Roar 70 contains two important events that happened in July 2017. One was the Visit by His Excellency Mr Jawed Ashraf, the Indian High Commissioner to Singapore and the other is the celebrated Sri Guru Purnima festival…
It was indeed a pleasant meeting with the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Sri Narendra Modi at INA Marker, Singapore on the afternoon of 24 Nov. 2015. He met the INA veterans and their descendants. There was also a small selected group of invitees from different organisations in Singapore.
Simply speaking a few words and enquiring about everything brought immense joy to all! Seeing his walking straight on the red carpet with brilliant strides brought to my memory the ancient Sanskrit line “pinjaraadiva keshari” – like a lion striding out of a cage! Perhaps my stay now in Singapore evoked the Singa – lion simile in my thoughts! Along with me Swamis Satyalokananda and Jitamanasananda from our Singapore Ashram were present at Netaji Memorial.
Today I am completing one week in the soil of Singapore! I am exhilarated to learn that only yesterday as it were, that is on the 12th June in 1893 Swami Vivekananda stepped into this great city! As Acharya Shankara says, “kaalah kreedati” Time sports in his famous Bhaja govindam– I find five months have gone by so swiftly after I left South Africa! The move from South Africa to Singapore was not on rosy petals! It had its own share of hiccups.
My last post was on 20th November 2014. Most of the readers of this blog knew that I was on the move on a pilgrimage tour of Ramakrishna centres in Europe. I left the shores of South Africa on the 30th December 2014 and landed in Belur Math on 14th February 2015.
The six-week sojourn before stepping back to India and again an eight-week post-arrival travels in South India were extremely hectic and I had no time to “sit and stare” at the computer!
It was heartening to see that many devotees, in the meantime started enquiring about my resumption of posts. I just wondered from where to start! From the ‘bidai’ of SA or from the ‘shuruAt’ of Singapore where I landed on the 6th June 2015.
One devotee’s suggestion came in handy. He said that I should give some space for my travels so far. My travels were in the nature of pilgrimage and hence the wonderful feelings that I experienced in all those places and in all those I saw would be worth recounting. Be as it may, now let me begin from Durban where I was given “Durga, Durga” !
I learnt to say “Durga, Durga!” after joining the Order by watching senior monks used to pronounce these two mystical words at the time of anyone’s departure. Later I found in Bengal this is customary. It appealed to me to say the name of the Divine Mother who protects every jiva than merely saying “bye, bye!” that lacks the spiritual import. Hence I taught the devotees in South Africa whichever branch I went, including children who fearlessly would say, at the time of my departure in loud voice “Durga, Durga!” .
Today is the birthday of Swami Vivekananda. This is celebrated as National Youth Day in India. For the benefit of the readers who have not yet visited our Belur Math website, the following article from it, is happily reproduced here. This gives a bird’s eye-view of the Contributions made by the great Swamiji to World Culture, to India and to Hinduism.
Vivekananda’s contributions to World Culture
Making an objective assessment of Swami Vivekananda’s contributions to world culture, the eminent British historian A L Basham stated that “in centuries to come, he will be remembered as one of the main moulders of the modern world…” Some of the main contributions that Swamiji made to the modern world are mentioned below.
1. New Understanding of Religion
One of the most significant contributions of Swami Vivekananda to the modern world is his interpretation of religion as a universal experience of transcendent Reality, common to all humanity. Swamiji met the challenge of modern science by showing that religion is as scientific as science itself; religion is the ‘science of consciousness’. As such, religion and science are not contradictory to each other but are complementary.
This universal conception frees religion from the hold of superstitions, dogmatism, priestcraft and intolerance, and makes religion the highest and noblest pursuit – the pursuit of supreme Freedom, supreme Knowledge, supreme Happiness.
2. New View of Man
Vivekananda’s concept of ‘potential divinity of the soul’ gives a new, ennobling concept of man. The present age is the age of humanism which holds that man should be the chief concern and centre of all activities and thinking. Through science and technology man has attained great prosperity and power, and modern methods of communication and travel have converted human society into a ‘global village’. But the degradation of man has also been going on apace, as witnessed by the enormous increase in broken homes, immorality, violence, crime, etc. in modern society. Vivekananda’s concept of potential divinity of the soul prevents this degradation, divinizes human relationships, and makes life meaningful and worth living. Swamiji has laid the foundation for ‘spiritual humanism’, which is manifesting itself through several neo-humanistic movements and the current interest in meditation, Zen etc all over the world.
3. New Principle of Morality and Ethics
The prevalent morality, in both individual life and social life, is mostly based on fear – fear of the police, fear of public ridicule, fear of God’s punishment, fear of Karma, and so on. The current theories of ethics also do not explain why a person should be moral and be good to others. Vivekananda has given a new theory of ethics and new principle of morality based on the intrinsic purity and oneness of the Atman. We should be pure because purity is our real nature, our true divine Self or Atman. Similarly, we should love and serve our neighbours because we are all one in the Supreme Spirit known as Paramatman or Brahman.
4. Bridge between the East and the West
Another great contribution of Swami Vivekananda was to build a bridge between Indian culture and Western culture. He did it by interpreting Hindu scriptures and philosophy and the Hindu way of life and institutions to the Western people in an idiom which they could understand. He made the Western people realize that they had to learn much from Indian spirituality for their own well-being. He showed that, in spite of her poverty and backwardness, India had a great contribution to make to world culture. In this way he was instrumental in ending India’s cultural isolation from the rest of the world. He was India’s first great cultural ambassador to the West.
On the other hand, Swamiji’s interpretation of ancient Hindu scriptures, philosophy, institutions, etc prepared the mind of Indians to accept and apply in practical life two best elements of Western culture, namely science and technology and humanism. Swamiji has taught Indians how to master Western science and technology and at the same time develop spiritually. Swamiji has also taught Indians how to adapt Western humanism (especially the ideas of individual freedom, social equality and justice and respect for women) to Indian ethos.
Swamiji’s Contributions to India
In spite of her innumerable linguistic, ethnic, historical and regional diversities, India has had from time immemorial a strong sense of cultural unity. It was, however, Swami Vivekananda who revealed the true foundations of this culture and thus clearly defined and strengthened the sense of unity as a nation.
Swamiji gave Indians proper understanding of their country’s great spiritual heritage and thus gave them pride in their past.
Furthermore, he pointed out to Indians the drawbacks of Western culture and the need for India’s contribution to overcome these drawbacks. In this way Swamiji made India a nation with a global mission. Sense of unity, pride in the past, sense of mission – these were the factors which gave real strength and purpose to India’s nationalist movement. Several eminent leaders of India’s freedom movement have acknowledged their indebtedness to Swamiji. 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 problems, 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 have gained unprecedented self-respect, self-reliance and self-assertion from his teachings.”
Swamiji’s most unique contribution to the creation of new India was to open the minds of Indians to their duty to the downtrodden masses. Long before the ideas of Karl Marx were known in India, Swamiji spoke about the role of the labouring classes in the production of the country’s wealth. Swamiji was the first religious leader in India to speak for the masses, formulate a definite philosophy of service, and organize large-scale social service.
Swamiji’s Contributions to Hinduism
It was Swami Vivekananda who gave to Hinduism as a whole a clear-cut identity, a distinct profile. Before Swamiji came Hinduism was a loose confederation of many different sects. Swamiji was the first religious leader to speak about the common bases of Hinduism and the common ground of all sects. He was the first person, as guided by his Master Sri Ramakrishna, to accept all Hindu doctrines and the views of all Hindu philosophers and sects as different aspects of one total view of Reality and way of life known as Hinduism. Speaking about Swamiji’s role in giving Hinduism its distinct identity, Sister Nivedita wrote: “… it may be said that when he began to speak it was of ‘the religious ideas of the Hindus’, but when he ended, Hinduism had been created.”
Before Swamiji came, there was a lot of quarrel and competition among the various sects of Hinduism. Similarly, the protagonists of different systems and schools of philosophy were claiming their views to be the only true and valid ones. By applying Sri Ramakrishna’s doctrine of Harmony (Samanvaya) Swamiji brought about an overall unification of Hinduism on the basis of the principle of unity in diversity. Speaking about Swamiji’s role in this field K M Pannikar, the eminent historian and diplomat, wrote: “This new Shankaracharya may well be claimed to be a unifier of Hindu ideology.”
Another important service rendered by Swamiji was to raise his voice in defense of Hinduism. In fact, this was one of the main types of work he did in the West. Christian missionary propaganda had given a wrong understanding of Hinduism and India in Western minds. Swamiji had to face a lot of opposition in his attempts to defend Hinduism.
4. Meeting the Challenges
At the end of the 19th century, India in general, and Hinduism in particular, faced grave challenges from Western materialistic life, the ideas of Western free society, and the proselytizing activities of Christians. Vivekananda met these challenges by integrating the best elements of Western culture in Hindu culture.
5. New Ideal of Monasticism
A major contribution of Vivekananda to Hinduism is the rejuvenation and modernization of monasticism. In this new monastic ideal, followed in the Ramakrishna Order, the ancient principles of renunciation and God realization are combined with service to God in man (Shiva jnane jiva seva). Vivekananda elevated social service to the status of divine service.
6. Refurbishing of Hindu Philosophy and Religious Doctrines
Vivekananda did not merely interpret ancient Hindu scriptures and philosophical ideas in terms of modern thought. He also added several illuminating original concepts based on his own transcendental experiences and vision of the future. This, however, needs a detailed study of Hindu philosophy which cannot be attempted here.