The Prophet of Modern India: A Biography of Swami Vivekananda

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Item Code: NAZ596
Author: Gautam Ghosh
Publisher: Rupa Publication India Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9788129101495
Pages: 150 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 10.00 X 8.00 inch
Weight 440 gm
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Shipped to 153 countries
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More than 1M+ customers worldwide
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100% Made in India
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23 years in business
Book Description
About the Book

The Prophet of Modern India is a study of the indian civilization, its ethos and value system through the eyes of a world leader and reformer. This biography of swami vivekananda will take readers into the personality of the unique monk whose presence was rich, profound and spiritual at the same time. As our country and civilization goes through a momentous phase in its history-that of rapid modernization, transformation, intolerance and anxiety-Swami ji's life and thoughts assume more meaning and importance. His message of tolerance makes him an exemplary spokesperson of the country and his life's mission of creating an order of monks who dedicate their lives to others, makes him a prophet and leader. His teachings continue to be relevant today and his inspiring life reflects the soul of our great nation.


It was towards the beginning of this year that my friend Barnali came to me one day with a proposal to write some biographies for Rupa, the foremost indigenous publisher of English books in India. I had just about finished editing another author’s biographical work of a well known santoor maestro then, and to be honest, I was looking out for such an opportunity with a reputed publisher. Nevertheless, I asked my friend, who has known my flair for writing for sometime now, whether she thought that I could do justice to the great _ personalities about whose lives she wanted me to write on. The answer being in the affirmative, I was emboldened to dip the feather in ink, and that is the beginning of this episode of my career. The first biography was for a ‘pocket book’ biographical series (Charitavali) of the publisher. The one on Swamiji was also projected for the same readership. But, as I traversed the vastness of the personality and his work, I found the unfolding of a versatility that is best expressed by another great patriot of our country, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, who wrote about Swami Vivekananda, ‘I cannot write about Vivekananda without going into raptures. Few indeed could comprehend or fathom him even among those who had the privilege of becoming intimate with him. His personality was rich, profound and complex ... Reckless in his sacrifice, unceasing in his activity, boundless in his love, profound and versatile in his wisdom, exuberant in his emotions, merciless in his attacks but yet simple as a child, he was a rare personality in this world of ours’, and I wondered how I could do justice to such a personality in ten thousand words, the margin set for the Charitavali Series. Moreover, my research on this great life also proved to be,an eye-opener for the Bengali chauvinist in me finding out the true Indianness of Swami Vivekananda, who was rather recognised thus by the South and parts of North India long before the Bengalis realised the true potential of their beloved Narendra Nath Dutta. I also found the contemporary relevance of Swamiji’s teachings in India in the light of the all prevailing fanaticism and conversions cutting across all religions, and the rising intolerance of the so-called practitioners of that great, all encompassing religion — Hinduism. Swamiji’s relevance in today’s world — vis-a-vis the turmoil in Kashmir, the USA once again assuming the role of the sole superpower and searching out excuses to declare war on countries which are already in physical and emotional ruins, the Church perceiving yoga as a threat to it, and such other forms of intolerance — is becoming more profound. I therefore requested the publisher to give me an opportunity to sketch a biography that will help the reader get the right perspective of one of the greatest thinkers of all times, and I have to admit that the publisher was magnanimous enough to give a one-book-author like me a free hand to write. I honestly believe that I have not let them down on this account, although, being the novice that Iam, and not yet having mastered the art of churning novels by the dozens, I have missed a host of deadlines mutually set by the publisher in tandem with me.

Writing about this "Prince among men, a man in a million’ was a pleasant but heady experience, and I often had to cut out myself from my work to let the matter sink in before being able to write on it. His knowledge was not only ‘profound and versatile’ but expansive as well. I would not know the virtue of brahmacharya that Swamiji so vehemently prescribed for his disciples, and will never be able to comprehend his proclamation that is practice in strictness bestowed on one a unique memory whereby one could remember anything bv just reading it, or even hearing it, only once; but the depth of Swamiji’s knowledge in virtually anvthing and everything, and his ability to speak extempore on any subject any where in just those thirty-nine years of his short life, make me wonder as to why no other bhramachari, even from the Order of Monks that he established, could reach anywhere near him! A journey through his life is a study of not only the ethos of India and the Sanatana Dharma, but also a lucid lesson in the history, geography and civilisation of any and all countries, nay cities, that he travelled through as a parivrajaka for twelve years.

In this endeavour to portray a true picture of the great soul, I have studied the two volume The Life of Swami Vivekananda and the nine volume The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, as published by the Advaita Ashram, in quite some depth, and also browsed through many of the numerous websites giving varied information on Swamyji. lam indebted to all of them for the little knowledge that I could assimilate from their vast ventures. I had also taken the opportunity of visiting Varanasi and Sarnath recently to do some more research on Swamiji, and am obliged to Brahmachan Prabir Maharaj of the Ramkrishna Mission Home of Service, Varanasi, for his spontaneous help in trying to find out about ‘Gopallal Villa’, where Swamiji had stayed during his last visit to Varanasi exactly a hundred years ago, in 1902, and Ven. Kahawatte Siri Sumedha Thero, the High Priest of the Mulagandhakuty Vihara and Bhikkhu-in-charge of the Sarnath Centre of Maha Bodhi Society of India for throwing new light on Swamiji’s relationship with Dharmapala. I am thankful to Tarun Maharaj of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture and Arabinda Maharaj of Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, for their kind help and guidance in acquiring the photographs of Swami Vivekananda.

The reader will sadly find that Swamiji’s distress at. the degradation of the glorious ancient culture of the country by the stupid activities and dichotomous lives of its so-called leaders, who preached reforms but did not practise it, as being true even today, as is his observation, "Three men cannot act in concert together in India for fiye minutes. Each one struggles for power, and in the long run the whole organisation (read country) comes to grief.’ Swamiji’s description of the importance of India in the world civilisation is as lucid as his observations on the development of the Suez Canal and the ports around it. His remarks on conversion of the low, the poor and the miserable — ‘Don’t think that it is merely the pinch of hunger that drives them to Christianity. It is simply because they do not get your sympathy’ — should make today’s leaders try and rectify the situation.

Swamiji reminds those who wear the gerua that, ‘the geruais not for enjoyment, rather it is the banner for heroic work.’ He proclaimed his mission to create an Order of monks in India who would dedicate their lives for others, improve the living condition of the masses through their service, and bring about a religious renewal by spreading the teachings of the Master, which included the establishment of fellowships amongst followers of different religions. He was also quick to realise that in India one had to reach out to the masses and not wait for the multitudes to come, and thus advised his followers to go ‘from door to door’ to preach the ‘truths as preached and practised by Sri Ramakrishna and to help others to put these truths into practice.’ Although he did stress on the observation of strict discipline and regulations by the brahmacharis, he would say that ‘our main object is to transcend all rules and regulations’, and had himself protested against the elaborate paraphernalia of daily worship in the Math. I am sure that there is scope for introspection by the Ramakrishna Mission authorities as to their success to date in spreading this mission of their founder, and to what role they can play in bringing about a religious harmony in India today.

I have strived to spell the Indian words and names phonetically as they are supposed to be pronounced, and have also included a glossary of the Indian terms used in the book towards the end. The details of some of Swamiji’s lectures have been included so that the diligent reader can make further readings of these, most of which are available as individual booklets.

I am thankful to my publishers for bearing with me through this lengthy venture in time. Iam also thankful to my wife and son who have stood by me through all these months, often sacrificing their wishes and the necessities of my company, and also to those relations I have acquired in my life for excusing me for not being by them as often as I used to be earlier.

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