HUMAN DIGNITY --- SERVICE TO MAN
Assured from this, arises the third point, the Dignity of the Individual. When Swamiji sat on the Rock at Kanyakumari and looked at India and meditated upon it, he saw before him a picture of misery. He saw before him, a country, in which millions of people do not have enough to eat, to wear or the wherewithal to live or to be educated. He was deeply pained and he said, "What is the use of preaching religion, the Divinity of man, if, in fact, men live in a condition which is worse than that of animals? And that was the basic factor of his teachings the Dignity of Man and the Service of man and his society. He went to the extent of saying that to preach religion to someone who is starving is a sin. First of all you must see that he gets enough to eat. That is to see that he gets minimum wherewithal to wear and to live. Then only your religious preaching will have any real meaning for him. And it is for this reason that Swamiji was able to bridge the gap between the religious pursuits and service to society.
We have a lot of great Sannayasins in India but mostly they are going to Himalayas or into the caves and practise there their spiritual devotions and meditations. But Swami Vivekananda in the nineteenth century saw quite clearly that unless the divorce between Religion and Society was annulled, unless people of Religion also look upon themselves as servants of society nothing will be achieved. And he saw that one of the main reason for the degradation of India was that people who were interested in religion were not interested in society. It was first this reason that he constantly preached the gospel of service and renunciation---"Tena Tyaktena Bhunjeetha" You can renounce the world inwardly but outwardly you must be involved in its service—"Atmano Mokshartham Jagadhitaya cha" You can work for your own salvation and for the welfare of the world and it was for this reason that Swamiji thundered against the absurd superstitions, taboos that have gone by the name of religion in this country.
To give you one instance, as you know from the great spots of south India, from Mahabalipuram and elsewhere, centuries ago, Indians went abroad into South East Asia and carried the message of their culture, their art, their religion and their architecture to the people who lived in those islands. That was one phase and another, we find in the nineteenth century when we had become so narrow that anybody who went abroad had to do Prayaschitta when he came back before he was accepted into society. It is a fantastic thing. A nation which could produce people, whose vision was able to comprehend the entire human race, had become narrowed down to the four walls of casteism and communalism and this ridiculous kitchen – religion and taboos. Swamiji was one of the most powerful religious reformers in this country. How for example can a situation continue in which on the one hand you say that all persons are Divine, "Amritasya Putrah" and on the other hand you discriminate against people just because they happen to be born in a certain class, in a certain caste, in a certain community? The evil of untouchablity was rampant in the nineteenth century and Swamiji saw quite clearly that unless we are able to shed these weaknesses that have entered into the body-politic, India would never be able to grow to its full stature. And therefore Swamiji's third message was the Dignity of Man and Service to Society. And it was for this purpose that he founded the Ramakrishna Mission which is doing such extraordinary good work within this country and throughout the world. And I am sure that it is with this purpose also that the second aspect of this great Rock Memorial that I have seen today, the founding of a lay mission in the name of Swami Vivekananda, will be fulfilled.
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