The Pope and the Sannyasin

Two great religious leaders of the world have left us. Pope John Paul II, Head of the World Catholic Church and H.H. Swami Ranganathanandaji, President of the Sree Ramakrishna Mutt and Mission. Hinduism is non-monolithic and has no sole supreme head comparable to Pope. Incidentally, that points towards a crucially radical difference between the two world religions. The Pope is the head of a theocratic state with subjects loyal to him transnationally. The clout is, that the Pope wields on account of his religion, a political authority which he wields in a manner which has no parallel in contemporary history.

Leave alone International media, even the National media was reluctant and shy, if not apologetic, in giving proper coverage to Swami Ranganathanandaji’s Mahasamadhi and also projecting the great personality and priceless contribution which was only his legitimate due. Pope’s media coverage started long before his passing away and continued long after his successor was elected. The entire world’s, attention was on Vatican for weeks together.

There is no need to get either excited about the one or worried about the other. Hinduism is a peaceful religion, poorly or not at all organized, wielding no political clout, ruling no country or reigning over any transnational empire, true to its understanding of religion and spirituality. Swami Vivekananda had said that the impact of Hinduism is like that of a flower blossoming at the touch of the morning dew and spreading its fragrance unseen and unheard but bringing to blossom the fairest of flowers. This is in sharp contrast with the Roman Catholic Church backed by the Roman Empire whose military might enabled it to spread in the far off corners. In Hinduism, spirituality has a meaning and a value which is too subtle to be promoted by political and military power unlike Christianity which promoted it over theological empire followed by worldwide colonization. Vatican has inherited much of the tradition and also the regalia of Roman empire, whereas Hindu spiritual movements continue to deliver their message in a quite unostentatious way by personal touch and living models.

Swami Ranganathanandaji embodied the very spirit of Hinduism as exemplified by the great lives of Sree Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda.  Swami Ranganathananda was known as the spiritual ambassador of India all over the world.  Once he wrote, “The Bhagavad Gita is not a text to be worshipped in the pooja room but a manual to be followed in the battlefield of life”.

Abridged from Yuva Bharati, June 2005