Character, a man makes

Part 1 of Swami Sarvalokananda’s address to management students at Indore 15th September 2014  

India is blessed with a large youth power
I am very privileged to be with you this morning. I am also delighted to see the young bright faces who are the future of our country. Swami Vivekananda (Swamiji) had reposed great faith and confidence in youth for the regeneration of India. You will be happy to know that India is in a very advantageous position to have 65% of the population as youth. Youth power is a tremendous power which can make a big difference. It can transform the country. It can make the impossible, possible. In the past we have seen at the time of freedom struggle what youth power could do. So it is a real power, a real force for any nation.

This youth power needs to be channelized for nation building
How to channelize this youth power? It is very important to channelize it in the direction of construction, not of destruction. The stream of water goes here and there, and is wasted. When the same stream of water is properly channelized for irrigation, it can do wonders. We get a good crop. So youth power has to be channelized in the proper way, for the development of the nation, and also for becoming a good human being.

The youth have to become not just professionals, but enlightened citizens
We want to become professionals in different fields. However we have to become enlightened citizens first. There is no dearth of professionals in our country today. But there is a dearth of good human beings – enlightened citizens – good citizens. We can become professionals –doctors and engineers. But are all professionals good human beings?

Sometimes we do encounter with people who are good professionals, but they are not necessarily good human beings. However if an individual is a good human being, honest and hardworking, then he will certainly become a good professional. That is why Swamiji used to put emphasis on human resource.

Swami Vivekananda wanted the youth to become ‘men’
Today we think HRD is a new concept. But it is an age-old concept. Swamiji advocated this, and how to develop human resource, because if there is no proper human resource, the country cannot develop and prosper. He would say – men, men are wanted. What kind of men did he want? He wanted men of character, men full of energy and enthusiasm, men of unselfishness – that type of men.

In one place he said – I want only 100 youth. Those youth will be very energetic, transparent, honest – men of character. If I get such men, I can revolutionize the whole country, nay, the whole world. Original quote: “Men, men, these are wanted: everything else will be ready, but strong vigorous, believing young men, sincere to the backbone, are wanted. A hundred such and the world becomes revolutionized.”

Many of the freedom fighters went to Swamiji and asked him – you are a spiritual leader and have tremendous spiritual power. If you think, you can make India free. Swamiji said, ‘Yes, I can. But where are the men – the men who can retain the freedom and independence of the country? First there should be men.

Swamiji said this more than 100 years ago. Today we find in our country that there are no leaders. There is a dearth of good and capable citizens. That is why the fate of India is such even after 67 years of independence. That is why human resource is very important

According to Swamiji, education is not accumulating facts, but building the character and capacity to face life’s challenges
Today you are getting education in this institute in order to become able business managers and administrators. Along with this, you have to become enlightened citizens, ideal citizens – men in the true sense. This is very important.

We talk about education all the time. Education doesn’t mean only the collection of information. Generally education means getting admissions in a school or college or university; collection of information on various subjects – now-a-days there is the internet and web-searches also where you can get a lot of information. But according to Swamiji, education is not just the collection of information.

Swamiji said that if education does not make us capable to face the struggles of life, then that education is not true education. That education, which does not help us to stand on our own feet, is not true education. That education which does not develop the strength of character and strength of mind is not true education. Swamiji said: that is education by which our mental strength is developed. Education is that by which our intellect and heart are expanded. This is the education that Swamiji wanted. And this is the education we must get – which will help us face our problems and challenges.

In this context, let me tell you an interesting story. One scholar was travelling in a boat with many passengers. The scholar asked the boatman, ‘Do you know Bhagavad Gita?’ The boatman was a simpleton. He said “No sir, I am foolish and poor, I only row the boat. I don’t know anything about the Bhagavad Gita”. The scholar said 1/4th of your life has gone waste if you don’t know anything about the Bhagavad Gita!
After a while the scholar asked the boatman again, ‘You may not know the Bhagavad Gita. But you must be knowing the Patanjali Yoga Sutras?’ The boatman said: “Sir, don’t embarrass me! I have never even heard of Patanjali Yoga Sutras. What are they! I am a poor man and I row the boat.” The scholar said ½ your life has gone waste if you don’t know the Patanjali Yoga Sutras!

After a while the scholar asked the boatman again, ‘Do you know the Upanishads?’ The boatman said: “I don’t know the Upanishads, but I know upanyas (novels). I have heard of the Upanishads for the first time from you!” The scholar said, ‘You don’t know the Upanishads also? Now 3/4th of your life is wasted!’ The boatman said, ‘What can I do sir!’

Suddenly a strong storm arose with winds and rain. The boat was rocking up and down. Everyone was scared. The boatman asked the scholar, ‘Sir, the boat is going to sink. Do you know how to swim?’ The scholar said, ‘I don’t know how to swim!’ The boatman said, ‘You said 3/4th of my life is lost. Now that the boat is sinking, your entire life will be lost!’

What is the moral of this story? Our education should be such with which we become capable in facing the problems of life. If any problem or challenge poses itself to us, we should be able to face it. Life is a struggle. If education does not provide us the capability to face it, then that education is of no use. Swamiji called this man-making and character building education. He emphasized on such education.

All of you are still young – not quite mature. When you become more mature, and discharge duties and responsibilities, then you will understand what is character, and the value of strength of character. Today you may laugh at it and ask what is the relevance of values and character to us. We have to pass our examinations, get good placement somewhere, earn money and enjoy life. Why worry about all this!

Yes, you have to do that. You have to earn money for your livelihood. However, Swamiji said that money does not produce man, but man produces money. “Aye, whoever saw money make the man? It is man that always makes money. The whole world has been made by the energy of man, by the power of enthusiasm, by the power of faith.” This you have to understand.

Swamiji emphasized on character and said if there is no character, there is nothing. All of you must be knowing the English proverb: “if wealth is lost nothing is lost, if health is lost something is lost and if character is lost, everything is lost!” Swamiji said that character is such a thing “that can cleave through adamantine walls of difficulties”.

It is character that builds a man – not the tailor or the clothes he makes!
Character is the quality that bring splendor to our life. Character is the quality that gives us internal power and inner strength. That is character. In this context, I would like to tell you about an incident:

Swamiji went to America to address the Parliament of Religions at Chicago. After that he became very famous. He stayed in America for more than 4 years. One morning Swamiji was walking on the streets of New York. He had worn the ochre robe of a monastic with a turban. Some Americans were observing this gentleman with the peculiar dress – not wearing a suit and necktie! He looked very uncivilized to them, and they thought he must be from some uncivilized country. Out of curiosity they went and spoke to Swamiji – ‘you are looking very uncivilized with this peculiar dress. You seem to be coming from some uncivilized country’.
Swamiji gave a very befitting reply – ‘yes, I come from India. And I am very proud to be an Indian.’Today’s youth go abroad, and when asked where they are from, they don’t say very spontaneously, but with some hesitation that they are from India. But Swamiji was very proud of Indian culture and heritage. So he replied with pride that he was an Indian. He said: ‘ours is a great country. Our culture and heritage is very old and rich. I come from such a country.’

In those days India had not yet declined as it has today. It was excellent in all fields. You are a student of science and management. Do you know who invented the digit ‘zero’. Not an American nor a German nor a Frenchman. It was discovered by the great Indian mathematician Aryabhatta.

Not only that, you’ll study management. Have you heard of Chanakya and his theory of management. Today we are copying management theories from western nations. It is a shame! Earlier people thought that the American system of management was very good. Later they realized it was not that good. Then they tried to accept Japanese concept of management. They found that also to be inadequate. Now people are going to accept the Indian/ Vedantic concept of management. It is coming slowly. It will take some time.

So, since Swamiji was proud of being an Indian, he tells them – ‘in America and Europe, the tailor and clothes make a person great and civilized. In our country, the tailor and clothes don’t make a man great and civilized. It is character that makes a person great and civilized.

What a wonderful idea!

*Part 2 of the talk in next month’s newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *