Swami Vivekananda on Semitic Religions – Rudra Hindu

Here is a Compilation on Swami Vivekananda’s View of Semitic Religion – Credits to Sri @rudrahindu ( Twitter)

These were Views of #SwamiVivekananda #Vivekananda150  Swami Vivekananda on Christianity & Islam and when u finish reading this u ll know why Seculars always misinterpret him : (You can click on the Hashtag for All the Tweets Tagged with those terms)

Vivekananda On The Book

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The central claim of Islam, as of Christianity, is that it has been given The Book, that it alone has been given The Book, that therefore it alone possesses The Truth. That there was The Book- the Talmud, the Bible, the Koran- the Swami said had one effect; it helped the adherents to hold together. But apart from that the effect of The Book – whichever this happened to be – was baneful. Our communists will not find the Swami’s verdict palatable, not the least because the Swami’s words apply to them and the fetish they made of their Book just as sharply as to Islam etc.!

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“One of the great advantages of a book,” the Swami says, “is that it crystallises everything in tangible and convenient form, and is the handiest of all idols. Just put a book on an altar and everyone sees it; a good book, everyone reads. I am afraid I may be considered partial. But, in my opinion, books have produced more evil than good. They are accountable for many mischievous doctrines. Creeds all come from books, and books are alone responsible for the persecution and fanaticism in the world. Books in modern times are making liars everywhere. I am astonished at the number of liars abroad in every country.” (IV. 44).

Moreover, the Jew, the Christian, the Muslim each has his own book. The Books are at variance. Each says his books alone are right. How is the contest to be settled? Surely it cannot be settled by using any of the Books themselves as the yardstick. It can only be settled by subjecting all of them to reason (I. 368, II. 335) — the very procedure the faithful will not allow!

The Book itself is but a specific example: an instance of the claim to being the sole possessors of Truth. That is the central claim of every Semitic religion, of Islam most of all. Again I doubt if our communists will reproduce what he had to say about this claim, if for no other reason than because once again the words apply so very aptly to their own claim to being the sole possessors of The Revelation. Here it is:

“Therefore we at once see why there has been so much narrow-mindedness, the part always claiming to be the whole; the little, finite unit always laying claim to the infinite. Think of little sects, born within a few hundred years out of fallible human brains, making this arrogant claim of knowledge of the whole of God’s infinite truth! Think of the arrogance of it! If it shows anything, it is this, how vain human beings are. And it is no wonder that such claims have always failed, and, by the mercy of the Lord, are always destined to fail. In this line the Mohammedans were the best off; every step forward was made with the sword — the Koran in the one hand and the sword in the other: ‘Take the Koran, or you must die; there is no alternative!’ You know from history how phenomenal was their success; for six hundred years nothing could resist them, and then there came a time when they had to cry halt. So, will it be with other religions if they follow the same methods.” (II. 369-70).

On Universal Brotherhood

The claim of Islam, as of every other Semitic religion right up to and including Marxism-Leninism, that it is the doctrine of Universal Brotherhood, the Swami punctures on this count: these religions talk of Universal Brotherhood even as they divide the world between believers and non-believers, not just consigning the latter to external damnation, but binding the believers to exterminate them altogether.

“The more selfish a man,” says the Swami in words that the communists will certainly not quote, “the more immoral he is.”

“And so also with the race. That race which is bound down to itself has been the most cruel and the most wicked in the whole world. There has not been a religion that has clung to this dualism more than that founded by the Prophet of Arabia, and there has not been a religion, which has shed so much blood and been so cruel to other men. In the Koran there is the doctrine that a man who does not believe these teachings should be killed; it is a mercy to kill him! And the surest way to get to heaven, where there are beautiful houris and all sorts of sense enjoyments, is by killing these unbelievers. Think of the bloodshed there has been in consequence of such beliefs!” (II. 352-2).

The consequence is inevitable. “Now”, says the Swami, “we all shout like these drunken men, ‘Universal Brotherhood!’ We are all equal, therefore let us make a sect.’ As soon as you make a sect you protect against equality and equality is no more. Mohammedans talk of universal brotherhood, but what comes out of that in reality? Why, anybody who is not a Mohammedan will not be admitted into the brotherhood; he will more likely have his own throat cut. Christians talk of universal brotherhood; but anyone who is not a Christian must go to that place where he will be eternally barbecued.” (II. 380).

On Iconoclasm

The scorn Islam has for idol worship and the enthusiasm it has for smashing idols and temples meets with more than scorn from the Swami. Pratika and Pratima have a deep meaning, the Swami explains again and again. They are aids to gathering our wayward minds, devices for imbuing ourselves with higher attributes — over the ages the idols are endowed with these attributes through lore, and tradition, and association, and then by contemplating the idols and attributes we imbibe them. The iconoclasts don’t just miss the significance of the idol. They become idolators of the lowest kind themselves.

People — Muslims no less than others- find it difficult to worship the Spirit as Spirit. They therefore revert to the same forms of worship one way or another. But not having been taught, and not having reflected on the true and higher significance of the idol or mental image, they get stuck at the lowest level, at worshipping the object “in itself but not as help to the vision” (Drishtisaukaryam) of God”, so that it remains “at best only of the nature of ritualistic Karmas and cannot produce either Bhakti or Mukti.” (See, for instance, III. 61, 362; VI. 59-60) Worship of saints, worship of their graves (all entirely forbidden by the Prophet) are examples that the Swami often gives of Islamic idolatry, as in the following typical passage:

“It is a curious phenomenon that there never was a religion started in this world with more antagonism… (to the worship of forms) than Mohammedanism… The Mohammedans can have neither painting nor sculpture, nor music… That would lead to formalism. The priest never faces his audience. If he did, they would make a distinction. This way there was none. And yet it was not two centuries after the Prophet’s death before saint worship (developed). Here is the toe of the saint! There is the skin of the saint! So it goes, Formal worship is one of the stages we have to pass through.” (VI. 60)

In view of such reversions the Swami scoffs at the claims of Christians against pagans and of Muslims against idolators. He puts all of them at par, saying that they are all at the same preliminary stage all must pass through. Here is how he puts it:

“All over the world you will find images in some form or other. With some, it is in the form of a man, which is the best form… One sect thinks a certain form is the right sort of image, and another, thinks it is bad. The Christian thinks that when God came in the form of a dove it was alright, but if he comes in the form of a fish, as the Hindus say, it is very wrong and superstitious. The Jews think if an idol be made in the form of a chest with two angels sitting on it, and a book on it, it is all right, but if it is in the form of a man or a woman, it is awful. The Mohammedans think that when they pray, if they try to form a mental image of temple with the Caaba, the black stone in it, and turn towards the west, it is alright, but if you form the image in the shape of church it is idolatry. This is the defect of image worship, yet all these seem to be necessary stages.” (IV. 44-5).

Central teaching and consequence

Islam is the religion of peace, we are told again and again. Sufis — their thought, their music — are presented to us as the hallmark of Islam. That is certainly not the reading of the one our communists and secularists suddenly find so quotable.

“Why religions should claim that they are not bound to abide by the standpoint of reason,” Swami Vivekananda writes, “no one knows. If one does not take the standard of reason, there cannot be any true judgment, even in the case of religions. One religion may ordain something very hideous. For instance, the Mohammedan religion allows Mohammedans to kill all who are not of their religion. It is clearly stated in the Koran, ‘Kill the infidels if they do not become Mohammedans.’ They must be put to fire and sword. Now if we tell a Mohammedan that this is wrong, he will naturally ask, “How do you know that? How do you know it is not good? My book says it is’. ” (II. 335)

It is not only philosophic among them who have objected to this thrust of the teaching, the Swami says:

“The mother recognizes her child in any dress and knows him however disguised. Recognize all the great, spiritual men and women in every age and country, and see that they are not really at variance with one another. Wherever there has been actual religion — this touch of the Divine, the soul coming in direct sense-contact with the Divine — there has always been a broadening of the mind, which enables it to see the light everywhere. Now, some Mohammedans are the crudest in this respect, and the most sectarian. Their watchword is: ‘There is one God, and Mohammad is his Prophet.’ Everything beyond that not only is bad, but must be destroyed forthwith: at a moment’s notice, every man or woman who does not exactly believe in that must be killed; everything that does not belong to this worship must be immediately broken; every book that teaches anything else must be burnt. From the Pacific to the Atlantic, for five hundred years blood ran all over the world. That is Mohammedanism! Nevertheless, among these Mohammedans, wherever there was a philosophic man, he was sure to protest against these cruelties. In that he showed the touch of the Divine and realized a fragment of the truth; he was not playing with his religion, he was talking, but spoke the truth direct like a man.” (IV. 126).

Little seems to have come of the remonstrations of the philosophers however. For in Swami Vivekananda’s reading, the influence of Islam was determined by its central teaching — to kill or be killed in the war to bring peace to the world.

The Hindu more than others, and the Hindu priests more than ordinary Hindus, Swami Vivekananda recounts, became the targets of slaughter:

“To the Mussulman, the Jews or the Christians are not objects of extreme detestation; they are, at the worst, men of little faith. But not so the Hindu. According to him, the Hindu is idolatrous, the hateful kafir; hence in this life he deserves to be butchered; and in the next, eternal hell is in store for him. The utmost the Mussulman kings could do as a favour to the priestly class — the spiritual guides of these kafirs — was to allow them somehow to pass their life silently and wait for the last moment. This was again, sometimes considered too much kindness! If the religious ardour of any king was a little more uncommon, there would immediately follow arrangements for a great yajna by way of kafir-slaughter.” (IV. 446).

History accordingly turned gory with the coming of Islam to India, the Swami says:

“You know that the Hindu religion never persecutes. It is the land where all sects may live in peace and amity. The Mohammedans brought murder and slaughter in their train, but until their arrival, peace prevailed. Thus the Jains, who do not believe in a God and who regards such belief as a delusion, were tolerated, and still are there today. India sets the example of real strength that is meekness. Dash, pluck, fight, all these things are weakness.” (V. 190).

The depths to which society had pushed sections of its own induced the latter to convert to Islam, for them the conversion was a liberation, and the people who even today do not see this are “lunatics”, says Swami Vivekananda (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume III, page 294-5 and page 298. In all subsequent references to these books, the number of the volume is given first followed by the page number). That is one fact, which accounts for the conquests of Islam. There are others, says the Swami. For instance, there is the fact that the Hindu kings adhered to some self-imposed codes of war, while the invaders did not:

” The most curious thing was the code of war of those days; as soon as the battle for the day ceased and evening came, the opposing parties were good friends, even going to each other’s tents; however, when the morning came, again they proceeded to fight each other. That was the strange trait that the Hindus carried down to the time of the Mohammedan invasion. Then again, a man on horseback must not strike one on foot; must not poison the weapon; must not vanquish the enemy in any unequal fight, or by dishonesty; and must never take undue advantage of another and so on. If any deviated from these rules he would be covered with dishonour and shunned. The Kshatriyas were trained in that way. And when the foreign invasion came from Central Asia, the Hindus treated the invaders in the same way. They defeated them several times, and on as many occasions sent them back to their homes with presents etc. The code laid down was that they must not usurp anybody’s country; and when a man was beaten, he must be sent back to his country with due regard to his position. The Mohammedan conquerors treated the Hindu kings differently, and when they got them once, they destroyed them without remorse.” (IV. 93-4)

The aim of the Bhakti movement was not just an ecumenical one of picking the best in all traditions. The aim, the Swami says, was to prevent wholesale conversion to Islam:

“The movements in northern India during the Mohammedan period are characterized by their uniform attempt to hold the masses back from joining the religion of the conquerors – which brought in its train social and spiritual equality for all… The friars of the orders founded by Ramananda, Kabir, Dadu, Chaitanya, or Nanak were all agreed in preaching the equality of man, however differing from each other in philosophy. Their energy was for the most part spent in checking the rapid conquest of Islam among the masses, and they had very little left to give birth to new thoughts and aspirations. Though evidently successful in their purpose of keeping the masses within the fold of the old religion, and tempering the fanaticism of the Mohammedans, they were more apologists, struggling to obtain permission to live.” (VI. 165-6).

Nor is India the only country on which, on Swami Vivekananda’s reckoning, Islam brought down such consequences. The Turks were tolerant and humane, till Islam came, says the Swami for instance:

“In very ancient times, this Turkish race repeatedly conquered the Western provinces of India and founded extensive kingdoms. They were Buddhist, or would turn Buddhists after occupying Indian territory. In the ancient history of Kashmir there is mention of these famous Turkish Emperors, Hushka, Yushka and Kanishka. It was this Kanishka that founded the Northern School of Buddhism called the Mahayana. Long after, the majority of them took to Mohammedanism and completely devastated the chief Buddhistic seats of Central Asia such as Kandahar and Kabul. Before their conversion to Mohammedanism they used to imbibe the learning and culture of the countries they conquered, and by assimilating the culture of other countries would try to propagate civilisation. But ever since they became Mohammedans, they have only the instinct for war left in them; they have not got the least vestige of learning and culture. On the contrary, the countries that come under their sway gradually have their civilisation extinguished. In many places of modern Afghanistan and Kandahar etc. there yet exist wonderful Stupas, monasteries, temples and gigantic statues built by their Buddhistic ancestors. As a result of Turkish admixture and their conversion to Mohammedanism, those temples are almost in ruins, and the present Afghans and allied races have grown so uncivilised and illiterate that far from imitating those ancient works of architecture, they believe them to be the creation of supernatural spirits like the Jinn, etc. and are firmly convinced that such great undertakings are beyond the power of man to accomplish.

“The principal cause of the present degradation of Persia is that the royal line belongs to the powerful, uncivilized Turkish stock, whereas the subjects are the descendants of the highly-civilized ancient Persians, who were Aryans. In this way the Empire of Constantinople — the last political arena of the Greeks and Romans, the descendants of civilized Aryans — has been ruined under the blasting feet of powerful, barbarous Turkey. The Moghul Emperors of India were the only exceptions to this rule; perhaps that was due to an admixture of Hindu ideas and Hindu blood. In the chronicles of Rajput bards and minstrels, all the Mohammedan dynasties which conquered India are styled as Turks. This is a very correct appellation, for, of whatever races the conquering Mohammedan armies might be made up, the leadership was always vested in the Turks alone… What is called the Mohammedan invasion, conquest, or colonisation of India means only this that, under the leadership of Mohammedan Turks who were renegades from Buddhism, those sections of the Hindu race who continued in the faith of their ancestors were repeatedly conquered by the other section of that very race who also were renegades from Buddhism or the Vedic religion and served under the Turks, having been forcibly converted to Mohammedanism by their superior strength.” (VII. 394-5).

Not quite the reading of history our communists and secularists would find quotable!

Indeed, while these personages would find Swami Vivekananda’s exhortations to tolerance and broad-mindedness and love appropriate and quotable, the words in which he urges these, the activities of Christian missionaries and Muslim conquerors he contrasts these with will make the passages highly unquotable. Here is a typical exhortation:

“Therefore the world is waiting for this grand idea of universal toleration. It will be a great acquisition to civilisation. Nay, no civilisation can long exist unless this idea enters into it. No civilisation can grow unless fanaticism, bloodshed and brutality stop. No civilisation can begin to lift up its head until we look charitably upon one another; and the first step towards that much-needed charity is to look charitably and kindly upon the religious conviction of others. Nay more, to understand that not only should we be charitable, but also positively helpful to each other, however different our religious ideas and convictions may be. And that is exactly what we do in India as I have just related to you. It is here in India that Hindus have built and are still building churches for Christians and mosques for Mohammedans. That is the thing to do. In spite of their hatred, in spite of their brutality, in spite of their cruelty, in spite of their tyranny, and in spite of the vile language they’re given to uttering, we will and must go on building churches for the Christians and mosques for the Mohammedans until we conquer through love, until we have demonstrated to the world that love alone is the fittest thing to survive and not hatred, that it is gentleness that has the strength to live on and to fructify, and not mere brutality and physical force.” (III. 187-8).

On others as well.

Please do not get me wrong. Swami Vivekananda did not single Islam out for harsh words — in fact he almost always talked of it in the past tense, as something that had faded away. He did not attribute our miserable condition to Muslim rule: that he attributed to our own divisions and sloth, as in the following:

“Remember the old English proverb, ‘Give every man his due’. Therefore, my friends, it is no use fighting among the castes. What good will it do? It will divide us all the more, weaken us all the more, and degrade us all the more. The days of exclusive claims are gone, gone are forever from the soil of India, and it is one of the great blessing of the British rule in India. Even to the Mohammedan rule we owe that great blessing, the destruction of exclusive privilege. That rule was, after all, not all bad; nothing is all bad; and nothing is all good. The Mohammedan conquest of India came as a salvation to the downtrodden, to the poor. That is why one-fifth of our people have become Mohammedans. It was not the sword that did it all. It would be the height of madness to think it was all the work of sword and fire. And one-fifth to one-half — of our Madras people will become Christians if you do not take care. Was there ever a sillier thing before in the world than what I saw in Malabar country? The poor Pariah is not allowed to pass through the same street as the high-caste man, but if he changes his name to a hodge-podge English name, it is alright; or to a Mohammedan name, it is alright. What inference would you draw except that these Malabaris are all lunatics, their homes so many lunatic asylums, and that they are to be treated with derision by every race in India until they mend their manners and know better. Shame upon them that such wicked and diabolical customs are allowed; their own children are allowed to die of starvation, but as soon they take up some other religion they are well fed. There ought to be no more fight between the castes.” (III. 194-5).

And it is this trough of wretchedness out of which he endeavoured to life us. But not only was the goal to which he sought to turn us the exact opposite of what the communists and secularists have peddled, his method was the exact opposite too. These worthies have kept themselves aloof from our culture; they have sought to heckle it down as outsiders looking down at something rotten in a pit. Contrast their denunciations with this way:

“Did India ever stand in want of reformers? Do you read the history of India? Who was Ramanuja? Who was Shankara? Who was Nanak? Who was Chaitanya? Who was Kabir? Who was Dadu? Who were all these great preachers, one following the other, and a galaxy of stars of the first magnitude? Did not Ramanuja feel for the lower classes? Did he not try all his life to admit even the Pariah to his community? Did he not try to admit even Mohammedans to his own fold? Did not Nanak confer with Hindus and Mohammedans, and try to bring about a new state of things? They all tried, and their work is still going on. The difference is this. They had not the fanfaronade of the reformers of today; they had no curses on their lips as modern reformers have; their lips pronounced only blessings. They never condemned. They said to the people that the race must always grow. They looked back and they said, ‘ O Hindus, what you have done is good, but, my brothers, let us do better’. They did not say, ‘You have been wicked, now, let us be good’. They said, ‘You have been good, but let us now be better’. That makes a whole world of difference. We must grow according to our nature. Vain is it to attempt the lines of action that foreign societies have engrafted upon us; it is impossible. Glory unto God, that it is impossible, that we cannot be twisted and tortured into the shape of other nations.” (III. 219).

His entire life was premised on one conviction: that India had a message of inestimable worth to give to the world. He had the confidence of course that the ways and message of India – and not the Church or the Prophet, nor of Marx or Lenin – would in the end prevail:

“All religions have struggled against one another for years. Those which were founded on a book, still stand. Why could not the Christians convert the Jews? Why could not they make the Persians Christians? Why cannot any impression be made upon China and Japan? Buddhism, the first missionary religion, numbers double the number of converts of any other religion, and they did not use the sword. The Mohammedans used the greatest violence. They number the least of the three great missionary religions. The Mohammedans have had their day. Every day you read of Christian nations acquiring land by bloodshed. What missionaries preach against this? Why should the most blood-thirsty nations exalt an alleged religion which is not the religion of Christ? The Jews and the Arabs were the fathers of Christianity, and how they have been persecuted by the Christians! The Christians have been weighed in the balance in India and have been found wanting. I do not mean to be unkind, but I want to show the Christians how they look in others’ eyes. The missionaries who preach the burning pit are regarded wit horror. The Mohammedans rolled wave after wave over India waving the sword, and today where are they?” (VIII. 217-8).

He was in addition filled with a passion against the scorn and falsehood which was being heaped on India and its tradition by the very ones whose doctrine and slander our communists and secularists have internalised, and which they regurgitate. Will they quote the following in their pamphlets? Better still, will they spot how much of it applies to them?

“One thing I would tell you, and I do not mean any unkind criticism. You train and educate and clothe and pay men to do what? To come over to my country to curse and abuse all my forefathers, my religion and everything. They walk near a temple and say, ‘You idolaters, you will go to hell’. But they dare not do that to the Mohammedans of India; the sword would be out. But the Hindu is too mild; he smiles and passes on, and says, ‘Let the fools talk’. That is the attitude. And then you, who train men to abuse and criticise, if I touch you with the least bit of criticism, with the kindest of purpose, you shrink and cry, ‘Don’t touch us; we are Americans. We criticise all the people in the world, curse them and abuse them, say anything; but do not touch us; we are sensitive plants’. You may do whatever you please; but at the same time I am going to tell you that we are content to live as we are; and in one thing we are better off – we never teach our children to swallow such horrible stuff: ‘Where every prospect pleases and man alone is vile’. And whenever your ministers criticise us, let them remember this: if all India stands up and takes all the mud that is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean and throws it up against the Western countries, it will not be doing an infinitesimal part of that which you are doing to us. And what for? Did we ever send one missionary to convert anybody in the world? We say to you, ‘Welcome to your religion, but allow me to have mine. You call yours religion, but allow me to have mine’. ”

“You call yours an aggressive religion. You are aggressive, but how many have you taken? Every sixth man in the world is a Chinese subject, a Buddhist; then there are Japan, Tibet, and Russia, and Siberia, and Burma, and Siam; and it may not be palatable, but this Christian morality, the Catholic Church, is all derived from them. Well, and how was this done? Without the shedding of one drop of blood! With all your brags and boastings, where has your Christianity succeeded without the sword? Show me one place in the whole world. One, I say, throughout the history of the Christian religion — one; I do not want two. I know how your forefathers were converted. They had to be converted or killed; that was all. What can you do better than Mohammedanism, with all your bragging? ‘We are the only one!’ And why? ‘Because we can kill others.’ The Arabs said that; they bragged. And where is the Arab now? He is the Bedouin. The Romans used to say that, and where are they now? Blessed are the peace-makers; they shall enjoy the earth. Such things tumble down; it is built upon sands; it cannot remainlong.” (I. 211-3).

Did they — that is, the quoting communists — not brag as much? Did they not proclaim that their victories too were forever? Were their victories based any the less on the sword and on falsehood? And where are they today?

Conclusions

In brief, lessons upon lessons for friends who suddenly find Swami Vivekananda so quotable:

Stray quotations cannot be set up to counter the entire life and work of such a man;

As that life and work is the exact opposite of what you have been propagating, the more you lean on Vivekananda, the more he will recoil on you;

Never forget what you have been saying about a man when you suddenly find him handy, others are not likely to have forgotten;

And finally, never proclaim your intention to quote a man before you have read him!

These were Views of #SwamiVivkananda on Christianity & Islam and when u finish reading this u ll know why Seculars always misinterpret him :

Vivekananda On The Book

The central claim of Islam, as of Christianity, is that it has been given The Book, that it alone has been given The Book, that therefore it alone possesses The Truth. That there was The Book- the Talmud, the Bible, the Koran- the Swami said had one effect; it helped the adherents to hold together. But apart from that the effect of The Book – whichever this happened to be – was baneful. Our communists will not find the Swami’s verdict palatable, not the least because the Swami’s words apply to them and the fetish they made of their Book just as sharply as to Islam etc.!

“One of the great advantages of a book,” the Swami says, “is that it crystallises everything in tangible and convenient form, and is the handiest of all idols. Just put a book on an altar and everyone sees it; a good book, everyone reads. I am afraid I may be considered partial. But, in my opinion, books have produced more evil than good. They are accountable for many mischievous doctrines. Creeds all come from books, and books are alone responsible for the persecution and fanaticism in the world. Books in modern times are making liars everywhere. I am astonished at the number of liars abroad in every country.” (IV. 44).

Moreover, the Jew, the Christian, the Muslim each has his own book. The Books are at variance. Each says his books alone are right. How is the contest to be settled? Surely it cannot be settled by using any of the Books themselves as the yardstick. It can only be settled by subjecting all of them to reason (I. 368, II. 335) — the very procedure the faithful will not allow!

The Book itself is but a specific example: an instance of the claim to being the sole possessors of Truth. That is the central claim of every Semitic religion, of Islam most of all. Again I doubt if our communists will reproduce what he had to say about this claim, if for no other reason than because once again the words apply so very aptly to their own claim to being the sole possessors of The Revelation. Here it is:

“Therefore we at once see why there has been so much narrow-mindedness, the part always claiming to be the whole; the little, finite unit always laying claim to the infinite. Think of little sects, born within a few hundred years out of fallible human brains, making this arrogant claim of knowledge of the whole of God’s infinite truth! Think of the arrogance of it! If it shows anything, it is this, how vain human beings are. And it is no wonder that such claims have always failed, and, by the mercy of the Lord, are always destined to fail. In this line the Mohammedans were the best off; every step forward was made with the sword — the Koran in the one hand and the sword in the other: ‘Take the Koran, or you must die; there is no alternative!’ You know from history how phenomenal was their success; for six hundred years nothing could resist them, and then there came a time when they had to cry halt. So, will it be with other religions if they follow the same methods.” (II. 369-70).

On Universal Brotherhood

The claim of Islam, as of every other Semitic religion right up to and including Marxism-Leninism, that it is the doctrine of Universal Brotherhood, the Swami punctures on this count: these religions talk of Universal Brotherhood even as they divide the world between believers and non-believers, not just consigning the latter to external damnation, but binding the believers to exterminate them altogether.

“The more selfish a man,” says the Swami in words that the communists will certainly not quote, “the more immoral he is.”

“And so also with the race. That race which is bound down to itself has been the most cruel and the most wicked in the whole world. There has not been a religion that has clung to this dualism more than that founded by the Prophet of Arabia, and there has not been a religion, which has shed so much blood and been so cruel to other men. In the Koran there is the doctrine that a man who does not believe these teachings should be killed; it is a mercy to kill him! And the surest way to get to heaven, where there are beautiful houris and all sorts of sense enjoyments, is by killing these unbelievers. Think of the bloodshed there has been in consequence of such beliefs!” (II. 352-2).

The consequence is inevitable. “Now”, says the Swami, “we all shout like these drunken men, ‘Universal Brotherhood!’ We are all equal, therefore let us make a sect.’ As soon as you make a sect you protect against equality and equality is no more. Mohammedans talk of universal brotherhood, but what comes out of that in reality? Why, anybody who is not a Mohammedan will not be admitted into the brotherhood; he will more likely have his own throat cut. Christians talk of universal brotherhood; but anyone who is not a Christian must go to that place where he will be eternally barbecued.” (II. 380).

On Iconoclasm

The scorn Islam has for idol worship and the enthusiasm it has for smashing idols and temples meets with more than scorn from the Swami. Pratika and Pratima have a deep meaning, the Swami explains again and again. They are aids to gathering our wayward minds, devices for imbuing ourselves with higher attributes — over the ages the idols are endowed with these attributes through lore, and tradition, and association, and then by contemplating the idols and attributes we imbibe them. The iconoclasts don’t just miss the significance of the idol. They become idolators of the lowest kind themselves.

People — Muslims no less than others- find it difficult to worship the Spirit as Spirit. They therefore revert to the same forms of worship one way or another. But not having been taught, and not having reflected on the true and higher significance of the idol or mental image, they get stuck at the lowest level, at worshipping the object “in itself but not as help to the vision” (Drishtisaukaryam) of God”, so that it remains “at best only of the nature of ritualistic Karmas and cannot produce either Bhakti or Mukti.” (See, for instance, III. 61, 362; VI. 59-60) Worship of saints, worship of their graves (all entirely forbidden by the Prophet) are examples that the Swami often gives of Islamic idolatry, as in the following typical passage:

“It is a curious phenomenon that there never was a religion started in this world with more antagonism… (to the worship of forms) than Mohammedanism… The Mohammedans can have neither painting nor sculpture, nor music… That would lead to formalism. The priest never faces his audience. If he did, they would make a distinction. This way there was none. And yet it was not two centuries after the Prophet’s death before saint worship (developed). Here is the toe of the saint! There is the skin of the saint! So it goes, Formal worship is one of the stages we have to pass through.” (VI. 60)

In view of such reversions the Swami scoffs at the claims of Christians against pagans and of Muslims against idolators. He puts all of them at par, saying that they are all at the same preliminary stage all must pass through. Here is how he puts it:

“All over the world you will find images in some form or other. With some, it is in the form of a man, which is the best form… One sect thinks a certain form is the right sort of image, and another, thinks it is bad. The Christian thinks that when God came in the form of a dove it was alright, but if he comes in the form of a fish, as the Hindus say, it is very wrong and superstitious. The Jews think if an idol be made in the form of a chest with two angels sitting on it, and a book on it, it is all right, but if it is in the form of a man or a woman, it is awful. The Mohammedans think that when they pray, if they try to form a mental image of temple with the Caaba, the black stone in it, and turn towards the west, it is alright, but if you form the image in the shape of church it is idolatry. This is the defect of image worship, yet all these seem to be necessary stages.” (IV. 44-5).

Central teaching and consequence

Islam is the religion of peace, we are told again and again. Sufis — their thought, their music — are presented to us as the hallmark of Islam. That is certainly not the reading of the one our communists and secularists suddenly find so quotable.

“Why religions should claim that they are not bound to abide by the standpoint of reason,” Swami Vivekananda writes, “no one knows. If one does not take the standard of reason, there cannot be any true judgment, even in the case of religions. One religion may ordain something very hideous. For instance, the Mohammedan religion allows Mohammedans to kill all who are not of their religion. It is clearly stated in the Koran, ‘Kill the infidels if they do not become Mohammedans.’ They must be put to fire and sword. Now if we tell a Mohammedan that this is wrong, he will naturally ask, “How do you know that? How do you know it is not good? My book says it is’. ” (II. 335)

It is not only philosophic among them who have objected to this thrust of the teaching, the Swami says:

“The mother recognizes her child in any dress and knows him however disguised. Recognize all the great, spiritual men and women in every age and country, and see that they are not really at variance with one another. Wherever there has been actual religion — this touch of the Divine, the soul coming in direct sense-contact with the Divine — there has always been a broadening of the mind, which enables it to see the light everywhere. Now, some Mohammedans are the crudest in this respect, and the most sectarian. Their watchword is: ‘There is one God, and Mohammad is his Prophet.’ Everything beyond that not only is bad, but must be destroyed forthwith: at a moment’s notice, every man or woman who does not exactly believe in that must be killed; everything that does not belong to this worship must be immediately broken; every book that teaches anything else must be burnt. From the Pacific to the Atlantic, for five hundred years blood ran all over the world. That is Mohammedanism! Nevertheless, among these Mohammedans, wherever there was a philosophic man, he was sure to protest against these cruelties. In that he showed the touch of the Divine and realized a fragment of the truth; he was not playing with his religion, he was talking, but spoke the truth direct like a man.” (IV. 126).

Little seems to have come of the remonstrations of the philosophers however. For in Swami Vivekananda’s reading, the influence of Islam was determined by its central teaching — to kill or be killed in the war to bring peace to the world.

The Hindu more than others, and the Hindu priests more than ordinary Hindus, Swami Vivekananda recounts, became the targets of slaughter:

“To the Mussulman, the Jews or the Christians are not objects of extreme detestation; they are, at the worst, men of little faith. But not so the Hindu. According to him, the Hindu is idolatrous, the hateful kafir; hence in this life he deserves to be butchered; and in the next, eternal hell is in store for him. The utmost the Mussulman kings could do as a favour to the priestly class — the spiritual guides of these kafirs — was to allow them somehow to pass their life silently and wait for the last moment. This was again, sometimes considered too much kindness! If the religious ardour of any king was a little more uncommon, there would immediately follow arrangements for a great yajna by way of kafir-slaughter.” (IV. 446).

History accordingly turned gory with the coming of Islam to India, the Swami says:

“You know that the Hindu religion never persecutes. It is the land where all sects may live in peace and amity. The Mohammedans brought murder and slaughter in their train, but until their arrival, peace prevailed. Thus the Jains, who do not believe in a God and who regards such belief as a delusion, were tolerated, and still are there today. India sets the example of real strength that is meekness. Dash, pluck, fight, all these things are weakness.” (V. 190).

The depths to which society had pushed sections of its own induced the latter to convert to Islam, for them the conversion was a liberation, and the people who even today do not see this are “lunatics”, says Swami Vivekananda (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume III, page 294-5 and page 298. In all subsequent references to these books, the number of the volume is given first followed by the page number). That is one fact, which accounts for the conquests of Islam. There are others, says the Swami. For instance, there is the fact that the Hindu kings adhered to some self-imposed codes of war, while the invaders did not:

” The most curious thing was the code of war of those days; as soon as the battle for the day ceased and evening came, the opposing parties were good friends, even going to each other’s tents; however, when the morning came, again they proceeded to fight each other. That was the strange trait that the Hindus carried down to the time of the Mohammedan invasion. Then again, a man on horseback must not strike one on foot; must not poison the weapon; must not vanquish the enemy in any unequal fight, or by dishonesty; and must never take undue advantage of another and so on. If any deviated from these rules he would be covered with dishonour and shunned. The Kshatriyas were trained in that way. And when the foreign invasion came from Central Asia, the Hindus treated the invaders in the same way. They defeated them several times, and on as many occasions sent them back to their homes with presents etc. The code laid down was that they must not usurp anybody’s country; and when a man was beaten, he must be sent back to his country with due regard to his position. The Mohammedan conquerors treated the Hindu kings differently, and when they got them once, they destroyed them without remorse.” (IV. 93-4)

The aim of the Bhakti movement was not just an ecumenical one of picking the best in all traditions. The aim, the Swami says, was to prevent wholesale conversion to Islam:

“The movements in northern India during the Mohammedan period are characterized by their uniform attempt to hold the masses back from joining the religion of the conquerors – which brought in its train social and spiritual equality for all… The friars of the orders founded by Ramananda, Kabir, Dadu, Chaitanya, or Nanak were all agreed in preaching the equality of man, however differing from each other in philosophy. Their energy was for the most part spent in checking the rapid conquest of Islam among the masses, and they had very little left to give birth to new thoughts and aspirations. Though evidently successful in their purpose of keeping the masses within the fold of the old religion, and tempering the fanaticism of the Mohammedans, they were more apologists, struggling to obtain permission to live.” (VI. 165-6).

Nor is India the only country on which, on Swami Vivekananda’s reckoning, Islam brought down such consequences. The Turks were tolerant and humane, till Islam came, says the Swami for instance:

“In very ancient times, this Turkish race repeatedly conquered the Western provinces of India and founded extensive kingdoms. They were Buddhist, or would turn Buddhists after occupying Indian territory. In the ancient history of Kashmir there is mention of these famous Turkish Emperors, Hushka, Yushka and Kanishka. It was this Kanishka that founded the Northern School of Buddhism called the Mahayana. Long after, the majority of them took to Mohammedanism and completely devastated the chief Buddhistic seats of Central Asia such as Kandahar and Kabul. Before their conversion to Mohammedanism they used to imbibe the learning and culture of the countries they conquered, and by assimilating the culture of other countries would try to propagate civilisation. But ever since they became Mohammedans, they have only the instinct for war left in them; they have not got the least vestige of learning and culture. On the contrary, the countries that come under their sway gradually have their civilisation extinguished. In many places of modern Afghanistan and Kandahar etc. there yet exist wonderful Stupas, monasteries, temples and gigantic statues built by their Buddhistic ancestors. As a result of Turkish admixture and their conversion to Mohammedanism, those temples are almost in ruins, and the present Afghans and allied races have grown so uncivilised and illiterate that far from imitating those ancient works of architecture, they believe them to be the creation of supernatural spirits like the Jinn, etc. and are firmly convinced that such great undertakings are beyond the power of man to accomplish.

“The principal cause of the present degradation of Persia is that the royal line belongs to the powerful, uncivilized Turkish stock, whereas the subjects are the descendants of the highly-civilized ancient Persians, who were Aryans. In this way the Empire of Constantinople — the last political arena of the Greeks and Romans, the descendants of civilized Aryans — has been ruined under the blasting feet of powerful, barbarous Turkey. The Moghul Emperors of India were the only exceptions to this rule; perhaps that was due to an admixture of Hindu ideas and Hindu blood. In the chronicles of Rajput bards and minstrels, all the Mohammedan dynasties which conquered India are styled as Turks. This is a very correct appellation, for, of whatever races the conquering Mohammedan armies might be made up, the leadership was always vested in the Turks alone… What is called the Mohammedan invasion, conquest, or colonisation of India means only this that, under the leadership of Mohammedan Turks who were renegades from Buddhism, those sections of the Hindu race who continued in the faith of their ancestors were repeatedly conquered by the other section of that very race who also were renegades from Buddhism or the Vedic religion and served under the Turks, having been forcibly converted to Mohammedanism by their superior strength.” (VII. 394-5).

Not quite the reading of history our communists and secularists would find quotable!

Indeed, while these personages would find Swami Vivekananda’s exhortations to tolerance and broad-mindedness and love appropriate and quotable, the words in which he urges these, the activities of Christian missionaries and Muslim conquerors he contrasts these with will make the passages highly unquotable. Here is a typical exhortation:

“Therefore the world is waiting for this grand idea of universal toleration. It will be a great acquisition to civilisation. Nay, no civilisation can long exist unless this idea enters into it. No civilisation can grow unless fanaticism, bloodshed and brutality stop. No civilisation can begin to lift up its head until we look charitably upon one another; and the first step towards that much-needed charity is to look charitably and kindly upon the religious conviction of others. Nay more, to understand that not only should we be charitable, but also positively helpful to each other, however different our religious ideas and convictions may be. And that is exactly what we do in India as I have just related to you. It is here in India that Hindus have built and are still building churches for Christians and mosques for Mohammedans. That is the thing to do. In spite of their hatred, in spite of their brutality, in spite of their cruelty, in spite of their tyranny, and in spite of the vile language they’re given to uttering, we will and must go on building churches for the Christians and mosques for the Mohammedans until we conquer through love, until we have demonstrated to the world that love alone is the fittest thing to survive and not hatred, that it is gentleness that has the strength to live on and to fructify, and not mere brutality and physical force.” (III. 187-8).

On others as well.

Please do not get me wrong. Swami Vivekananda did not single Islam out for harsh words — in fact he almost always talked of it in the past tense, as something that had faded away. He did not attribute our miserable condition to Muslim rule: that he attributed to our own divisions and sloth, as in the following:

“Remember the old English proverb, ‘Give every man his due’. Therefore, my friends, it is no use fighting among the castes. What good will it do? It will divide us all the more, weaken us all the more, and degrade us all the more. The days of exclusive claims are gone, gone are forever from the soil of India, and it is one of the great blessing of the British rule in India. Even to the Mohammedan rule we owe that great blessing, the destruction of exclusive privilege. That rule was, after all, not all bad; nothing is all bad; and nothing is all good. The Mohammedan conquest of India came as a salvation to the downtrodden, to the poor. That is why one-fifth of our people have become Mohammedans. It was not the sword that did it all. It would be the height of madness to think it was all the work of sword and fire. And one-fifth to one-half — of our Madras people will become Christians if you do not take care. Was there ever a sillier thing before in the world than what I saw in Malabar country? The poor Pariah is not allowed to pass through the same street as the high-caste man, but if he changes his name to a hodge-podge English name, it is alright; or to a Mohammedan name, it is alright. What inference would you draw except that these Malabaris are all lunatics, their homes so many lunatic asylums, and that they are to be treated with derision by every race in India until they mend their manners and know better. Shame upon them that such wicked and diabolical customs are allowed; their own children are allowed to die of starvation, but as soon they take up some other religion they are well fed. There ought to be no more fight between the castes.” (III. 194-5).

And it is this trough of wretchedness out of which he endeavoured to life us. But not only was the goal to which he sought to turn us the exact opposite of what the communists and secularists have peddled, his method was the exact opposite too. These worthies have kept themselves aloof from our culture; they have sought to heckle it down as outsiders looking down at something rotten in a pit. Contrast their denunciations with this way:

“Did India ever stand in want of reformers? Do you read the history of India? Who was Ramanuja? Who was Shankara? Who was Nanak? Who was Chaitanya? Who was Kabir? Who was Dadu? Who were all these great preachers, one following the other, and a galaxy of stars of the first magnitude? Did not Ramanuja feel for the lower classes? Did he not try all his life to admit even the Pariah to his community? Did he not try to admit even Mohammedans to his own fold? Did not Nanak confer with Hindus and Mohammedans, and try to bring about a new state of things? They all tried, and their work is still going on. The difference is this. They had not the fanfaronade of the reformers of today; they had no curses on their lips as modern reformers have; their lips pronounced only blessings. They never condemned. They said to the people that the race must always grow. They looked back and they said, ‘ O Hindus, what you have done is good, but, my brothers, let us do better’. They did not say, ‘You have been wicked, now, let us be good’. They said, ‘You have been good, but let us now be better’. That makes a whole world of difference. We must grow according to our nature. Vain is it to attempt the lines of action that foreign societies have engrafted upon us; it is impossible. Glory unto God, that it is impossible, that we cannot be twisted and tortured into the shape of other nations.” (III. 219).

His entire life was premised on one conviction: that India had a message of inestimable worth to give to the world. He had the confidence of course that the ways and message of India – and not the Church or the Prophet, nor of Marx or Lenin – would in the end prevail:

“All religions have struggled against one another for years. Those which were founded on a book, still stand. Why could not the Christians convert the Jews? Why could not they make the Persians Christians? Why cannot any impression be made upon China and Japan? Buddhism, the first missionary religion, numbers double the number of converts of any other religion, and they did not use the sword. The Mohammedans used the greatest violence. They number the least of the three great missionary religions. The Mohammedans have had their day. Every day you read of Christian nations acquiring land by bloodshed. What missionaries preach against this? Why should the most blood-thirsty nations exalt an alleged religion which is not the religion of Christ? The Jews and the Arabs were the fathers of Christianity, and how they have been persecuted by the Christians! The Christians have been weighed in the balance in India and have been found wanting. I do not mean to be unkind, but I want to show the Christians how they look in others’ eyes. The missionaries who preach the burning pit are regarded wit horror. The Mohammedans rolled wave after wave over India waving the sword, and today where are they?” (VIII. 217-8).

He was in addition filled with a passion against the scorn and falsehood which was being heaped on India and its tradition by the very ones whose doctrine and slander our communists and secularists have internalised, and which they regurgitate. Will they quote the following in their pamphlets? Better still, will they spot how much of it applies to them?

“One thing I would tell you, and I do not mean any unkind criticism. You train and educate and clothe and pay men to do what? To come over to my country to curse and abuse all my forefathers, my religion and everything. They walk near a temple and say, ‘You idolaters, you will go to hell’. But they dare not do that to the Mohammedans of India; the sword would be out. But the Hindu is too mild; he smiles and passes on, and says, ‘Let the fools talk’. That is the attitude. And then you, who train men to abuse and criticise, if I touch you with the least bit of criticism, with the kindest of purpose, you shrink and cry, ‘Don’t touch us; we are Americans. We criticise all the people in the world, curse them and abuse them, say anything; but do not touch us; we are sensitive plants’. You may do whatever you please; but at the same time I am going to tell you that we are content to live as we are; and in one thing we are better off – we never teach our children to swallow such horrible stuff: ‘Where every prospect pleases and man alone is vile’. And whenever your ministers criticise us, let them remember this: if all India stands up and takes all the mud that is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean and throws it up against the Western countries, it will not be doing an infinitesimal part of that which you are doing to us. And what for? Did we ever send one missionary to convert anybody in the world? We say to you, ‘Welcome to your religion, but allow me to have mine. You call yours religion, but allow me to have mine’. “

“You call yours an aggressive religion. You are aggressive, but how many have you taken? Every sixth man in the world is a Chinese subject, a Buddhist; then there are Japan, Tibet, and Russia, and Siberia, and Burma, and Siam; and it may not be palatable, but this Christian morality, the Catholic Church, is all derived from them. Well, and how was this done? Without the shedding of one drop of blood! With all your brags and boastings, where has your Christianity succeeded without the sword? Show me one place in the whole world. One, I say, throughout the history of the Christian religion — one; I do not want two. I know how your forefathers were converted. They had to be converted or killed; that was all. What can you do better than Mohammedanism, with all your bragging? ‘We are the only one!’ And why? ‘Because we can kill others.’ The Arabs said that; they bragged. And where is the Arab now? He is the Bedouin. The Romans used to say that, and where are they now? Blessed are the peace-makers; they shall enjoy the earth. Such things tumble down; it is built upon sands; it cannot remainlong.” (I. 211-3).

Did they — that is, the quoting communists — not brag as much? Did they not proclaim that their victories too were forever? Were their victories based any the less on the sword and on falsehood? And where are they today?

Conclusions

In brief, lessons upon lessons for friends who suddenly find Swami Vivekananda so quotable:

Stray quotations cannot be set up to counter the entire life and work of such a man;

As that life and work is the exact opposite of what you have been propagating, the more you lean on Vivekananda, the more he will recoil on you;

Never forget what you have been saying about a man when you suddenly find him handy, others are not likely to have forgotten;

And finally, never proclaim your intention to quote a man before you have read him!

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2 thoughts on “Swami Vivekananda on Semitic Religions – Rudra Hindu

  1. comox valley June 29, 2013 / 1:55 am

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  2. JOSIE September 19, 2013 / 3:08 pm

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