Oneness: The Message of India

Swami Vivekananda had the unique advantage of knowing the East as well as the West. He had experienced Samadhi at the feet of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who personified the spiritual sadhana of man through ages. Swamiji had the best of Western education, had digested all the philosophies including the theology of Christianity. Not only the knowledge but he also got intimately acquainted with the people both learned and uneducated, highly placed and humble folks in India and also in West. Thus he could see the pluses and minuses of each civilization, he could also see that beyond all the identities, pretensions, it was the same humanity which was striving to know the Ultimate whether consciously or unconsciously. He saw that to manage to live up to the complexity of human life man has to have the foundations of his life based on eternal truths of existence.

Swami Vivekananda had said, “Truth does not pay homage to the society. Society has to pay homage to the truth or perish.’ It is something like gravitational force. If someone does not know or refuses to accept gravitational force, then he is not going to be spared the hurt if he jumps from a tree. Gravitational force cannot adjust to the desires or foolishness of a person, a person has to adjust himself, align himself with the truth or get perished. The human life, human society has come to that state that unless it aligns itself with the truth it would perish. The grandest truth which humanity has to take into account is the Vedantic vision of Oneness. More Swamiji moved in the West more he realized how the Vedantic truth is the need for the good of humanity. Actually he realized that, that is the purpose of his life. He wrote, "The dry Advaita must become living -poetic- in everyday life; ...all this must be put in a form so that a child may grasp it. That is my life's work. "

On his return to India, Swami Vivekananda reminded India that it was her national mission to give the vision of Oneness to the world. This grand truth was realized in India and was nourished and lived in her national life. This grand truth is even today seen in the family, social life of India though not vibrantly as it is not practised consciously but as part of tradition. The dust gathered on it, is held on tightly and followed meticulously as ultimate truth or tradition. India would have shake off the dust and then give this vision of Oneness to the world. Swami Vivekananda thus landing at Columbo in his very first speech said, “...hammer blows of modern antiquarian researches are pulverising like masses of porcelain all sorts of antiquated orthodoxies, when religion in the West is only in the hands of the ignorant and the knowing ones look down with scorn upon anything belonging to religion, here comes to the fore the philosophy of India, which displays the march of beings, and the infinity of the universe. ...what can hold any more the allegiance of cultured humanity but the most wonderful, convincing, broadening, and ennobling ideas that can be found only in that most marvellous product of the soul of man, the wonderful voice of God, the Vedanta? ...the idea of the oneness of all, the Infinite, the idea of the Impersonal, the wonderful idea of the eternal soul of man...”

Subsequently again in his lecture at Madurai and then in many more lectures he reminded India, “This idea of oneness is the great lesson India has to give, and mark you, when this is understood, it changes the whole aspect of things, because you look at the world through other eyes than you have been doing before. And this world is no more a battlefield where each soul is born to struggle with every other soul and the strongest gets the victory and the weakest goes to death...

The other great idea that the world wants from us today, the thinking part of Europe, nay, the whole world -- more, perhaps, the lower classes than the higher, more the masses than the cultured, more the ignorant than the educated, more the weak than the strong -- is that eternal grand idea of the spiritual oneness of the whole universe. I need not tell you today, men from Madras University, how the modern researches of the West have demonstrated through physical means the oneness and the solidarity of the whole universe; how, physically speaking, you and I, the sun, moon, and stars are but little waves or wavelets in the midst of an infinite ocean of matter; how Indian psychology demonstrated ages ago that, similarly, both body and mind are but mere names or little wavelets in the ocean of matter, the Samashti; and how, going one step further, it is also shown in the Vedanta that behind that idea of the unity of the whole show, the real Soul is one. There is but one Soul throughout the universe, all is but One Existence.

The rational West is earnestly bent upon seeking out the rationality, the raison d'être of all its philosophy and its ethics; and you all know well that ethics cannot be derived from the mere sanction of any personage, however great and divine he may have been. Such an explanation of the authority of ethics appeals no more to the highest of the world's thinkers; they want something more than human sanction for ethical and moral codes to be binding, they want some eternal principle of truth as the sanction of ethics. And where is that eternal sanction to be found except in the only Infinite Reality that exists in you and in me and in all, in the Self, in the Soul? The infinite oneness of the Soul is the eternal sanction of all morality, that you and I are not only brothers -- every literature voicing man's struggle towards freedom has preached that for you -- but that you and I are really one. This is the dictate of Indian philosophy. This oneness is the rationale of all ethics and all spirituality. Europe wants it today just as much as our downtrodden masses do, and this great principle is even now unconsciously forming the basis of all the latest political and social aspirations that are coming up in England, in Germany, in France, and in America. And mark it, my friends, that in and through all the literature voicing man's struggle towards freedom, towards universal freedom, again and again you find the Indian Vedantic ideals coming out prominently. In some cases the writers do not know the source of their inspiration, in some cases they try to appear very original, and a few there are, bold and grateful enough to mention the source and acknowledge their indebtedness to it.”

Again it is not that Swami Vivekananda was only telling or repeating what is Vedanta, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda synthesised all the darshans and all struggles of man. Sister Nivedita writes about it beautifully, “The Swami Vivekananda would have been less than he was, had anything in this Evangel of Hinduism been his own. Like the Krishna of the Gita, like Buddha, like Shankaracharya, like every great teacher that Indian thought has known, his sentences are laden with quotations from, the Vedas and Upanishads. He stands merely as the Revealer, the Interpreter to India of the treasures that she herself possesses in herself. The truths he preaches would have been as true, had he never been born. Nay more, they would have been equally authentic. The difference would have lain in their difficulty of access, in their want of modern clearness and incisiveness of statement, and in their loss of mutual coherence and unity. ...He taught with authority, and not as one of the Pandits. For he himself had plunged to the depths of the realisation which he preached, and he came back like Ramanuja only to tell its secrets to the pariah, the outcast, and the foreigner.

And yet this statement that his teaching holds nothing new is not absolutely true. It must never be forgotten that it was the Swami Vivekananda who, while proclaiming the sovereignty of the Advaita Philosophy, as including that experience in which all is one, without a second, also added to Hinduism the doctrine that Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita, and Advaita are but three phases or stages in a single development, of which the last-named constitutes the goal. This is part and parcel of the still greater and more simple doctrine that the many and the One are the same Reality, perceived by the mind at different times and in different attitudes; ...

It is this which adds its crowning significance to our Master's life, for here he becomes the meeting-point, not only of East and West, but also of past and future. If the many and the One be indeed the same Reality, then it is not all modes of worship alone, but equally all modes of work, all modes of struggle, all modes of creation, which are paths of realisation. No distinction, henceforth, between sacred and secular. To labour is to pray. To conquer is to renounce. Life is itself religion. To have and to hold is as stern a trust as to quit and to avoid.

This is the realisation which makes Vivekananda the great preacher of Karma, not as divorced from, but as expressing Jnana and Bhakti. To him, the workshop, the study, the farmyard, and the field are as true and fit scenes for the meeting of God with man as the cell of the monk or the door of the temple. To him, there is no difference between service of man and worship of God, between manliness and faith, between true righteousness and spirituality. All his words, from one point of view, read as a commentary upon this central conviction. "Art, science, and religion", he said once, "are but three different ways of expressing a single truth. But in order to understand this we must have the theory of Advaita."

India alone is marked by the providence to give this message by actually living it in family, social, economic, national life. That is the experiment the Rishis were carrying in our country which were interfered with physically by invasions after invasions and later psychologically by the Macaulay education. India would need to re-build herself again on this grand truth of Oneness. How fast India would re-build herself and be a vibrant nation so that it could enlighten the whole world or whether she would annihilate herself by blindly imitating the West, Swamiji lost his sleep over it. Whatever was his talk and wherever it was, the basic tune was Mother India, the main exhortation was ‘Up India, conquer the world with your spirituality’. He said, “...there is a great opening for the Vedanta to do beneficent work both here and elsewhere. This wonderful idea of the sameness and omnipresence of the Supreme Soul has to be preached for the amelioration and elevation of the human race here as elsewhere. Wherever there is evil and wherever there is ignorance and want of knowledge, I have found out by experience that all evil comes, as our scriptures say, relying upon differences, and that all good comes from faith in equality, in the underlying sameness and oneness of things. This is the great Vedantic ideal. To have the ideal is one thing, and to apply it practically to the details of daily life is quite another thing. It is very good to point out an ideal, but where is the practical way to reach it?”

When we are preparing ourselves to celebrate 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, it should not be just celebrations on large scale, but we should strive to apply Vedanta, to give the foundation of Oneness to our individual as well as collective life. So that Bharat can enlighten the world which is suffering from materialism, licentiousness, disintegration of systems, meaninglessness of human life and from religious exclusivism.

published date: 
Wed, 02/29/2012
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