Swami Vivekananda after the iconic Chicago Conference declared belief in astrology was proof of high-level superstition in Hinduism. He stood like the Rock of Gibraltar supporting his statement despite criticism. His guru Ramakrishna Paramhansdev supported his disciple.
Indian left-oriented intellectuals have often criticized Swami Vivekananda as a religious preacher and nomad. They have even gone to the extent of terming the saint a reactionary. However, this has only helped Swamiji’s popularity to soar worldwide. His doctrine, “The poorest, colder and sweepers are my brothers” has spoken of a classless society.
Not only was Swamiji well versed about Vedas, Puranas, Upanishad and Bhagawat Geeta. He was equally knowledgeable about The Bible, Koran and Granth Sahib. Never did he belittle any religion or faith. In the eyes of Swami Vivekananda, every human being was equal. The doctrine of Karma (work) was of prime importance to the hermit who transcended barriers of religious dogmas.
Sister Nivedita was particularly fascinated by the Swamiji principle of humanity. Never did he denounce rebellions with causes and support the Irish Revolution. It is rarely known that General Dwight David Eisenhower, supreme commander of Allied Forces in World War II was influenced by Swami Vivekanand’s philosophy. After the great war was won, Eisenhower during his presidential term did confess to an American Senator that the works of Swamiji inspired him to rise above all religious bias. General Jayanta Chowdhury of the Indian army which won the 1965 Indo Pak War also admitted the teachings of Swamiji helped him to understand the difference between true spiritualism and religious fanaticism.
Swami Vivekananda strongly abhorred religious dogmas and fanaticism for every religion. Never did he look down on atheists. Even staunch critics of Swamiji have never been able to find lacunae in his broadness of mind or spiritual dynamism.
Certain charlatans criticize Swami Vivekananda as an escapist from earthly problems. Time and again Swamiji has proved them wrong with beliefs in developing mental strengths and fighting evil thoughts of procrastination. In one of his discussions with Sister Nivedita defined logic and said no supernatural power can save a criminal. Similarly, he preached Good Samaritans would always be naturally rewarded for their deeds.
Swami Vivekananda did not share a typical Guru, sishya (mentor, disciple) relation with Ramakrishna Paramhansdev. The latter transformed Naren (Swami Vivekananda) into a true messenger of his gospels. Swamiji did not believe in God initially. After the divine influence of Paramhansdev, he changed his course of life. They were more like friends sharing a sublime tutor, pupil relationship. To both of them, all sciences never ended in religious beliefs. They were preachers of true spiritualism.
Though he was proud to call himself a Hindu, Swamiji never enforced his views of Hinduism on anyone. In fact, he went on officially to state that religious tolerance was his motto. Going by what he learned from Ramakrishna Paramhanshadev, Swamiji always taught ethics that respected other religions. It is a lesser-known incident that even Rabindranath Tagore was an admirer of Swamiji’s religious tolerance just as Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose was. The latter formed a favorite pastime by reading in depth the works of Swamiji.
Defying the course of nature was unscientific according to Swamiji. He believed in the ultimate power of nature. A fanatic according to Swami Vivekananda was a menace to civilized society. No wonder every birthday of his reminds us to open the windows of our mind towards kindness, frankness and noble actions.