The most influential orator of the World’s Parliament of Religions, Swami Vivekananda once said, “After so much austerity, I have understood this as the real truth- God is present in every Jiva; there is no other God besides that. He who serves Jiva, serves God indeed” The question we should be asking ourselves is whether his message is still relevant in today’s modern society. Is the message of the orange monk, who travelled the seven seas to represent our ancient culture, still alive?
Swamiji was unlike any other representative who had come to America during the World’s Parliament of Religions. He was there to represent a culture that had been enslaved for hundreds of years by numerous tyrants around the world. A culture that survived for years and got stomped but still grew itself. This was the richest and the most vulnerable of them all.
He started his speech in the most astonishing way, referring to the American citizens as his ‘sisters and brothers’ which stirred up the audience immediately. It might also come as a shock to many that the day of his speech clashes with the infamous 9/11 attack on America. The land which received the message of world unity and universal brotherhood had been attacked after 108 years by the vicious terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda. Today, the words of Swamiji can still be seen as the only way to move forward in this modern society where terrorist groups are taking over democracies. This modern era has divided itself into numerous creeds and separated itself from man-made boundaries. This has led to destruction and suffering, politics and diplomacy have over-taken peace and unity, and have re-shaped it into supremacy and animosity.
Swamiji’s message in the session was clear, ‘not to tolerate but accept all with wholeheartedness.’ This country might not remember his words but the very essence of Bharat was ‘acceptance.’ This is the land that gave refuge to the grand Zoroastrian nation and sheltered the refugees from Israel after the destruction of the holy temple. The essence survived even after partition. We might have lost our lands in the East to Bangladesh and in the West to Pakistan but we could say, ‘Bharat is not a place, it’s a people.’ After partition, major minorities declined in Pakistan, the non-Muslim population alone declined from 14.1% in 1951 to 3.70% in 1998. This may not shock many but when the same numbers are compared to the mother of Pakistan, Bharat, one may be forced to wonder what went wrong. The minority population which was 15.9% in India during the 1951 census has risen to 20.6% in 2020 and as a matter of fact, proves the point of Bharat being the people and not the land. These numbers could pose a threat to many and drive political propaganda but it also exhibits India’s acceptance of minorities. Swamiji had a crystal-like aim of Universal Brotherhood and Bharat had it in its blood since its birth.
Tragically this fanatic world has indulged itself in the contest of conversions and manslaughter. He who walks with them shall live, he who doesn’t shall perish. Sadly, this has become the latest actuality where conversions and reconversions serve the main goal of one’s life. The modern world has filled itself with educated fools who propagate superstitions. It is said that an atheist is far better than a man with superstitions because something can be made out of his free mind, but superstition softens us, and degradation seizes upon life. Swami Vivekananda’s most famous quote is, ‘Do not be frightened. Awake, be up and doing. Do not stop till you have reached the goal.’ But can you really expect this from a person who gets stuck between the webs of superstitions?
In the midst of all the extremism and sectarianism, this day which we celebrate as the Universal Brotherhood Day is an effort towards eradicating the hostility amongst us. An attempt that focuses on Worldwide acceptance and not diplomatic terms like tolerance. The negligible difference between acceptance and tolerance has the sheer strength of bringing this world altogether because once you accept someone wholeheartedly, there is nothing in your path towards peace and harmony. As we complete 128 years of the remarkable speech, let’s revive Swamiji’s message and revive our wills to show love to one another.
“All love is expansion; all selfishness is contractions. Love is therefore the only law of life. He who loves lives, he who is selfish is dying.”
Vivekananda Kendra, Chanakya Puri Vistaar