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After all that we have said about Saivism and Vaishnavism and about the nuances of the different philosophical schools, what characterizes modern Hinduism, after the Age of Hindu renaissance, is not the divisive spirit of exclusive worship of a particular deity, but is the eclectic tone and temper of a long line of divine integrators of the last two centuries, the most prominent of whom are listed below.
Jothi Ramalinga Swamigal(1823-1874 C.E.) who promoted a casteless society with every one uniformly seeking Grace through the inner light of one's own Self,
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa(1836 -1886) the gift of Hinduism to posterity, whose message to the world carries the conviction of first-hand authority not only on Hinduism but on other religions as well;
Swami Vivekananda(1863-1902), who was Sage Ramakrishna's unique gift to posterity and who, as the messiah, carried the message of the Apostle to every part of the world in a dramatic fashion and in the process of institutionalizing it gave a spiritual bias to Indian nationalism;
Shirdi Sai Baba(1854 - 1918) who lived like a poor devotee but was (and is even now) the divine benefactor of miraculous grace for every one of his devotees;
Dr. Annie Besant(1837 - 1934) whose interpretations of the ancient scriptures of India came just at the right time when Science was making some of the greatest breakthroughs of the twentieth century and, when, to the ordinary layman, it appeared as if the issue of Science versus Spirituality was getting more and more clouded.
Aurobindo(1872 - 1950). The greatest exponent of the integral spiritual ideal taught in the Rg Veda, the early Upanishads and the Gita. Author of the magnum opus of twentieth century original writing, 'The Life Divine' and of the poetic counterpart of this, called 'Savitri', a poem twice as long as Paradise Lost. In these and in numerous other writings of his, he teaches a profoundly spiritual process called Integral Yoga. He has left innumerable records of his mystic experimentation which surpass the grandest sophistication which modern science and mathematics can muster. The aim was to reaffirm the integral view of life set forth in the scriptures and free the ancient sAdhanA from the limitations and symbolism of any particular theology so that all humanity may avail of it to reach a higher plane of spiritual evolution. The Ashram that he founded at Pondichery has an international following.
The Mother(1878 - 1973) who guided the Aurobindo Ashram ever since Aurobindo made himself unavailable for public interaction. She continued his shower of Grace on the Finite Minds which chose to raise their hands to reach the Infinite.
Mahatma Gandhi(1869 - 1948) who had seven Himalayan achievements to his credit, each of which was firmly founded on his faith in spirituality . Any single one of these could have earned him the title of a Mahatma. He guided and conducted the most gigantic revolution of the twentieth century for almost a quarter of a century on the basis of Non-violence. He made the Right Wing agree to changes and reforms and at the same time made the Left Wing agree that changes and reforms could happen only step by step. He convinced politicians steeped in Chanakya-like statesmanship agree to accept True Religious Spirituality as the only proper guideline for action. Just as mankind has an ethics and morals of their own he was the one who initiated the thought process that Nations must also have an ethics and morals among the comity of nations. It was he who woke up the Indian masses to be aware of the evils of untouchability, widow ill-treatment, child marriage and drug addiction and made them rise against them. It was he who made the Indian people rise above their religious and cultural prejudices and rise as one nation. It was he who shook up the spineless nature of the nation because of its fear of the police, fear of muscle power and money power, fear from superstitious traditions, fear of beaurocracy, and fear from caste and religious prejudice . His authentic voice of sincerity demonstrated to the world that the inner strength of personal religious convictions could be a great 'force' even to solve political and social problems.
Ramana Maharshi(1879 - 1950), who, before anybody could tell him, even as a boy of thirteen, had spiritual enlightenment, through a personal inner experience. The boy became a saint then and there. He renounced home and spent fifteen long years in deep meditation on the Arunachala Hills, in Tiruvannamalai, Tamilnadu. He had become a Maharshi. Disciples came one by one and the Ramana Ashram grew into a major center of learning, and training in spirituality. With his tremendous faith in the universal brotherhood of man and the need to attain spirituality by constant questioning of one's own self, the maharshi spread the message of the transitory nature of the material and visible world and the message of divine bliss that is inherent in every Being -- by his preaching, certainly, but even more, by his silent transmission of spirituality to those who had the good fortune to sit before him and yearn for that message. His was a monumental example of what an Upanishadic Seer would look like and act like. He is known for the emphasis on the relentless pursuit of the question, Who am I? and thus spiritually illumining millions of minds.
Swami Sivananda(1887 - 1963), who, by his mesmerizing propagation of ancient spiritual habits of life, pioneered the modern practice of running residential courses on Hinduism, in the sylvan atmosphere of the Himalayan slopes.
Kanchi Mahaswamigal(1894 - 1994), the sage of Kanchi in Tamilnadu, who was so simple, humble, profound, enlightened, compassionate, scholarly and full of Grace that he naturally and effortlessly touched the hearts of men and women, prince and pauper , around the world. Ascending to the Headship of the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt at the age of thirteen as the 68th pontiff in the line of succession from Adi Sankara, he ministered to the needs of the afflicted and the distressed and spread the message of compassion and of a return to the most treasured ancient values. After a mission like this full of action for almost half a century which included a 30-year walking pilgrimage of the entire subcontinent of India, he laid down his headship and devoted his time, for the next forty years, to severe penance for universal welfare. Not one of those thousands who had his darSan every day missed to feel the soul-stirring presence of 'the Living God' in their veins.
Ma Anandamayi(1896 -1982), who, endowed with divine intuition even as a teen-ager, became India's most popular woman saint in recent times.
J. Krishnamurti(1895 -1986) who, by his life and letters, has provoked thousands to delve into the true knowledge of the self, without having to go through conventional ritualistic standards and prerequisites.
Paramahamsa Yogananda(1893 -1952), whose Self-Realization Fellowship Estate near Los Angeles is world -famous. His Autobiography of a Yogi has been one of the earliest spirituality-oriented books which caught on like a blizzard in the western world. His simplicity of living and high thinking brought thousands of students flocking to him to learn what he called kriya-Yoga. For as long as three decades he showed by his radiant personal example that the simple free lifestyle of a spiritual community is what is most needed for the material west.
Swami Chinmayananda(1916 -1993), who by his whirlwind tours and lectures worldwide and through the mission centers at almost every major city across the world, propagated the thought that Vedanta is just another Science that can be neglected only at the peril of civilization itself.
Sathya Sai Baba( born 1926) who is engulfing every part of the world with his miraculous powers to turn the thinking of the masses inward.
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Ó Copyright. V. Krishnamurthy October 12, 2000