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Thursday, August 30, 2007

He condemned the existing Hindu emphasis on rituals, ceremonies and superstitions

Pertinence of Vivekananda’s Apotheosis in Indian Social Diaspora
Dr. Ravindra Kumar - 8/29/2007
Every pursuit of wisdom and knowledge bears the marks of its origin. In this milieu British, American, French and German philosophies are generally empirical, pragmatic, rationalistic and speculative in nature, but in that vein Indian philosophy can be adumbrated as meditative because it bobs up as the upshot of a kind of meditation on the holy powers of the soul and nature. However today Indian philosophy is very much anxious to retain the forces of centuries of its tradition through which it has grown and yet it can’t afford to overlook the ‘scientific facts’ and ‘the empirical attitude’ of the present day society.
Among the galaxy of philosophers the vision of Swami Vivekananda elucidates far and wide. He was not a social and political philosopher in the sense we regard Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Marx or Gandhi. On politics Swami Vivekananda once said ‘let no political significance be ever attached falsely to any of my writings, saying, what nonsense! I will have nothing to do with nonsense, I do not believe in politics, God and Truth are the only policy in my word and everything else is trash’. The present society needs his ideas and ideals because of his stress on social action. According to him knowledge unaccompanied by action in the actual world in which we lived was useless. So he proclaimed the essential oneness of all religions and condemned any narrowness in religious matters. In 1896 thus he wrote, ‘for our own motherland a junction of the two great system, Hinduism and Islam is the only home’. Due to this broad vision he has carved out a place for himself in the galaxy of modern philosophers for two reasons:
Firstly, his personality and teachings exercised great influence on the nationalist movement of Bengal. He was such an ardent patriot that his heart was always burning with love for his motherland, his soul yearning for its liberation and vision always aspiring to see it united. Unlike other philosophers of his age who conceived in the miracles of western civilisation, Vivekananda understood fully well the essence of freedom and democracy.
Secondly, he put forth most eloquently his views regarding the solution of some of the pressing problems of the country. He was one of the first to pay attention to the misfortune and sufferings of the masses. So, he said, "I consider that the greatest national sin is the neglect of the masses and that is one of the causes of our downfall. If we want to regenerate India, we must work for them".
He condemned the present system and the existing Hindu emphasis on rituals, ceremonies and superstitions prevalent in the society and urged the people to imbibe the spirit of the liberty, equality and freethinking. Once he bitterly remarked ‘there is a danger of our religion getting into the kitchen. We are neither Vedantists, most of us now, nor puranics, nor tantrics, we are just ‘don’t touchist’. Our religion is in the kitchen. Our god is in the working pot and our religion ‘Don’t touch me, I am holy’. So he assumes if this goes on for another century, every one of us will be in a lunatic asylum. Vivekananda inspired the people to fight for their rights and instilled in their hearts confidence in their own strength...
Vivekananda was also a great humanist of the society. Shocked by the poverty, misery and suffering of the common people of the country he said “the only god in whom I believe, the sum total of all souls and above all, my god is wicked, my god the afflicted and my god the poor of all races”. And the way of knowing this god is through the intensity of feeling, only strong emotions have the capacity to awaken and activate the potential power of them. About liberty of thought, he said to the people that “liberty in thought and action is the only condition of life, growth and well being: where it does not exist, the man, the race and the nation must go down”. Swamiji used the organic analogy in his analysis of society. He wrote, “the aggregate of many individuals is called Samashti (whole), each individual is called Vyashti (a part). You and I each is Vyashti and the society is Samashti. The Samashti like the Vyashti is a body, an organic life, a developing mind and soul. If any Vyashti wants social progress then he is to sacrifice some of his own interests for the sake of Samashti”. Therefore, all individual have to transcend his or her pretty interests for the well being of the society. It can be done only through gradual transition from egocentricity to sociability and it will bring a man near to human goals.
Vivekananda’s concept on society is quite consonance with the spirit of Vedanta. As a Vedantist, he never hesitates in identifying the true nature of man of Atman with Brahman itself. There is one Atman, oneself that is eternally pure, eternally perfect, unchangeable and all these various changes in the universe are but appearance in the one self. So, he regarded Vedanta as a rational explanation of the universe and accepted religion not only as the backbone of society but also as the central theme of national life. Vedanta could reconcile all religions and sects. He turned the religion from theory to practice, from static mass of rituals to dynamic faith. He socialised religion making it an instrument for social and national resurgence.
To the literate Indians, Vivekananda said “ so long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold everymen a traitor, who having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them”. For the enhancement of the society in 1986 he founded the Ramakrishna Mission to carry on humanitarian relief and social work. The mission carried on social service through its various branches by opening school, hospitals and dispensaries, orphanages, library etc. He laid emphasis not on personal salvation but on social good or social service. Emancipation of women and uplift of the masses formed two most important items in Swamiji’s programme of social regeneration of India. He traced the downfall of Indian society to the continued neglect of women and masses. The uplift of the women and awakening of the masses must come first and then only can real good come about for the country. The training, by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful, is known as education. According to him ‘education is that by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased and intellect is expanded and by which one can stand on one’s feet’. Purity, thirst for knowledge, perseverance, faith, humility, submission and veneration are some of the conditions which he laid as necessary for the taught in education. That’s why he tries to give his philosophy a humanistic garb and at the same time, recommends humanitarian work and service to the society. Swamiji enunciates that state is composed of individuals and he stressed that noble virtues should cultivated by individuals to make the state virtuous. Without virtuous individuals it is futile to expect the state being great or prosperous. So individuals are more valuable than all the wealth of the world.
Contribution of Vivekananda to Indian renaissance is immensely rich. He laid the foundation of new India and the new nationalist school that developed under the leadership of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Sri Aurobindo had a common basis of thought in his Neo-Vedantism. Some of the poems of Rabindranath Tagore indicate that he too was influenced by Swami’s ideas of living and working. Subash Bose recognised Swami as his spiritual teacher. Nehru showered endless encomiums on Vivekananda in his book “The Discovery of India”. Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy on truth and on non-violence also deeply influenced by Vivekananda. The passionate appeal of Vivekananda to the young men of India to forward and dedicate their lives to the nation did not go waste.
Although in a practical standpoint, Vivekananda personally could not do much work for a radical reconstruction of Indian society, but he awakened the soul of India and awakening the soul of a nation necessarily forms a part of social programme, by which three years after his death nationalist movement in India burst forth into a tempest. So Swami’s mission was both national and international. He was endowed with a Prophet’s vision and delivered his message unto the world masses. His message was not for the hour, but for the age, not for Indian society alone, but for the whole of the world society, just to yield a vision of reality to the society. Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a universally renowned Gandhian scholar, Indologist and writer. He is the Former Vice-Chancellor of University of Meerut.

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