Life and work of Swami Vivekananda

Swami Sarvalokananda addressing Rotarians in Mumbai. 

Swami Vivekananda’s message is life giving and strengthening

Today not only India but the whole world needs the life giving, strengthening, character building, nation building and man-making message of Swami Vivekananda. Swamiji time and again said that ‘Each soul is potentially divine’. He said that you are divine, that is why infinite power, strength, so much of goodness and immense possibilities lie within you. You can do anything and everything. Don’t think of yourself as weak. He said “Weakness is death and Strength is life”.

Now-a-days we talk about positive and negative energy and positive thinking and negative thinking. Swamiji spoke about these. He said think yourself as great and strong. This is positive thinking. To think yourself as weak is negative energy and emotion. Swamiji was very positive in his approach.

Once the great Noble laureate of France – Romain Roland wrote to the great poet Rabindranath Tagore that he wants to know India – its culture, civilization, traditions. Rabindranath Tagore wrote in one line – “If you want to know India, study Swami Vivekananda. Everything in him is positive, nothing negative.”

Swamiji was a monk – a spiritual leader, and he always wanted the spiritual welfare of mankind. But at the same time he wanted the material prosperity of India in particular. When Swamiji was traveling as a wandering monk in India, not as a simple tourist, he traveled the length and breadth of India to know about India and its problems. Swamiji was very pained to see the hapless condition of India in those days – 150 years ago. He realized that India was once great in the past. In all fields – science, technology, arts, commerce, trade, literature, dance and music. In the Vedic age India was even greater in science and technology than it is today. For example, the base of the mathematics – the digit ‘0’ was not discovered by an American or German. It was discovered by our great Mathematician – Ayrabhatta. Please read the book “Incredible India” in that you will find so many things – you will be really surprised and astonished how great India was in the past.

Swami Vivekananda’s concern for the country
He realized that in the present India’s condition was hapless – millions of people dying of starvation, no education, illiteracy, poverty and so on. With this pain in his heart, he reached the tip of India at Kanyakumari. He sat on the rock. What was the subject of his meditation? It was not Gods and Goddesses, or Mother Kanyakumari! It is surprising that being a monk the subject was not any Gods or Goddesses, but was India, India, and India – the past India, the present India, and the future India. He asked what was the cause of the downfall of India in the present? He realized in his meditation that the cause of India’s degeneration were 3 main factors:

One factor is exploitation, oppression, suppression by the rich or the higher. Second is the neglect of women. And third is that the religion in India was not practiced properly in true spirit. Even today you can see a lot of bloodshed, genocide, violence, mass-killing etc. in the name of religion. Due to this, India had degraded so much! However at the same time in his meditation he realized that the India will rise again in such a way that the future India will fade away the glory of the past.

He realized who will raise the country. So he said Uttishtha Jagratia… arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached. Arise, awake, dedicate yourself – for the regeneration and development of India.

That is why I say that it is really surprising that being a monk he said – throw away the Gods and Goddesses for the coming 50 years. Now dedicate yourself for the regeneration of India. He was so concerned about the development and prosperity of India.

Sister Nivedita – one of his lady disciples – watched Swami Vivekananda very closely. She said that in Swamiji was India, India, India, India – how to awaken India, how to raise India, how to make India great was his only concern. So he gave a clarion call to the masses – it is not time for sleeping. Get up and dedicate yourself for the regeneration of India.

Swami Vivekananda was invited to give a speech in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Everyone knows that in his opening session of the lecture, Swami Vivekananda became very popular, famous and great overnight. He was put up in a very palatial building with great luxury and comfort. But Swamiji couldn’t sleep. He spent many sleepless nights in spite of so much of comfort and luxury because he realized that in the West – especially in America, there is so much of prosperity, luxury, comforts. But in my country India, thousands of people are starving. They don’t have even a square meal. They are full of illiteracy and poverty. Swami Vivekananda was very pained and couldn’t sleep on the comfortable cot. He used to lie down on the floor of the room and shed tears when thinking of the hapless condition of India. The pillow cover would get wet!

This was Swamiji’s concern for India.

Though he was a monk, he was also very concerned about bringing Science & Technology to our country. When he was in Europe and America, he realized that without proper Science & Technology, a country cannot rise materially.

Swami Vivekananda inspired manufacturing, science and technology in the country
I will tell you one incident about when Swamiji was traveling on a ship to go to Chicago. Jamshedji Tata was also traveling on the same ship going to Japan. Two great personalities: one –  the great spiritual personality Swami Vivekananda, and the other – a great industrialist of India. When they started talking, Jameshedji Tata was very impressed by Swamiji. Swamiji asked Jamshedji where he was going. He said he was going to Japan to import some machinery. Swamiji told Jamshedji that his decision to import machinery from Japan was not wise. He asked him why he doesn’t start an industry for manufacturing that machinery in India. If he would start that, many unemployed youth would get employment and Indian money will remain in India. He also encouraged Jamshedji Tata to start a research center for industry.

Inspired by Swamiji’s advice, after 2-3 years, Jameshedji Tata started the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru. Today it is very renowned in India. Jamshedji Tata then wrote in a letter to Swamiji that he was very encouraged and inspired by the conversation with Swamiji’s on the ship, and that he has now started this research institute in Bengaluru.

Swami Vivekananda’s call for ‘men’ of character in building the country
Now-a-days we talk about the development of India. Don’t judge India by the cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata or Bengaluru. Go to the village and you will find the real picture of India after nearly 70 years of independence. You cross the city of Mumbai and got towards the Western side, you will see the tribals starving. There is no electricity, no medical facility, no education! We realize now that even after nearly 70 years of independence, India could not reach the target of success. India has made some development and progress in some fields. However it has to still rise.

You can see Swami Vivekananda’s question – where are the men – where are the leaders. He would say “Men, men are wanted”. What kind of men? Not the corrupt men, but men of character, integrity, strength is what Swamiji wanted. Swamiji said that with a few men of integrity and character, I can revolutionize the whole world. So he would put emphasis on character and man-making education.

Character is such a wonderful thing. It has tremendous power. Swamiji said once – character has such power that it can cleave through the adamantine walls of difficulties. If you have character, you can face any difficulties in your life. So character is very important. There is a very famous proverb –“If wealth is lost nothing is lost, If health is lost something is lost, if character is lost everything is lost”. So Swami Vivekananda used to put emphasis on character.

Swami Vivekananda and servant leadership
We talk about leadership. Swamiji believed in servant leadership. With effective leadership you can change the whole scenario – you can bring about a transformation. So effective leadership is very important. According to Swami Vivekananda, servant leadership can bring transformation in various fields. It is becoming popular in India and other countries. What is servant leadership? Swamiji said – if you want to become a leader, first become a servant. दासस्य दास – servant of servants. Then you can become a true leader.

Not only that, Swamiji used to quote Guru Nanak – सिरदार तो सरदार. You have to sacrifice your head. Only then you can become a sardar! (Sardar means leader). It doesn’t mean you have to cut your head! Swamiji is saying that if one truly wants to become an effective leader, one must sacrifice ego, vanity, selfishness and jealousy. Then one can become a true leader. And that is called servant leadership.

Swami Vivekananda was the ideal positivist. He would talk about positive thinking all the time. You will never find in his life anything negative.

The synthesis of science and spirituality according to Swami Vivekananda
We talk about science & spirituality. What is the great contribution of Swami Vivekananda towards this synthesis? It is not true that spirituality is not based on science, reasoning or any kind of investigation. Spirituality or religion is very verified and verifiable, and is based on scientific truths. Physical scientists do experiments and research in the material field. Spiritual scientists do research in the realm of the spirit. Both are scientists, the field of research and experiment are different. Ultimately both scientists will reach the same goal.

Right now it seems like their goals are different. It will take time when physical and spiritual scientists will meet the same goal.

According to Swami Vivekananda, religion and spirituality is not just blind faith. It is also a science. When Swami Vivekananda was a young boy, he went to his Guru – Sri Ramakrishna and asked “Sir have you seen God?”. Sri Ramakrishna said: ‘Yes I have seen God. Not only have I seen him, if necessary I can show you also.’This is the language of science. What does science do? They can do some experiments and demonstrate it to the others.

Swami Vivekananda’s call to service
Again, Swami Vivekananda said that India will arise in such a way that it will fade away the glory of the past. We are all hoping that India will emerge in 2020 as the strongest, vibrant nation – economically strong. It may not happen by 2020, but it is true that in some years, it will definitely rise again. It is already rising in many ways. Once Swamiji has said it, it will surely happen because Swamiji is a Rishi, and a Rishi’s words cannot go in vain. They will come true today or tomorrow.

Swamiji believed not only in the spiritual welfare of mankind, but also in material prosperity. He wanted spiritual and material welfare to go side by side. That is why the motto of Ramakrishna Mission is “Atmano Mokshartham, Jagad Hitaya Cha”. What is the meaning of this – for one’s own evolution, and for the good of the world. By doing good to others, you will get mukti – liberation.

The motto of Rotary Club is also – Service above self. This is selfless service to mankind. This is what Swamiji said in other words – that service to man is service to God. That is why he said – where do you seek God? In the Chruch, Synagogue, Temple? God is standing before you in the forms of the diseased, the poor, the illiterate. Try to serve them if you have an opportunity. This is selfless service – service above the self – Nishkama Karma.

Swami Vivekananda said we have to serve the country unselfishly. He said – unselfishness is life, selfishness is death!

Swami Vivekananda’s writings
As a wandering monk in India, he realized that all Maharajas, rich people are not doing anything for the development of India. simply enjoying. He once wrote a letter to the Maharaja of Mysore (after he had been a guest of the Maharaj for a few days). In the beautiful letter in the beginning he says “My noble prince, This life is short, the vanities of the world are transient, but they alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive”. How Swami Vivekananda used to inspire people!

He passed away at the age of 39 and a few months. Why did he die so early? He used to lecture every day 3-4 lectures in a day when he was in America and Europe. You will find a book “Lectures from Colombo to Almora” with lectures that he gave after he came back to India. He used to keep inspiring people all the time – do something for your motherland. If you read the “Lectures from Colombo to Almora” you cannot imagine how you will be charged with new ideas for doing something for your country, your society!

The other book is the ‘Letters of Swami Vivekananda’. These letters have fire that will enter into anybodys heart. When Romain Rolland read Swami Vivekananda’s book, he said when I read his book, I felt that an electric shock was entering into my body and mind. The words were so powerful, piercing, and penetrating.

Swami Vivekananda was not just a spiritual leader. His contribution to India’s freedom and the regeneration of India is immense. Many of you may not know that. You may only know that he went to the Parliament of Religions, delivered lectures, addressed the audience as ‘Sisters and Brothers’, and there was a clap for 5 minutes. Another huge dimension we do not know! So we must read his life and message.

Swami Vivekananda’s message of Universal Truth & your true nature
One message is very relevant. You may feel that Swamiji not relevant in the modern context. But it is always relevant. It is more relevant today than before. Because whatever he spoke is Universal Truth. And Universal Truth is always relevant. It is beyond time and space.

What is this Universal Truth? You must understand what is your real identity. That is the Universal Truth. There are actually two identities. One is worldly – material identity and the second is the spiritual identity. All of us know about the material identity – I am so & so, my name is so & so, I am working in some corporate/ business house/ doing some business, my id is some dot.com!

Dear friends, according to Indian philosophy, according to the universal truth, your real identity is not yahoo or gmail.com. It is something else. Most of us do not know that. We are not simply a biologically conditioned entity, but beyond that. Our spiritual scientists have discovered it and the greatest discovery on this earth is that human beings are not made of bones, blood and flesh. Human beings have another identity/ entity beyond this physical body-mind complex (as is mentioned in the scriptures). What is that? Our spiritual scientists have discovered that it is ‘Shivoham Shivoham, Chidananda Rupah…” I am Shiva. I am Chidananda rupah. That is my identity – my real nature – everybody’s real nature. But due to ignorance we do not know it.

There is a famous story of the lion and sheep. A lioness attacked a group of sheep. The lioness died and the baby lion lived with the sheep. He started eating grass and bleating like them. The baby lion forgot his identity – that he is a lion. One day another lion came and attacked the same group of sheep. That lion saw that that baby lion was with the sheep and wondered what happened. He was bleating and eating grass!

The senior lion went to the baby and told him – are you afraid of me? I am also a lion and so are you. The baby said I am a sheep. Senior said you are not sheep and dragged him to the water and showed him his reflection. You are not sheep, you are a lion and you look like me.

Similarly we also do not know our identity. We have forgotten that we are not only the physical body made only of flesh and blood and bones and conditioned biological entities. Your real nature is that you are Atama, Brahman. You are all pervasive. Nobody can destroy you – nobody can do any harm to you.

That is why you find in the Bhagavad Gita the wonderful teachings of Sri Krishna to Arjuna. He ask Arjuna at the beginning of the battle – why are you nervous and dejected like an ordinary person. But he was not ordinary. He was a great warrior of his time. Yet his bow slipped from his hand. What is the reason? Because he felt how can I kill my seniors – they are my Guru, my grandfather, etc. If I kill them I will incur sin. A man like Arujna – who has never seen defeat in his life – says he will not fight in the battle field though he came with all energy and enthusiasm to fight his Kaurava cousins.This was because Arjuna did not realize the real nature of human beings.

So Bhagavan Sri Krishna tells him you feel you will kill your relatives. How can you kill them? You will not. Their real nature is not the physical body. You can only kill the body but in reality you cannot kill them. That is why in the second chapter, he starts his teaching describing the glory of Atman and Brahman – the real identity of the human being.

Spreading this message to mankind is the great contribution of Swami Vivekananda. If you start believing this message, inner strength will come to you. Today we are lacking that inner strength. There are two kinds of strengths – external and internal. Externally you may be very strong – you have name, fame, degrees, money etc. but internally you may be very weak. When problems and challenges come, you cannot face them with only external strength. You have to face them with your internal strength. When you are internally growing then you will be able to face any kind of problem or challenges. Not otherwise.

Take Swami Vivekananda as your guide, and practice true spirituality
So take Swami Vivekananda as a friend, philosopher and guide, and the new architect of new India which will rise again – more glorious than it has been in the past. So Swami Vivekananda’s great contribution for the new India is immense! Read him, get strength, you will be inspired and there will be transformation. Now-a-days everybody wants to practice spirituality. But most of us do not know what it is – not only in India but in the West also – a kind of trend has come that everyone wants to become spiritual. What is this spirituality? Just to sit in the corner of the temple and do some practices for 5-6 minutes? Or to offer some fruits or sweets to the deity in the temple? The real meaning of spirituality is the transformation of the inner being. If you really practice spirituality an inner transformation will come. Your greed, jealousy, hatred, all negative emotions will go away. You will slowly grow as a spiritual person – without any selfishness, hatred, jealousy.

I conclude with these few words. सर्वेभवन्तुसुखिना, सर्वेसन्तुनिर्माया।Let all be happy, let all be healthy!

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