Thursday 30 May 2024

'Jagrat' – the Need of the Hour

 – P. Parameswaran JI (Yuva Bharati, 50th Year Special Commemorative Volume, Oct 2011)

'Jagrat' is a very powerful word in Sanskrit literature. The nearest equivalent in English may be 'alertness' or 'vigilance'. This word occurs in our spiritual literature of very ancient times. The famous 'Katopanishad exhorted: "Utthistata, Jagrat, Prapya Varan Nibodhata.' This has been freely rendered into English by Swami Vivekananda: "Arise! Awake!! and Stop not till the goal is reached." In both the original and the translation, the combination of words looks a bit odd. First comes arise and then comes awake. Normally the reverse should be the order. First you wake up and then rise up to start working. But in spiritual life it is different. It is after one has risen up, the question of right direction of moving ahead comes up. The choice of direction is very important. After rising up if you take a wrong direction the very purpose will be defeated. To take the right direction, an inner awakening is a prerequisite. It is this awakening that the Upanishad calls for. That can be achieved by sitting at the feet of the Acharya and listening to his words. After getting instructions from a proper Acharya, when one moves forward in the right direction, one is sure to reach the goal, provided one does not lose faith or become idle while traversing the difficult path of Sadhana which the same Upanishad compares to 'razor's edge'(khurasya dhara). So Jagrat is very important. There is a group of famous verses in Sanskrit end with the call which 'Tasmat Jagrat Jagrat," "Therefore be alert, be vigilant." For all who want to make progress, this is a crucial element, 'to be alert and vigilant.' Whether it is in the material field or in the spiritual field, this is equally applicable. If in a moment of weakness or due to lack of alertness, you take a false step, you might suffer an irreversible fall. Therefore an honest seeker, whether of material or spiritual success, has to be vigilant at every moment and at every step. This is true as much in the case of nations as much as in that of individuals.


The times in which we live are such that Jagrat is absolutely decisive. The world is moving fast as never before. The rapidity and quantum of change that we witness are unparalleled in history. For ordinary men it is not even possible to comprehend what is really happening, before their very eyes. To keep pace with the change is a challenge for anyone, at any time. It is truly said, "even to stand in the same place, you have to run very fast." In this flux of time, to stand stationary is to invite certain death. One has to move forward and has to keep pace with the rapidly changing situation. For this, one has to run very fast while at the same time keeping one's feet firmly on the terra firma.


One should not get cut away from the root, because that is the source of all strength and nourishment. How these apparently contradictory things can be achieved is the challenge both individuals and nations are facing today. Bharat being an ancient nation with a deeply-rooted culture based on eternal values, this question is very crucial. But unlike many new-born nations we have, also, got the answer to the question. As Swami Ranganathananda has put it: "We have the remedy for all the maladies we are confronted with." But one should be very alert and very vigilant, if we are not to slip into irreversible mistakes.



That India has the remedies for all the maladies is not just by way of an accident. It is a hard won legacy attained by continued struggle against heavy odds. As the oldest surviving civilization, she has experienced every malady that history has thrown up and through her unique, mature wisdom found out and applied suitable remedies. Unlike China, an equally ancient civilization, India has been able to preserve her soul and protect her identity through all the vicissitudes of time. That is why when the American President Barack Obama recently visited India and addressed our Parliament, he said that India is not just a country but a civilization.


His words are worth quoting: "My confidence in our shared future is grounded in the respect for India's treasured past a civilization that has been shaping the world for thousands of years. Indians unlocked the intricacies of human body and the vastness of our universe. India not only opened our minds, she expanded our moral imagination."


So it is not only that India has in her possession the remedy for her own maladies but also for those the world is today afflicted with. Many of our political leaders and administrators seem to be totally unaware of this great treasure which India still possesses in spite of her thousand years old slavery. To become aware of this, to update it and to consciously apply it to her own national life and get cured of the maladies is the first step India has to take. Vigilance- Jagrat- becomes critically relevant in this context.


If India is not just a country, but a civilization, then the question arises, what is that civilization? Swami Vivekananda has repeatedly reminded us that spirituality is the central idea around which the Indian civilization and culture have grown up. The mission of India is to manifest through her life, in every field, her National Soul, that is Spirituality. As Sri Aurobindo has famously put it "matter shall reveal the spirit." The external life of India should be a true reflection of her inner spiritual Truth. India's economy, polity, art, culture and every other field should be inspired and shaped by the all-pervading spiritual idea. The leaders of our freedom movement, not only the spiritual and cultural luminaries like Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, but also political leaders like Tilak and Gandhi, have repeatedly told that India's freedom does not end with political democracy. Political equality and social justice should be based on the fundamental principle that every individual is a spark of the Divine and as such there is no high and low among the citizens. India's democracy should be founded upon the recognition of "Divinity of Man" and not just on the "dignity of man" as in the western democracies. This is a cardinal principle which independent India should have kept before herself in all her endeavors to translate freedom into reality. But unfortunately it did not happen. So we find that in spite of a very enlightened and elaborate constitution, we have corrupt leaders, dishonest politicians, selfish capitalists and unscrupulous media men. The only remedy for this is to awaken the dormant Soul-consciousness of the nation. That is why the call for 'Jagrat' becomes not only relevant but also absolutely essential. Bharat, our Motherland, stretching from 'Devatatma Himalaya' to sacred Kanyakumari is the physical embodiment of Adi Shakti,' as Sri Aurobindo has pointed out. Every inch of the soil and every drop of water were considered sacred by our ancestors. The whole land was splattered with centers of pilgrimage to which there was incessant flow of pilgrims from one corner of the country to the other. The very smell of the earth was considered 'sacred' (punya gandha) and a holy dip in the rivers was considered sufficient to wash off all sins. We worshipped the entire Nature as our Mother. We never polluted her or destroyed her until recently when the mindless technological and industrial invasion from the West ensnared us. After having created insurmountable climatic and ecological problems, the West is now trying desperately to find ways and means for its very survival. It speaks of 'Earth Day' to be celebrated so that that day we may remember the need for saving our endangered planet. It is a tragedy that our own leaders have not - had the wisdom to declare that for India, - where everyday used to be an 'Earth Day.' Earth is our beloved mother. The Vedas declared ages ago that "Mata Bhumi Putroham Prithvya" Earth is our mother and we are her children.


It is this emotional bond and attachment that will create the mindset to preserve and protect our planet, and not more and more sophisticated technology which will again lead to more and more crises. It is in this critical situation that India has to come forward with her ancient and ever modern -- Sanatana -- wisdom and lead the world in the right direction. This can be achieved only if we are alert and vigilant. The call for Jagrat is our lifesaving Mantra.




Another major area which requires scrupulous attention is technology. Technology is making rapid strides. It is indeed a tribute to human ingenuity. But, technology is value neutral, whereas human beings who handle it are not so. Therefore it is important that new sophisticated technologies that are evolved should be utilized only for human welfare. Culture and technology can never be separated. In India when we invent or adopt new technologies we must bear in mind that it should be appropriate to the needs and requirements of our environment, natural and human resources and in tune with our cultural heritage and value system. In our craze for modernity, if we blindly follow the Western paradigm, the result will be negative, and even disastrous. Scientists and politicians alone cannot appropriate to themselves the right to impose technologies over the people. There has been a demand that there should be a "technological ombudsman" consisting of people of wisdom and farsightedness and who are committed to the long term welfare of the nation to decide what technology is appropriate for India. After the recent nuclear disaster in Japan, this has assumed very great relevance. In this context it is worth remembering that advanced countries like Germany have solemnly resolved to shut down all their nuclear installation and not to start any more in future. They have decided to reduce energy consumption to the extent possible and to explore renewable alternative sources. Should we go in for nuclear energy in a big way or should we tap other sources which are available and harmless? Right from ancient times India has been a country whose culture had great reverence for the 'Sun.' Sun is the source of all energy - physical, intellectual and spiritual. Solar energy is not only inexhaustible but available at all times. If proper policy decision is taken to tap solar energy, along with other natural sources of energy like wind, on a commercial scale, it will reduce the problem of energy to a large extent. Similarly, the question of interlinking of rivers, if it is planned and executed with imagination and determination, both the problems of acute water scarcity and frequent devastating floods can be tackled. For a country whose population is largely agricultural, these two concepts, tapping of solar energy and interlinking of rivers (so far these aspects were ignored) can be immensely beneficial. What is required is an imaginative leadership with initiative and dynamism. Moreover, such ideas will inspire the nation to work hard for a bright future.


Another major area of concern, not only for India but for the whole world, is the problem of conflict between national integrity and divisive identities. The question of minorities clamoring for their 'pound of flesh' poses a threat to national integrity and cultural identity. This issue is being hotly debated all over the world, because it has given rise to violent conflicts between the majority and minority and even among the various caste, communal and racial identities. Secularism as understood in the West has not been able to provide a solution to this vexed problem. This poses a major threat to world peace. One of the solutions suggested is 'Multiculturalism' which means that people with various cultural identities should co-exist in peace and harmony. But as massive immigration takes place from outside and the native population dwindles in numbers, it is feared that secularism can end up in the marginalization of the original national population and domination by people from outside.


India is facing this problem in ever increasing measures. Fast growing population of minority communities and their clamorous demands for more and more rights coupled with the 'vote bank politics' of most political parties are seriously disturbing the mind of the majority society. The ghost of 1947 partition of India is still haunting them. In many parts of India, the majority community is faced with a situation of large scale depletion of numbers along with alienation of landed property by foreign land money mafia with the help of their agents in the country. Slogans like secularism, multiculturalism, modernity etc. are only traps laid to deceive the majority into quietly accepting the ever growing political and economic clout of the so-called minority communities. Unless the Hindu society as a whole wakes up to the growing threat, the future can be greatly disadvantageous to them. As the famous saying goes 'eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.' So the call to be awake and alert is most relevant -- It is already a bit too late for the nationalist sections in India.




India has a unique way of dealing with the onrush of modernity. She does not reject modernity or modernization. At the same time she does not get overwhelmed by it. She has a way of connecting modernity with tradition. To preserve what is eternal and unalterable in the tradition and to absorb and assimilate what is suitable in modernity is the way India has followed right from the very ancient times. This was achieved by interpreting the fundamental values in terms of changing circumstances. Society keeps on changing, evolving and progressing. That requires certain adjustments and revaluation of moral and ethical values. But spiritual values are eternal, Sanatana. When the times change, Sanatana Dharma has to be interpreted in terms of Yuga Dharma. Such interpretations are permissible only in our country and our culture. Swami Ranganathananda has beautifully stated that "eternal values must be adopted to suit the demands of changing society." So this concept of Sanatana Dharma and Yuga Dharma functioning harmoniously has been the reason for the unbroken continuity of India's cultural vitality. Bold and vigorous interpreters have arisen time and again whenever the situation demanded. Such farsighted, selfless, spiritually advanced persons were called Rishis. At critical times we had Avatars also bringing about drastic changes in the society by rejuvenating Sanatana Dharma. They were social legislators and epoch makers. That is the uniqueness of our spiritually oriented national existence. Swami Vivekananda had reminded us that the present generation demands such Rishis to come up and legislate for changes required for modernity on the principle of Yuga Dharma.


India is a 'miniature world' in itself. World today is in the throes of revolutionary changes. Unfortunately those who have the power to bring about healthy and necessary changes do not have the vision or wisdom to evaluate the pros and cons of the changes that are being brought about by various forces. All are in favor of development, but the current concept of development does not go beyond economic and other materialistic parameters. In their view, development has no moral or spiritual content. The kind of development that we witness is lopsided. This leaves large sections of world population poorer and more miserable and benefit only a very small number who become immensely and unaccountably wealthy. This is bound to lead to large scale unrest if not remedied in time. India is also facing this problem. One of the visible signs of this lopsided development is large scale urbanization leaving the countryside high and dry. Rich countries become enviably richer and poor miserably poorer. India had always a balanced view of development. It was a harmonious adjustment among the welfare of forest-dwellers, the rural population, the small town inhabitants and those who live in the mega cities. Because everyone's interest was taken care of, the country prospered without unmanageable turbulence.


British imperialism disturbed this balance, but unfortunately leaders of independent India did not qualitatively change the colonial policies and its social, economic and political approach. The result is that terrorist outfits like Maoists and Naxalites are threatening to break up the very fabric of our national unity. It is necessary to recognize that those who live in mountains and forests are not uncultured or unproductive people as the urban population imagine. Their identity has to be accepted and their growth should be assured without changing their cultural ethos while of course helping them to enjoy the benefit of modern facilities.


The most sacred Gayatri Mantra by the Vedic Rishi Viswamitra is not only a hymn to be blindly chanted, but to be understood and applied in all its various dimensions including its energy value.


It is pertinent to remember that our great culture has had its origin in the hermitages of renowned Rishis who lived in dense forests. Our Upanishads are the product of the ambiance provided by the calm peaceful and serene forest cover. We should not allow these to become hotbeds of antinational and violent outfits.


Nation will be strong, healthy, and materially and spiritually progressive only when these diversities are appreciated and encouraged while maintaining the delicate balance between the various sections of our national population. That requires deep and sympathetic insight into our traditional approach which is all-inclusive and mutually respectful. The so-called modern Western civilization does not give any clue to this kind of integral and co-operative approach.


Overwhelmed by such gigantic problems, one may be tempted to ask: "What is my role in all this? As an individual, I am so insignificant while the problems are gigantic and global." It is quite natural, but one should realize that every big change starts from the individual. It is one simple step that leads to other steps. It is one single lamp that lights other similar ones and creates a garland of lamps. Change always starts from the individual, who is selfconfident, socially committed and charged with national pride. If India is to bring about the much needed change in the present world situation, every single patriotic individual imbued with India's cultural values will have to take up the responsibility. When, as Swami Vivekananda has said, "a hundred thousand men and women" come forward in this direction, the seemingly impossible task will certainly be achieved. Let each one listen to the call- "Arise, Awake and Stop not till the Goal is reached." Let Jagrat be our watchword at this critical juncture of human evolution.


Before concluding, let us recall the poignant question posed by Swami Vivekananda to each one of us, "The world is burning in misery; can you sleep?" It is in response to this call that everyone associated with Vivekananda Kendra has to dedicate his or her life as a supreme sacrifice. Vivekananda Kendra along with Vivekananda International has the responsibility, not only to our nation but to the international community as a whole, to rise up to the occasion and take up the challenges.


We have the capability, if only we decide Tasmat Jagrat Jagrat.

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