Tuesday 28 May 2024


 – P. Parameswaran JI (Yuva Bharati, 50th Year Special Commemorative Volume, Dec. 2008)



It was as usual a normal evening at the campus of Vivekanandapuram, Kanyakumari. After a whole day of reading and writing, I had just come out for the I usual evening stroll. The sky was overcast with dense clouds threatening to rain. There was already a slight drizzle. At some distance, I could see a peacock standing all alone, totally oblivious of my presence. It slowly started spreading its colourful feathers and step-by-step began its beautiful dance. Not being at the same wavelength as the bird, I could not imagine what impelled it to stage the famous peacock- dance. Poets say that the peacocks are overjoyed at the sight of rainy clouds. Might be! There is no doubt that it was a spontaneous expression of joy welling from within. Slowly, it gathered momentum and there was a full-fledged dance to its heart's content. Thereafter it slowly walked away to disappear among the shrubs and trees. There was a perfect harmony between the dancing peacock, the cloudy sky, the drizzling rain and the greenery around. Probably, I was the only intruder. Surely, the peacock was not engaged in an act of showmanship. It was spontaneous and totally in harmony with the surroundings. The symmetry of the multicoloured feathers when fully unfolded was absolute. The rhythmic movement of the dance was flawless in comparison to that of the most accomplished dancers.


The rare sight triggered a chain of thoughts in my mind. How harmonious and rhythmic are the processes of nature! The trees that grow all around express spontaneously this harmony. The birds with their varied melodious chirpings are in perfect tune with their surroundings. Birds of different species live in each other's company without bitterness. If there is an occasional feud, it is forgotten in no time and they continue to co-exist. Same is the case of the universe we inhabit. So huge and gigantic, comprising of vast oceans and continents, planets and stars, galaxies and milky ways, ever expanding but hardly ever clashing, all follow their own orbits and modes of behaviour as if perfectly programmed. Days and nights, seasons, rotations and revolutions are set in perfect order.


Our ancient sages and seers understood this eternal and universal order by their single-minded meditation and contemplation of the Divine Mystery. They said that the whole creation functioned in accordance with an eternal law, which they called "Ritam". They also told us that this "Ritam" was the cosmic expression of a higher and ultimate Reality. They called it "Satyam". Those wise seers and sages, full of compassion for humanity, advised us that the same order must govern all human activities also. They gave the name "Dharma" to that order and stated that it should be the foundation and the guiding principle for all human beings, wherever they are. As Satyam and Ritam, Dharma also is universal and eternal. It was "Viswa Dharma and also Sanatana Dharma". When men follow it meticulously in all their dealings individually and as a society, there will be perfect harmony, concord, cooperation and happiness. Such a state they called "Satya Yuga". They also told us that there really existed a Satya Yuga in the ancient days, when Dharma reigned supreme without any aberration or violation by anyone.


Naturally the question arises. What happened then? Why was that order lost? Why then is humanity in today's predicament? Why is Adharma ruling roost everywhere? The explanation lies in human nature. Men are different from all other creations. The peacock dances instinctively like a child when it is happy. The trees and birds behave according to their instincts. There is no reasoning or thoughtful decision. But man acts less by instinct but more by thinking and rationalizing. No doubt, he is in an advanced stage in nature's evolution but he has to pay a price for this. Instinct never errs. It is a gift of nature, which can never make a mistake. But thought and reason are the products of cerebral activity.


Man endowed with these powers has choices, which the birds or animals do not have. So, man can interfere with the nature's processes, violate them and commit mistakes. That freedom to choose often disturbs and disrupts the spontaneous harmony and natural order. The more man advances in learning and creates increasingly sophisticated civilizational infrastructures, the more he distances himself from nature's harmony, which leads to discord and disharmony. We see this happening in an increasing way in the progress of human history. Man has never been as civilized in the materialistic sense as he is today. But, at the same time, we see that the world had never been experiencing more clashes and conflicts, more violence and crimes as today, so much so we talk of the present world situation as "Clash of civilizations". Thinking men all over the world have begun to express their genuine concern about the end result of all these spectacular even incredible achievements that we have been able to attain.


We are confronted with such a situation today. A crisis fraught with catastrophic consequences is enveloping the entire globe and needs to be resolved at the earliest point of time. It brooks no delay. Sri Sankaracharya in his famous Gita Bhashya has given the traditional Indian view of how in course of time Dharma declines and Adharma begins to dominate A situation that is repeated again and again and which necessitates the direct intervention of God in human affairs by means of Avatars or Vibhutis. He says that when human weakness creeps into the leaders of society and percolates through and through, it creates a serious crisis. To quote:


"Those who practised this Dharma, bereft of discrimination and wisdom, developed excessive sensual desires, with the result that Dharma or value awareness was overthrown, and Adharma or social evils multiplied."


The crisis that we are now facing can be overcome only by a paradigm shift. The present paradigm is the gift of western civilization, which is imposed over the rest of the world. It is the inevitable result of the basic premises on which the West has been erecting its civilizational structure. 'Might is right' and 'Survival of the fittest' are the basic premises. Concept of progress and development is based on the materialistic philosophy whose goal is unlimited consumerism made possible by reckless exploitation of human and natural resources. Cut-throat competition is the law that governs it. Whether it is capitalism or communism, there is no marked difference so far as the goals are concerned. Once these premises are accepted, there is no half a house. It inevitably leads to mutual conflict and violent discord. Since these are also the premises of the Abrahamic religions, they teach the faithful that God has created everything only for the sake of man who has every right to exploit them. Mutual intolerance, which is the basis of all conflict, is also one of the cardinal principles of Abrahamic religions. The ultimate goal promised by God to the faithful is paradise. The only difference is that the heaven promised by these religions is a post-mortem heaven whereas communists and capitalists promise a heaven here and now. The present paradigm glorified as "the global village" where the rules of the market are supreme and extravagant consumption the reward, can never be sustainable because the resources available on the earth is strictly and severely limited. Technology can manipulate the resources but cannot manufacture them. Therefore, there is a dilemma. The present level of the consumption benefits only the privileged. If the benefit should go to all in an equitable measure, then the present day privileged will have to sacrifice heavily. Materialistic civilization does not teach the value of sacrifice. Hence, the result can only be social unrest erupting into collective violence or terrorism. If there is truth in this analysis, then the only alternative is, as stated earlier, a shift in paradigm from the western to the eastern ideas.


It is a life and death question for the survival of humanity and ultimately of this planet earth. The choice has to be made, now and here.

This idea was clearly pronounced about fifty years back by Arnold Toynbee, one of the world's greatest historians-


"Today we are still living in this transitional chapter of the world's history, but it is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending, if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race. In the present age, the world has been united on the material plane by Western technology. But this Western skill has not only 'annihilated distance', it has armed the peoples of the world with weapons of devastating power at a time when they have been brought to point-blank range of each other without yet having learnt to know and love each other. At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way: The Emperor Ashoka's and Mahatma Gandhi's principle of non-violence and Sri Ramakrishna's testimony to the harmony of religions; here we have the attitude and the spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family and the only alternative to destroying ourselves.


The survival of the human race is at stake. Yet even the strongest and most respectable utilitarian motive is only a secondary reason for taking Ramakrishna's and Gandhi's and Ashoka's teaching to heart and acting on it. The primary reason is that this teaching is right right because it flows from a true vision of spiritual reality."


Now what is this eastern paradigm we speak of? It is based on the Hindu view of life as enunciated by our Rishis and spelt out in the Vedic and Upanishadic texts. It is a spiritual vision of the world. 'Tena tyaktena bhunjeeta' is the keyword. 'Enjoy through renunciation' is the core. Enjoyment is not denied, but renunciation must precede it. Without 'tyaga', bhoga is vulgar. Bhoga or enjoyment should be elevated and sanctified by the spirit of tyaga or renunciation. Material affluence is not prohibited. Sense enjoyments are not taboo. These are not considered sinful in the Hindu view of life as in the Abrahamic religions. Earning and enjoying are considered desirable objectives in life. But there is a condition. Both must be on the basis of and governed by Dharma. Dharma is the law that sustains everything. Dharma is the application of Satyam and Ritam in human life. When every act of man is guided by Dharma, then competition is eliminated and cooperation is ensured that leads to total harmony in all interpersonal relationship and the society as a whole. On the basis of this principle, Hindus had formulated and erected an entire social scheme, which was non-competitive and harmonious. In such a system, every individual and every family had an assigned role within the social system. To follow the law of dharma is the duty of every human being. This must expand from the individual to the family, to the society, to the nation, to entire humanity and ultimately to every creation, living or non-living. It is this unique and sublime concept of the entire creation as one big family, which is expressed in the ancient dictum 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' - World is as one family. Now compare and contrast this with the western concept of global market and see the difference. This difference has carried us into the logical conclusion of a world divided into hostile and warring camps.


There is a fundamental flaw in the understanding of man in Western paradigm. Instead of an integrated view of man having different dimensions, it looks upon man in a compartmentalized and incomplete manner. There is no coherence in the approach to the different dimensions and often contradictory. Man is considered as a means and not as an end. He is considered as a resource to be utilized and exploited and not as the end to be achieved. In these days of global market, he is treated as a consumer and his primary role as a citizen is ignored.


The tastes and needs of the consumer are supreme and basic needs and rights of the citizens are sacrificed for the sake of the market, which serves the consumer. The spiritual man is totally forgotten and the ethical and moral values that should govern inter- personal relationships are given the go by. Values are considered superfluous and utility overrules values. The super-structure of western civilization built upon the foundation of this fraudulent understanding of man is totally incompatible with the Eastern paradigm. The Western paradigm is value-neutral. Technologies are developed without considering how they will affect human values and social systems. Many of the modern technologies can be, and are in fact, catastrophic in their consequences. Therefore, an alternate paradigm with a concept of an integrated man as the centre of all activities is necessary for the total well-being of mankind in the future. This is where the Indian approach becomes not only relevant but unavoidably crucial.


But how can a paradigm shift be effectively implemented? A paradigm is not paradise- given. It has to be created. Even 'Satya Yuga' is like that. Another name for 'Satya Yuga' is 'Krita Yuga'which means that it is an ideal to be achieved by dint of human effort. Today, the world demands an ideal paradigm, based on the Hindu view of life. Such a one does not exist. It is to be brought by strenuous and indefatigable effort by people inspired by such a vision and devoted and dedicated to such a noble cause. The task is so big that no one individual can achieve it single-handedly. Our scriptures say that at such critical times God himself descends 'Avatar takes place. It is also enjoined that the ground has to be prepared and the homework well done before an Avatar can descend. The nature of Avatar changes from age to age according to the need and nature of the people and the times. In this Kaliyuga, it has been said that the work of an avatar has to be accomplished by means of an organization of men well equipped and measuring up to the task. Those who sincerely feel and eagerly await an alternate Hindu paradigm have to work together single- mindedly and ceaselessly for such a great consummation. Paradigm shifts are brought about not by idle gossiping or intermittent outbursts by disparate individuals but by sustained efforts of idealistic and at the same time, pragmatic individuals united by a common vision and total and unreserved dedication for the same. The urgency and sure possibility of such a mission was well understood by Swami Vivekananda, the prophet of Hindu Nationalism and Universal brotherhood. Throughout his later life Swamiji gave expression to these thoughts and continuously exhorted young men and women to take up this historic task under the banner of a selfless organization. A century has passed since Swamiji passed away. The relevance of his words continues unabated. The need for missionary workers to translate his ideas and produce a new paradigm has to be fulfilled. That is the legacy of Swamiji, which the workers of the Vivekananda Kendra have to take up and fulfil.


This is a historic task for the new generation of heroic youths to accomplish. For them, this has to be the only pre- occupation, not one among many as Swamiji has often stated: "Great things are achieved by great sacrifices only". The intensity of sacrificial urge must be matched with the number and quality of youths committed to this. Swamiji had clearly understood the immensity of the task and called upon the youth of the country to leave everything aside and offer themselves at the very prime of their youth, full of the freshness and fervor of their energy, in the worship of Mother Bharat. "For the coming fifty years let this alone be the object of your worship, this Motherland of ours.


Let all other vain Gods disappear" was the clarion call that the Swamiji issued to the youth and finally he added, "A hundred thousand men and women, fired with the zeal of Holiness, fortified with the Eternal faith in the Lord, and nerved to Lion's courage by their sympathy for the poor and the fallen and the downtrodden, will go over the length and breadth of the land, preaching the gospel of salvation, the gospel of help, the gospel of social raising up- the gospel of equality".


It is only when these conditions are fulfilled that a new paradigm of peace, prosperity and harmony among all the peoples and nations of the world could become an actual reality. This is exactly what Swami Vivekananda meant when he declared "Up India and Conquer the world with Spirituality".


Tailpiece: Peacock is our National bird. It is the very picture of harmony and beauty. It embodies India's message of 'Unity in diversity' and 'Satyam Sivam Sundaram' to the world.

कथा : विवेकानन्द केन्द्र { Katha : Vivekananda Kendra }
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
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मुक्तसंग्ङोऽनहंवादी धृत्युत्साहसमन्वित:।
सिद्ध‌‌यसिद्धयोर्निर्विकार: कर्ता सात्त्विक उच्यते ॥१८.२६॥

Freed from attachment, non-egoistic, endowed with courage and enthusiasm and unperturbed by success or failure, the worker is known as a pure (Sattvika) one. Four outstanding and essential qualities of a worker. - Bhagwad Gita : XVIII-26

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