Vivekananda in the Global Millennium

Sixty years after independence, India is still in the twilight zone of political turmoil, economic imbalance, social turbulence and ideological confusion. Though we claim to be the largest democracy in the world, more often than not our democracy in practice turns out to be acrimonious monocracy. Economically, statistics are trotted out to prove that we made enviable progress. But, in effect, the divide between the rich and the poor has increased enormously. Society is fast disintegrating into organized caste and communal groups reducing nationalism to a meaningless slogan. All the universities together along with various other specialized educational and training institutions have produced possibly the largest contingent of intelligentsia in the world but in terms of awareness and enlightenment about our country, its history its culture and its due role in the international arena, they are a confused and directionless lot. Consequently, we as a nation have not been able to play our part in the national and international affairs despite our invaluable culture, enormous population and immense and diverse natural resources.

What is most unfortunate is that there has been a rapid decline in the moral and ethical values both at the individual and collective levels. For a country whose unique strength is rooted in spirituality which is the basis of all values, this is a fatal lapse which undermines the very rationale of our existence. Before we could settle down as a stable and vibrant socio-economic and political power, globalization at a furious pace has engulfed us with its enormous demands and pressures. Our political leadership at the helm of affairs has proved unequal to the task- of leading the nation into its rightful place among the comity of nations.

This is in sharp contrast with the unshakable confidence, the tremendous will power and the clarity of vision which were our assets during our freedom struggle. Unless this widening gulf is bridged and we regain the national self-confidence and the glorious sense of mission, the confusion cannot be cleared and the sense of direction retrieved. These unhappy if not gloomy thoughts stare us on the face with deep poignancy as we celebrate another birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, whose life and mission were the inspiration for almost all our stalwarts of the freedom movement. Every one of them has gratefully
acknowledged in unmistakable terms their indebtedness to Swamiji for their commitment to the nation and its freedom. Mahatma Gandhi's tribute is brief but eloquent. "I have gone through his works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country became a thousand fold". What greater encomium could be paid to the Swamiji by a person of Gandhiji's stature?

Chakrabarthy Rajagopalachari, a man of razor sharp intelligence has defined Swamiji's contribution in a most befitting manner: - 'Swami Vivekananda saved Hinduism and saved India. But for him we would have lost our religion and would not have gained our freedom. We therefore owe everything to Swami Vivekananda. May his faith, his courage and his wisdom ever inspire us so that we may keep safe the treasure we have received from him.'

But here one is naturally tempted to ask a question. If their commitment was genuine and if they had stuck to those great ideals, would the country have come to such a pass? We have to dispassionately analyze with due respect to all those stalwarts the real causes of this divergence between the promise and that practice, between the commitment and the achievement. If we do so, we will definitely come to the conclusion that their commitment to Swamiji.s ideals was not strong enough to stand the test of the challenges they faced. It was exactly sixty years before our independence - and the partition of India - that Swamiji gave the clarion call to his countrymen in an inspiring speech delivered at Chennai. For the next fifty years this alone shall be our key_note, - this our great Mother India. Let all other vain Gods disappear for that time from our minds. This is the only God that is awake, our own race, everywhere His hands, everywhere His feet, everywhere His ears, He covers everything. All other Gods are sleeping. What vain_Gods shall we go after and yet cannot worship the God that we see all around us, the Virat? When we have worshiped this, we shall be able to worship all other Gods". Had our devotion to the Motherland been as intense as Swamiji wanted it to be, could it ever be imagined that our leadership would have surrendered to the bullying tactics of a section of our population and agreed to partition our country? Was it not the biggest folly which the leaders of our freedom movement committed with tragic consequences haunting us even to this date? Was it not a shameful climb down from the firm declaration that India will not be vivisected before they themselves were vivisected? Was it not a case of abdicating a solemn national commitment for the sake of immediate authority and power? It will not be far from truth to say that all the subsequent lapses and failures, clashes and conflicts, doubts and dilemmas are directly traceable to that one major failure to follow Swamiji's exhortation. In one stroke, the concept of Bharat as our Beloved Mother, the holy land, was thrown to the winds! Dedication to the Motherland which is the sheet anchor of patriotism - the highest value which all our freedom fighters cherished, - was abandoned and along with that every other value became negotiable. Cheerful and robust optimism gave way to sterile cynicism. That continues even after sixty years.

During this period of six decades, new generations have come up. The world has changed a lot. India is no exception. New ideas and ideologies have swept across the country, most of them foreign' The stirring words and the glowing example of Swami Vivekananda, who can rightly be called the 'Mantra Drashta' of Modern India, have increasingly been marginalized from our mainstream thought currents while nothing else could even be thought of as a fairly viable substitute. A huge void remained which petty ideas and cheap slogans from outside tried to occupy. The result is all-around selfishness' corruption, power politics, communal conflicts' etc. No wonder, at one point of time, our leadership could not help thinking of restoring Swamiji to the center stage by declaring his birthday as 'National Youth Day'. But what can a mere governmental fiat achieve in the absence of enthusiastic social response inspired by credible role models with a genuine understanding and deep conviction of Swamiji and his ideals? Like every other government order, the celebration of Swamiji's birthday as the "National youth day" became a secular ritual devoid of its spiritual and patriotic content. With hindsight, it can be stated that it only made the prevailing confusion worse confounded. The response has been half-heated and hazy.

Swamiji was a staunch nationalist. He spoke passionately about our nation and its greatness' He imparted to us a profound vision of our role in forging a new world order. But with the present craze for globalization, our youth find it difficult even to accept the concept of Nation. National pride appears to them anachronistic, in the rapidly changing world situation. The vision of India's role is now confined to certain areas of technological innovations and professional expertise. There is no philosophy of patriotism to guide them and hence there is no depth in their approach. At present they are citizens of a world dominated by momentary 'Throw away every thing including inviolable family ties - culture'. India is the land with the largest and brightest population of promising youths. But how to equip and inspire them with a sense of mission, a true spirit of conviction and unreserved commitment for the sake of a noble ideal? How to clear the confusion that clouds their vision? It is precisely here that Swami Vivekananda becomes really relevant.

Swamiji has given us a perfectly tenable, logical and comprehensive answer to all the doubts and questions that the present situation has thrown up. Globalization or internationalism does not invalidate nationalism, says Swamiji. In fact without nationalism there can be no internationalism. Internationalism, ideally, is but the happy and peaceful co-existence of all the nations big or small. Nationalism is an essential stage of human evolution which cannot be abolished for any foreseeable future.It has to play a very vital role in the march of humanity towards its final goal of a Commonwealth of Nations. Nationalism in India is a positive concept unlike in the western countries. Swamiji made it clear that every nation is a living entity with a soul, a distinct mission of its own. " Each nation has a destiny to fulfill, each nation has a message to deliver, each nation has a mission to accomplish. Therefore, from the very start, we must have to understand the mission of our own race, the destiny it has to fulfill, the place it has to occupy in the march of nations, the note which it has to contribute to the harmony of races". The fulfillment of that mission is the purpose of its existence. This is true of every nation and each one is naturally expected to cooperate and coordinate with other nations. All together constitute the harmonious human family. That was the ancient Hindu concept of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam'. Coordination among and not domination over other nations is the ideal.

To the superficial observers, globalization is going to be the final word in man's civilization march. It is sometimes believed that the whole world and all countries and cultures are going to be steam rolled into one homogeneous totality. But history tells us that this cannot be. Human nature is so complex that it will not accept homogeneity as its ideal. All such attempts have failed and failed miserably. Imperialism, Communism, Socialism, etc have shared the same fate of temporary success and ultimate collapse. There was a time when it was claimed that the "sun will never set on the British Empire". Communism during its hey days proclaimed that it is going to bring the whole humanity under its red banner. So claimed Socialism also. But all these have proved false and history is still on the march. Swamiji's prediction that no social philosophy or social order however lofty or noble, can sustain itself unless it has the Vedantic philosophy of Advaita as its foundation. That is how socialism and Communism have collapsed, in spite of their objective of equality and social justice. Globalization is another milestone which will also be over passed. It will leave its imprint, no doubt, but only like earlier civilization phases. One thing is clear. Whether it is Imperialism or Communism, Socialism or Globalism, none of these can overturn or nullify nationalism. That will remain the corner stone for the future human civilization. It will ensure human unity with cultural diversity which is nature's - or call it God's – Design!

What is India's role in all these? Swami Vivekananda stated unambiguously that India's soul lies in its spirituality and its world mission is to evolve spiritually and help humanity with its spiritual - Vedantic ideals. But Swamiji hastened to assure that spirituality does not mean either a cluster of rituals or mere other worldliness. Spirituality is a way of life here and now. It includes 'Sarnutkarsha and Nishreyasa' - material development and spiritual enlightenment. He envisaged future India as a spiritually enlightened nation, firmly standing as an economically prosperous, socially harmonious and technologically well-equipped, national foundation in total harmony with the rest of the world.

Swamiji believed that India has a dual role to play - imparting spirituality to the materially advanced countries of the West while learning from them the techniques of organization, mutual cooperation and technological advancement' in order to make India's development balanced and total. India should go to the West, ho said, as a teacher, as a Guru and not as a supplicant with a begging bowl. That will bring us respect. Swamiji himself was a shining example. We must uncompromisingly adhere to our cultural way of life. We may accept and assimilate certain useful ideas from others, and still be ourselves in all essentials. In his famous Chicago speech he proclaimed why the whole world needs India's unique teaching. There are lessons which the world needs which India alone can teach. They are more relevant today than they were at the time he delivered the historical message. Making a special reference to the Parliament of Religion he said:- The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world, of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: Whosoever comes to Me, through whatever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to Me.' Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is qome; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions wither the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal". There is no room for religious conflicts or intolerance, much less for the haunting specter of terrorism. Swamiji's words were prophetic and its relevance continues with greater urgency.

He accepted all religions as valid and all scriptures as valuable up to a point. But he pointed out that man in his spiritual evolution has to go beyond sectarian religions and written or printed texts. He says 'We want to lead mankind to the place where there is neither the Vedas, nor the Bible, nor the Kuran; yet this has to be done by harmonizing the Vedas, the Bible .and the Koran. Mankind ought to be taught that religions are but the varied expressions of THE RELIGION, which is Oneness, so that each may" choose the path that suits him best". Swami Vivekananda unhesitatingly asserted that Vedanta alone fits the role of a universal religion because it is beyond sectarianism and absolutely scientific and fully verifiable.

A great disservice has been done to Swami Vivekananda by the post independence intellectuals of India by creating the impression that to call oneself a Hindu is something to be ashamed about. There had been a systematic campaign at the highest levels to propagate that the Swamiji was not in favor of calling India a Hindu nation. The implication was that the Hindu was a narrow and communal nomenclature and as such the name is better kept out of vogue. Coming as it did from very high and respectable quarters this propaganda made deep impact. It was a very calculated and dishonest attempt to pit Swami Vivekananda against whatever was Hindu in name and content. There was an ideological underpinning to the vicious propaganda with a deep political motivation. It was the objective of the "leftist, secular and so called progressive" intelligentsia to destroy the genuine cultural nationalism of this country and to tear apart the fabric of our national unity. By this clever ploy, backed by the ruling elite, they succeeded to a large extent in weakening the pride in Hindu nationalism. In fact this was totally against Swamiji's perception. Swamiji was one of the first and fore most exponents of Hindu Nationalism. Even at that time there were people, among them some sections of Hindus, who considered Hindu a bad word having notorious connotation. Swamiji had openly declared that he was one of the proudest of Hindus. Great savants like Mahayogi Sri Aurobindo, following the footsteps of Swami Vivekananda were fully convinced that ours is a Hindu nation and Sanatana Dharma was its very soul. Sanatana Dharma and Hindu Dharma had identical connotations, according to them. He had consistently used the term Hindu nationalism in his lectures and writings' Even his definition of nationalism that “National union in India must be a gathering up of its scattered spiritual forces. A Nation in India must be a union of those whose hearts beat to the same spiritual tune" makes it clear. Needless to say, it had nothing negative or reactionary about it. But unfortunately politically biased propaganda against the word has resulted in weakening the nation's pride in its history, culture, tradition and worldview. This has done immense harm to the noble cause which Swamiji held in high esteem and wakened our national integrity and identity. The modem educated intelligentsia began to internalize the demeaning idea that they are a rootless people who were never a nation and thus fell victims to the false propaganda that India is only a "Nation in the making'. This is one of the major reasons for the moral and cultural decline in post-independence India. Swamiji's birthday is an occasion for the Hindus to initiate a legitimate self-assertion'.

Swami Vivekananda would have gladly welcomed the beneficial aspects of Globalization to the. best advantage of India and the rest of the world, as it could provide India with abundant channels of communication to transmit the treasures of spiritual wisdom to the western world which is deeply engrossed in mindless materialism and vulgar consumerism. In many of his lectures he has reminded us as to how this has happened many a time in the past. Whenever nations of the world have been brought closer together by imperial adventurers or religious missionaries or trading companies, Swamiji has pointed out, that India had made use of such occasions for pouring out her own quota of spiritual and cultural blessings to the world at large. Such an ideal situation has presented itself today. As a natural consequence, India's spiritual message is, no doubt, reaching out into all corners of the world, slowly but steadily, creating its firm and positive impact. But a more self-confident and assertive India could have contributed much more effectively and successfully and could have influenced the trend of global policies in a more specific manner. But it is an unfortunate fact that while the world is prepared and even eager to embrace India for her rich gift of spirituality and our spiritual leaders are making their appeal in their own way, the official India appears to be fighting shy of publicly owning up our innate spiritual and cultural identity. A totally misconceived concept of secular politics seems to be compelling them to adopt a hypocritical stand of distancing themselves from this unique legacy.

Globalisation has brought about another dimension in the East-West relationships. They represent two different kinds of civilisations. Swamiji had stated in one of his lectures that the West created a model of civilisation that measured its success in terms of how much a man can possess and how much one can enjoy. The Eastern civilisation-measured its success in terms of how little a man need to possess and still happily. live. America represented the Western civilisation and lndia the Eastern. The Indian civilisation centered round the concept of "Aparigraha" or non-acquisition and renunciation, where as the Western had “Upabhoga"- consumerism as its fulcrum. [n puranic terminology, it would be said that the East and West had the, Dadheechi' and 'Yayathi' syndromes respectively. In the globalised society, East and West have closely come together into a global village forget for the moment with the fiercely competitive global market, in which these two types come into conflict, yet have to coexist. It is clear that India has to play a vital role to impart its unique culture of 'Aparigraha' to temper the consumeristic mania of the West and enable the world to strike a healthy balance.

Another aspect which Swamiji has pointed out is that the Hindu civilisation has no problem with the modern science. He said 'the Hindu is only glad that what he has been cherishing in his bosom for ages is going to be taught in iron forcible language, and with further light from the latest conclusions of science'. But it is not so easy for other religion to accept the findings of science and still be believers in the tenets of their religion. As Swami Ranganathananda puts it: “..But in the West the Christian theology never allowed science to proceed deeper and deeper. They tried to stop it and even killed a few scientists. So a few well_tested truths of science could demolish the whole dogmas of Christian religion in the modern West.” Indian spirituality and modern science will fulfill each other and lay down the foundation for the future civilisation of mankind.

We shall now conclude with a thought provoking statement by the world renowned historian A L Basham regarding Swamiji. "Even now, a hundred years after the birth of Narendranath Dutta, who later became Swami Vivekananda, it is very difficult to evaluate his importance in the scale of world's history. It is certainly far greater than any Western historian or most Indian historians would have suggested at the time of his death. The passing of years and the many stupendous and unexpected events which have occurred since then suggest that in centuries to come he will be remembered as one of the main moulders of the modern world".

As we celebrate the Birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda , it is time for India to stand up and respond to the various challenges thrown up by a globalised world the way Swamiji wanted us to do.

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