(This article is by Swami Shantatmanand ji on Swami Vivekanand’s birth anniversary.)
Swami Vivekananda is generally known for his sterling qualities as a monk. His spiritual luminosity did not in any way curb his love for his motherland. Mahatma Gandhi paid a visit to Belur Math in 1921 and wrote in the visitor’s book, “I have gone through his works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country became a thousand-fold.” In fact, the main reason for which Swami Vivekananda went to America in 1893 to participate in the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago where he became an instant celebrity, was to gather funds for serving his poor and downtrodden brothers in India. From the time he undertook the Bharat Parikrama in 1886 till he laid down his life in meditation in 1902, the one dominant thought in his mind was “India”. One of his Western disciples, Sister Christin, writes in her reminiscences, “Our love for India came to birth, I think, when we first heard him (Swami Vivekananda) say the word, “India”, in that marvelous voice of his. It seems incredible that so much could have been put into one small word of five letters. There was love, passion, pride, longing, adoration, tragedy, chivalry, himweh, and again love. Whole volumes could not have produced such a feeling in others. It had the magic power of creating love in those who heard it.”
Fifty years before the constitution of independent India was drawn up he had talked about the uplift of the masses. But, his method was not one of doling out benefit or appeasement. He believed in raising the downtrodden and not in pulling down those who have already advanced. He drew the blueprint for India’s redemption.He believed that “education is the panacea for all evils”. He really wanted the spread of education upto the least of the downtrodden masses. But, he believed not in mere academic education. What he prescribed was man-making and character-building education, an education which would not only expand the intellect but would also induce the spread of philanthropy in the students. It is unfortunate that even 70 years after independence we have not been able to incorporate his ideas on education in our educational system. He prophesied that the future glory of India would far surpass its past glory. If his dream has to come true, we need to turn our attention to revamping our educational system and introduce his ideas on education.
Swamiji had a tremendous faith in the youth of our country. He said, “My Faith is in the Younger Generation, the Modern Generation, out of them will come my workers. They will work out the whole problem, like Lions”. He gave a rousing call to the youth, “Will you respond to the call of your nation? Each one of you has a glorious future if you dare believe me… Have that faith, each one of you, in yourself — that eternal power is lodged in every soul — and you will revive the whole of India.” It was not easy to respond to his call. He wanted youth of character, intelligence, obedience who would be ready to sacrifice their lives in working out his ideas and thereby do good to themselves and the country at large. He wanted them to be focused with the ideal shining bright before them. He said, “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” He again and again emphasized the idea of strength which is the core message of our Upanishads. He said, “What we want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel”. Another idea which he wanted to instill in the youth was Shraddha. He would say, “Unfortunately, it has nearly vanished from India, and this is why we are in our present state. What makes the difference between man and man is the difference in this Shraddha and nothing else. What make one man great and another weak and low is this Shraddha. My Master used to say, he who thinks himself weak will become weak, and that is true. This Shraddha must enter into you.”
Although he did not exactly specifywhat are the activities to be undertaken for the regeneration of our motherland, he laid a broad roadmap for the rebuilding of our nation by instilling in youth some foundational ideas for developing character, strength of mind, focus, spirit of service, etc. If our youth take to heart his message of inspiration, we are sure that India would once again reach its pinnacle of glory.
Secretary, Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi