20 May 2014

Benoy Kumar Sarkar On Swami Vivekananda

Benoy Kumar Sarkar,  (Bengali: বিনয় কুমার সরকার 1887–1949) or B. K. Sarkar was an Indian sociologist, economist and writer. He worked as a professor at the Department of Economics of University of Calcutta. Some of his publications are— 1921 The Positive Background of Hindu Sociology, The beginning of Hindu culture as world-power, Chinese Religion Through Hindu Eyes etc. A detailed biography of Sarkar is available at Wikipedia.

In this article our topic is Benoy Kumar Sarkar's quotes and comments on Swami Vivekananda.

A Bengali young man, headshot, black and white image
Benoy Kumar Sarkar
Image source: SAADA
Benoy Kumar Sarkar told—
If we look upon Ramakrishna as the Buddha of our time, Vivekananda may pass for one or other of the great apostles of yore, say, the scholar Rahula, the constitutional authority Upali, the devoted lieutenant Ananda, the sage Sariputta, or that master of discourses, Mahakachchayana. One can almost say that Vivekananda was all these great Buddhist preacher organizers boiled down into one personality.

...He was much more than a mere exponent of Vedanta, or Ramakrishna, or Hinduism, or Indian Culture. ...In all his thoughts and activities he was expressing only himself. He always preached his own experiences. It is the truths discovered by him in his own life that he propagated through his literature and institutions. As a modern philosopher he can be properly evaluated solely if one places him by the side of Dewey, Russell, Croce, Spranger, and Bergson. It would be doing Vivekananda injustice and misinterpreting him hopelessly if he were placed in the perspective of scholars whose chief or sole merit consists in editing, translating, paraphrasing or popularizing the teachings of Plato, Asvaghosa, Plotinus, Nagarjuna, Aquinas, Shankaracharya and others.

Sarkar also told—
With five words he conquered the world when he addressed men and women as 'Ye divinities on earth,—Sinners?' The first four words thundered into being the gospel of joy, hope, virility, energy and freedom for the races of men, and yet with the last word, embodying as it did a sarcastic question, he demolished the whole structure of soul-degenerating, cowardice-promoting, negative, pessimistic thoughts. On the astonished world the little five-word formula fell like a bombshell. The first four words he brought from the East, and the last word he brought from the West. All these are oft-repeated expressions, copy-book phrases both in the East and the West. And yet never in the annals of human thought was the juxtaposition accomplished before Vivekananda did it in this dynamic manner and obtained instantaneous recognition as a world’s champion.

Vivekananda’s gospel here is that of energism, of mastery over the world, of elan vital subduing conditions that surround life, of creative intelligence and will, of courage trampling down cowardice, of world-conquest. And those who are acquainted with the trends of world-thought since the middle of the nineteenth century are aware that it was just along these lines that the West was groping in the dark to find a solution. A most formidable exponent of these wants and shortcomings was the German man of letters and critic, Nietzsche (on whom the influence of Manu was powerful), whose...works had awakened mankind to the need of a more positive, humane and joyous life’s philosophy than that of the New Testament. This joy of life for which the religious, philosophical and social thought was anxiously waiting came suddenly from an unexpected quarter, from this unknown young man of India. And Vivekananda was acclaimed as a tremendous creative power, as the pioneer of a revolution,—the positive and constructive counterpart to the destructive criticism of Nietzsche....

The key to Vivekananda’s entire life ... is to be found in this Sakti-yoga, energism, the vigour and strength of freedom. All his thoughts and activities are expressions of his energism. Like our Pauranik Visvamitra or the Aeschylean Prometheus he wanted to create new worlds and distribute the fire of freedom, happiness, divinity and immortality among men and women.

Sarkar observed—
His [Vivekananda] politics and economics are all to be found in his social philosophy. And in this domain we encounter Vivekananda as the messenger of modern materialism. It is possible to establish here an equation between Vivekananda and Immanuel Kant. ...What Kant did for Euro-America towards the end of the eighteenth century was accomplished for India towards the end of the nineteenth century by Vivekananda. Kant is the father of modern materialism for the West. Vivekananda is the father of modern materialism for India. ...It is to them that the world is indebted for the charters of dignity for Nature, matter, material science and material welfare. ...India like Europe was in need of a man who could say with all honesty he could command that Prakriti was no less sacred than Purusha and that the pursuit of material sciences and material prosperity was as godly as that of the sciences and activities bearing on the soul.


  • Creative India, Sarkar, Benoy Kumar, 1937, pp. 671–673
  • Vivekananda, Kant and Modern MaterialismCalcutta Review April 1939, Prabuddha Bharata April 1939

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