‘Our vigor, our strength, nay, our national life is in our religion… for good or evil.’ At a time when everybody who was anybody in India had a theory on the reasons for British colonialism and how to get out of it, Swami Vivekananda was absolutely sure that religion was the key. To ‘the Indian mind there is nothing higher than religious ideals’. Whether you like this fact or not, ‘You are bound by it, and if you give it up, you are smashed to pieces.’ Religion was not only the highest ideal but also the ultimate unifying force in India—he was speaking at a time when the country could certainly use some—before which ‘race difficulties, linguistic difficulties, social difficulties, national difficulties, all melt away.’

It wasn’t as if this unifying force lay on the shelf waiting for the right person to pick it up at the right time and flag off the melting process. The religion in question had its own difficulties that begged melting. Hinduism had itself to be unified first. The ‘first plank in the making of a future India’, declared Vivekananda, ‘is unification of religion.’ His idea of Hindu reform was essentially this unification, and as I gather from his speeches and writings, it involved work on three vectors: (1) denominational unification via Advaita, (2) linguistic unification via Sanskrit, and (3) caste unification via uplift to ideal Brahminhood.

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