From the hearth of time

From Swami Vivekananda's letter to Shashi (Swami Ramakrishnanda), 19th March, 1884:

[...] I now see it all. Brother, यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवता :- "The gods are pleased where the women are held in esteem" -- says the old Manu. We are horrible sinners, and our degradation is due to our calling women "despicable worms", "gateways to hell", and so forth. Goodness gracious! There is all the difference between heaven and hell! यथातथ्यत्योर्थान व्यद्घात -- "He adjudges gifts according to the merits of the case." Is the Lord to be hoodwinked by idle talk? The Lord has said, त्व स्त्री त्व पुमानसी त्वं कुमार उत वा कुमारी -- "Thou art the woman, Thou art the man, Thou art the boy and the girl as well." (Shwetashwatara Upa.) And we on our part are crying, दुराम्परापसर रे चंडाल -- "Be off, thou outcaste!" केनैषा नीर्मिता नारी मोहिनी etc. -- "By whom was made the bewitching woman?" My brother, what experiences I have had in the South, of the upper classes torturing the lower! What Bacchanalian orgies within the temples! Is it a religion that fails to remove the misery of the poor and turn men into gods! Do you think our religion is worth the name? Ours is only Don't-touchism, only "Touch me not", "Touch me not". Good heavens! A country, the big leaders of which have for the last two thousand years been only discussing whether to take food with the right hand or the left, whether to take water from the right-hand side or the left, ... if such a country does not go to ruin what other will? कालः सुप्तेषु जागर्ति कालो हि दुरतिक्रमः -- "Time keeps wide awake when all else sleeps. Time is invincible indeed!" He knows it; who is there to throw dust in His eyes, my friend?

Strange, isn't it... what this man had said 125 years ago still applies so much? He is still my hero!


  1. interesting indeed!

    one small correction, its 1884!

  2. hi i have been reading your blog for quite sometime now. I find myself relating to your many thoughts... could you pls tell me the name of the book whose excerpt you have put here..

  3. indeed. yet, do we actually make an effort to change anything?

  4. Very true, very true..:) will we ever change..??

  5. Gradwolf, thanks for pointing it out! Have corrected it now.

    Whateverr, glad to find another fellow Pluto-ian! This was an excerpt from the "Letters of Swami Vivekananda". The complete works are online, though, on

    P.S. Welcome!

    Galadriel, actually, there have bene efforts I believe. But we have been able to just scrape the surface. I believe there is a long way to go.

    Manasa, like I said above, we must be the change we wish to see in the world.

    Anonymous, thanks. Very true.

  6. Ah! Nice! I feel the same way about Kabir. He was way ahead of his time too! :)

    Good post, Sudipta!

  7. But isnt it amazing Sudipta, that we who take pride in our glorious past, have learnt nothing from its failures. Swamiji was way ahead of his times, but even till now, we have not been able to walk in his footprints...

  8. i m glad you posted this...

    btw is this in response to the activist itch?

    - reshmi

  9. Sayesha, thank you, ma'am. And belated happy birthday!

    Manpreet, I believe we have been, to some extent. But not till the point that we should've ideally liked.

    Sweet Alien, I don't know what it was in response to. It just stirred me when I was reading this letter.

  10. You know the box-full of quotes I have back home? The latter part of this excerpt I have in one of my pieces of paper. It had stirred in me too.
    Perhaps the more pronounced difference we notice today is, that whereas religious bigotry and the oppression of women for religious reasons in the time of Vivekananda was as prevalent in the cash-rich, educated people as in the cash-less, illiterate ones, these days, it has permeated through to the latter category; generally, we do not associate religious red tape and outcasting of women with the educated class. Of course, there is always the exception. So in that respect, perhaps the objective of the Ramakrishna Mission has been realised to an extent: to educate and let live. However, we still are far from the other objective: fill the stomach before you fill the mind. Education poured into a empty stomach causes indigestion, resulting, more often than not, in fundamentalism. That needs to be rooted out. Food, glorious food, delicious food! Oh, and inflation everywhere is sky high!

  11. Raman, very well said. We are, I believe, far from getting educated, even if I mean the literal sense of the term. It is a process in motion: it will take time. And you're very right: education into an empty stomach causes indigestion. Or like Sri Ramakrishna said, "Khali pete dhammo hoi na".


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