Swami Vivekananda and His Ideas
Shantesh Kumar Singh & Shubh Kirti Singh
Swami Vivekananda ji is a well known personality both in India and abroad since 1893. He became an inspiring personality in both the east and the west just after his speech on Hinduism at Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. His ideas become a philosophy which is followed by people globally. In 21st century, a youthful and zealous population of India, which is transforming tomorrow by their actions today, is living the dream of Narendernath Dutta (Swami Vivekananda), the saint with a purpose. At the tender age of 13 determined with the fervour to know the soul behind all creations he went on to a journey which became a legend.
The Thoughts of Vivekananda
Vivekanand's contribution for today's India can best be described as the 3C's-community, courage and Country. When a young individual is entrenched in dilemmas of life, he/she can lend a thought to the famous saint of India and learn to fight difficulties with courage and serve their country and community. His life and teachings are of inestimable value to the West for an understanding of the mind of Asia. William James, the Harvard philosopher, called the Swami the "paragon of Vedantists." Max Muller and Paul Deussen, the famous Orientalists of the nineteenth century, held him in genuine respect and affection. "His words," writes Romain Rolland, "are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are through the pages of books, at thirty years' distance, without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero!''
By expressing his Community based approach, Swami Vivekananda sees the "regeneration of India" in strong and sufficient community. To achieve this, he entreats people to be united and develop solidarity towards fellow Indians by rooting out the superstitions, social evils and caste superiority from the society. Considering caste system the greatest impediment in the unity and oneness of the country, he appeals to all Indians to renounce it and break the monotonous nature of caste based social hierarchy. For his workers once he said that "'I want strength, manhood, kshatravirya, or the virility of a warrior, and brahmateja, or the radiance of a brahmin.... These men will stand aside from the world, give their lives, and be ready to fight the battle of Truth, marching on from country to country.
“Arise, Awake, and Stop not Till the Goal is Reached.”
One blow struck outside of India is equal to a hundred thousand struck within. Well, all will come if the Lord wills it.' That shows his love and affection for his own people and nation.
In his address to youth he directs them to show exemplary courage and devote their lives in the selfless- service to the nation. In his theory of neo- Vedanta he clears that the service of a man is the service of God therefore instead of adopting absolute renunciation to life one should move on the path of selfless action towards the society.
"Talk to Yourself Once in a Day, otherwise, You May Miss Meeting an Excellent Person in this World."
He adds further that it is the prime responsibility of every individual that he would work to awaken the masses by communicating his knowledge to them and imbibe the feeling of unity. Every individual in the society should always be ready for the sacrifice to the nation.
Vivekananda's entire thought moves on the axis of Country. As being a great nationalist, his all concepts of community, courage, neo Vedanta, social change and democracy moves around his dream to resurgent India and converting it into a great and powerful nation. For it, he considers religion as the basis of national unity and devoted youth as a mean to achieve this idea of
strong nation. In Europe, political ideas laid the foundation of nation but in case of India, religion would be the basis of national integration. It is not a particular religion that would assist in attaining the national consciousness but all religion as a whole would serve as a base for national unity because spirituality runs in the blood of all Indians and even in past Indians have already proved the idea of unity in diversity.
Teachings of Swami Vivekananda
* Our first duty is not to hate ourselves; because to advance we must have faith in ourselves first and then in God. He who has no faith in himself can never have faith in God.
* Every duty is holy, and devotion to duty is the highest form of worship of God.
* That society is the greatest, where the highest truths become practical.
* Faith, faith, faith in ourselves, faith in God - this is the secret of greatness… Have faith in yourselves, and stand up on that faith and be strong; that is what we need.
* The Hindus were bold, to their credit be it said, bold thinkers in all heir ideas, so bold that one spark of their though frightens the so-called bold thinkers of the West.
* In my opinion, a race must first cultivate a great respect for motherhood, through the sanctification and inviolability of marriage.
* Sita is the name in India for everything that is good, pure, and holy; everything that in woman we call woman.
* Renunciation and service are the twin ideals of India. Intensify here in these channels and the rest will take care of itself.
* My ideal indeed can be put into a few words and that is: to preach unto mankind their divinity, and how to make it manifest in every movement of life.
* My whole ambition in life is to set in motion a machinery which will bring noble ideas to the door of everybody, and then let men and women settle their own fate. Let them know what our forefathers as well as other nations have thought on the most momentous questions of life. Let them see specially what others are doing now, and then decide. We are to put the chemicals together, the crystallisation will be done by nature according to her laws.
* Truth is my God, the universe my country.
* I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation.
* Our watchword, then, will be acceptance, and not exclusion. Not only toleration… I believe in acceptance. Why should I tolerate? Toleration means that I think that you are wrong and I am just allowing you to live. Is it not a blasphemy to think that you and I are allowing others to live?
* Religions of the world have become lifeless mockeries. What the world wants is character. The world is in need of those whose life is one burning love, selfless. That love will make every word tell like thunderbolt.
* The religion of the Vedanta can satisfy the demands of the scientific world, by referring it to the highest generalisation and to the law of evolution. That the explanation of a thing comes from within itself is still more completely satisfied by Vedanta. The Brahman, the God of the Vedanta, has nothing outside of Himself; nothing at all.
* One idea that I see clear as daylight is that misery is caused by ignorance and nothing else. Who will give the world light? Sacrifice in the past has been the Law, it will be, alas, for ages to come. The earth's bravest and best will have to sacrifice themselves for the good of many, for the welfare of all. *Buddhas by the hundred are necessary with eternal love and pity.
* Would to God that all men were so constituted that in their minds all these elements of philosophy, mysticism, emotion, and of work were equally present in full! That is the ideal, my ideal of a perfect man.
* The ideal of womanhood in India is motherhood - that marvelous, unselfish, all-suffering, ever-forgiving mother.
* Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.
* By education I do not mean the present system, but something in the line of positive teaching. Mere book-learning won't do. We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one's own feet.
* The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion-is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one's own legs.
* By work alone men may get to where Buddha got largely by meditation or Christ by prayer.
Reverberating his brilliance at, he awakened the world about Hinduism. The global youth in 21st century is facing numerous challenges i. e. From identity crisis to financial burdens, from parochial social norms to challenges of a multicultural social system. Vivekananda had an important message for the youth of today. It was the strength of human mind and compassion in our hearts.
"If I Love Myself Despite My Infinite Faults, How Can I Hate Anyone at the Glimpse of a Few Faults."
The Vivekananda's philosophy 'Jeva is Seva' was his fundamental mantra which became bedrock of modern Indian intellectual thoughts reflected from Mahatma Gandhi to our current Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Mahatma once wrote "I have gone through Swami Vivekananda's works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country became a thousand-fold. His writings need no introduction from anybody. They make their own irresistible appeal." Swami Vivekananda shaped the independent Indian thought and contributed as a spiritual precursor of India's freedom movement, this contribution was penned down by Valentine Chirol, the author of Indian Unrest. He described Vivekananda's teachings as one of the major causes of nationalist movement in India.
Relevance of Vivekananda Today
The youth of the day are mostly second generation learners who deal with challenges of life in a pragmatic manner; they unlike their predecessors are better equipped to question the power structures of society. However, the dilemmas facing them like employment, social recognition and the larger question of belongingness to a particular nation are still pertinent. This makes the human resources available with this great nation vulnerable to factional propaganda Swami Vivekananda envisioned the nation as a condensed whole where employment will be a medium to serve others rather than only being a source of income.
Vivekananda argues that our existence is to serve the whole society and he goes on to create a philosophy to empower the individual to the same. His ideas can best be described as that of a karamyogi. The citizen of India can learn a great deal from his messages. To start with, firm determination and .dedication to ones goal is a prerequisite to achieve individual aspirations as well as social progress.
Vivekananda's most important message to the Indians in 21st century is- self belief.
"All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who we have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark."
He challenged the supremacy of the west and proved at the congress of religions 1893 that Hinduism is the most ancient and complete philosophy of life. This speech was also a reality check to the founding principles of modernity which disempowered the individual by putting production before person. His message was loud and clear that compassion and love are the means to reach social and global harmony and further he added that without spiritual awakening economic empowerment will be a half hearted enterprise. The Vedantic teachings enlighten the west on the utility of religion as a rational and humanistic enterprise. His messages were foundation of the modern Indian nation and a basic feature of the Indian freedom struggle.
The massive support for the democratic rights is another significant contribution of Swami Vivekananda to nation which is still relevant in many ways. His ideas on liberty of thought and expression are path shower in the present circumstances in which the independent voice of media persons, RTI activists and independent writers is encumbered by state authorities and societal forces. Vivekananda's call for greater equality and annihilation of caste and class divisions may prove a boon to all countrymen who are badly shackled in the clutches of derogatory forms of caste and class hierarchical system in our country.
According to Vivekanand ji, toleration does not guarantee harmony, it creates less conflicting societies. However, compassion guarantees consensus and harmony if followed in true spirit. In day to day life this message can be a guide to public policy and democratization in society. We often see news about intolerance towards other cultures of the world, in this regard Vivekananda was more modern than modernity as he claimed that all religions are true and supremacy of one over the other shall not demean oriental religions.
Nation and Person
Swami Vivekananda imagined a nation as a consolidated entity of empowered human beings, where progress meant the ability to help the downtrodden and development meant material achievements with a spiritual aim. His idea of a nation was a 'condensed' entity which was always ready for the service of humanity the world over. Individual consciousness was the most important factor in his analysis of the nation. For him, conscience is the voice of god which can never be wrong. Vivekananda had a strong conviction in human abilities; he believed that the human mind is the most powerful creation of god. But at the same time he was aware of the dichotomy between reason and passion. He saw the conflicts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as a result of misinterpretation of religion, faith, and human rationality. He never aimed to superficially argue the oriental perspectives rather he wished to awaken the western worlds about their limited world view. This is why he stated "In judging others we always judge them by our own ideals. That is not as it should be. Everyone must be judged according to his own ideal, and not by that of anyone else." In the tune of following statement once he said that "Social life in the West is like a peal of laughter, but underneath it is a wail. The whole thing ends in a sob. The fun and frivolity are all on the surface; really, it is full of tragic intensity. Here it is sad and gloomy on the outside, but underneath are detachment and merriment".
Vivekananda saw national welfare emanating from spiritual welfare, as he knew that the national character is not built in a day, it is shaped by history, religion, culture and various other constituents.
"Take Risks in Your Life. If You Win, You Can Lead, If You Lose, You Can Guide."
He argued, for our national welfare, we must first seek out at the present day all the spiritual forces of the race, as was done in days of yore and will be done in all times to come". In the line of above said arguments once he said that "A nation is advanced in proportion as education and intelligence spread among the masses". He always wanted state to work for public welfare by introducing and implementing the people friendly economic and social policies.
Swami Vivekananda, a great philosopher of renaissance tradition of Indian political thought and founder of Ramakrishna Mission will always be remembered for his unforgettable contribution to the nation. He is hugely credited with introduction of true face of Hinduism to the western world and spreading awareness among Indians about the greatness of Indian civilization. He was the key figure during colonial India but his approach to Indian culture and revival of the nation, is beyond the confinement of time. His address to the youngsters, support for democratic rights, brushing Vedantic philosophy and presenting it in the form of neo- Vedanta philosophy, religion as the basis of national unity, breaking of caste and class divisions, universal harmony, appeal to people for the devotion to the society will lead a way to Indian state to find out the solution of emerging problems in 21st century and they will always remain a guiding force for the upcoming generations. After all, he did not only wish for the resurgent India but provided a roadmap to turn it into a strong and independent nation. Vivekananda is such an inspiration to all Indians and people across the globe and will remain so for indefinite time.
(Shantesh Kumar Singh is Postdoctoral Fellow, United Nations University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Shubh Kirti Singh is Ph.D. Research Scholar, School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi.)