After sleep, how can you ‘get up’ before ‘opening eyes’?

Swami Vivekananda in Chicago
Swami Vivekananda in Chicago

During my Northern Natal tour in connection with the Swamiji’s birthday celebration, I had a refreshing meeting with youngsters of Ladysmith Branch of Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa on 10th January 2008. All of them along with their parents were volunteers and had worked very hard to organise the next day morning meeting in the Civic hall. A little more than 800 people were expected to attend where my key-note address was scheduled. Though they were eager to continue the discussion in that late night, I felt that I could cut short of my discussion to give them a reprieve from the tiresome work they put up practically the whole day. In order not to disappoint them, I asked them to field questions. All were, unlike the other days, silent (shy? or tired?). So I raised this query and asked them to keep the reply ready when I would meet them on my return trip from Dundee on 14th January.

cimg1082.jpgMy query to the young members was this. One of the oft-quoted line of Swami Vivekananda is ‘Arise! Awake! And Stop not till the Goal is Reached!’. We normally see that after the night sleep, we first ‘wake up‘ – ‘open our eyes’ and then only ‘rise up‘ – ‘get up’ from our bed. But Swamiji strangely calls up first to ‘Arise!’ and later to ‘Awake’. Is it not a contradiction to what we are used to? Would Swamiji, being the ‘nitya siddha’ – the Ever Perfect, make such a silly mistake? No, the youngsters in one voice said, no, it cannot be a mistake. Then, I asked: what does this mean? 

Ladysmith Ramakrishna shrineUnfortunately, on 14th January at the scheduled ‘Thanksgiving Satsang’, we could not take up this question for discussion due to lack of time as I dealt with the topic ‘Divine aspects of Swamiji’. So, I told them to send their replies by email to me. The replies that I received by email were indeed fascinating. Below you will find one of them, written by Nirmala Balkaran from Ladysmith, South Africa  : 

“At the outset… I must honestly and humbly confess that it is not possible to comprehend even a fraction of Swamiji’s profound gospel. It is with this in mind that I offer an attempted response to the question. Swami Vivekanandaji speaks of “awakening” after “arising” because this is not a reference to the kind of physical wakefulness from a state of sleep as we know it. We are all obviously “awake” when we read this quotation by Swamiji; however the kind of wakefulness to which we are exhorted, is a higher awakening of the spirit. This is preceded by the call to “arise” which is a call to action. It is through action and effort that we can arrest the state of sleep into which we have fallen and make possible a spiritual awakening. After having arisen (as we do after a physical awakening), we are still guilty of being asleep, or oblivious of our inherent spiritual nature and the real goal of life, for having arisen we go about our secular duties in a state of spiritual slumber. Hence the need to awaken after arising.”