Today is the 118th birth anniversary of Subhash Chandra Bose, fondly known as Netaji or ‘Respected Leader’. He is well-known as a great freedom fighter, as the founder of the Indian National Army, which fought against the British for India’s freedom.
However, there is another lesser known side of him – his spiritual side. Subhas Chandra 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 skepticism and rationalism,
left a spell on him. He was for subjecting the precepts of Hindu
philosophy, even the Upanishads and the Gita, against the new-found light of Occidental
with early spiritualism
Subhas Chandra 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.
Subhash Chandra Bose and Swami Vivekananda
A searcher for the 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 out 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, and focus trained exclusively
on India and her freedom. Anything that stood contrary to the
overpowering passion was frowned upon.
The Bose family
An Indian Pilgrim
his autobiography An Indian Pilgrim, written in 1939 in Austria when
he was convalescing, he 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.'
in seclusion, Subhash Chandra sounded deeper. But once caught again in 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 that 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
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 had for him - that of sacrificing everything on the
altar of India's freedom.