Tuesday 14 February 2017

Swamiji in Chennai on 14 Feb 1897

On Sunday evening, February 14, the Swami gave his last public lecture in Madras, on "The Future of India". Over three thousand people had assembled in the Harmston Circus Pavilion to hear him. The Hon'ble N. Subba Rao Puntulu was in the chair. Prof. Sundararama Iyer says: "I never saw a more crowded scene or a more enthusiastic audience. The Swami's oratory was at its best. He seemed like a lion traversing the platform to and fro. The roar of his voice reverberated everywhere, and with telling effect." That there was something special about this lecture, and that the Swami's voice had a special power on this occasion, is also suggested by C. Ramanujachari's words: "That was a wonderful lecture and Swamiji's voice was heard throughout distinctly, even in the corners. Those were days when there were no loud-speakers. The effect of that speech was thrilling."


           The Swami begins "The Future of India" with one of the most rousing of his lecture openings: "This is the ancient land where wisdom made its home before it went into any other country.... Here is the same India whose soil has been trodden by the feet of the greatest sages that ever lived.... This is the land whence, like tidal waves, spirituality and philosophy have again and again rushed out and deluged the world....." He reminds his audience of their country's past greatness so that they may have the right understanding and strength to "build an India yet greater than what she has been".


           "The problems of India are more complicated... than the problems in any other country.... The one common ground that we have", in this conglomeration of differing elements which make up India, "is our sacred tradition, our religion. That is the only common ground, and upon that we shall have to build.... Therefore, the first plank in the making of a future India... is this unification of religion.... The Indian mind is first religious, then anything else. So this is to be strengthened, and how to do it?... My idea is first of all to bring out the gems of spirituality that are stored up in our books... and let them be the common property of all…." Great Masters did try to do this in the past; but because they did not spread the knowledge of Sanskrit at the same time, their successes were short-lived. "It is culture" -- in this case Sanskrit culture -- "that withstands shocks," -- the shocks of history -- "not a simple mass of knowledge.... Teach the masses in the vernaculars, give them ideas; they will get information: but something more is necessary; give them culture." The only way for the lower castes to raise their condition permanently and without conflict is for them to appropriate the culture of the higher. "The solution is not by bringing down the higher, but by raising the lower up to the level of the higher. And that is the line of work that is found in all our books...." The aim must be to raise all to Brahminhood. It is the duty of the Brahmins to "work hard to raise the Indian people by teaching them what they know, by giving out the culture that they have accumulated for centuries."


           "To make a great future India, the whole secret lies in organization, accumulation of power, co-ordination of wills." Our dissensions must stop. "For the next fifty years this alone shall be our keynote -- this, our great Mother India. Let all other vain gods disappear for the time from our minds.... What is needed is... purification of the heart. And how does this come? The first of all worship is the worship of the Virat -- of those all around us.... And the first gods we have to worship are our countrymen. These we have to worship, instead of being jealous of each other and fighting each other."


           In concluding, the Swami speaks briefly of his plans for work in Madras. But he introduces this with some of his most telling utterances on education. "We [Indians] must have a hold on the spiritual and secular education of the nation. Do you understand that?... Till then there is no salvation for the race. The education that you are getting now has some good points, but... it is not a man-making education.... Fifty years of such education has not produced one original man in the three Presidencies.... Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain....We must have life-building, man-making, character-making, assimilation of ideas."


           As to details, one thing that is needed here in Madras is a non-sectarian temple for Hindus. Connected with the temple "there should be an institution to train teachers who must go about preaching religion and giving secular education to our people.... You may ask, where is the money?" Money must come -- because I want it. But "where are the men? That is the question. Young men of Madras, my hope is in you.... Rouse yourselves…. There are greater works to be done than aspiring to be lawyers and picking quarrels and such things. A far greater work is this sacrifice of yourselves for the….. welfare of humanity...."

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