Business is business, in the highest sense, and no friendship – or as the Hindu proverb says, “eye shame” – should be there: Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda is mostly known as a spiritual leader but the main concern of Swami Vivekananda all through his life has been the economic prosperity of India. He sincerely tried to build a bridge between age old Indian moral and ethical approaches to life and modern economic needs of India.
A disciple of Sri Ramakrishna who used to emphasize on service to people as the true service to God, Swami Vivekananda gave the call to elevate the masses without injuring their religion and stressed on the fact that the fate of a nation depends upon the condition of masses.
He used to say,” first make the people of the country stand on their legs by rousing their inner power, first let them learn to have good food and clothes and plenty of enjoyment – and then tell them how to be free from the bondage of enjoyment.”
Swami ji was concerned about agriculture and its improvement and wanted to educate the farmers as well to modernize it by using technology. He talked of industrialization of the country and at the same time pleaded for the continuance of small scale and cottage industry. He talked of trade but not aid. He suggested complete programme of poverty eradication based on Vedantic philosophy. At the same time, he taught us the universal oneness based on Advaita.
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In 1957, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India, was trying to find out alternative model to communism as he found communism too closely associated with the necessity of violence in the society. He was trying to get a solution to get rid of class struggles and inequality and create a classless society with equal opportunities to all. There were two paths passing through his mind: methods of violence or peaceful means.
Communism, as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru observed associated itself with violence at various behavioural levels. He sought the path by acknowledging Vedantic Philosophy as an alternative model of economic development.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in his letter written on July 13, 1958 to the Chief Ministers' of India writes,
“The basic thing, I believe, is that wrong means will not lead to right results and that is no longer merely an ethical doctrine but a practical proposition. ... It is said that there is a sense of frustration and depression in India and the old buoyancy of spirit is not to be found, at a time when enthusiasm and hard work are most needed. This is not merely in evidence in our country. It is in a sense a world phenomenon. An old and valued colleague said that this is due to our not having a philosophy of life and indeed the world also is suffering from this lack of a philosophical approach. In our efforts to ensure the material property of the country, we have not paid any attention to the spiritual element in human nature. Therefore, in order to give the individual and the nation a sense of purpose, something to live for and, if necessary, to die for, we have to revive some philosophy of life and give, in the wider sense of the word, a spiritual background to our thinking. We talk of Welfare State and of democracy and socialism. They are good concepts but they hardly convey a clear and unambiguous meaning. This was the argument and then the question arose as to what our ultimate objective should be. Democracy and socialism are means to an end, not the end itself. We talk of the good of society. Is this something apart from the transcending the good of the individuals composing it? If the individual is ignored and sacrificed for what is considered the good of the society, is that the right objective to have?”
He further wrote,
“ ...It is right education and good health that will give the foundation for economic as well as cultural and spiritual progress....We have thus to do our own thinking, profiting by the example of others but essentially trying to find a path for ourselves suited to our own conditions. In considering these economic aspects of our problems, we have always to remember the basic approach of peaceful means; and perhaps we might also keep in view the old Vedantic ideal of the life force which is the inner base of everything that exists.”
(Source: Basic Approach. Letter Written to Chief Ministers on July 13, 1958.)
It was Swami Vivekananda who first drew attention to establishing the linkage between age old Indian ethical and moral approaches to life and modern economic needs. He repeatedly said, “...the ethical considerations should play an important role during economic decision making” (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume IV, p.368).
Swami Vivekananda emphasized the role of the state in ensuring a good quality of life for the common people. His concept for the masses came from his approach towards moral values and concern for their well being. He used to say, “...My idea is to show that the highest ideal of morality and unselfishness goes hand in hand with the highest metaphysical conception, and that you need not lower your conception to get ethics and morality, but, on the other hand, to reach a real basis of morality and ethics you must have the highest philosophical and scientific conceptions. Human knowledge is not antagonistic to human well-being. On the contrary, it is knowledge alone that will save us in every department of life...The more we know the better for us.” (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume II, p. 355).
The basis of a welfare state is the ‘social awareness'. In an ideal socio-political system the issues of morality and unselfishness are important which can be build only when people are more conscious of the needs of the society rather than their small benefits. Swami Vivekananda opined that freedom is the only condition for growth and he emphasized on giving freedom to society to grow.
Swami Vivekananda was in favour of positive approach from the government in order to accelerate economic development of India. Although he was in favour of governmental participation in the economic sphere but he advised that the state must be an actor who should assist agricultural as well as industrial development.