Swami Vivekananda has said that even after he laid down his body, he would continue to work and inspire generations to come to carry on his unfinished work. We see it still happening. Swami does it in innumerable ways. The magnificent Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari is one such undying source of inspiration. Equally inspiring is the remarkable story of how that memorial was actually brought into existence. Some part of that story people know, but some part they do not yet know, or having known, have forgotten it. There is no one who can tell that story in all its minute details with more unassailable authority than the founder of the memorial itself- Shri Eknath Ranade. It is with great pride and pleasure that we present the full story of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial as told by Shri Eknath Ranade in his own inspiring, interesting and inimitable style. This is a historic document of inestimable value. We are confident that generations to come will treasure it in that spirit.
What we are reproducing here are not the formal, written words of Eknath Ranade. We reproduce his spoken words. Shri Eknathji gave a series of ten lectures on the Rock Memorial, to the first band of life workers whom he wanted to train as missionaries of the Kendra.
He put his life and soul into these lectures in order to inspire the young men and women who responded to his call to dedicate themselves to the noble cause. He spoke to them with an earnestness so unique of him. As he himself put it: "I shall explain to you the entire motive behind the Vivekananda Kendra, because to the extent we have clarity, we shall be in a position to implement the work we have taken up." The sessions in which Eknathji spoke to the life workers were reminiscent of the ancient Upanishad classes, where the competent teacher taught a close group of dedicated students, eager to learn the Truth that they were to follow for the rest of their life. Eknathji taught on the shore at the confluence of the three seas at Kanyakumari, whereas the ancient Rishis gave their lessons in the Silvery Himalayan Heights.
Conceivably, Eknathji formulated his lectures into two almost equal parts. The first part deals with how he grappled with the problems that came in the way and brought into being the Memorial. The second part deals with the mission of the Vivekananda Kendra as he visualised it, its philosophy, ultimate objective etc. In his own words, they represented the First phase and the Second phase of the work, respectively. Figuratively it may even be said that the first half represents the unique personality of Eknath Ranade that made the monument a practical reality and the second his grand vision and mission which he wanted to embody in flesh and blood.
In the first part he describes how he was drawn into the construction of the Rock Memorial, how the various obstacles cropped up one by one, and how each one of them was surmounted and finally how the work was accomplished and the dream came true. As he goes on narrating, incident after incident, the story of the Rock Memorial _ becomes almost indistinguishable from Eknathji’s autobiography. They coalesce into each other. Incidentally, it brings out the extraordinary qualities of the man who turned every obstacle into an opportunity and every challenge into a victory. There was no problem for which he had no solution. To anticipate his own words: "Every strategy has a counter-strategy, every weapon has a counter-weapon”. This truth was conclusively demonstrated by Eknathji in overcoming the seemingly unsurmountable obstacles.
The men with whom Eknathji had to cross swords were not ordinary men of clay. They were leaders in their own right. They occupied positions of` high power. Bhaktavatsalam was quite a powerful Chief Minister, and Humayun Kabir, a Central Minister. They were both opposed to the monument on the Rock. But Eknathji shrewdly outmanoeuvred both of` them and ultimately brought them round to his point of view. The wonderful skill and the determined will with which he managed to do it would do credit to any master—strategist of outstanding ability.
Leaders like Annadurai and Jyothi Basu were men of all-India repute while Eknathji was little known outside the R.S.S. circles. Apparently their statures had nothing in common. Neither Annadurai nor Jyothi Basu was ideological admirers of Vivekananda. But the successful manner in which Eknathji handled those stalwarts and made them partners in the construction of the Memorial should make even the most experienced experts take a lesson or two from him in the art of human management. No wonder, Sri Lal Bahadur Shastry was so much pleased that at one crucial stage, he patted Eknathji on the back and said: "You have done a good job! Now my work begins. You go and don’t worry about the matter any more. The Rock Memorial is assured now.”
Leaders of every political party, whether in power or in the opposition became willing supporters. Chief Ministers of every State, irrespective of their party, made handsome donation towards the Memorial. Eknathji himself has beautifully narrated those instances. But he has left out one, may be because he did not want an unpleasant episode to figure in the narration. But for the sake of truth and posterity, I feel, that it should be put on record. It is about the only Chief Minister who sent Eknathji back empty handed without contributing to the Rock Memorial fund. He was the then Kerala Chief Minister Com. E.M.S. Namboodiripad. Coming out of the interview, Eknathji remarked: "It was like conversing with a sphinx. It was a monologue all the way, on my part. Only an empty stare from the other side!
It is instructive to know how he made judicious use of various means at his command for the achievement of his end. Both speech and silence were equally effective implements in his hands. To know when to speak and when to keep silent is a rare gift. Eknath Ranade possessed this abundantly. While he raised stormy controversies when necessary, he scrupulously abstained from them when they served no purpose. He utilised his contact with the Press for raising the right issues at the right time and also not to raise inconvenient issues that would only complicate the situation. Though he never dabbled in politics he possessed high political acumen of which any successful politician would feel envious.
Thus, by bringing into play every God-given quality that he possessed in ample measure, Eknath Ranade was able to successfully accomplish the task that was entrusted to him, in record time. While engaged in battle, he was absolutely unrelenting and made no compromises - and expected none from the Opposite side. But when the battle was over, he saw to it that no bitterness remained. He had the magnanimity to go to his erstwhile opponents and pay compliments to them. He could even offer to work under them, as he did under to do under Sri Bhaktavatsalam. For this purpose, he studiously avoided agitations as a matter of principle, because he knew that even if you gain your objective by means of agitations in the end, there will be no grace in it. Moreover, you make enemies out of potential allies. That is not becoming of an organizer of men. And Eknathji was one par excellence.
As soon as it became clear to him that the Rock Memorial has become an assured fact and that its completion is only a question of time, he began to think about the 2nd phase. "To put up a Cement and Concrete structure is not the work for which I am born. I am to erect a living and dynamic monument which will be worthy of Swami Vivekananda and which will be capable of bringing into fruition his grand vision of future India” — he began to think. Not only that. It became an article of faith with him that through all the previous experiences, developments, divinity and destiny had been gradually shaping him for that great task. For a close student of the mental make up of Eknathji, it is obvious that the link between the first and second phase, was rooted in the organisational and psychological links he had with the two great organisations with which he was intimately associated - the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Ramakrishna Mission. As soon as Shri Guruji Golwalkar expressed to him his desire that it would be good if he took up the challenging task of the construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, "from Nagpur I went straight to Calcutta and met the Rev. Swami Madhavanandaji to know his mind and seek his blessings". What did he say? "As a matter of fact, Ramakrishna Mission should have taken up this work, but we can’t deliver the goods. You should certainly take up the work ....you can rest assured that the entire Ramakrishna Mission, will be at your back all the time. Go ahead and Thakur will bless you, Swami Vivekananda will bless you, and you have my blessings also."
Thus was forged the link between the first and second phase of the work. Desired and instructed by " Shri Guruji Golwalkar and inspired and blessed by Swami Madhavanandaji, President of the Ramakrishna Mission, Eknathji plunged into the great work. And from then on, there was no looking back.
This link had its roots deep in the Psychology of Eknath Ranade. This is clearly evident when he describes his conversation with Sri Govinda Menon, the Home Minister in the Central Cabinet, at that time. To a pointed question by the minister as to how the work of the R.S.S. could be reconciled with Vivekananda’s Philosophy, Eknathji’s unhesitating reply was: "It is Vivekananda’s Philosophy that made me an R.S.S. worker in fact R.S.S. is nothing but the extension of Swamiji’s work." The minister apparently was not fully convinced as is evident from his remark. It is a very bold statement to make." But, so far as Eknathji was concerned, the second phase of the Rock Memorial work was only an extension of the work which he was already doing through the R.S.S.
What was the inspiration behind the second phase? What did he actually want to achieve? It was national reconstruction. Eknathji found that there was tremendous energy and immense religiosity in the country, flowing in diverse, innumerable channels, but it was static and not productive. He thought: "If all the religiosity can be converted into activities for public good, there can be all-round national reconstruction."
One very significant dimension of` Eknathji’s concept of national reconstruction to be specially remembered is that it covered all sections of Hindu Society and all parts of our country. He wanted that the activities of Vivekananda Kendra should encompass the entire Hindu Society and the entire length and breadth of Bharat. It should arouse all Hindus and all India. He says: "Bharatheeyata in everybody has to be aroused; work should be taken from them." He firmly believed that "if` you scratch sufficiently deep, the Bharatheeyata, the Hindu in everybody will be roused, whether one talks of Westernism or Russianism or modernism, he is essentially a child of` this soil.”
It is this national vision that took Eknathji to all sections and segments of` people during the course of the collection campaign. More than the amount, it was the sentiment and the vision that mattered. Similarly his insistence on the Chief Minister of Nagaland to contribute and actively associate with the work also was motivated by this national vision.
When the Chief Minister questioned him about the wisdom of his spending so much time for a paltry amount, Eknathji’s reply was typical and revealing. He said: "My motive is not just funds. I want your participation, participation of the Government and the people of Nagaland — because Nagaland also is a part of the Nation."
It is obvious that national integration and national reconstruction were complementary concepts for Eknath Ranade.
Gradually, this had become a matter of conviction with Eknathji. With his rich fund of the past experiences, he could easily realize that •this requires organisation. National reconstruction without organisation is inconceivable. But then there were inherent impediments in the path of building up an organisation. During the course of his campaign for the Rock Memorial he had realized that political factionalism and religious sectarianism, had always prevented people from coming together even on issues national good, about which intrinsically they had no conflicting opinion. Politics being the pursuit of power, could be an instrument of division. But Eknathji was painfully aware that even spiritual movements degenerated into rival sects. As a keen student of history, he found that this had become a national defect with the Hindus and unless it was overcome national reconstruction would remain a mirage. Therefore, he envisaged an organisation which would be meticulously kept beyond politics and sectarianism.
That was his vision of Vivekananda Kendra. After a careful study of Swamiji’s life and thought, he was convinced that Swami Vivekananda also stood committed to such a non-sectarian ideal.
Such a non-partisan, non-sectarian organisation could be built up only around a great ideal. Perusing the entire thought of Swami Vivekananda, with a thrill in the heart, Eknathji discovered that the magic word will be - worship - worship of Man is truly the worship of God. That was the unique contribution of Swamiji. He did not teach us to seek God "by retreat to the cave, but by a return to the society." So Eknathji wanted to raise an organisation around this central theme "worship of man is worship of God."
But, every organisation requires Men who are inspired and whose lives are moulded by that particular ethos. It is here that Eknathji visualised the creation of a non-sannyasin order of life workers, who will be dedicated to service more than to Sadhana. Spirituality must be made vibrant. It should be selfless action, rather than simple meditation. He declared, "Our organisation will be service-oriented" where service of Man will be the real Sadhana of the Divine.
Creation of such an order of life workers was no easy task, considering the prevailing social situation in the country. The right type of men and women have to be recruited and appropriate training imparted. First of all, tremendous self-confidence should be infused into them. History of the past many centuries taught Eknathji that the Hindu society has lost its sense of Self-confidence. They were in the habit of king for an incarnation to descend to save the society. What is worse, every great man, who achieved something for the society, was immediately deified and put on a pedestal and worshipped, so that it had become almost blasphemous to think of following in his footsteps. Pathetically waiting for Divine incarnation to arrive! Eknathji declared in unequivocal terms that this suicidal trend has to be versed. He wanted a new generation that believed in themselves, that they can do anything- yes, anything under the Sun. He brushed aside with disdain the suggestion that Swami Vivekananda should be looked as an incarnation. He accepted Swamiji as an ordinary human being, who raised himself to the highest rung of human evolution, by dint of self- confidence and self-sacrifice. Eknathji wanted that ideal of Swamiji to be followed by the life workers whom he wanted to man the organisation of his dream. So he erected the statue of Swamiji, standing up and starting on his patriotic mission, rather than one, sitting absorbed in deep meditation. That decision was truly symbolic and historic too, because in taking that decision he had to brush aside the suggestions of people whom he greatly respected, and valued.
Self confidence comes from the innate conviction that each man is potentially divine. That was the essence of Hindu heritage from the Vedic times. But we had almost forgotten it totally. Eknathji wanted to remind this Vedic mantra - “We are the children of God and of Immortality."
This realization will automatically give us superhuman strength to overcome all fear and weakness. Eknathji had painfully discovered that in spite of the Hindus being the inheritors of this most potent Mantra, they were in actual life, most fearing and cowardly. They chant the Mantra of immortality and live in perpetual fear of death. This ridiculous state of affairs had also to be reversed, if India is to regain her lost glory.
Eknathji was convinced that the new order of life workers who should lead the missionary movement envisaged in the second phase, should cultivate another great quality - the quality of team work. He reeled off instances after instances from our own long history, how a handful of foreign invaders, much inferior to us in every other respect, could easily beat us hollow and enslave and rule over us, only because they possessed this great quality of team spirit in abundance, whereas, we Hindus, in spite of our easy superiority in almost every other respect, totally lacked this capacity. As individuals we were great. But no two of us could pull together for a common goal. The foreigners who conquered India whether they were Muslims or Christians, Mongols or Europeans were successful only on account of the ability to work together as a team. Eknathji repeatedly emphasised that we should learn this lesson from our enemies. He said, "We are all ordinary men. But if we cultivate the virtue of team work, keeping our self to the back and pushing the common goal to the front, as a society we can achieve anything in the world." He pointed out how our Vedic Mantras constantly instilled into us this gospel of collective effort - "Yagna". That made us great in the past. But gradually we lost that, and consequently lost everything - even our freedom. So the line of thinking Eknathji put before the new band of life workers was this. Vivekananda Kendra should be an extraordinary organisation, consisting of ordinary men, committed to the rigours of team work, believing in the potential divinity inherent in each one, and dedicated to the cause of ‘Service of Man’ in the spirit of ‘Worship of God', thereby bringing about a grand national transformation, raising Mother India once again to the position of the Guru of the world.
This was the challenging task he placed before us. Till his last breath he strove strenuously for that. He is no more with us physically but his spirit is with us. We, his followers, have made Vivekananda Kendra a great movement by our sincere efforts. Many eventful years have gone by since the Inauguration of the Memorial. Now, a century is drawing to its close and a new one • full of promises — is emerging on the horizon. The twenty-first century will be the century of India - and also that of Hindus. That is what Swamiji has predicted. Let us all work hard to make it a reality. And that alone will make our lives worth living.
Before concluding, I should congratulate Sri P. Thangaswami who transcribed the class-room lectures of Eknathji which form the text of this book. Sri Thangaswami was to Eknathji what Goodwin was to Swami Vivekananda for many years. But for the great care and devotion which he had painstakingly invested in this work, the present book would not have been so authentic. My sincere thanks to him. There are many more Kendra workers who have been greatly helpful in producing the present work in this form. As dedicated workers, they are above the craving for name or recognition, and might even feel embarrassed if their names are published. My thanks are due to those unknown warriors also.
This book carries the interviews of Shri Eknathji with Shri Bhaktavatsalam and with Prof Humayun Kabir, on the issue of the Rock Memorial, and also the various official letters in connection with the Memorial.
The famous Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari was inaugurated in the year 1970. Marking the 25th year of the event, in 1995, we released the first edition of this book. Considering the intrinsic value of the book the need to preserve the true story for the posterity, and the increasing demand for it, a revised edition of the book has been brought out with several multi—colour plates. Given below are excerpts from the reviews of the first edition of the book:
"The book depicts Eknathji’s plan and its meticulous execution. There had been obstacles from unexpected quarters but Eknathji put in Herculean efforts to surmount them. In his struggle, Eknathji demonstrated that every strategy of the opponent has a counter strategy and every weapon has a counter weapon and that no obstacle is insurmountable for a man of determination'.
The Vivekananda Memorial as it stands today is as much a memorial to Swamiji as to Shri Eknath Ranade whose devotion to the work he had undertaken was inspired not by mere faith but by intellectual conviction. His work necessarily involved much physical exertion; but much more in demand were his gift of intellectual persuasion, perseverance and tact”.
The Second Dart of the book is a verbatim reproduction of the Correspondence, Interviews, Statements etc. which were originally printed in the form of a booklet. In view of our intention to bring out a definitive account of the Story we have faithfully reproduced this booklet in toto which was originally meant for private circulation among members and associates.
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