As we are celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of the great monk, the question arises: What is the relevance of Swami Vivekananda today? India has travelled a long way since the nineteenth century. What we see today is totally different from what was there during those times. India has changed politically, economically and socially over these years. There have been changes at the religious and spiritual levels. Lots of changes have been happening across the world.
A new global order is emerging now. The richer west that Swamiji witnessed 120 years back is fast losing its lustre during the recent periods. Both the western economic ideologies stand discredited. Their social theories, management approaches and even their life styles are being seriously questioned. They are no longer the providers of ideas and approaches to the rest of the world.
India is fast emerging as a dominant force in the global economy. International predictions repeatedly point out India reaching higher positions in the international economic arena in future. The way that India has been marching over the years, when the rich countries are beset with difficulties, is forcing them to look at India. Reputed academic institutions have started turning towards India to learn from her functioning models. India’s stock as a nation has been rising globally, in spite of problems at the domestic level. So in the changed circumstances, what is the need for the teachings of Swami Vivekananda?
Swamiji’s times (1863-1902) were very difficult for the country. Under the British rule, India was in her worst phase in economic history. Famines had become frequent. Criminal assaults on the functioning systems and economic drains soon after commencement of Crown administration had already made India poor. The economy was in a very bad shape and the native systems were under destruction. Majority of the people were living without hope. It was during those difficult times that Swamiji foresaw a great future for India.
Swamiji was not an ordinary monk. He was a true seer and one of the most inspiring personalities of our times. He was different in many ways. The mission of his life was not his personal salvation; but the betterment of the lives of all. Serving others, and the less privileged in particular, was more important to him. He did not confine himself to religion and spirituality, though the core of his message revolved around them. He discussed passionately about the need for economic development, improvement of the lives of the weaker sections, industrialization, social equality, women education and youth power. In all these matters he was ahead of his times. He was a patriotic monk for whom the nation was more important than anything else. He wanted India to regain her lost glory and emerge as the Jagat Guru.
India today has tremendous opportunities before her. As a nation, we have enormous strengths. We have strong fundamentals. India is blessed with plenty of resources. Not many countries in the world could boast of vast lands, huge rivers, varieties of flora and fauna and plenty of sunlight. We have the demographic dividend, with one sixth of the humanity as our population. Besides, we have the largest number of youth in the world today. Our people are one of the most hardworking, enterprising, simple living, family oriented and peace loving citizens in the world.
Close knit families are our critical assets. They are the reason for bringing up responsible citizens, maintaining peace in the society, saving enormous amounts of money for the nation and creating new ventures. Relationship based and integrated societies are the products of our system. We have huge social capital that helps us to maintain harmony and support economic growth. Indian families and communities possess the capacity to function on their own, without depending on the state. The story of independent India reveals that much of her progress has been mostly on her own, many times in spite of the government.
Indian culture is unique. It is inclusive and nurtures diversity. It treats every being, every object, as divine. Its world view is comprehensive. The age old culture of our nation remains as the bedrock of our lives and continues to guide our destiny, without many of us being aware of it. In an age filled with confusions and conflicts around the world, the time tested Indian culture remains the beacon light.
But unfortunately there are forces that hinder the nation’s march towards realizing her full potential. Much of the educated sections are unaware of the real situation. The education system introduced by the British continues to influence our thinking, even after more than sixty five years of independence. There is very little understanding about our history and the contemporary functioning. As a result we continue to ignore our strengths, and look elsewhere for solutions to every one of our problems. We fail to understand that we have had a glorious past that could provide us a few useful tips. India remained a global power economically, culturally and intellectually continuously for several centuries. On the one side she was very prosperous and highly productive, yet on the other side she was deeply spiritual. No other nation has such a record in the history of mankind.
We also fail to observe the contemporary functioning systems. The economic progress, social cohesiveness and family atmosphere that we see here are something special to us. Much of the world is finding it difficult to keep their families intact and societies harmonious. The native systems are helping our nation to move forward, even when the intellectual and ruling classes continue to fail us. But we refuse to see the realities that exist in front of us. It is precisely this attitude that is hindering the progress of our nation.
So what we need is a true understanding of our nation. We need to understand her from true perspectives. Educated sections of our country are the most crucial group of people, as it is they who represent India and interpret her functioning to others. The performing sections, which constitute the majority in the country, remain silent as they do not have a voice in the public discourse. Hence the educated sections have a critical role to play.
The present time is very important. While the west is losing its way, India is emerging big on her own. And it is here that we need to learn from Swami Vivekananda, his life, his messages and his teachings. They are more relevant now, than at any other time in contemporary history. We need to know about our backgrounds, our fundamentals and our weaknesses. There is no better person for this than Swami Vivekananda. He inspired the freedom movement more than anyone else. Mahatma Gandhi, Subash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore and several thousands of people were influenced by him. Their love for our motherland increased manifold after studying him. He was largely responsible for creating the patriotic fervor that motivated many people to fight for the country.
Swamiji was a multi-faceted personality. He singlehandedly demonstrated to the world the need for recognizing the diverse religious beliefs for the progress of mankind and changed the whole course of the dialogue towards India at the international level. He was a great leader and an organization builder. The institutions founded by him are the standing testimonies. His priority was to improve the living conditions of the ordinary masses, the underprivileged and the weaker sections of the society.
He was an icon for the people around the country and a true representative of the great Indian tradition. He continues to remain so, particularly to the youth, even after 120 years. More than anyone else in the contemporary history of India, every Indian identifies himself/herself with Swamiji and his teachings. This is irrespective of age, position and background. His is the most respected public face in India today. He inspires each one through his words, deeds and personality. There have been thousands of service organizations/ institutions promoted in different corners of the country during the past one hundred years, inspired by him. Many of them are promoted by the ordinary people and they are all silently engaged in different service activities, and many millions have benefited out of them.
Swamiji continues to remain the master motivator for the largest number of people in our country. It is especially in this connection, that we need to study him deeply during his 150th birth anniversary. We have to discuss his ideas, thoughts and mission. His life, speeches and writings teach us many valuable lessons. Each of us must make the maximum contribution to make India the most powerful nation on earth. We have to dedicate ourselves for this, as there are negative forces operating everywhere. We need to put all our energies together for this purpose. And Swami Vivekananda is the best role model for all of us in this noble mission.
( Yuva Bharati, Vol 40 No.8, Vivekananda Kendra, Chennai)
( Yuva Bharati, Vol 40 No.8, Vivekananda Kendra, Chennai)