by Sister Jayanti
Both discovered their humanism and became deeply concerned for the poor after travelling extensively in their youth, one across India and the other throughout South America. Both where hot tempered, loved sports, smoked a pipe, and had big bright eyes. Also both, Swami Vivekananda and Ernesto Che Guevara, suffered from asthma. Another coincidence is that they wrote poems.
I recently read a poem Guevara wrote at age 19, from which I am only translating a line that says: “Death? Yes! But let me die riddled by bullets, shattered by bayonets, and not by suffocation.”
One cannot but think that by ‘suffocation’ he was referring to his asthma attacks. Actually, many of Che’s life-risking adventures make me think of someone who knows that death is his eternal shadow, and therefore why wait for it to drown you in a sudden asthma attack when you can embrace death out in the open?
One of Vivekananda’s finest poems was written to Death, “Who dares misery love, and hug the form of Death, dance in destruction’s dance, to him the Mother comes.”
They did not fear death, on the contrary they had a constant personal battle with it, which made them go the extra mile, do the impossible… And somewhere in the middle of the struggle, death became their greatest friend.
I got chills when reading the interview by the Paris Match magazine of Terán, the Bolivian sergeant who was ordered to murder Che Guevara. When Terán entered the room where Che was held, he asked him: “Have you come to kill me?” The man said he had, and Guevara told him, “Then keep calm, aim and shoot, that you are going to kill a man!” (1) He not only took the guilt out of the sergeant’s mind but also in the end it was his order!
Since I had read Che’s poem just before reading the French magazine’s interview, I immediately connected both and thought: What a triumph! That wish, written when he was only 19 years old, became true, and he actually conquered destiny. He didn’t die by suffocation but as the man he was.
When Vivekananda’s followers talk about his death they said he left his body by his own will. And there is a myth regarding how that was a power God gave him. The fact is that he also conquered destiny, and ‘hugged the form of death’ by his own will.
And here is the last thing Vivekananda and Che Guevara have in common: they both died at age 39, the first one in 1902 the latter in 1967, and their departures, as their lives, inspired many.
(1) “Pasajes y personajes de la guerrilla de Ñancahuazú”, Víctor Montoya. Revista Cultura de Lectura Rápida (ISSN 1695-4807.) Web address: http://www.margencero.com/articulos/che_40aniv/cheguevara_guerrilla.htm
SISTER JAYANTI (YANINA OLMOS) is co-author of “Meditation on the Imitation of Christ: A Vedantic Interpretation” and author of “Vedanta: One of the Oldest Living Philosophies.” RAMAKRISHNA.VEDANTA.LATINO@GMAIL.COM