Swami Vivekananda's legacy of Hindutva

Published: Saturday, Apr 13,2013, 21:59 IST
The Hindu, Op-Ed Vivekananda legacy of Universalism, Swami Vivekananda, JNU Professor, K N Panikkar, eminent Historian

The Hindu carried the Op-Ed Vivekananda’s legacy of Universalism about Swami Vivekananda on April 10,2013.  It was written by a former JNU Professor K. N. Panikkar. This is my honest and humble attempt to rebut the article rooted in lies by the “eminent” Historian.

About the author: K. N. Panikkar

Before reading an article one should know the author. Especially when the author makes a political point as if he himself is apolitical. So I searched him in Google only to find this K. N. Panikkar (born 1936) is an Indian historian, associated with the “Marxist school” of historiography.Panikkar was Professor of Modern Indian History at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Prior to joining JNU, he taught at University of Delhi. In 2001, he was appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kerala.

During his undergraduate student days, he worked as the Vice-President, Malabar District Committee of the Student Federation—student wing of the undivided Communist Party of India. He was also elected as the Chairman of Victoria College Students’ Union during the same period. The ideas and patronage which he received from his relative and a prominent Communist Party leader Shri.K.P.Madhava Menon played a key role in shaping young Panikkar’s ideas.

A UGC sub-committee, which studied the functioning of the country’s premier centre for Sanskrit studies, has recommended that only Sanskrit scholars be appointed as the vice-chancellor of the university.But Dr Panikkar told rediff.com that the UGC sub-committee does not have any such authority. “Knowledge of Sanskrit is not essential to run a university

This leads to a few conclusions :

  • The author has a Marxian background, and is a Marxist himself.
  • A well known BJP-RSS (Sangh Parivar) hater.
  • CPM government in Kerala made him Vice Chancellor of Sanskrit university even though he had no knowledge about Sanskrit.

Post Mortem of the Op-Ed.

Look at the way he exposes his own inherent hatred against Sangh Parivar in the opening para of his article.

A variety of activities is in the offing to commemorate Swami Vivekananda’s immense contribution to the making of India as a nation. The occasion: the 150th birth anniversary of Swamiji. Seminars, workshops, publications and such other means to perpetuate his memory and assess the significance of his contribution form part of the celebrations. Strangely, at the forefront of this celebration are the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its front organisations. Strange because Vivekananda hardly had anything in common with the sangh parivar, except being Hindu by birth.

Panikkar acknowledges that RSS and front organizations are the ones who celebrate the 150th Anniversary more than other organizations, but he finds some strangeness in it. He does not find it strange that the CPI(M) in Kerala who once used to ridicule Swamiji  is now busy including Swami Vivekananda ‘s photo in their posters along with Che Guvera and Saddam Hussain, but finds it strange that an organisation which is founded on teachings of Swami Vivekananda, whose most celebrated Sarsanghchalak was a product of Ramakrishna Mission himself, is celebrating Swamiji’s 150th birth anniversary in the most beautiful way.

He has a reason to find it strange, he says “Vivekananda hardly had anything in common with the sangh parivar, except being Hindu by birth”. Now what does he mean to say? That Swami Vivekananda was Hindu only by birth, and lesser Hindu at later part of his life? Swamiji’s Chicago speeches itself is a slap on face of such blatant liars.

  • I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects
  • I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.
  • He presented a paper on Hinduism in Chicago
  • It is not only that we must revive our own country — that is a small matter; I am an imaginative man — and my idea is the conquest of the whole world by the Hindu race.
  • We are Hindus. I do not use the word Hindu in any bad sense at all, nor do I agree with those that think there is any bad meaning in it. In old times, it simply meant people who lived on the other side of the Indus; today a good many among those who hate us may have put a bad interpretation upon it, but names are nothing. Upon us depends whether the name Hindu will stand for everything that is glorious, everything that is spiritual, or whether it will remain a name of opprobrium, one designating the downtrodden, the worthless, the heathen. If at present the word Hindu means anything bad, never mind; by our action let us be ready to show that this is the highest word that any language can invent. It has been one of the principles of my life not to be ashamed of my own ancestors. I am one of the proudest men ever born, but let me tell you frankly, it is not for myself, but on account of my ancestry. The more I have studied the past, the more I have looked back, more and more has this pride come to me, and it has given me the strength and courage of conviction, raised me up from the dust of the earth, and set me working out that great plan laid out by those great ancestors of ours. Children of those ancient Aryans, through the grace of the Lord may you have the same pride, may that faith in your ancestors come into your blood, may it become a part and parcel of your lives, may it work towards the salvation of the world.

He continues is his lies… In italics is his article and in brackets is my comment.

The ideology of the Sangh parivar is rooted in religious hatred  (Rooted in religious hatred? Can he quote one sentence from RSS Ideology which ridicules or shows in contempt any religious practice of other religions? He has not because he could not find one) and Swamiji stood for social harmony and inter-faith dialogue (Not only Swamiji, every Hindu stand for social Harmony and inter faith dialogue). There can be no meeting point between these two ( First call A a criminal without mentioning his crime , B a saint and say there is no meeting point between a thief and a saint). Yet, the Hindu fundamentalists trace their lineage to the neo-Hindu movement of which Vivekananda was the central figure.( What is this Neo Hindu movement ? ) None of his observations on Hinduism, unless taken out of context, seems to give credence to the proposition that he had a communal outlook.( This needs a detailed reply ) He was a devoted Hindu, passionately involved in bringing about cultural and spiritual welfare of the people. (True)

The underlined headnotes are from his article, below are his comments…

None of Swami Vivekananda observations on Hinduism, unless taken out of context, seems to give credence to the proposition that he had a communal outlook

I will write down some quotes of Swami Vivekananda with context and ask Mr Panikkar to judge about the communalism in it and compare it with Ideology with Sangh Parivar (Mainly rooted in Bunch of Thoughts by Golwarkar).

  • ”The yogi says there is a great danger in stumbling upon this state. In a good many cases, there is the danger of the brain being deranged, and, as a rule, you will find that all those men, however great they were, who had stumbled upon this superconscious state without understanding it, groped in the dark, and generally had, along with their knowledge, some quaint superstition. They opened themselves to hallucinations. Mohammad claimed that the Angel Gabriel came to him in a cave one day and took him on the heavenly horse, Harak, and he visited the heavens. But with all that Mohammad spoke some wonderful truths. If you read the Koran, you find the most wonderful truths mixed with superstitions. How will you explain it? That man was inspired, no doubt, but that inspiration was, as it were, stumbled upon. He was not a trained yogi, and did not know the reason of what he was doing. Think of what the good Mohammad did to the world, and think of the great evil that has been done through his fanaticism! Think of the millions massacred through his teachings, mothers bereft of their children, children made orphans, whole countries destroyed, millions upon millions of people killed!… So we see this danger by studying the lives of great teachers like Mohammad and others. Yet we find, at the same time, that they were all inspired. Whenever a prophet got into the superconscious state by heightening his emotional nature, he brought away from it not only some truths, but some fanaticism also, some superstition which injured the world as much as the greatness of the teaching helped.”

I hope context of this is obvious. This is from the book written by Swami Vivekananda himself named “Raja Yoga”.  Imagine a VHP leader saying this today that “Muhammad was not a trained yogi, his teachings had fanaticism which injured the world as much as the greatness of teaching helped”, the same Panikkar would write another article in The Hindu condemning COMMUNAL speech of VHP leader. Panikkar had no problem when Swami said so, because he and his fringe party could not ignore the popularity Swami Vivekananda has, but has problems with VHP because they have virtually no presence in communist ruled states, or at places where still some communists live.

Let us jump to another quote of Swami Vivekananda

  • “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).


Here again if Arun Shourie and Sita Ram Goel writes about Violent Islamic History, Panikkar would call them Communal. But Swami Vivekananda said the same and the context is obvious.

  • Mark me, then and then alone you are a Hindu when the very name sends through you a galvanic shock of strength. Then and then alone you are a Hindu when every man who bears the name, from any country, speaking our language or any other language, becomes at once the nearest and the dearest to you. Then and then alone you are a Hindu when the distress of anyone bearing that name comes to your heart and makes you feel as if your own son were in distress…. You may see thousands of defects in your countrymen, but mark their Hindu blood. They are the first Gods you will have to worship even if they do everything to hurt you, even if everyone of them send out a curse to you, you send out to them words of love. If they drive you out, retire to die in silence like that mighty lion, Govind Singh. Such a man is worthy of the name of Hindu; such an ideal ought to be before us always. All our hatchets let us bury; send out this grand current of love all round.( Volume 3 )


“Garv se kaho Hum Hindu hain ?” is a Communal slogan. Isn’t it Panikkar ? Hindu organisations use the slogan frequently. I hope it ceases to be communal now as Swami himself claimed to be and exhorted other Hindus to be proud of themselves.

  • “I want to see you, Swami”, I began, “on this matter of receiving back into Hinduism those who have been perverted from it. Is it your opinion that they should be received?” “Certainly,” said the Swami, “they can and ought to be taken.” He sat gravely for a moment, thinking, and then resumed. “Besides,” he said, “we shall otherwise decrease in numbers. When the Mohammedans first came, we are said — I think on the authority of Ferishta, the oldest Mohammedan historian — to have been six hundred millions of Hindus. Now we are about two hundred millions. And then every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy the more. “Again, the vast majority of Hindu perverts to Islam and Christianity are perverts by the sword, or the descendants of these. It would be obviously unfair to subject these to disabilities of any kind. As to the case of born aliens, did you say? Why, born aliens have been converted in the past by crowds, and the process is still going on.  (volume 5 read more)


Swami Vivekananda encouraged reconversion, He even called Hindu converting to Abrahamic religion enemies. What does Panikkar feel now ?


The ideology of the Sangh parivar is rooted in religious hatred 

is a criminal, but I have no idea about his crime, Panikkar’s hatred towards Sangh Parivar revolves around this logic . Every political party and religious organisations have shed blood in India, be it Congress, or BJP or the communists. As far as the ideology of Sangh Parivar is concerned, which Mr Panikkar says is rooted in religious hatred, I would like to quote Guruji Golwarkar on it.

  • ‘Nation’ is a whole and living entity. It has ever so many functions, one of which is the statecraft. And ‘secularism’ is only one of the qualities of that statecraft. Thus equating ‘secularism’ with ‘nationalism’ would be like identifying one of the functions of a limb of a body with the body itself, and exhibits a sad lack of understanding of the basic distinction between ‘Nation’ and ‘State’. Again, if ‘secularism’ is to mean only the mundane things of life and something divorced from the higher and nobler attributes of the spirit, as it is sometimes made out to be, then we will not touch it even with a barge-pole. If, however, ‘secularism’ is to mean, as it ought to, not anti-religion but scope and opportunity for every religious persuasion to grow, and restraining of one religion from pouncing upon another, then that is undoubtedly in tune with the spirit of Hindu Rashtra. Then, the apt word for such a state would be ‘multireligious’ and not ‘secular’. In this country, the ‘state’ was never tagged on to any particular faith.
  • As such, the so-called minorities living here have nothing to lose but everything to gain by the rejuvenation of Hindu Rashtra. It is the Hindu thought alone which, in this wide world, has recognised the immanence of one Supreme Power in the entire humanity and has respected and even protected and encouraged all types of cults and creeds to grow and blossom to their fulfillment. All these factors point to the fact that it is only a strong and resurgent Hindu Rashtra that can stand guarantee to the free and prosperous life of the so-called minorities here sharing equal opportunities as the proud children of the motherland.
  • It would be useful for the Muslims here to emulate the example of their co- religionists in countries like Iran, Turkey etc. When Islam spread from Arabia to those neighbouring countries, the local people there adopted the Islamic creed but retained their culture and language and way of life. In Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, the children begin their learning with lessons about Rama and Sita. It is only here that the local Muslims disowned their ancestors, their languages, customs and all such elements of national heritage. And it is this oblivion of their ancestry that has led to the partition of the country.


Vivekananda’s plan of action was not limited to the religious realm. He was equally sensitive to social and economic issues. In other words, Hindus should strive towards a total transformation and inclusive growth

Panikkar is ignorant about the social service activities by Sangh Parivar or he deliberately want to stay deaf to unpleasant information. Listing a few of successful social service campaigns by Sangh Parivar.

  • The Seva Bharati is a non-governmental organization (NGO) in India. It works especially among the economically weaker sections and the tribal and indigenous communities in India. It runs thousands of service projects across India in the field of education, health care, rural development and rehabilitation of differently abled and special needs children.The massive relief work carried out by Seva Bharati following the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, the 2008 Bihar flood and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami came in for considerable appreciation from various quarters. The organisation is also known for its efforts in rehabilitating the victims of terror, especially the children who are rendered orphans by terror attacks.
  • The Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (literally Foundation of Solo Schools) is a non-profit organisation involved in education and village development in rural areas and tribal villages of India.[1][2] It is the largest grassroots, non-government education initiative in India with presence in over 37,000 villages providing free education to more than one million children


But if he (Swami Vivekananda) were to be back in contemporary India, it is most unlikely that it would be in the communal camp.

There is none in contemporary India who is parallel to Swami Vivekananda, If he were to be back here, he is most likely that he will be in so called Communal camp to teach them something which Panikkar calls Communal. There are hundreds of quotes of Swami Vivekananda which is perceived as “communal” by so called secularists. A man who stood for the Hindu community in a global stage would be happy to be called communal, in the right sense of that word.  A communal Hindu is not like an extremist who believes in Totalitarian ideologies like Communism, Islam and Christianity. He does not spew hate; he exposes the hate spewing Ideologies like the trio mentioned above. He does not hate people, but he will teach people that all religions have some truth in it.  If Swami Vivekananda lived today, he would have added Communism to his famous statement and said “ A Hindu turning to communism is not only a Hindu less, but an enemy more.”

Author : Nationalizer | Follow the writer on twitter/nationalizer
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Disclaimer: The author is a commentator on issues of national interest. These are his personal views and do not necessarily reflect IBTL's opinion.
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