Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Eternal Vivekananda

Today (January 12, 2016) marks the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and is celebrated as World Youth Day all across the globe. Throughout the years of my upbringing, I’ve admired him as a Youth Icon and been deeply influenced by his ideologies of Karma and Moksha (salvation). Yet, as I sit to pen my tribute to him, it suddenly appears to be quite a daunting task. 

For more reasons than one, writing on Vivekananda’s teachings is a challenging task.  Firstly, Swami Vivekananda taught on aspects (not restricted to India alone) encompassing Spiritualism, Universal values, Religion, Character building, Education, Spirit of Service and Social issues. Secondly, his teachings influenced contemporaries, inspired innumerable followers and sparked movements all across India (continuing to do so even to the present day). Thirdly, Vivekananda lived over a century ago (before the world wars) and a lot has changed with India and the world since then - India is now an independent democratic nation; so, some may argue that the concepts like Practical Vedanta, Karma Yoga, Bhakti etc. are “old-fashioned”, “obscure” or “mere rhetoric” and as such impractical or inefficient for progress of present-day India. Moreover, the society today is much different, much better than it used to be. 

So how is Vivekananda relevant as of today?

Swami Vivekananda toured all over India and to several places abroad preaching and working on diverse problems. He played a major role in introducing India and her spiritual culture of Vedanta to the Western world, and in reviving and refining Hinduism within India. His main teachings may be summarized in terms of his views on Education, Religion, Character building, Womanhood, Hinduism, Spirit of Service and National Integration. 

1) On Education: “Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man”. He said that education which does not enable a person to stand on his own feet, does not teach him self-confidence and self-respect; was useless.

2) On Religion: “To be good and to do good to others – that is the essence of Religion”. According to Swami Vivekananda, religion is the idea which raises a brute to man, and a man to God. Swami Vivekananda preached that Truth is the basis of all Religions. 

3) On Character:  According to Vivekananda, Jiva is Shiva (every man is potentially divine). To become divine (or great), man must give up suspicion, jealousy, conceit and learn to work unitedly for the common good. 

4) On Womanhood: According to Vivekananda, there is no chance for welfare in the world unless the condition of woman is improved. He felt that it was impossible to get back India’s lost pride and honor unless the condition of women was improved. 

5) On Hinduism: Vivekananda strived to give to Hinduism a clear-cut identity, both nationally and internationally. Within India, he preached about the common bases of Hinduism, the common ground of all its different sects and brought about its overall unification. He also toured the Western countries in an effort to convey Hinduism’s liberal and universal values to Westerners and raising his voice in its defence. He also worked among the masses fighting social evils and superstitions and trying to integrate the best elements of Western culture into Hindu culture.

6) On Spirit of Service: Vivekananda said, “Do not stand on a high pedestal and take five cents in your hand and say, “Here, my poor man”; but be grateful that the poor man is there so that by making a gift to him, you are able to help yourself. It is not the receiver that is blessed, but the giver”. 

7) On National Integration: Swami said that despite innumerable linguistic, ethnic, historical and regional diversities, India has always had a strong sense of cultural unity and has been one nation. He strived to instill in Indians, a greater understanding of their country’s profound spiritual heritage and pride in their past. 

You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.

-   Mr. Sumit Chakravarty
     Faculty, INLEAD

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