From: Ishwar Sharan <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, Oct 4, 2013 at 6:51 AM
Subject: New Post: Swami Vivekananda's message, then and now – Virendra Parekh
To: Virendra Parekh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At the beginning of Raghuvansh, Kalidasa admits of his diffidence:
Kva suryaprabhavo vansh: kva chālpavishayāmati:
Titirushurdustaram mohad udeupenāsmi sāgaram.
Where the dynasty that emerged out of the Sun and where my limited intelligence? I am trying to cross an ocean with a ramshackle raft.
I must say I have a similar feeling of diffidence as I rise to speak at this gathering. Here is Swami Vivekananda, a great sage, a maharishi in the line of Vashishtha, Vishwamitra, Atri and Bharadwaja, Dirghatamas and Yajnavalkya, a sannyasi in the line of Adi Shankaracharya and Ramanujacharya, an illustrious son of Bharat Mata whose memory shines brightly more than a hundred years after he left his mortal frame. And here is a pen-pusher like me who has spent most of his life writing on economic and political happenings of the day. And I am not gifted with Kalidasa's genius either!
Yet I gladly and gratefully accepted the invitation to be here today. I remembered Pushpadanta, who says in Shivsamahimnastotram:
Mamatvetām vāňīm gunakathanapuňyen bhavatah:
Punāmītyrathesmin puramathana buddhirvyavasitā.
No speech can adequately capture the essence of Shiva. But I have deployed my intellect in this endeavour knowing that by reciting your qualities, I am purifying my speech.
Swami Vivekananda belongs to that order of great souls. He was a towering personality. The more we know him, the purer and stronger we become. What we say about him is a reflection on us, and not on him. It reveals what we are, rather than what he was.
The focus here is on the social and economic thinking of Swamiji. That is very appropriate. These are the areas—society and economy—where the task of national regeneration must begin. These are also the areas where results of our effort would be and should be visible.
There is a small difficulty, though. Swami Vivenkananda was not a professional economist like Amartya Sen or Jagdish Bhagwati, nor was he a social reformer in the mould of Maharshi Karve or Jyotiba Phule. Essentially, Swamiji was a Yogi, a seeker of spiritual truths, which he realized in his life and exhorted his fellow countrymen to do likewise. Verily has it been said that he was Swami first and Vivekananda later. Whatever he said about society and economy has to be understood in the larger context of his overall personality and message.
What was the message? Every nation, every race, Swamiji said again and again, has at its core a living principle, an idea or ideal which forms its bedrock or backbone. It is the foundation on which that nation is built; it is the centre around which its life revolves.
The essence of India, said Swamiji, lies in Dharma, Dharma not as a divisive sect, but as a quest for spiritual truth. India lives by and lives for Dharma, Adhyatma, Tattvagyana. Remove it, and India will be reduced to a geographical expression. India's Dharmik tradition, said Swamiji, is the invaluable heritage, not only of India but of the whole world.
The spiritual wisdom preserved in the Vedas and Upanishads is a pearl of inestimable value. From the dawn of civilisation, mankind is faced by some fundamental questions. What is the real self of man? Is this body all that there is to us? Or we are more than the body? What is the secret of death? When a man dies, is it the end of everything? If something remains after death, what is it? And what happens to it? At more practical level, what is more real—goodness or wickedness? What is stronger: Muscle or spirit? What is more desirable—wealth or truth? It is struggling with answers. But India has discovered the answer long back: na karmaňā na prajayā dhanena, tyāgenaike amrutattvamānsashu: Not by feverish activity, or progeny or wealth, but by renunciation alone does one experience the Immortal. This is the heritage that India has to share with the world. It is India's mission and also India's destiny to share this wisdom with the rest of the world. It is India's tryst with destiny to become the Jagadguru.
But which India? Swamiji looked around and he saw a country enslaved and exploited by a foreign power; a society mired in poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, superstitions and divided along every conceivable line. It was a society where untouchability was a normal social practice, where a man marrying outside his sub-caste made sensational news, where Hindu water and Muslim water were sold separately on railway stations, where rules on who can dine with whom, who cannot dine with whom, who can accept water from whom and who cannot accept water from whom were matters of supreme importance. It was a country where lakhs of people lived on the edge of starvation, where footwear was a luxury for mass of the people. Dadabhai Navroji famously showed that the average income of a poor Indian was less than what British government spent on prisoners in jail. In other words, India's poor millions lived a life worse than that of prisoners in jail!
This is the society, this is the country that Swamiji sought to shake out of its slumber and sloppiness. That is why we always notice a sense of urgency and impatience in all his utterances.
How did he go about it? First and foremost, he awakened the people of India to their great tradition. Like the sage of Upnishand, he said, Ātmānam Viddhi. Know thyself. Swamiji's genius lay in the fact that he converted this spiritual injunction into a rousing call for national regeneration. You are heir to the oldest and greatest civilisation in the world. You are repositories of the highest truths of spirit discovered by human mind. Know what you are, be proud of it and prepare yourself for the great task that awaits you, he told people.
Balam upāssa, he said. Become strong. The only sin I know of is weakness, he would say. I want young men with muscles of iron and nerves of steel, he said. He enjoined young men to play football so that they could understand Gitā better.
Be active. Swamiji realized that tāmasika qualities of sloth, indifference and inactivity had enveloped the people after centuries of foreign rule. The spirit of inquiry, the will to challenge, the desire for adventure had gone. He urged people to shake off their inactivity and consciously pursue rājasika qualities of ambition and effort. He exhorted people to cherish great dreams and put in gigantic effort to realize them.
Sink all your differences and unite. Life is growth, life is expansion. In love, in art, a man grows. In selfishness, in hatred, he is diminished. Our society has become dead and rigid because we forgotten to love our brethren. Break all the artificial barriers and come together.
He repeatedly urged people to sink petty differences of caste and unite for a higher ideal. He lamented that Hindu Dharma which was capable of enlightening the whole world had become confined to kitchen, entangled in meaningless rules on eating and puerile priest craft.
There was one evil against which he used harsh language again and again. That evil was untouchability. "No sillier thing has existed in the world than what I saw in Malabar," he writes. "The poor Pariah is not allowed to pass through the same street as the high-caste man, but if he changes his name to a hodge-podge English name, it is alright; or to a Mohammedan name, it is alright. What inference would you draw except that these Malabaris are all lunatics, their homes so many lunatic asylums, and they should be ridiculed until they mend their manners. Shame upon them that such wicked and diabolical customs are allowed."
Swamiji warned Hindu leaders that if we continued to ill-treat and exploit the lower castes, they may be forced or tempted to convert to Islam or Christianity. And, he said without mincing words, "every convert out of Hinduism is not only a brother less, but an enemy more."
We now turn to Swamiji's views on economy. The first thing we notice in Swamiji's economic thinking is that he never ever glorified poverty. He roamed around the country, saw the people living in abject squalor and realized that the days when poverty could be voluntary and dignified were over. A hungry man has no stomach for Vedanta, he would say. Before we urge a man to turn to the life of spirit, his basic requirements have to be satisfied.
This was in line with the teachings of Veda and Upanishads. Indian tradition enjoins man to live like a master of wealth, and not its slave. Rgveda has Sree Sookta, a hymn dedicated to the goddess of wealth. Chandrām hiranmayīm lakshmīm jātvedo m āvaha, says the Rishi. O Agni! Bring me wealth which is shining like gold and brings coolness like the moon. The Upanishad says, kushalānna pramaditavyam (Well-being should not be neglected). Bhūtyai na pramaditavyam(Material prosperity should not be neglected). Dhyānam ratnashilātaleshu vibudhstrīsannidhau sanyam, says Kalidasa of sage Marich. He meditates sitting atop a mountain made of precious stone, he observes restraint in the presence of apsaras.
Secondly, Swamiji wanted India to modernize its economy. He inspired Jamshedji Tata to bring modern industry to India as also to set up an institute for basic research in science. India must learn from the West the science of wealth creation. He wanted it to be an exchange between equals. India has something valuable to offer in the field of Dharma, Adhyatma and philosophy. And it should humbly learn from the West the road to material well-being. Swamiji clarified that India should modernize without losing its cultural ethos. He gave example of Japan, which had modernized its economy while retaining its cultural moorings—it remained an Asian country rooted in Buddhism and Shintoism.
Thirdly, Swamiji wanted India and Indians to rise through their own efforts. He extolled charity as a personal virtue, but never advocated trusteeship like Gandhiji or outright confiscation like Communists. This is only to be expected. Communism was still a struggling movement in his days. The Russian Revolution was 15 years away in the future at the time of his departure.
At first sight, these ideas look elementary. However, contrast it with the ideology underlying the policies that we pursued after independence and their relevance becomes immediately obvious. Under the garb of equality and social justice, we stifled enterprise, discouraged private effort and created a vested interest in poverty, shortages and scarcities. We changed course only when the country was driven to the verge of bankruptcy.
It is tempting to assess how far we have moved closer to or away from the ideal that Swamiji held for India.
A great deal of progress has been made both on the economic and social fronts. India was one of the poorest countries in the world then. Today, it has the fourth largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power. If we follow proper policies, we may become the second largest one in the next few decades. Social indicators like life expectancy, literacy, child mortality are much better now. In spite of glaring inequalities, it is possible to say that all sections of the society have participated in the economic progress though in uneven degrees.
No doubt we could have done much more if we had proper leadership. Other nations, far less gifted than India in terms of natural resources and human talent, have accomplished much more than we have. And much more remains to be done in the field of health, education and poverty eradication. The economy is facing daunting challenges, largely but not wholly of our own making. However, there is a collective confidence that we can and we shall overcome all the challenges if we mend our ways.
The society has, in many ways, changed beyond recognition. Urbanisation, modern education, internet and mobile telephony have broken down old social divisions. Marriages across castes, language groups and communities are common. Widow remarriages have long been accepted. Women are coming to the fore in every walk of life and earning their rightful place in the economy and polity. There are strong pockets of orthodoxy, but they no longer control the establishment. They know, as well as others, that their time is running out fast.
However, while we have tremendous progress in material sense, we have suffered heavy losses and reverses in terms of territory, demography, politics, ideology and morality.
Large parts of Bharatvarsh have now been ceded officially and permanently to self-declared enemies of Hinduism and Hindu society. The land of Saptasindhu, where Vasishtha and Vishwamitra chanted Vedic hymns and performed sacrifices, where King Sudas defeated his adversaries in a battle recorded in the Rgveda, is now largely the enemy territory. We cherish the memory of Swami Vivekanada, Ravindranath Tagore, and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, but three-fourth of Bengal is now foreign territory.
Back in those days, Hindus constituted about 80 per cent of the undivided pre-partition India or what is now fashionably called the Indian subcontinent. Today, they constitute about 66 per cent of that area. In other words, the ratio of Hindus to non-Hindus has come down from 4 to 1 to 2 to 1.
Political losses have been worse. A constitution, made by enlightened and patriotic Hindus, discriminates against Hindus. Islam and Christianity can be taught in government aided schools and colleges, but not Hinduism. The government can and does interfere with the administration and management of temples; it often diverts temple funds to non-Dharmik purposes. But it does not dare touch mosques or churches.
In the name of secularism, we have created a polity in which all the rights, privileges and prerogatives belong to non-Hindus, and all the duties, obligations and responsibilities are saddled on the Hindus. A missionary converting Hindus to Christianity is only exercising his fundamental right given in the constitution, but any attempt to bring them back to their ancestral tradition is frowned upon as an assault on minority rights, a divisive endeavour. In the early years of independence, Muslims were apologetic for breaking up the country. Today, they hold, or they think they hold, key to political power in India. No leader, however honest, competent, popular and patriotic, is regarded as fit to rule India unless he is accepted or at least tolerated by Muslims. Although Hindus constitute 80 per cent of the population, the 12 per cent minority has acquired a veto over who can and who cannot rule the country.
Even more significant are the ideological losses. Hundred years ago, Swami Vivekanand could declare India as the homeland of Hinduism and Hindu society. He, like countless other leaders, could identify Hinduism as the essence of Indian nationalism. Hundred years ago, Maharshi Aravind could say in a public meeting that India rises with the rise of Sanatan Dharma, and India declines with the decline of Sanatan Dharma. Hundred years ago, Dr. Radhakrishnan wrote his classicIndian Philosophy without including Islam and Christianity, for the valid reason that they are not Indian and they have no philosophy.
Nobody accused Swami Vivekanand of being a communalist, a Hindu Supremacist, a polarizing figure preaching a divisive and disruptive ideology. But now that view of India as the cradle of Vedic culture, of Hinduism as the essence of Indian nationalism, in short, the Idea of India as Hindu Rashtra is unmentionable. From a nation, we are reduced to a community. Under Nehruvian secularism, Hindus are just one of the five-six communities inhabiting this land. They have no special right or title either to the land or its ethos. In fact, an educated Hindu is expected to behave as if he is making amends for being a Hindu.
The biggest and most damaging losses, however, have been in terms of ethics, morality and spirituality. For all the glib talk of culture and spirituality, we are one of the most corrupt societies in the world. We have lost sight of all higher and finer aspects of life. Artha and Kama are the only Purusharthas we know. Dharma has been relegated to the backseat and Moksha? What is it anyway? Economics is our religion, gold is our God and market is our Mother Goddess.
Indian society has become Vaishya in character. Everybody is a trader. What is in it for me? What can I get out of it? These are the only questions that bother us. We have teachers, academics, researchers, journalists. But they are not driven by a quest for truth or knowledge. They are driven by the pull of reward, recognition and career prospects. In other words, they are doing the work of Brahmin with the mentality of a Vaishya. We have political leaders, administrators, police, spying agencies etc. They are supposed to run the country and also protect it from internal and external troubles. But they are guided not by national interest but self-interest. In other words, they are doing the work of Kshatriya with the mentality of a Vaishya. The same applies to the salaried middle class, self-employed in the service industries and professionals like medicine, law or various skilled jobs. Instead of serving society by pursuing excellence in their professions, they are goaded by greed. In other words, they are doing the work of Shudras with the mentality of a Vaishya.
In the language of Manusmruti, the Indian society has become Varnasankara. Varnas have forgotten their Dharmas. And we are facing the consequences outlined by Arjuan in Gita.
Imagine a man who has very weak eyes, weak hands, weak feet but a large and voracious stomach. That is the picture of Indian society today. Our eyes are blinded, our hands are drained of strength, our feet can barely stand. But we have an insatiable appetite. We keep on devouring more and more. No wonder the enemies are having a free run in the county.
All the losses I outlined above have followed from this moral degradation of our society. We cannot blame it on foreigners. That failure is entirely ours.
If Swami Vivekanand were around, what would he tell us? I have no pretence of stepping into his shoes. I can only make some crude guesses.
Swamiji would awaken us with the same message that he gave us in his life time. Like the sages of Upanishads, he would say: Ātmanam Vidhdhi. Ātma vā are gyātavyo, shrotavyo, mantavyo, nididhyāsitavyo. Know thyself, he would tell us, both as individuals and a society.
He would tell each of us: you are not the small insignificant entity that the market economy has made of you. You are a child of immortality. Become aware of your real self, pure, everlasting, and full of bliss and peace. You are a cub of lion, behaving like a lamb. Know yourself and be free from all sorrows, fear and worries.
He would cure us of our greed by reminding us of the fickleness and evanescence of wealth. Nothing is more pitiable than a man running after money for its own sake. We regard gold, bank balance and properties as our solid achievements, real things in life. Swamiji would point out that they are first to leave us in the moment of death. Even the wealthiest man in the world cannot carry a farthing with him to the grave.
Money, he would say can buy the means, but not the end. Money can buy medicine, but not health; book, not knowledge, music system, not the sense of music; servants, not friends.
Balam upāssa, he would say. The challenges before you may be daunting, but do not look upon it as a weak man. The might of the universe lies within you. Awaken it and conquer the world.
As a people, he would remind us of our spiritual tradition and historical mission. How ironical is it that even as the West is discovering the value of India's ancient wisdom, we are bent on denying and forgetting it? Swamiji would point out that the so-called life style diseases—diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol—the so-called tensions of the modern life, is the necessary condition of a society that pursues wealth and power to the exclusion of everything else.
Our life should have beauty in its limbs, music in its voice, dance in its steps, it should have its metaphors in stars and flowers. But under the burden of a prolific greed, it becomes an overladen market cart, jolting and screeching along the road that leads from things to nothing, and collapses by the wayside, reaching nowhere. For this is unreason, as Lao Tse would say, and unreason soon ceases.
Swamiji would enjoin us to restore Dharma to its rightful place in our life. Dharmo rakshati rakshita—if you protect Dharma, Dharma protects you—he would remind us.
In short he would say: Ātmanam viddhi. Discover yourself and that knowledge will liberate you from the bondage of fear and doubt. Sā vidyā yā vimuktaye
In spite of the great material progress, today we are drifting, not advancing, waiting for the future to turn up. We are afflicted by self-doubt and self-forgetfulness. We need the lion roar of Swami Vivekananda to wake us up from this moha andmoorchha. India is waiting for Swami Vivekananda.
sent from samsung galaxy note, so please excuse brevity