Swami Vivekananda’s Intelligence

Yatindra Bhatnagar

Swami Vivekananda  (or Vivekananda ) was India’s world famous religious-social-intellectual -philosopher-saint leader of the last century. Swami Ji made history when he addressed World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, in 1903 and mesmerized the international audience .

His oratory was admirable, and his clear exposition of the high ideals, tolerance, universal brotherhood and compassionate message of the rich Hindu religion absolutely impressive. He became an instant celebrity in America, and later in Europe and Japan among other parts of the world and his message spread widely.

Swami Vivekananda, a devout follower and chief disciple of the 19th-century mystic monk Swami Ramakrishna, gave up his bright future in the material world to service of humanity. He not only introduced Hinduism and the Vedanta philosophy to the West but also revived Hinduism in India.

As a student also Vivekananda was brilliant and had command over English language. An avid reader, singer, painter, orator  and practicing Yoga expert, he had an incredible memory. Swami Ji was proud of India’s glorious history and culture and the country’s rich gift of knowledge to the world.  Despite that, he was full of humility, politeness and a high sense of dignity. He was a nationalist to the core and his writings influenced Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, among others.

Vivekananda was never overawed by the fact that the British were then the rulers of India. He never had any kind of inferiority complex. The Englishmen then considered themselves a superior race but could never make Vivekananda feel small. He stood tall and never let them score over him. He always felt proud of India’s rich heritage, and the accomplishment of ancient Indian sages and rulers. That’s why he was never intimidated by the English.

In his days there was racial inequality and intolerance of a high degree, even among the intelligentsia. But he always stood his ground.

There is an interesting story about his days as a student in England. 

When Vivekananda was studying law at the University College London, a white professor, named Mr. Peters, disliked him intensely.

One day, Mr. Peters was having lunch at the dining room when Vivekanand came along with his food tray and sat next to the professor.

The professor said, "Mr. Vivekananda , you do not understand, a pig and a bird do not sit together to eat."

Vivekananda looked at him and calmly replied, "You do not worry professor. I'll fly away." So saying, he moved to another table, smilingly.

Mr. Peters, red with rage, decided to take revenge. 

The next day in the class he posed a question: "Mr. Vivekananda , if you were walking down the street and found a package, with one bag of wisdom and another bag with money, which one would you take ?"

Without hesitating, Vivekananda responded, "The one with the money, of course."

Mr. Peters, smiling sarcastically said, "I, in your place, would have taken the bag of wisdom."

Vivekananda shrugged his shoulders and responded, "Each one takes what he doesn't have."

Mr. Peters, by this time, was a picture of rage. So great was his anger that he wrote on Vivekananda's exam sheet the word "idiot" and gave it to him.

Vivekananda took the exam sheet, sat down at his desk, thought for a while. A few minutes later he went to the professor and told him in a dignified but polite tone, "Mr. Peters, you signed the sheet, but you did not give me the grade."

Once more the professor had no answer; he must have had difficult time to swallow his pride and suppress his anger, but Vivekananda was calm.

That was Vivekananda who became a giant among men of that era and made Indians proud.

Moral of the story: Don't mess with intelligent people. Don’t be arrogant. Don’t have a superiority complex.