The 160th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, born as Narendranath Datta on 12 January, 1863, is being celebrated today. A host of prominent persons ranging from President Droupuadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have paid rich tributes to the iconic spiritual guru of India. 

    Swami Vivekananda, often referred to as simply Swamiji, is often said to have preached tolerance and respect for all religions. He is famously quoted as holding that “all paths (faiths) lead to one supreme God”. 

    The Left-liberal cabal in India advance Swami Vivekanda’s life and teachings to further and preach a narrow and perverted version of secularism that translates into running down and abusing Sanatan Dharma while tolerating the aggressive depredations of the preachers and practitioners of Abrahamic faiths. 

    Swamiji was, in fact, a fierce believer and defender of Sanatan Dharma. He preached tolerance towards other faiths, namely Islam and Christianity. But this tolerance did not extend to meekly putting up with abuse of Hinduism and Hindus penetrated by evangelical and Islamic forces.

    One incident from Swamiji’s life is enough to illustrate this. While returning to India on a ship in 1897 after touring China, Japan, USA, Canada and UK, Swami Vivekananda was engaged in an intense discussion on religions with two Christian missionaries who were fellow-passengers on the vessel.

    In the course of the discussion, the two Christian missionaries savagely criticised Hinduism. Swamiji rushed to one of them, held him by the collar and threatened to throw him overboard if he propagated fallacious criticism against Hinduism. 

    The frightened Christian missionary was profusely apologetic and begged for his life while promising to refrain from denouncing Hinduism ever again. 

    This telling incident is elaborately documented in Vivekananda: A Biography by Swami Nikhilananda, a direct disciple of Sarada Devi (wife and spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna). Swami Nikhilananda founded the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in New York in 1933 and counted author J.D.Salinger, Margaret Woodrow Wilson (daughter of US President Woodrow Wilson), physicist Chester Charlson and many others as his disciples. 

    Swami Nikhilananda, who is considered an authority on Swamiji’s life and teachings, also writes in his book (read this excerpt) that Swami Vivekananda, while conversing with a disciple in Kolkata after his return, asked “What would you do if someone insulted your mother?”. 

    “I would fall upon him and teach him a good lesson,” the disciple replied. “Bravo!” replied Swamiji. “'Now, if you had the same positive feeling for your religion, your true mother, you could never see any Hindu brother converted to Christianity. Yet you see this occurring every day, and you are quite indifferent. Where is your faith? Where is your patriotism? Every day Christian missionaries abuse Hinduism to your face, and yet how many are there amongst you whose blood boils with righteous indignation and who will stand up in its defence?” asked Swami Vivekananda. 

    Swami Vivekananda, according to numerous accounts, was strongly opposed to proselytisation by Christian missionaries. He was an ardent advocate of ghar wapasi; the return of Hindus back to the Sanatan Dharma fold. 

    Swamiji fully supported the Arya Samaj’s shuddhi (purification) of converts returning to Hinduism. Arya Samaj founder Swami Dayanand pioneered the shuddhi movement. 

    The Bengalee, an English newspaper founded by theatre doyen Girish Chandra Ghosh, reported in its August 7, 1901, edition a shuddhi ceremony of Babu Bhawani Kishore Bhattacharya who was converted to Christianity when he was a youngster. 

    The ceremony, attended by many prominent persons, commenced with reading out a letter written by Swami Vivekananda. In his letter, Swamiji spoke of the need to strengthen the movement for return of Hindu converts. He also expressed his deep sorrow for being unable to preside over the ceremony due to his ill health; Swamiji passed away a little under a year after that on July 4, 1902. 

    This incident, as well as Swami Vivekananda’s views on Christianity and Islam, find mention in many contemporary accounts and texts. 

    The Bible did not impress Swamiji even though Christ did. However, he was famously quoted as stating that he did not find Christ in Christianity. The miracles attributed to Christ by Christians outraged him and he was highly critical of the monotheism of Christianity and Islam.

    Swami Vivekananda held that Christianity and Islam spread throughout the world with the help of the sword and had often told his disciples and others, that Hindus had nothing to gain from them. 

    Swamiji also believed in the superiority of the Vedas and Upanishads over texts of the Abrahamic faiths which, he often said, were devoid of the deep spiritualism of Sanatan Dharma

    None of these beliefs, actions, statements and teachings of Swami Vivekananda, who asked Hindus to take fierce pride in their Dharma, is found in most books on Swamiji published in recent times. The fake ‘secularisation’ of Swami Vivekananda needs to be called out.

    Swamiji’s views on the Abrahamic faiths are all the more relevant and pertinent today. He advocated tolerance towards other religions, but held Sanatan Dharma as supreme. He did not advocate tolerance towards abuse of Hinduism and called for the return of Hindus who had converted to Islam and Christianity to Sanatan Dharma of their ancestors. 

    This is what Hindus need to learn from Swami Vivekananda while celebrating the 160th birth anniversary of this extraordinary monk.

    Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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