Subhas Chandra Bose opted for philosophy as his subject when he was admitted to Scottish Church College. He had a quest deeply ingrained in him for the meaning of the universe and the life in it. While studying philosophy, Western philosophy, grounded on scepticism and rationalism, left a spell on him. He was for subjecting the precepts of the Hindu philosophy, even the Upanishads and Gita, against the new-found light of occidental rationalism.
Subhas Chandra, fondly called Netaji, remained puzzled for a long time regarding the efficacy of Mayavada. He could neither accommodate himself to it nor could he rid himself fully from its meshes. Swami Vivekananda swarmed into him when he was barely 15, preparing for the matriculation examination in Cuttack. It marked the beginning of his transformation into the mould destiny cut out for him.
A searcher for synthesis of diverse strands of religious thoughts, pulling humans in conflicting directions, he found in the Swami's works the alchemy that at the same time slaked his spiritual quest, steeled his zeal for service to humanity and strengthened his passion for the freedom of India. Ramakrishna got into him perhaps much earlier when his mother, Prabhabati Devi used to read to him from the Gospels of the saint.
Given his state of mind at that point of time, the robust rationalist in Vivekananda seemed to suit his temperament more than the mystic in Ramakrishna. But that was a passing phase – signifying an impulsive outburst from a soul enamoured of activism, with the focus exclusively trained on India and her freedom. Anything that stood contrary to the overpowering passion was frowned upon.
The Bose family
An Indian pilgrim
In his autobiography An Indian Pilgrim, written in 1939 in Austria when he was convalescing, Netaji wrote, 'Vivekananda had no doubt spoken of the need of knowledge, devotion and selfless action in developing an all-round character, but there was something original and unique in Aurobindo's conception of a synthesis. It was so refreshing, so inspiring to read Aurobindo's writings as a contrast to the denunciation of knowledge and action by the later-day Bengal Vaishnavas.'
When in seclusion, Subhas Chandra sounded deeper. But once caught again the vortex of politics, he fell under the spell of activism. His view was that remaining withdrawn in secluded and silent contemplation from time to time, and on occasions, for a long spell, was a necessity, but remaining cut-off for far too long from the tides of life and society would atrophy the active side of man.
A rare photo of Netaji
The supreme sacrifice
It seems he considered spiritualism just as an adjunct to active life but not as an end in itself. This was natural though, for he could not help playing the role destiny cut out for him – sacrificing everything on the altar of India's freedom.
Lead image: youtube.com/Voice of Freedom