Spiritually Oriented Service
19 November - the birth anniversary of Mananeeya Eknathji, founder of Vivekananda Kendra, is celebrated in the Kendra as Sadhana Diwas. This day is utilized by the Kendra Karyakartas to thoroughly understand the thoughts of Eknathji about this movement and internalize the same. This is the day on which each Karyakarta takes up a specific responsibility in the Kendra Karya and all through the year puts forth his/her best efforts to fulfil it. Each citizen needs to understand the mission of our nation and strive hard to merge his individuality with it to make it the mission of his/her own. This alone is the greatest Sadhana for every one at this precious moment in the life of our nation.
This motherland of ours has been charting her course to guide the humanity in spite of hundreds of years of persecution and nearly a thousand year of foreign rule and oppression. At every time of need, the deep conscience or the ethos of our Motherland responded to the peculiar situation or problem by bringing up a great personality or an organisation. Therefore each national, cultural and spiritual organization of this land represents a specific response of Mother India. Hence, to carry out the purpose of each organization, its Karyakartas have to understand what role they have to play and what ‘need’ they have to fulfil.
In this respect it would be worthwhile to see how Eknathji understood this need and how he placed the same before the Karyakartas of Vivekananda Kendra. He said, “People of our country are, by tradition, religion-minded and this country is therefore described as a land of religion and spirituality. Swami Vivekananda used to say that the soul of our country is in religion. The highest and the ultimate goal, or Purushartha, aspired for by the people of our country is Mukti…
“If going to temples, visiting places of pilgrimage, participating in Bhajans, Yagnyas and Anusthanas as also listening to philosophical and religious discourses by millions of people, or the presence of numerous religious teachers, gurus and such other men of God all over the country are the manifestations of a growing religiosity, our country is, perhaps, more religious today than it ever was at any time in the past.
“But, unfortunately, the natural impact of this apparent God-wardness of the general society is little in evidence today. Purposeful living, discipline, character, truthfulness, fellow-feeling, fearlessness, subordination of the self and a zest for works of public good, which are some of the traits that develop in a God-ward society and which, we have enough evidence to say, existed in good measure in our country in the past, are seen fast disappearing from our midst. Ironically enough, with the apparent religious fervour presently on the increase, general corruption, in-discipline and other kinds of moral degradation are also in the ascendant. How is this paradox to be explained?
“…Any discerning mind will be able to see that a distorted conception of religion is the root cause of most of our ills for the last several centuries, which persist even today. It is rightly said that religion is the soul of our country. But, as that itself is blurred, we have the sorry spectacle of deterioration all round.
“Religious awakening means experiencing the presence of God in one’s own self and in the world. That makes one conscious of the divine within and urges him to work for its unfoldment and enables him to grow spiritually. Simultaneously, it generates in him a sense of oneness with God’s creation and, consequently, an intense fellow-feeling for the members of his own species – the human race – and prompts him to work with zest for human welfare and progress… If, and as long as, the religious awakening intensifies on these lines, it is dynamic and full of tremendous potentialities for the transformation of humanity into higher and higher planes of existence. But, if it remains limited to rituals, forms of worship and offerings to God, or prayers and praises addressed to Him, it becomes static and has hardly any role to play in human advancement.
“Swami Vivekananda was the foremost among the modern religious teachers who strove to take out religion from that static condition into which it had degenerated over the centuries, and drew the attention of the people to its real role. He pointed out in no uncertain terms that ceremonies and forms are not the essence of religion but that it lies rather in the realization of a higher life. He said, ‘We may study all the books that are in the world, yet we may not understand a word of religion or of God. …Religion is not in doctrines or dogmas, nor in intellectual argumentation. It is realisation in the heart of hearts; it is touching God; it is feeling, realising that I am a spirit in relation with Universal Spirit and all its great manifestations.’ To those who lose themselves only in forms and rituals, turning their back on the people and the misery that had befallen them, he said, ‘What vain Gods shall we go after and yet cannot worship the God that we see all around us, the Virat (Janata Janardan)? When we have worshipped this, we shall be able to worship all other Gods.”
A Two-pronged Movement: The Need of the Hour: The remedy for the ills of our country, therefore, lies in launching a mighty movement of right thought sweeping the entire country. It has to be a two-pronged move. On the one hand, it is to be aimed at (1) transforming our people’s inherent God-wardness into the right spiritual urge arising out of the teachings of the Upanishads, namely, (a) each soul is potentially divine and (b) faith in God, in turn means faith in one’s self, i.e. in one’s potentiality to rise to divine heights. On the other hand, it is (2) to convert the spiritual fervour thus released into works of national reconstruction”.
Vivekananda Kendra works with the twin ideals of Man–making and Nation-building. Man-making means giving confidence to a person to rise to divine heights and work for the nation with a feeling of Oneness. Nation-building is possible only by creating teams of such men who would take up the work of national reconstruction to fulfil her mission of guiding the world in spirituality. Thus, the service activities of the Kendra do not depend on the occurrence of cyclones, earthquakes, poverty, etc. Mananeeya Eknathji says in ‘Sadhana of Service’, “If we are merely a service-oriented organization, we will have to pray to God to create cyclones, floods, famines and accidents to provide us opportunities of service. Service with a spiritual orientation results in man-making, which is invariably and inseparably connected with nation-building. It is the core of all our thoughts behind this organization.” Real service is awakening a person to his potential divinity and making him realise the purpose of life. The purpose of life also has to be the fulfillment of the mission of this nation. The mission of this nation has been to evolve an Ideal Social Order based on the vision of Oneness seen by the sages of our nation. This spiritually oriented service is what the Kendra intends to do.
There is another dimension of spiritually oriented service too. Vivekananda Kendra is also considered as a thought movement. Which thought does Kendra want to work out as an organisation? Dharma is the soul of this nation. But, if our understanding of Dharma gets limited to lifeless outer forms then the nation declines and the society becomes callous and indifferent. Its assertiveness is affected. Therefore, the need is to stress the right meaning of Dharma, to imbibe the life-giving principles of Sanatana Dharma embedded in the Upanishads, so that our life is transformed and our energies are channelized for rebuilding the nation. What are the sublime principles of Sanatana Dharma? The whole existence is the expression of the Divine and hence, the family, society, nation and the whole creation - ever expanding circles of Consciousness - are linked to each other. Each soul is potentially divine and the goal of life is to manifest that divinity. This manifestation is possible through Yoga - the time-tested science. This thought of Yoga - the way of life - is therefore to be propagated.
Yoga means uniting with the ever expanding, larger dimensions of our Self. It is integration with our nation. Making Yoga the core of each activity of the Kendra means awakening the confidence in one’s own divine nature and in channelising the energy thus released for national reconstruction.
As per Patanjali Yoga Sutra, total surrender to God is one of the ways of practicing Yoga. Kendra Karyakarta has to realize that he/she is the instrument in the hands of the Divine. This continuous Bhava of surrender in a Karyakarta - of being the instrument of Divine - is the core of our work. Eknathji says in ‘Sadhana of Service’, “That service is the best and the noblest which is performed with the attitude of total surrender to God. …It is the divine design that I should render service on His behalf. He desires the betterment of the world and I am being used as a tool or a means to carry out His design. I am just an instrument in His hands …the action must be performed without any attachment but sincerely and honestly to the best of our ability with an attitude of being a tool only. We have been called upon to execute whatever is essential and possible as willed by God. This is SERVICE. We are doing His work. Such work elevates us and leads to Self-realization, which is the supreme goal of human life.”
As the service rendered with this bhava of being the instrument in the hands of God leads to self-realization, it is termed as “spiritually oriented service”. Such surrender helps the Karyakarta to merge with the organization and thereby strengthens it to carry out work of national reconstruction. To see Mother Bharat seated on her eternal throne, rejuvenated, more glorious than she ever was, the need of the hour is to render such “spiritually oriented service”.