Thursday 23 May 2024

Impact Of Swamiji A Centenary Perspective

 – P. Parameswaran JI (Yuva Bharati, 50th Year Special Commemorative Volume,  Aug. 2002)

It is a rewarding exercise though difficult, to assess and evaluate the impact and the influence of the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda in India and abroad on some of the important spheres of human activity, after hundred years of his Mahasamadhi.

It is said in the Gita that a man attains after his death that state on which he contemplates, while departing from the mortal body. No one precisely knows what Swamiji's mind dwelt upon at the time of the soul's departure. It is too profound and solemn a secret for anyone else to penetrate. But details have been documented as to whatever Swamiji has done on the final day of his earthly existence. It can be safely presumed that these must have been some of the most important ideas which he had been dwelling upon through the major part of his life, because, as the Gita says the last preoccupation of a person will naturally be that which had been the most predominant thought all through his life (sada tat bhava bhavitha).

It is recorded that before Swamiji entered his room for meditation from which he never came back, he had told his disciples that the study of these Vedas must be scrupulously kept up. On being asked as to how it will benefit mankind, Swamiji is said to have stated "study of the Vedas will remove superstitions."

A major activity which Swamiji undertook on the day of his final departure was the teaching of the Sanskrit grammar -the text of Panini, acceptably the most difficult one. For three long hours, he taught his disciples this intricate subject, trying to make it as simple as possible with humorous anecdotes and simple illustrations.

All these he did knowing fully well that it was his last day on this planet. He had often said that he would not live to see forty. Moreover, on that fateful day, while walking on the lawns of the Mutt, he was heard speaking to himself in a solemn voice, "If there was another Vivekananda he would have understood what actually Vivekananda has done." Obviously there was deep concern in his mind that there was hardly anyone else who could fathom the magnitude of his mission or his achievement. Surely it must have been a sad thought. But Swamiji was no pessimist. Continuing the soliloquy, he said, "yet how many Vivekanandas will come in the future!" So, there was absolute confidence and optimism about the success of his mission in the future. Swamiji had also stated on certain occasions that he was leaving behind for the future generations a legacy to carry forward and fulfil during the next five hundred years.

Of those five hundred years, hundred years have been completed by the 4th of July 2002. This is the time for all those who look upon Swami Vivekananda as the Prophet of the New Age to seriously ponder over as to how far they have been successful in carrying out the Swamiji's mission. Swamiji had recommended Vedic studies as crucial for the elimination of superstitions. This may sound a little odd because following the Western orientalists, Indian intellectuals also believe that the Vedas are full of hymns composed by a very primitive people to win favours from various deities, representing various powers of Nature, and were used to chant as part of certain rituals. They have no very high spiritual significance. According to them, some glimmer of light appears only in the Upanishads. They reject the Vedas as superstitious. In the light of this, Swamiji's views seem confusing. But the situation has changed. It is now being widely accepted that the Westerners have misinterpreted the Vedas. They were incapable of understanding their deeper significance. Even before Swamiji's time, reinterpretation of the Vedas based on their original insights had been propagated, by great saintly scholars like Maharshi Dayananda, the founder of the Arya Samaj. Later on Sri Aurobindo wrote "The Secret of the Vedas" to demonstrate how they are revelations and experiences of the Rishis which contain eternal truths. Misunderstandings and superstitions arose not because of the Vedas but because Vedas are not being correctly understood due to intellectual slavery and ignorance of the key to the knowledge of the Vedas. For understanding the later developments in the philosophical, religious and cultural history of India, one has to go to the Vedas and not away from them. It is a positive gain that such an awareness and understanding of the importance of the Vedas have dawned upon us. Vedic studies have gained momentum.

Swamiji's love for Sanskrit was contagious. He had stated that language and culture go together. Even the sound of Sanskrit words gives prestige. It was our failure to keep up the study of Sanskrit that led to the decline in our cultural values. Though it took a few decades since Swamiji's Mahasamadhi, the study of Sanskrit has now been taken up in all seriousness, despite criticism from certain interested quarters. It is not only the classical Sanskrit that has been taken up, but also study and popularization of simple conversational Sanskrit which have become extremely popular today. Sanskrit is no longer treated as a dead language as was the fashion some time ago. There are villages where the entire families speak only Sanskrit. The trend is growing.

With the discovery that Sanskrit is the most computer-friendly language, it is poised for a great leap in the modern world through information technology.

Let us see how some very eminent personalities-some contemporaries and some that came later - have assessed Swamiji's impact on future generations. Mahayogi Sri Aurobindo has made a remarkable comment. Putting in a nutshell his incisive evaluation, he said, "Vivekananda was a soul of puissance if there was one, a very lion among men, but the definite work he has left behind is quite incommensurate with our impression of his creative might and energy. We perceive his influence still working gigantically, we know not well how, we know not well where, in something that is not yet formed, something leonine, grand, intuitive, upheaving that has entered the soul of India and we say, "Behold, Vivekananda still lives in the soul of his Mother and in the soul of her children."

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, who admits that "I cannot write about Vivekananda without going into raptures", says that "since his death his influence has been even greater". Summing up his impression about Swamiji's contribution in these words, he says, "Swamiji harmonized East and West, religion and science, past and present. And that is why he is great. Our countrymen have gained unprecedented self-respect, self-confidence and self- assertion from his teachings".

But the poetic style and the emotional strain in which Romain Rolland pays encomiums to Swamiji is most fascinating. "He was less than forty years of age when the athlete lay stretched upon the pyre.... But the flame of that pyre is still alight today. From his ashes, like those of the Phoenix of old, has sprung anew the conscience of India - the magic bird - faith in her unity and in the Great Message, brooded over from Vedic times by the dreaming spirit of his ancient race - the message for which it must render account to the rest of mankind".

The great historian A.L. Basham assesses the mighty contribution of Swamiji with his unerring perspective. "Even now a hundred years after the birth of Narendranath Dutta, who later became Swami Vivekananda, it is very difficult to evaluate his importance in the scale of world history. It is certainly far greater than any Western historian or most Indian historians would have suggested at the time of his death. The passing of years and the many stupendous and unexpected events which have occurred since then suggests that in centuries to come he will be remembered as one of the main moulders of the modern world, especially as far as Asia is concerned, and as one of the most significant figures in the whole history of Indian Religion, comparable in importance to such great teachers as Shankara and Ramanuja, and definitely more important than the saints of local or regional significance such as Kabir, Chaitanya, and the many Nayanmars and Alwars of South India."

Swamiji had a two-fold mission - one for India and the other for the whole world. In fact, both of them were complementary. Even before he left for the West, he had a first hand experience of Indian conditions. The Parivrajaka life which covered the whole of India was deliberately undertaken by him to gain this much needed experience. At Kanyakumari, where it culminated, he assimilated the mixed experiences over the years, meditated upon them for three days and nights and in the depth of his soul, he had the vision of future India and the way to actualize it. His going abroad was part of this design which dawned on him on the 'last bit of Indian rock', encircled by the three oceans.

Swamiji saw the miserable plight of this great country, trodden over by foreign invaders for centuries and finally subjugated and ruled over by the British. There appeared no ray of hope to take her out of the darkness of degeneration. But the command of his Guru did not allow him to remain quiet as a passive witness. It was out of this divine restlessness that he decided to work out what at that time appeared to be impossible.

Swamiji wanted his Motherland to become free and grow into her full power and potentiality, as she had been centuries ago before slavery overtook her. For this, he wanted his countrymen to shake off their lethargy and work hard in unison. But he knew that action can come only out of conviction and clarity. There was a lot of misunderstanding and confusion to be cleared and proper wisdom and vision to be instilled. He realized that this was the mission which the Great Master had entrusted to him.

Overwhelmed by the foreign conquest and domination, an important section of newly educated Indians had started believing and also propagating that the decline and fall of India was due to the Hindu Religion and that unless India gave up her religion and adopt western culture and way of living, she cannot progress. In contrast, there were people who believed that the old religion had to be preserved and practised without any change at all. All that came from outside should be rejected, lock, stock and barrel. There was great antagonism and negative debates all over the country. Taking advantage of this schism, the imperialists' as well as the missionaries successfully destroyed the self-confidence of the people and entrenched themselves in every field of life. They took command over the educational system, disrupted the prevailing network and conquered the mind of the new generation.

Swami Vivekananda came out forcefully against these two extreme views. He totally disagreed with those who blamed Hinduism for the degradation of India. He pointed out that the fault was not with the religion. It was our failure to practise the sublime principles of the Vedantic religion that brought about the all-round loss of faith, virility and self-confidence. Deep faith in the immortal principles of our religion had to be cultivated and strengthened if the country is to stand on her feet and solve all the problems confronting her. At the same time Swamiji strongly disagreed with the die-hard orthodoxy and declared that Hinduism should not be equated with outdated customs and meaningless rituals. It should change, evolve and renew itself to face the challenges without giving up its fundamentals. Swamiji was an ardent advocate of social reforms, but he wanted reforms to be the natural evolution from the roots and not imposition from outside.

Swamiji wanted to evoke the dormant national pride so that people would develop self-confidence and self-respect. People had forgotten the true and glorious history of their motherland. Swamiji made them conscious of the fact that India was by far the most ancient nation in the world. It had the inner strength and vitality to withstand the shock of innumerable invasions. Swamiji pointed out that this was due to the fact that their ancestors sacrificed everything for keeping the national soul unhurt, by the invaders. Swamiji explained that Indian national soul was essentially spiritual. So long as India remained spiritual, nothing could harm her, much less destroy her. According to Swamiji, nationalism of India was spiritual nationalism. Everything else economics, politics and what not were secondary.

Nationalism according to Swamiji was not a mere abstract idea. It was a living reality, a vibrant experience. Indian nationalism embodied itself in the form of Bharat Mata. He said that a true Hindu, a true nationalist is one for whom Bharat Mata was his Ista Devatha and the service of her children the true worship of God. Unless one is totally possessed and wholly identified with the thought of Bharat Mata and her children, he cannot be a true patriot, a true nationalist. In his famous Madras speech, he even declared that for the coming fifty years people may forget all the vain gods they were worshipping and concentrate on the worship of their Motherland, Bharat.

To bring about national regeneration, it was to the youth of the country that the Swamiji looked up. In his 'Lectures from Colombo to Almora' and in almost all the letters he wrote, he exhorted the youth of the country to rise up with courage and conviction to carve out a glorious future for the Great Motherland of ours, totally dedicating themselves to this Noble Cause. He clearly expressed his vision: "A hundred thousand men and women, fired with the zeal of holiness, fortified with 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."

On the strength of his faith in India and her youth, he said that after centuries of darkness the new India, liberated and luminous is already emerging. "I do not see into the future; nor do I care to see. But one vision I see clear as life before me, that the ancient Mother has awakened once more, sitting on Her throne-rejuvenated, more glorious than ever. Proclaim her to all the world with the voice of peace and benediction."

Education and dedication to the nation were the two remedies he prescribed for all the problems of India. Education according to Swamiji's concept is "life- building, man-making, character- making assimilation of ideas". For such education to be given to the people of India, Swamiji said, that the "whole education of our country spiritual and secular must be in our hands, and it must be on national line, through national methods as far as practical." Swamiji expected the new generation of educated young men and women to work for the nation, unitedly, forgetting all differences. He was pained at the sight of people quarrelling among themselves and letting the nation go down. The only remedy according to him was to merge one's individual interest with that of the nation. His appeal to them was deeply emotional. He said: "This national ship has been ferrying millions and millions of souls across the waters of life. For scores of shining centuries it has been plying across this water, and through its agency, millions of souls have been taken to the other shore, to blessedness. But today, perhaps through your own fault, this boat has become a little damaged, has sprung a leak, and would you therefore curse it? Is it fit that you stand up and pronounce malediction upon it, one that has done more work than any other thing in the world? If there are holes in this national ship, this society of ours, we are its children. Let us go and stop the holes. Let us gladly do it with our heart's blood, and if we cannot, then let us die. We will make a plug of our brains and put them into the ship, but condemn it, never. Say not one harsh word against this society. I love it for its past greatness. I love you all because you are the children of gods, and because you are the children of the glorious forefathers. How then can I curse you! Never. All blessings be upon you! I have come to you, my children, to tell you all my plans. If you hear them, I am ready to work with you. But if you will not listen to them, and even kick me out of I will come back and tell you that we are all sinking! I am come now to sit in your midst, and, if we are to sink, let us all sink together, but never let curses rise to our lips."

Swamiji's world mission started with his historic debut at the Chicago Parliament of Religions in 1893. That was indeed the gateway for his triumphant entry into the West. It exposed him to the treasures of the materialistic political and scientific advancement made by the Western World. Swamiji was impressed from the very beginning by their success. In comparison to the poverty-ridden countries of the East lacking in literacy and political freedom, the West was definitely far ahead. He realized that India had to learn lessons from the West which led it to the progress and prosperity, obvious to any observer. The power of organization and the sense of disciplined and coordinated work impressed him. The freedom and equality enjoyed by the women was also remarkable. Travelling through the western countries he also realized, on closer observation, that with all this advancement there was something fundamentally lacking. Swamiji described western civilization as a "peal of laughter underneath which was sorrow". Materialistic prosperity without spiritual foundation cannot be enduring. It could explode at any moment. "In spite of the sparkle and glitter of Western civilization, in spite of all its polish and its marvellous manifestation of power; I tell them to their face that it is all vain. It is vanity of vanities. God alone lives. The soul alone lives. Spirituality alone lives. Hold on to that." So Swamiji remarked that the whole of the West is perched on the top of a volcano- 'it will burst within fifty years, if you don't take care. What will save the West is the Religion of the Upanishads". Swamiji's prophecy came true in the form of two devastating World Wars. At the time of Swamiji's tour of the western countries, a lot of enthusiastic talk about Socialism as the future world order was in the air.

Swamiji was not averse to socialism, but he made it amply clear that unless socialism is based on the principles of Vedanta, it would not survive. It was he who coined the word "Vedantic Socialism". He predicted 'Sudra Raj', the rule by the working class as inevitable, but he had also expressed anxiety that it could produce cruelty, oppression and also slavishness. The rise and fall of the first communist experiment in Soviet Union bears testimony to the truth of Swamiji's prediction.

There is a lot of receptivity in the West for the Vedantic ideals. Intellectuals and scholars are increasingly realizing that dogmatic religions and creeds based on blind faith cannot appeal to the liberal scientific temper of the modern West. Swamiji's prescription of experiential religions like the Vedanta as Universal Religion - a Religion beyond all religions - alone can fulfil the requirements of modern times. Swamiji believed that it is the mission of India to provide to the West such a rational and scientific philosophy, which could form the basis of an enduring civilization. While it is true that India has to learn lessons from the West in areas like science and technology, India has also to be the world teacher the "Jagat Guru" so far as spirituality is concerned. "We Hindus have now been placed, under God's providence, in every critical and responsible position. The nations of the West are coming to us for spiritual help. A great moral obligation rests on the sons of India to fully equip themselves for the work of enlightening the world on the problems of human existence." It is such a complementary relationship that he envisaged for the future.

कथा : विवेकानन्द केन्द्र { Katha : Vivekananda Kendra }
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra :
Read n Get Articles, Magazines, Books @

Let's work on "Swamiji's Vision - Eknathji's Mission"

Follow Vivekananda Kendra on   blog   twitter   g+   facebook   rss   delicious   youtube   Donate Online

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

No comments:

Post a Comment