Monday, July 11, 2011

PM's Tribute to Swami Ranganathananda

I deem it a great privilege and a great honour to be present on this occasion when we have gathered to celebrate the life and works of one of the greatest souls of our time, a truly learned and wise man, one who attained the ultimate in the knowledge of the self, a realized soul, a being who radiated bliss – Swami Ranganathananda.

It is with deep sadness and a profound sense of loss that millions of our countrymen and countrywomen received the news of the passing away of one of the greatest teachers of our times, Swami Ranganathananda.

Swamiji was an unusually, gifted individual a teacher, a scholar, a sage, a companion of the needy, and above all a deeply religious person and a true humanist in the best traditions of Indian culture and civilization. He was also a builder, having created and built new centers of learning and meditation for the Ramakrishna Mission at home and abroad. Generations of Indians have sat at his feet and imbibed the teachings of some of our greatest texts and epics and scriptures. He was, without doubt, one of the most poetic and philosophical interpreters of the Gita in living memory. His lectures on Vedanta earned him the respect of scholars and the admiration of his disciples all over the world.

Swamiji of course, lived a full life and lived it in every corner of our vast sub-continent. He taught us all the values of love, sacrifice, learning and piety and the importance of knowledge and learning to disciples across the world and in all corners of South Asia. He was regarded by the disciples of the Ramakrishna Mission as the “Second Swami Vivekananda”, and rightly so. His interpretation of our ancient and religious texts was laced with modernism, humanism and liberalism, the values that Swami Vivekananda held so dear in his teaching of Hinduism.

Swami Ranganathananda was a great scholar and as I said earlier, a great teacher. Along with the writings of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Swamiji’s scholarly essays helped millions of young people to imbibe the true values of all the great religions of this ancient land. Be it in Kerala or in Kolkata, in Hyderabad or in New Delhi, wherever Swamiji lived, he left behind several generations of enlightened people who have dedicated their lives to the service of man and the welfare of our people.

His lectures attracted audiences of all ages, from teenagers to senior citizens. Some came for knowledge, others came for inspiration, but all came for comfort and peace of mind. His mellifluous voice, his handsome personality, his humane visage, in addition to his deep scholarship, attracted large audiences. He was one of the greatest communicators of our time and personification of divinity himself. I myself have sat in Swamiji's lectures, engrossed by his voice and thoughts which gave a glimpse of the vast storehouse of knowledge that resided in him. His face radiated peace, serenity and bliss. In his presence, one felt distanced from the worries of our mundane existence.

Swamiji reminds me of two stanzas of the Bhagwad Gita and I quote their English translation :

"The man of goodwill, friendly, compassionate; he who is the same to friend or foe, unchanged in honour or disgrace, beyond heat, cold, pleasure or pain, free from attachment, whose soul is silent – that man is dear to Me."

The Gita further says "He who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, is never separated from Me nor I from him. He who in his oneness worships Me, who abides in all beings, that Yogi lives in me." Swamiji was one such Yogi.

In the passing away of Swami Ranganathananda, the world has lost a true sanyasi, in every sense of that term. We are all the poorer today. I urge the Ramakrishna Mission to keep the memory of Swamiji alive by publishing his writings and the audio-visual tapes of his lectures so that future generations can be equally enlightened and enriched by the wisdom, the grace and the compassion of Swamiji. I am truly grateful to you for giving me this opportunity to join you in paying tribute to the memory of Swami Ranganathananda.

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