Much to learn from Vivekananda’s 150 years


 Swami Veivekananda

By Kanaka Ramakrishna


The year 2013 marks the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, the great patriot-saint and nation-builder of India. The year-long celebration in India and all over the world starts on his birthday, January 12, which is commemorated every year as the National Youth Day.

Swami Vivekananda was so great and comprehensive, it is hard to grasp even a facet of him: was he a patriot, a saint, a prophet, a humanist, a social or religious reformer, a lover of the masses, a mystic, a divine being? He was all these put together and much more.

Swamiji lived in the mortal form for only thirty-nine years and throughout the course of the remaining years he has been inspiring us through his immortal lectures and unforgettable writings. He himself wished to live as a formless inspirer. He said, ”˜It may be I shall find it good to get outside my body ”“ to cast it off like a worn garment. But I shall not cease to work. I shall inspire men everywhere, until the world shall know that it is one with God.’

After the roaring success at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago U.S.A. in 1893, Swami Vivekananda returned to India in1897. His patriotism was exclusive. To him, the very dust of India was holy; the very air was holy. He identified his consciousness with the entire nation. His visit to the west had given him a new perspective of India. To him, India represented the repository of spiritual power that was meant for the nourishment of the whole world. He was proud of the glory of India’s past and deplored the present decadence.

He wanted to inject energy into the nearly lifeless Indian society that was torn within by the barriers of castes, by the domination of foreign political power, and of religious creeds. He awoke India with a clarion call for unity, integrity, sacrifice, strength and selflessness.

Fifty years before India achieved independence, Swamiji’s patriotic words thundered from the platform at Ramnad: “”¦..the lethargy is passing away, she is awakening, this motherland of ours from her deep long sleep”¦None can resist her anymore, never is she going to sleep anymore; no outward power can hold her back anymore; for the infinite giant is rising to her feet”¦”

Swamiji dreamt of a strong and glorious India and also saw the youths as the ones to fulfil his dreams. He injected patriotism into the veins of the youths and thereby inspired India’s freedom movement. He firmly believed that the youths were the most potent catalyst for changing the fate of India and hence the future of the nation rested in their hands. His message for the youths was inspiring and guiding.

Addressing the youths, he said, “Change is a challenge, youth is a challenge, truth is also a challenge. So all youths should arise for a change. Face the challenges in life without taking a shortcut in anything”¦All great undertakings are achieved through mighty obstacles. Keep up the mental poise. Take not even the slightest notice of what little creatures may be saying against you”¦.   Arise, Awake, Stop not till the goal is reached.”

Though Swamiji mainly emphasised manifesting our innate spiritual nature as the source of strength, he liked to see strength as manifest in every situation and in all areas of life. He found lack of regard to physical strength among Indians. First of all he encouraged physical strength among the youths. He told them, “you will be nearer to God through foot ball than through the study of the Gita. You will understand Krishna better with a little of strong blood in you”¦.”Another time he told the youths to develop “muscles of iron and nerves of steel”.

Besides physical strength, Swamiji emphasized mental strength and will power through concentration, meditation, positive thinking, and one-pointedness. He also stressed intellectual strength. He said, ”˜From the idea of largeness, a person will gradually be aware of his spiritual nature and search for higher joy and finally reach the ultimate joy, God, the repository of all joys.’ Besides these strengths, Swamiji encouraged economic strength and advocated even military strength for the India.

As the prophet of strength, Swamiji said that religion alone was the strength of all strengths. He said, “Infinite strength is religion and God.” “Strength is life and weakness is death.” Swamiji admits humans have many weaknesses, faults, fear, and defects. But, he says that if one asserts one’s real nature, which is pure and perfect, any situation can be overcome.

Swamiji had a vision of providing man-making and character-building education. He looked upon religion as the innermost core of education, a process of being and becoming. He wanted that kind of education by which strength of mind was increased and intellect was expanded. Education was not merely the accumulation of facts but assimilation of knowledge and wisdom inherent in each person in a dormant state. The external world worked only as a suggestion or an occasion and set our minds to unveil the many covers of ignorance and discover the true Self, the divine soul of man, which is a treasure house of infinite knowledge. He defined education as “the manifestation of perfection already in man”.

Swamiji gave the highest priority to the spread of mass education and women’s education for the restoration of lost individuality of the poor and the downtrodden, as well as for the empowerment of women. Thus the whole educational system of a country, whether secular or spiritual, should be guided by its national ideal to guide them in the long run.

Swamiji identified himself with the whole world and his attempts were always to find out how to bring peace to the world. In that attempt he discovered that religion was the root of all problems. In view of the conflicts and turmoils in the world today, how true his analysis was! He believed that religion was the motivation towards individual perfection and social upliftment. He wanted to give mankind a religion which was practical and scientific to fit into the wave of the future.

Swamiji often spoke very strongly about faith. He said, “If you have faith in three hundred and thirty million of your mythological gods and still have no faith in yourself, there is no salvation for you”¦ What makes one man great and another low and weak is his faith.”

Swamiji was the first in India who was bold enough to welcome the advent of socialism. He predicted that new India would arise through the struggle and sacrifice of the ”˜have-nots’, the oppressed and the poorest, who had formed the lowest strata of the society. Rising up the masses brings symmetry in social structure.

Swamiji wanted two-fold application of Vedanta to practice in our day-to-day life.

Firstly, for awakening man’s faith in himself and in his own strength including his spiritual power. Secondly, selfless work in serving people as service to God.

Since his passing away, a flood of spiritual upheaval has swept all over the world. He is still awake in the thoughts of the thoughtful, in the intellect of the intellectuals, in the patriotism of the patriots, in the sacrifice of the sannyasins and in the tears of the downtrodden.

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