A young man draped in a soothing saffron-coloured attire stunned the world, about a century ago, in Chicago with his profound thoughts on Hindutva. Since then his ideals and his philosophy have continued to inspire a whole generation of people around the world
Dr Vandana Mahajani
India is a land where many great men and women were born. Amongst them Swami Vivekananda’s name stands out as a great spiritual leader. His address at the Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893 opened the world to the glory of Vedanta. Though he lived only for thirty-nine years, he worked tirelessly to revive the glory of India.
PM Narendra Modi unveiling Swami Vivekananda’s statue in Malaysia (file photo)
“This is the punya bhoomi, the land of karma”, declared Swami Vivekananda. There is not one race on this earth to which the world owes so much as to the patient Hindu.” He said that the word Hindu does not denote any one religion, but it was used to describe all the people who lived on the other side of Indus River. Thus people living in this region came to be called the Hindus. As the world progressed, great ideas were advanced. But for each idea to be accepted men had to fight to prove themselves superior. Each word of power had to be followed by groan of millions of people, wails of orphans and tears of widows. This is what other nations have taught. But India existed peacefully even before Greece and Rome became great empires. The Greeks and the Romans came and vanished, but Bharat remained forever. While the Romans and Greeks ruled the world, people shuddered. But today the same remain as a mass of ruins, the spiders weave cobwebs where Caesar ruled once.
The Vedanta contained all the wonderful, convincing, broadening, and ennobling ideas. It was the voice of God
While speaking of his experience while on mission in America, Swamiji said that average American would know to which political party he belongs, but will not be able to tell much about his faith and religion. He found the opposite in India. People in rural India did not know much about politics, but could say quite a bit about their religion and faith. He declared that political greatness or military power was never the mission of our race and never shall be. But there has been another mission that has been given to us and that is to conserve, to preserve, to assimilate, as it were, into a dynamo, all the spiritual energy of the race and that concentrated energy is to pour forth in a deluge on the world, whenever circumstances are propitious.
Schopenhauer, the great German philosopher said, “In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and as elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death.” This great German sage foretold that, “The world would see a revolution in thought more extensive and more powerful than that which was witnessed by the renaissance of Greek literature,” and today his predictions are coming true.
To many, Indian thought, Indian manners, Indian customs, Indian philosophy, Indian literature are repulsive at the first sight, but let them become familiar, let them read and persevere, let them become familiar with the great principals underlying these ideas and it is ninety nine percent of the time true that they will fall for its charm. Slow and silent has been the charm of this calm, patient, all suffering, spiritual race, upon the world of thought.
In India alone, man has not got up to fight to say that my religion is the superior one. It was in our old books that the infinite glory of the spirit of man governed the entire search for religion. The Vedanta contained all the wonderful, convincing, broadening, and ennobling ideas. It was the voice of God.
Change is constant. He said customs of one yuga have not been the customs of other yuga. They will change, Great Rishi’s have come and more will appear to guide us to the customs more suited to the new environments.
If we watch the growth and development of religions among races we find that each tribe had a God. Many tribes had many different Gods. We see this in Babylonian race and Jewish races. However, as the race for supremacy among tribes grew, so the most powerful race declared their God to be the greatest. Similar thing happened in India also. However, our good fortune was that there came a voice that declared “एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति”—meaning “That which exists is one; sages call It by various names”. It is not that Shiv is superior to Vishnu, or any other name. The names may be different, but it is the same one. He urged people, “Above all others, my countrymen, this is the one grand truth that we have to teach the world.”
Our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is a follower of Swami Vivekananda. His early life has been influenced by the life and works of this spiritual master. We see him work tirelessly for his people. When he says Hindu, this is exactly what he means. It is a way of life of the people of this country.
Time is just ripe. Let the world know that we stand united as one nation. Some may kneel towards the Kaba, others in church, still others at Buddhist temple, or I may worship in front of the Shiva linga, we must not forget that it is but ONE. He, to whom we are all worshipping. We must not hate one another over these differences, but come and unite together. It is this idea that forms the central fabric of our motherland. It flows in our literature also. Let us remember this “They call Thee by various names; Thou art One.”
(The writer is a Mumbai-based activist and associated with Vivekananda Kendra)