Tuesday 21 May 2024

Man-Making and Nation Building

 – P. Parameswaran JI (Yuva Bharati, 50th Year Special Commemorative Volume, April 1996)

Man-making and Nation-building are the twin ideals which the Vivekananda Kendra has taken for its objectives. Thyaga and Seva: are the keys to achieve this grand consummation. Thyaga implies true man-making and Seva, Nation-building. These are inseparable. Swami Vivekananda has described the process of man- making from different angles under different contexts. But they all add up to one thing, namely, man with a capital 'M'. It is well understood that man is multi-dimensional and all the dimensions have to be given due consideration. In one of his famous utterances Swamiji has stated that "muscles of iron and nerves of steel within which dwells a heart of the same material of which the thunderbolt is made". To put it simply, it means the fullest development of the body and the mind. In a different context Swamiji has stressed the need for developing the head and the heart. To be a full man, one must combine within oneself, according to Swamiji, the head of Shankara and the heart of Buddha. In short, the physical the vital, the mental, the intellectual and the spiritual dimensions of man have to be nourished and strengthened to the fullest possible extent.

But this development cannot be achieved in isolation of the one from the rest. If it were possible, the outcome would be a distorted and imbalanced individual who will be a big problem not only for others, but even for himself. So, man-making can be defined as the process by which all the various aspects and dimensions of a person are harmoniously developed into a fully blossomed manhood. Such a person will indeed be a blessing to the entire humanity.

This process of healthy man-making can take place only under a congenial social environment, obtainable in a safe and secure nation fully confident of itself on account of its material and spiritual perfection. Such a condition may be termed too idealistic. It is indeed so. But the attempt has always to be to achieve as close an approximation as can be under the existing situation.

Naturally, the question arises as to what is meant by nation-building. It must be clearly understood that a nation is not a collection of individuals nor groups of individuals, just as an individual is not merely an aggregate of innumerable cells of different organs. But the individual as well as the nation are organic, living entities. Only when the individuals and the groups that constitute a nation are knit together and organically related to each other in a complementary manner and guided by a common will and desire to achieve a healthy and prosperous life, determined to ward off all the obstacles that come in the way of this objective, can it be called a Nation. As Swami Vivekananda, Mahayogi Aurobindo and many other social and spiritual thinkers have pointed out, every nation is the living embodiment of a national soul which is peculiar to itself. Every nation is different from the rest because of this distinctive characteristic. Each nation has to fulfil a mission and this can be achieved only when it remains free to work out its Swabhava through the pursuit of its Swadharma. When a nation is conquered by another, it loses this freedom and if it continues to remain so for long, unable to shake off its slavery, then the national soul gradually declines and dies. Under such circumstances, it becomes the Swadharma of the nation concerned to fight by whatever means available to it, to win back its freedom, so that it can manifest its Swabhava. Every nation, fully and freely developing itself and co-operating with one another and contributing its share to the total welfare of the entire humanity has been the Bharatiya view of an ideal world.

How can such nation-building be achieved? There is an erroneous idea that if individuals become good, automatically a good and great nation will emerge. This is not supported by the facts of history. Good individuals have often proved to bring calamity to a nation. Something more than personal goodness is needed for nation-building. Man-making and nation-building have to be understood in this light. Goodness of an individual, if it is only confined to his person or family and not extended to the society and nation, can lead to conflicts between the two and more often than not the nation will be the victim. It has been said that personal character and national character should go hand in hand. Personal character means cultivation of the various virtues that an ideal human being should zealously cultivate in himself. National character means the care and concern each individual should cultivate for the safety and prosperity of the nation as a whole and the willingness of the individual to gratefully suffer and sacrifice for the sake of a nation. These are looked upon as two sides of the same coin. Without the one or the other, the coin has no value. India's long history is replete with instances where due to the absence of either the personal character or the national character, our country became an easy victim to foreign aggressors. Hence when we speak about man-making and nation-building as our ideal, we really mean that every individual must be imbued with both personal and national character. Swami Vivekananda used to cite the example of the great Guru Gobind Singh to emphasize this point: "Each one of you has to become a Guru Gobind Singh, if you want to do good to your country". Swamiji himself was a most illuminating example of this grand synthesis. He was unequalled in the matter of personal purity or in the other qualities of head and heart. In fact, he was the ideal, representation of the head of Shankara together with the heart of Buddha. But when we look at his national character, we are astounded. Very often people are under the impression that a Sannyasin is one who has renounced everything including the thought of the nation. The Sannyasin should transcend even the sentiments of nationalism and patriotism. But Swamiji never subscribed to this definition of a Sannyasin.

Sister Nivedita has brought out this point most strikingly in her book "The Master as I Saw Him" : "Throughout those years in which I saw him almost daily, the thought of India was to him like the air he breathed. True, he was a worker at foundations. He neither used the word "nationality", nor proclaimed an era of "nation-making", "man-making", he said, was his own task. But he was born a lover and the queen of his adoration was his motherland. Like some delicately-poised bell, thrilled and vibrated by every sound that falls upon it, was his heart to all that concerned her. Not a sob was heard within her shores that did not find in him a responsive echo."

National character is an expression of the individual's selfless love and devotion to the motherland. It is much more than the Westerners' faith in the mutuality of interests. The Indian concept of nationalism is qualitatively different from the Western. Ours in cultural nationalism based on a spiritual vision. The founders of our nation are saints and sages. In the West, nations were built either around political or economic interests.

The founders of Western nations are either military conquerors, politicians or businessmen. The spirit behind western nationalism jealousy and competition characterized by war and destruction, whereas in India it is co-operation and harmony, peace and goodwill. That is why Western nations have always gone out on destructive wars on conquest, whereas in India, conquests have always been peaceful and by persuasion. Hence Western patriotism and Hindu nationalism are different in content. Since nationalism has been basically spiritual in India, the cultivation of national character is an act of spiritual evolution from selfishness to selflessness. It is in fact, Karmayoga in practice. Not even saints and sages of the highest order consider service to nation as something different from spirituality, much less repugnant to it. The great Shankara, the preacher of pure Advaita, was in reality a ceaseless Karmayogin, who within the short span of life allotted to him, brought about and strengthened the national unity and integration. The same passionate sincerity has been the distinguishing feature of Swami Vivekananda too, which expressed itself in his limitless love and untiring service of Mother India. Nothing else and nothing less is to be the ideal for a dedicated worker of the Vivekananda Kendra.

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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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