1893 AD – in Chicago, a Parliament of the World’s Religions was held, where Swami Vivekananda represented the Hindu Dharma. In the World Parliament of Religions, Swami Vivekananda took the message of harmony, peace, brotherhood and non-violence to the people of the world. His message is historic.
Sometimes there is a question in the heart, is Swami Vivekananda’s message still relevant?
Can we live in peace, harmony and brotherhood in all religions, and do material development, prosperity and welfare of the people? When we see history, we find that the root of all violence has been because of sectarianism and narrow-mindedness. There have been two world wars. A lot of violence has taken place and human lives lost. However, the violence and lives lost in the name of religion and fanaticism have been greater!
Where there is no peace, harmony or stability, there is no possibility of economic and material development and welfare of the people. In a country where unrest, violence, riots etc., are still there, economic and material development have taken a backseat. Therefore, from a material perspective, peace, harmony and stability are very important.
Today we see that people of different religions embrace each other during festivals and celebrations. But that is only the external action. Can we all become one ‘inside’?! Are we struggling/ working towards this? We talk big about harmony. But what is our internal talk? I can see a big difference between talk and action! We don’t do what we speak.
How many religious meets have taken place across the world, are still happening, and will also happen in the future. But we are not getting the fruits of these meets and seminars because we don’t act on what we speak! There is a big gap between the word and the action.
In this context Swami Vivekananda said that religion has two forms – the external form religion and the internal form religion. The external forms of religion are rituals, fasting, worship etc. But what is the internal religion? It is unselfishness, purity, service, devotion and unity. This is the internal religion. But we do not see or think about the internal religion. And we keep promoting discord based on the external form of religion!
Why do we do this?!
Swami Vivekananda would say with great sadness in Bengali: “…all your philosophy is in the kitchen. The religion of India at present is ‘Don’t-touchism’…” You’ve have got stuck in whether to make pranam’s 4 or 5 times, whether to touch this or not, eat with which hand – right or left, and so on! We are paying attention only to these rituals, and not attending to/ emphasizing on the internal forms of – purity, unselfishness, peace, harmony and unity.
However we have to emphasize on these if we want world peace and harmony, and take the world forward in both material and spiritual terms.
Right now, we are talking big, engaging in discussions, committees, assemblies and parliaments of religions but not changing ourselves from inside! We will need to change ourselves from inside. Only then will there be harmony in all religions. Otherwise this will never be realized in reality.
* Extracts from Inaugural Address at Interfaith Dialogue for Modern Era
Organized by Ramakrishna Math & Mission, Mumbai for the 15th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of Swami Vivekananda, at Bhaidas Hall, Vile Parle, Mumbai. 8th November 2013