Remembering Swami Vivekananda and His message to the Youth of India

Dr. Imankalyan Lahiri Department of International Relations Jadavpur University Kolkata, India The influence of Swami Vivekananda on the Indian Nationalist Movement is well known. Swami Vivekananda was not only a visionary or a monk but a nationalist and a reformer par excellence.For several decades the history of the British India has been a history of distortion, destruction and gross misinterpretation of the ideas and ideals of Indian thought and culture.Indian religions were branded as pessimistic and other worldly and it was thought that for Hindus the world was delusion and a snare and therefore there was no justification for improving it. Further during this period the Law of Karma was treated as fatalistic in character and there was not the least chance of improvement in character and the surroundings of the individuals , since everything was fore-ordained. It is against such backdrop that we have to access the contributions of Swami Vivekananda.1 Swami’s knowledge of India based on his first -hand experiences was acquired during his wanderings throughout the country. His pilgrimages transformed him. He became a true lover of humanity and became endowed with the quality of sarvabhutahite ratah (being devoted to the welfare of all beings). The fallout of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the consequent patterns of racial superiority which the British demonstrated in India as rulers resulted not only in resentment against the British but a critical evaluation of India’s worth and sense of identity. At this time religious leaders like Swami Vivekananda felt that India would be given respect due to it as a country and civilization only if it asserted the richness, the philosophical depth and the diversities of its history and civilization. At this time Swami Vivekananda emphasized the need to reform Indian Civil Society on the basis of a rediscovery of India’s historial traditions and value systems. He concluded that India had a message to

For details refer: Bhaiya Subhas Chandra Prasad, The Socio-Political Philosophy of Swami Vivekananda,, 1999


give to the world at large in terms of the teachings of Indian religions, as also a moral framework for a world order. In his brief span of thirty-nine years, he imparted a dynamic impulse of self confidence and creativity to India in dealing with the external world. He became a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Parmahansha, the great nineteenth century saint of Bengal, but soon added a socio-cultural mission to the pristine spirituality imparted to him by his guru. Vivekananda defined the objective of his life as that of strengthening the lives of the Indian people, both moral and physical, so that they could determine their own future. He was influenced by Sri Ramakrishna, the saint of Dakshineswar, who had a profound influence on his contemporaries who were considered the builders of modern India. Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual depth and power of teachings impressed intellectual giants such as Friederich Max Müller. In Swami Vivekananda’s estimation, his Master fully harmonized the intellectual, emotional, ethical and spiritual elements of a human being and was the role model for the future.2 The high point of Swami Vivekananda’s contribution in shaping India’s attitudes

towards other countries and societies came when he participated in the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. His main speech at this conference was so devoid of theology, dogmatism or religious rigidities that it was considered the most unique speech given by any delegate in the conference. He attracted considerable attention in the United States, which ultimately led to his opening branches of Rmakrishna Mission in different parts of that country-perhaps the first institutional representation of contemporary India in a foreign country in the nineteenth century. His message both to Indians and foreign audiences he addressed was that though India might not be militarily strong or politically free, it had a special ind influential role to play in the creation of a world order based on a moral frame work. One could perhaps attribute him the undercurrents of a missionary zeal and an inclination to show the path to the rest of the world, which characterized Indian Foreign Policy in the two or three decades after independence.3 It may not be out of place to mention that in a speech made in 1993, Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO, stated:

2 3

Swami Pravananda, Swami Vivekananda, Prospects, vol. XXXIII, no. 2, June 2003pp.233-235. For details see: J.N.Dixit, Maker’s of India’s Foreign Policy:Rammohun to Yaswant Sinha, Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2004, p. 30-32.


I am indeed struck by the similarity of the constitution of the Ramakrishna Mission which Vivekananda established as early as 1897 with that of UNESCO drawn up in 1945. Both place the human being at the centre of their efforts aimed at development. Both place tolerance at the top of the agenda for building peace and democracy. Both recognize the variety of human cultures and societies as an essential aspect of the common heritage.4 .In other words Swami Vivekananda represented a muscular brand of Hinduism that sought to meet the challenge of the West by breaking down caste barriers and consolidating the community as one.5 Vivekananda felt that Hinduism should be rational, non-mythical, and activist, especially in the area of social service. On occasion, Vivekananda also espoused what we might call evolutionary universalism- that all religions are true, but that they are evolving towards a superior form. We see this approach today in some forms of liberal Christianity. In a report on the Parliament of Religions held in 1893 at Chicago the Herald reported that: Swami Vivekananda said, “All words spoken at this parliament come to the common conclusion that the brotherhood of man is the much-to-be-desired end.”6 Thus, in other words Vivekananda propagated the idea of Moral Universalism in the 19th century world. His idea is very much in the agenda of world politics in the recent years. Unit ed Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an example of moral universalism in practice. Ideally, moral universalism is one such philosophical argument which offers a world that will have no moral disagreements due to the fact that collectively everyone thinks in the same way and manner about morals in general. The argument may look idealistic, but nevertheless a pure society based on moral universalism would surely uphold those values.7 In other words moral universalism is the meta-ethical situation that resembles some aspects of ethics which applies universally, that is to all people regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexuality, or other distinguishing feature. 8 This

Speech by Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the Exhibition and Seminar in Commemoration of the Centenary of Swami Vivekananda’s Appearance at the Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 1893, given at UNESCO Headquarters, 8 October 1993. 5 Ramachandra Guha, Makers of Modern India, Penguin, New Delhi, 2010, p. 13 6 Report of a lecture in the Chicago Sunday Herald, September 24, 1893 7 Thomas W. Pogge, Politics, Philosophy & Economics, Vol. 1, No. 1, Columbia University, USA,2002,pp.29-58 8 Ibid.


was propagated by Swami Vivekananda, particularly in the Parliament of Religions. In his own words: Never forget the glory of Human Nature! We are the greatest God……Christ and Buddha are but waves on the boundless ocean which I AM! 9 Vivekananda’s tour of the United States also had a revitalizing effect on India. Previously, those who had gone to the West from India were full of apologies for the state of their country. He was not. He always spoke about his country with pride and respect. Thus, his work in the West instilled self-respect and self-confidence in the Indian psyche and helped India in its search for identity. It also helped to overcome the stereotypes and deep-rooted prejudices about India in Westerners’ minds. reflecting upon Swami Vivekananda's visit to America, Sri Aurobindo observed: "It was the first visible sign that India was awake, and she was awake not only to survive but also to conquer." 10 In America Vivekananda's mission was the interpretation of India's spiritual culture, specially in its Vedantic setting. He also tried to enrich the religious consciousness of the Americans through the rational and humanistic teachings of the Vedanta philosophy. In America he became India's spiritual ambassador and pleaded eloquently for better understanding between India and the New World in order to create a healthy synthesis of East and West, of religion and science. 11 The Swami's mission was both national and international. A lover of mankind, he strove to promote peace and human brotherhood on the spiritual foundation of the Vedantic Oneness of existence. A mystic of the highest order, Vivekananda had a direct and intuitive experience of Reality. He derived his ideas from that unfailing source of wisdom and often presented them in the soul-stirring language of poetry. Swami Vivekananda was a lover of humanity. Man is the highest manifestation of God, and this God was being crucified in different ways in the East and the West. Thus he had a double mission to perform in America. He wanted to obtain from the Americans money, scientific knowledge, and technical help for the regeneration of the Indian masses, and, in turn, to give to the Americans the knowledge of the Eternal

Vivekananda in America, 1895 cited in Romain Rolland, The Life of Vivekananda and the Universal Gospel, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata 1992, p.x 10 For details visit: (Jagmohan, Swami Vivekananda And Sri Aurobindo's Contribution Towards Regeneration of India) 11 Swami Vivekananda A Biography by Swami Nikhilananda available at: htp://


Spirit to endow their material progress with significance. No false pride could prevent him from learning from America the many features of her social superiority; he also exhorted the Americans not to allow racial arrogance to prevent them from accepting the gift of spirituality from India. Through this policy of acceptance and mutual respect he dreamt of creating a healthy human society for the ultimate welfare of man's body and soul. Vivekananda was always supported by one of his close friends Brajendranath Seal. In order to understand the intricacies of faith and spiritual insight both read the works of John Stuart Mill, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer and G.W.F. Hegel. He at that time questioned the validity of superstitious customs and discrimination based on caste and religion. During this spiritual crisis, Vivekananda first heard about Sri Ramakrishna from William Hastie, the Principal of the Scottish Church College. Brajendranath Seal: I watched with intense interest the transformation that went on under my eyes. The attitude of a young and rampant Vedantist-cum-Hegelian-cumIn the words of

Revolutionary like myself towards the cult of religious ecstasy and Kaliworship, may be easily imagined; and the spectacle of a born iconoclast and free-thinker like Vivekananda, a creative and dominating intelligence, a tamer of souls, himself caught in the meshes of what appeared to me an uncouth, supernatural mysticism, was a riddle which my philosophy of the Pure Reason could scarcely read at the time. But Vivekananda, "the loved and lost" was loved, and mourned; most in what I could not but then regard as his defection; and it was personal feeling, after all, the hated pathological element of individual preference and individual relationship, which most impelled me, when at last I went on what to a home-keeping recluse like myself was an adventurous journey to Dakshineswar, to see and hear Vivekananda's Master, and spent the greater part of a long summer day in the shady and peaceful solitude of the Temple-garden, returning as the sun set amidst the whirl and rush and roar and the awful gloom of a blinding thunder-storm, with a sense of bewilderment as well moral as physical, and a lurking perception of the truth that the majesty of Law orders the apparently irregular and grotesque, that there


may be self mastery in apparent self alienation, that sense even in its errors is only incipient Reason and that faith in a Saving Power ab extra is but the dim reflex of an original act of self determination. And a significant confirmation of all this came in the subsequent life-history; of Vivekananda who, after he had found the firm assurance he sought in the saving Grace and Power of his Master, went about preaching and teaching the creed of the Universal Man, and the absolute and inalienable sovereignty of the Self. 12 With his superb oratorical flair, he advocated the spread of "man-making" education and was an untiring crusader of purity of life and character. Romain Rolland, one of the greatest thinkers of the modern age, goes into ecstasy while dealing with the great philosophy of Humanism, that Swami Vivekananda expounded, based on the Vedantic teaching of the ancient philosophy of India, of the divine spark in every human being. Vivekananda’s universal outlook, his intense practicality, his intense human passion, these find expression in Romain Rolland’s delineation of Swami Vivekananda’s life and message. Particularly when he deals with India’s awakening through the great lectures Vivekananda delivered in India from Colombo in the south to Almorah in the Himalayas in far north, Romain Rolland goes into ecstasy once again. Awakening a sleeping nation, a sleeping leviathan, to the realities of the contemporary world setting it on to the road of modern development, denouncing its caste, its untouchability, its suppression of women for centuries, which Swami Vivekananda initiated towards the end of the last century, Romain Rolland appreciates tremendously. He also speaks of Swamiji’s great work in the Western world particularly in America by presenting India’s age -old philosophy of man as a spark of the divine and his infinite capacity for evolution. He considers this central truth as of supreme importance to modern civilization. Later on he sums up Vivekananda’s literature and personality. The eight volumes of Vivekananda’s complete works (during his time it was seven) Romain Rolland speaks of in these words, “Vivekananda’s words are great music. They are like Beethoven’s symphonies, they are like the stirring rhythms of the Handel’s Chnrus. I cannot touch these utterances of Vivekananda without getting a thrill through my body as of an


Brajendranath Seal, Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda, Prabuddha Bharata, April 1907; reprinted Brahmavadin, May, 1907


electric shock. And what shocks and transports must have been produced when in burning words they are issued from the lips of the hero!”13 Rabindranath Tagore once said to Romain Rolland: If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative. Incidentally, in the earlier years Tagore did not have much respect for Swami Vivekananda for his idolworshipping. On the other hand, Swamiji was a very good singer and used to sing lots of songs, including about twelve written and composed by Tagore. Raja C. Gopalacharya furher said: “Swami Vivekananda saved Hinduism and saved India. But for him, we would have lost our religion and would not have gained our freedom. We therefore owe everything to Swami Vivekananda.” 14 Swami Vivekananda once spoke of himself as a 'condensed India.' His life and teachings are of inestimable value to the West for an understanding of the mind of Asia. William James, the Harvard philosopher, called the Swami the 'paragon of Vedantists.' Max Müller and Paul Deussen, the famous Orientalists of the nineteenth century, held him in genuine respect and affection. ' 15 'The Swami himself,' as his Irish disciple, Sister Nivedita, wrote some years later, 'was as simple in the ways of the world as his disciples, and when he was once sure that he was divinely called to make this attempt, he could see no difficulties in the way. Nothing could have been more typical of the lack of organizedness of Hinduism itself than this going forth of its representative unannounced, and without formal credentials, to enter the strongly guarded door of the world's wealth and power.16 Free India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote: “Rooted in the past, full of pride in India’s prestige, Vivekananda was yet modern in his approach to life’s prob lems, and was a kind of bridge between the past of India and her present … he came as a tonic to the depressed and demoralized Hindu mind and gave it self-reliance and some roots in the past.” Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose wrote: “Swamiji harmonized the East and the West, religion and science, past and present. And that is why he is great. Our countrymen


Cited in Swamy Ranganathananda, Romain Rolland,, All India Radio, Delhi 14 15 16 Ibid.




have gained unprecedented self-respect, self-reliance and self-assertion from his teachings.”17 One of the greatest contribution of Swami Vivekananda towards the making of modern India is his concept of Education.. To him education plays a vital role in curing the evils in society, and it is critical in shaping the future of humanity. 18 Although Vivekananda did not write a book on education, he contributed valuable thoughts on the subject that are relevant and viable today. In order to understand his thoughts, we should first consider his oft-quoted definition of education – ‘Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man’. 19 Vivekananda’s definition of education is one of remarkable insight. First of all, the word ‘manifestation’ implies that something already exists and is waiting to be expressed. The main focus in learning is to make the hidden ability of a learner manifest. As Vivekananda said, ‘what a man “learns” is really what he “discovers”, by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge’20 According to the Vedanta philosophy, knowledge is inherent in a human being, like a spark in a piece of flint, and all that is needed is the strike of suggestion to bring it out. ‘Manifestation’ indicates spontaneous growth, provided that the impediments, if any, are removed.Next in importance in the Sw ami’s definition of education is the expression ‘already in man’. This refers to a human being’s potential, which is the range of the abilities and talents, known or unknown, that he was born with. ‘Potential’ speaks of the possibility of awakening something that is lying dormant. The word ‘perfection’ in the Swami’s definition of education is also very significant. We can see that every act connected with learning, training, etc., is part of a process directed towards an end. The English word ‘perfect’ imp lies completion, orsomething being made whole. The Greek word teleics is translated as ‘perfect’, and suggests the idea of attaining a goal or an end. Drawing on these meanings, one may conclude that perfection in educational parlance is the goal of actualizing the highest human potential. At the empirical level the concept of ‘perfection’ has to address the various problems human beings encounter in society. As Vivekananda said: ‘The education which does not help
17 18

Cited in Opcit.n.2, p.235. 19 Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda(CW),Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, Vol. IV, p. 358. 20 CW, vol. I, p. 28


the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion – is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own legs. 21 Education, he said, must provide ‘life-building, man-making, character-making assimilation of ideas’22 The ideal of this type of education would be to produce an integrated person – one who has learned how to improve his intellect, purify his emotions, and stand firm on moral virtues and unselfishness. There are two levels designated by the ancient Indian scriptures as para vidya (spiritual values) and apara vidya (secular values) respectively. This division is merely for practical convenience; otherwise vidya, or learning, is a continuum, leading one towards the ultimate goal which, according to Vivekananda, was complete freedom of the soul. In Vivekananda’s view, educational concerns related to a person’s interaction with society should receive due attention. The purpose of society is to help secure the well-being of human beings. In reality, however, human beings frequently find themselves entrapped in a society that threatens their freedom, a freedom essential for their educational growth. An ideal society, according to Vivekananda, should provide the resources as well as the opportunity for each of its members to develop his or her potential to the maximum. Education must embrace the whole society, with special attention to those who are most in need of it and who, for one reason or another, are unable to avail themselves of the existing facilities.23 Vivekananda concurred with contemporary thinkers when he asserted that the mind – the chief instrument of learning – deserves more attention than it had earlier received. Training the mind should be a student’s highest priority, and not simply the accumulation, the memorizing and the repeating of facts. In the long run, stuffing one’s Mind with information, technical skills and useless trivia only creates more problems if one’s mind is not nourished and strengthened and made healthy. Vivekananda’s guru, Sri Ramakrishna, used to say that manush needs to become man-hush – that is, a man needs to become a true man. ‘He alone is a man,’ he said, ‘whose spiritual consciousness has been awakened’ (Gospel, 851). Following his Master, Vivekananda emphasized that ‘the
21 22

CW, vol. VII, pp. 147–148 CW, vol. III, p. 302 23 For details on this see Swami Pravananda, opcit. n.2, pp.236-238.


ideal of all education, all training, should be this man-making’. Lamenting over the prevailing system of education, he said: But, instead of that, we are always trying to polish up the outside. What use in polishing up the outside when there is no inside? The end and aim of all training is to make the man grow.24 Character-building was fundamental in Vivekananda’s educational scheme, as against career-orientation, which occupies centre-stage in today’s education. A person is what his thoughts have made him. Explaining this, the Swami said, ‘Each thought is a little hammer blow on the lump of iron which our bodies are, manufacturing out of it what we want it to be’. 25 That is why one finds that the focus of the Swami’s educational thoughts was on assimilation of man-making, character building ideas. This is the way Swami Vivekananda also inspired the Youth of India. Vivekananda's call to the youth did not merely come from his lips but from the depths of his soul. He felt that the future of India largely depended on the response he would get from the youth to his exhortations. That is why he said, "let India arise!"Swami Vivekananda believed that it was "Onward for ever! Sympathy for the poor, the downtrodden, even unto death - this is our motto. Onward brave lads! Have faith in the Lord, no policy, it is nothing. Feel for the miserable and look up for help - it shall come... I bequeath to you, young men, this sympathy, this struggle for the poor, the ignorant, the oppressed."26 This is the way Swami Vivekananda injected patriotism in the veins of the youth of the country by his magically impressive words. He said, "When we want are some young men who will renounce everything and sacrifice their lives for their country's sake." 27 He further said to the youth of India: "Wake up, stop not until the goal is reached", say the Vedas. Up, up, the long night is passing, the day is approaching, the wave has risen, nothing will be able to resist its tidal fury. The spirit, my boys, the spirit; the love, my children, the love; the faith, the belief; and fear not! The greatest sin is fear. 28

24 25

CW, vol. II, p. 15 CW, vol. VII, p. 20 26 27 Ibid. 28


Not only on the social and the political thought of India, Swami Vivekananda is having a profound impact on the Industrial thoughts of India too. In 1893, in a boat that sailed from Yokohama to Vancouver, two great Indians, one, a monk and the other, an industrialist met for the first time. The monk was Swami Vivekananda, who was to take and interpret to the West, more effectively than anyone else, the religious and philosophical tradition of India. The industrialist was Jamshedji Tata, the father of

Indian industry. As they got talking, Vivekananda explained his mission of preaching in the US, the universality of all religions. Jamshedji said he was in search of equipment and technology that would build the steel industry and make India a strong industrial nation. Vivekananda blessed Jamshedji, and remarked “How wonderful it would be if we could combine the scientific and technological achievements of the West with the asceticism and humanism of India!”They never met after that journey. But these words struck a chord in Jamshedji’s heart. Five years later, Jamshedji’s response came in a letter to Vivekananda. The Text of the letter is as follow: Esplanade House, Bombay. 23rd Nov. 1898 Dear Swami Vivekananda, I trust, you remember me as a fellow- traveller on your voyage from Japan to Chicago. I very much recall at this moment your views on the growth of the ascetic spirit in India, and the duty, not of destroying, but of diverting it into useful channels. I recall these ideas in connection with my scheme of Research Institute of Science for India, of which you have doubtless heard or read. It seems to me that no better use can be made of the ascetic spirit than the establishment of monasteries or residential halls for men dominated by this spirit, where they should live with ordinary decency and devote their lives to the cultivation of sciences –natural and humanistic. I am of opinion that ,if such a crusade in favour of an asceticism of this kind were undertaken by a competent leader, it would greatly help asceticism, science, and the good name of our common country; and I know not who would make a more fitting general of such a campaign than Vivekananda. Do you think you would care to apply yourself to the mission of galvanizing into life our ancient traditions in this respect? Perhaps, you had better begin


with a fiery pamphlet rousing our people in this matter. I would cheerfully defray all the expenses of publication.” With kind regards, I am, dear Swami Yours faithfully, Jamshedji Tata Vivekananda was busy starting the Ramakrishna Mission and could not accept the offer but he promptly sent his disciple Sister Nivedita who met Jamshedji and his advisor, Mr Padsa. A detailed plan formulated by them was promptly suppressed by the Viceroy, Lord Curzon. However Tatas persevered and continued to work on their plans. Swami Vivekananda died in July 1902.Jamshedji did not live long either. In 1904, he died unaware that his vision would be realised five years later. The Indian Institute of Science, a gift from the Tatas, was born in 1909 and is today the pride of the nation. Tata’s subsequent ventures covered the humanistic and scientific dimensions of research and development and included the establishment of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (1930’s) and of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (1940’s). In 1984, the Government of India declared and decided to observe the Birthday of Swami Vivekananda (12 January, according to English calendar) as National Youth Day every year from 1985 onwards. To quote from the Government of India’s Communication, ‘it was felt that the philosophy of Swamiji and the ideals for which he lived and worked could be a great source of inspiration for the Indian Youth.’ He is motivation to the youth, the incarnation of Indian ethnicity and astuteness. One day a young man complained to the Swami that he could not make progress in spiritual life. He had worshipped images, following the advice of one teacher, and had tried to make his mind void according to the instruction of another, but all had been fruitless. 'Sir,' the young man said, 'I sit still in meditation, shutting the door of my room, and keep my eyes closed as long as I can, but I do not find peace of mind. Can you show me the way?' 'My boy,' replied the Swami in a voice full of loving sympathy, 'if you take my word, you will have first of all to open the door of your room and look around, instead of closing your eyes. There are hundreds of poor and helpless people in your neighbourhood; you


have to serve them to the best of your ability. You will have to nurse and procure food and medicine for the sick. You will have to feed those who have nothing to eat. You will have to teach the ignorant. My advice to you is that if you want peace of mind, you shall have to serve others to the best of your ability. Another day a well-known college professor, who was a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, said to the Swami: 'You are talking of service, charity, and doing good to the world; these, after all, belong to the domain of maya. Vedanta says that the goal of man is the attainment of mukti, liberation, through breaking the chain of maya. What is the use of preaching about things which keep one's mind on mundane matters?' The Swami replied: 'Is not the idea of mukti in the domain of maya? Does not Vedanta teach that the Atman is ever free? Why should It, then, strive for mukti?' He said on another occasion: 'When I used to roam about all over India, practising spiritual disciplines. I passed day after day in caves absorbed in meditation. Many a time I decided to starve myself to death because I could not attain mukti. Now I have no desire for mukti. I do not care for it as long as a single individual in the universe remains in bondage. In the age of globalization young people should not forget the teachings of Swamiji.In the age technology youths should not forget the root of the origin and hence youths must take positive steps for self character building. Youths must take part in the nation building and that will be possible when things are done strategically. National Youth Day is celebrated in different parts of the country. It is very unfortunate that some states have no youth policy so far. It is high time for the state's governments to formulate State Youth Policies at an earliest which will be helpful for millions of youths of the country. The youth policy must mention all aspects associated with the young people and it must focus on the employment of the young people. The national policy for the youth has been developed and it is time for all the state governments to draft a State Youth Policy. Another contribution of Swami Vivekananda towards social theory is his concept of society. Swamiji saw socialism as a ray of hope for the myriad of problems confronting India. He viewed the course of world history as a change in governance between the four castes: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra in conformity to the law of nature. With the rise of Shudras, the lowest class, Vivekananda identified democracy and distribution


of physical comforts and education. Swamiji's concept of socialism was in no way averse to religion. He believed in elevation of masses without injuring the religious sentiments and that social changes can be brought forward only on a firm platform of conduct character and spirituality. In his own words: “I am a socialist, not because it is a perfect system, but because I believe that half a loaf is better than no bread.”29 Dr. Bhupendranath Dutta, regarded Swami Vivekananda as the first socialist of India. In his book Swami Vivekananda-Patriot-Prophet Dr. Dutta contemporary Marxists wrote: Now-a-days, the young men imbued with a smattering of Marxism call him( Swami Vivekananda) a reactionary. In his life time the social reformers of by condemning the

the day called him a reactionary as well; because he did not advocate that only by giving widows remarriage or by making some inter-caste marriages and such like social reforms India’s regeneration would be achieved. ….The desideratum according to him is to raise the masses, to educate them and to elevate them in the scale of advanced humanity. 30 Swami Vivekananda like Hegel, believed, The individual's life is in the life of the whole, the individual's happiness is in the happiness of the whole; apart from the whole, the individual's existence is inconceivable — this is an eternal truth and is the bed-rock on which the universe is built. To move slowly towards the infinite whole, bearing a constant feeling of intense sympathy and sameness with it, being happy with its happiness and being distressed in its affliction, is the individual's sole duty. Not only is it his duty, but in its transgression is his death, while compliance with this great truth leads to life immortal. This is the law of nature, and who can throw dust into her ever-watchful eyes? None can hoodwink society and deceive it for any length of time. However much there may have accumulated heaps of refuse and mud on the surface of society — still, at the bottom of those heaps the life-breath of society is ever to be found pulsating with the vibrations of
29 30

CW,Vol,IV,1962,p.381 Bhupendranath Dutta, Swami Vivekananada: Patriot-Prophet, Nababharat Publishers, Calcutta, 1954, pp.2-3.


universal love and self-denying compassion for all. Society is like the earth that patiently bears incessant molestations; but she wakes up one day, however long that may be in coming, and the force of the shaking tremors of that awakening hurls off to a distance the accumulated dirt of self-seeking meanness piled up during millions of patient and silent years! 31 Further, criticizing the western view on Liberty, Vivekananda said: Liberty does not certainly mean the absence of obstacles in the path of misappropriation of wealth etc. by you and me, but it is our natural right to be allowed to use our own body, intelligence, or wealth according to our will, without doing any harm to others; and all the members of a society ought to have the same opportunity for obtaining wealth, education, or knowledge.32

Conclusion: There have been many changes in the field of education since Swami Vivekananda passed away one hundred years ago, but not as many changes as in other areas of society. One such noticeable change in education is that it is now engaged in preparing human beings for a new type of society, and it is trying to create a new type of human being for it. Interestingly, Swami Vivekananda had envisioned a society with a new type of human being in whom knowledge, action, work and concentration were harmoniously blended, and he proposed a new type of education for achieving this. The right to education for everyone, guaranteed by the Constitution of India, was Vivekananda’s dream, but it is still a far cry from its goal. His idea of continual, or lifelong, education, however, has been adopted in many countries already. Moreover, because of the adoption of continuous education in these countries, our idea of what constitutes success and failure has altered, raising new hope for the weak, underprivileged section of these societies – the very people who for various reasons cannot complete their education when they are young. Vivekananda’s cry for the uplift of the downtrodden masses, particularly of the long-neglected women, has evoked a favourable response from different quarters, but societies tailor education to meet their own needs, thereby often robbing the weak of their

31 32

CW, Vol.4, p.463


freedom to determine their own destiny. Unless radical changes are made in all societies the poor will never be able to raise themselves. This was a major concern of the Swamiji. It is remarkable the extent to which there are similarities between Vivekanada’s thoughts and actions taking place one century ago and the present concerns of UNESCO. Himself a visionary and an original thinker, Vivekananda pointed out in his first public lecture in Asia, on 15 January 1897: ‘But education has yet to be in the world, and civilisation – civilisation has begun nowhere yet’.33 This is true. If we consider civilization to be the manifestation of the divine in human beings, as Vivekananda conceived it to be, no society has made much progress so far. This is why we find that mildness, gentleness, forbearance, tolerance, sympathy and so forth – the signs of a healthy civilization – have not taken root in any society on an appreciable scale, although we prematurely boast of a global village. The lack of basic necessities among the underprivileged all over the world is no less striking than the lack of morality among the educated privileged ones. To squarely meet this great challenge, Vivekananda prescribed ‘man-making and characterbuilding education’. 34 For this reason, if not for anything else, Vivekananda’s thoughts on society and education ought to be seriously re-examined today. Before I end I wish to quote Swamiji once more: I want each one of my children to be a hundred times greater than I could ever be. Everyone of you must be a giant -- must, that is my word. Obedience, readiness, and love for the cause -- if you have these three, nothing can hold you back. 35 I am sure that For centuries to come people everywhere will be inspired by Swami Vivekananda's message: O man! first realize that you are one with Brahman!.

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CW, vol. III, p. 114 In this connection we can cite the views of some historians. Will and Ariel Durant, in their The lessons of history, said, ‘Evolution in men during recorded time has been social rather than biological: it has roceeded not by heritable variations in the species, but mostly by economic, political, intellectual and moral innovation transmitted to individuals and generations by imitation, custom or education’ (Will Durant and Ariel Durant, The lessons of history, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968, p. 34) cited in Swami Pravananda, Swami Vivekananda, Prospects, vol. XXXIII, no. 2, June 2003pp.233-235. 35


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