Relevance of Swami Vivekananda in modern timesSwami Vivekananda has a perennial appeal. He is a phenomenon. His relevance will increase with each passing day. The world today has hardly understood Swami ji. One needs to read him deeply to understand his message properly.
In 1921, Mahatma Gandhi after visiting Belur math wrote in the visitor's book, “I have thoroughly read the works of Swami Vivekananda. My patriotism increased by 1000 times after reading him.”
For swami Vivekananda, India was not just a geographical unit. According to him, India is an extraordinary reality that was not limited to geographical boundaries. To him, India was an extraordinary principle that will rule the world.
Swami Ji spoke on many topics including women and society but his main thrust was on spiritualism. That is the foundation of Swami ji's all ideas.
Swami ji talked about ‘complete freedom'. Some people want to be free from poverty, some people want to be free from ageing, and everybody is seeking freedom from something. Swami Ji said that once you realise your inner power and divinity present within yourself, you will get freedom from everything.
Views on Oppression of underprivileged section of society
Swami ji said that we talk of highest Vedanta but do not even think about the oppressed classes. We trample them and crush them. That's why he said that we need to give them back their self-respect, their lost individuality. Allow everybody to move forward.
‘Lack of education' root cause of all problems
Swami Ji always said that ‘lack of education' is the root cause behind all problems in India. After the death of his guru, he travelled all across the country. He wondered why this country, which used to be so great in the past, has slipped so low. He noticed that education was limited to the upper class of the society and those at the bottom were not given access to it. Swami ji believed that education should be freed from the stranglehold of the upper class and spread to every section of the society.
Swami ji also had a vision for the kind of education that the people of India needed. He was not in favour of just career-oriented education. He talked about ‘true education' that will make your character besides boosting your self-confidence. Unfortunately, that kind of education is not available today.
According to Swami ji, education is the manifestation of the perfection that is already present in a man. Everybody has got some specific ability and the aim of the education should be to bring that out.
Based on Swami Vivekananda's philosophy of education, Ramakrishna Mission is running ‘awaken the citizen' programme in around 800 schools. This is basically fundamental education programme. You can see the impact of this programme on physically challenged, speech impaired students.
Swami Ji was in favour of allowing women to take their own decisions. We are in such a bad condition today because we did not pay any heed to what he said. Swami ji focused on the education of women. He also advocated the need to impart martial arts training to women so that they could defend themselves. He always cited examples of Rani Lakshmi Bai, Padmini and Ahalya.
Swami Vivekananda always said that Sita is the ideal of India. He admired her perseverance and resilience, her unflinching faith in Sri Ramchandra despite all the ordeals she had to go through.
Respect for every religion
Like Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda also believed that there are different paths suitable for different minds and all paths are equally valid. He said this in ‘Parliament of World Religions' as well. You should tread the path your are convenient with but you should know that this is not the only path. Other paths are equally valid.
People don't fight for religious issues. No religion talks ill of other religions. It's the followers who bring religion to target others.
Coming to Islam, their focus on social parity is really admirable. Rich and poor can eat together. Many of the social aspects of Islam are extraordinary. That's why Swami ji said that if you could combine some of the best aspects including social aspects of Islam with extraordinary ideas of Vedanta then it will be a wonderful society.
Message for youth
Swami ji believed that the revival of India depends on the youth of the country. He had tremendous faith in Indian youth. He used to say that a thousand dedicated youth can revolutionise this country. He pointed out that the youth should have the spirit of philanthropy, service and feelings for the fellow countrymen.
India in future will far exceed its past glory
Swami ji was very optimistic about India regaining its position of ‘Spiritual Guru'. He predicted that future of India will far exceed its past glory. Now, the younger people are awakening, asking questions. Slowly but surely, we'll be become more enlightened people.
(As told to Raj Singh)
(Swami Shantatmananda is Secretary, Ramakarishna Mission, New Delhi. Views are personal)