Saturday, July 18, 2009



When Swami Vivekananda returned from his American tour and entered upon his work of regeneration of India, the one message which he delivered, as he travelled from town to town, from village to village, in this ancient land of heroes and sages was: "Be fearless! Be bold!" Listen to his words: "Stand up, be bold, be strong! Strength is life, weakness is death. Weakness is the one cause of suffering. We become miserable because we are weak. We lie, steal, kill and commit other crimes, because we are weak. We suffer, because we are weak. We die, because we are weak. Where there is nothing to weaken us, there is no death, no sorrow.

I recall a moving incident in the life of Swami Vivekananda. He is in America, speaking to large audiences on the wisdom of India’s Rishis and Saints. He urges that the way is not for weakling: the way is for heroes, for those who would be fearless in the face of every calamity, even death.

A few young men wish to put the Swami to the test. They know of so many who are wonderful preachers but whose life, alas, does not bear witness to what they teach. Does Swami Vivekananda belong to the same class? They invite him to deliver a lecture. Gladly he goes to their meeting. He speaks to them of faith in God as the secret of the true life. And the man of faith, he urged, is fearless in the face of difficulty and danger.

Suddenly there is the sound of pistol-shots. Bullets fly past the Swami, just grazing his ears. Pandemonium reigns in the hall. Men rush out: women shriek in fear, and some of them drop down in transient unconsciousness. In the midst of this confusion, there is one man who stands firm, immovable as a rock, fearless and bold. He is Swami Vivekananda. The bullet that is not meant for him cannot touch him: the bullet meant for him will seek him out even if he is protected by a thousand body-guards.

Soon the shots cease. The Swami picks up the thread of his talk where he left it a minute ago. People returned to the hall. Women wake up from their fainting fits. Things return to normal and it seems though nothing untoward had taken place.

When lecture is over, the young men meet Swami Vivekananda. "Forgive us," they say to him, "the shots were fired by us to see how fearless you were. Your courage and your confidence put us to shame. Verily, Swamy! You are among the most fearless men on earth. Pray forgive us!"

(J.P. Vaswani in Mira, April 2004)