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Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda was born in 1863 in Calcutta in an affluent family. While studying in Calcutta University, he acquired deep interest and mastery in Western Philosophy and History. For some time, Swami Vivekananda was associated with Brahmo Movement. Since early years, he suffered spiritual crisis and had doubts about existence of God. Swami Vivekananda met Ramakrishna at the Kali temple in Dakshineshwar, and straightway asked him if he has seen God. Although the same question he had asked from many others but did not get a satisfactory answer. Ramakrishna replied “Yes. I have. I see him as clearly as I see you”. This was beginning of a Guru-Disciple relationship between the two.

Under Ramakrishna’s guidance, Vivekananda made rapid spiritual progress. After demise of Ramakrishna, he formed a monastic brotherhood with other disciples of the Guru and started upon the mission of spreading gospel of his master. In 1890, he set out on a long journey of exploration and discovery of India. During his long travels, he was deeply moved by the appalling poverty and backwards of the public. Swami vivekanand was first religious leader to understand and openly declare that real cause of India’s downfall was neglect of India’s masses. He said that there was an immediate need to provide food and other basic necessities of life to them by spreading knowledge of improved methods of farming, promotion of village industries and other such activities.

Vivekananda believed that due to centuries of oppression, the downtrodden masses had lost self confidence. This could be restored through a life giving inspiring message. This message was found by him in the principle of Atma i.e. the doctrine of potential divinity of soul, as taught in Vedanta. Thus, for him, apart Vedanta could teach the masses life giving message. Further, the people also needed worldly knowledge to improve their economic condition. As per him, education is the means of providing both forms of knowledge viz. spiritual and worldly.

While travelling, he heard about the World Parliament of Religions to be held in Chicago in 1893. He attended that parliament and his speech over there made him famous as an orator of divine rights and a messenger of Indian wisdom to the Western world. He spent nearly four years in America and then returned to India in 1897. He delivered a series of lectures in different part of the country and attempted to arouse the religious consciousness and pride in heritage among Indians. He also aimed to bring about unification of Hinduism by pointing out the common elements of various sects.

In 1897, he founded Ramakrishna Mission to enable monks and lay people to jointly undertake his mission of propagation of practical aspects of Vedanta.

Ideas of Swami Vivekananda regarding moral values and character building education

World Peace, Religion and Brotherhood

Following the footsteps of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Vivekananda believed in the unity and equality of all religions. Swami Vivekananda loved humanity and wanted the world leaders to promote peace which is vital for the humanity. Each race has a part to play in this divine harmony of nations. Each race has its mission to perform its duty to fulfil. The sum total is the great harmony.

  • No civilisation can grow unless fanaticism, bloodshed, and brutality stop.
  • No civilisation can begin to lift up its head until we look charitably upon one another; and the first step towards that much-needed charity is to look charitably upon the religious convictions of others.
  • Even more, to understand that not only should we be charitable, but positively helpful to each other, however different our religious ideas and convictions may be.
  • To him, a Universal religion must balance the aspects of religion. He elaborates as “And this religion is attained by what we, in India, call Yoga, a union.
  • To the worker, it is union between men and the whole of humanity,
  • To the mystic, between his lower and Higher Self,
  • To the lover, union between himself and the God of Love,
  • To the philosopher, it is the union of ail existence.

This is what is meant by Yoga, and the aim of yoga is union, realisation of oneness. Therefore, there was no room for so-called conversion from one religion to another.  “If you are born a Muslim, be a good Muslim and if you are born a Hindu, be a good Hindu“. Islam, according to him, had gone further than any other religion in translating the Vedanta concept of unity of Mankind. Once anyone became a believer in Islam, he was socially equal to even the Caliph of Turkey. In a letter to hit friend, Sarfaraz Khan, Vivekananda wrote: “How I wish to have in my India an Islamic body with a Vedantic head“.

Vivekananda gave spiritual relevance and social relevance to monasticism to the life of a normal householder. Sanyasis led a secluded life to get salvation. It was Vivekananda who made monk’s mission to alleviate the, sufferings of fellow human beings. He was a great opponent of ritualism and priestly tyranny. In his opinion, the so-called Hindu religion had degenerated into empty rituals centring on what he called “don’t touchism or religion of the kitchen”. Referring to the Upanishads he said that for so many centuries, we had the fountain of Amrita at our back and yet we ignored it and gave ditch water to the people as religion.

Swami Vivekananda views on Education

Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man. Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and run riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character building assimilations of life. The education that does not help the common masses to and that doesn’t bring out strength of character, and the courage of a lion—is not worth the name.

The end and aim of all training is to make the man grow; The training, by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful, is called education.

What our country now wants are muscles of iron and nerves of steel, gigantic wills which nothing can resist, which can penetrate into the mysteries and secrets of the universe and will accomplish their purpose in any fashion, even if it meant going down to the bottom of the ocean and meeting death face to face.

He adds that “We want that Education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s feet.

Education of the Masses

He said that his heart aches to think of the condition of the poor and low in India. They sink lower and lower every day. Our great national sin is the neglect of the masses and that is the cause of our downfall.  A nation is advanced in proportion as education and intelligence spread among the masses.

If we are to rise again, we shall have to do it by spreading education among the masses. He also said that the only service to be done for our lower classes is to live them education to develop their individuality. They are to be given ideas. Their eyes are to be opened to what is going on in die world around them, and then they will work out their own salvation.

 Swami Vivekananda on concept of personality

To quote swami Vivekananda, The science of Yoga claims that it has discovered the laws which develop this personality and by proper attention to those laws and methods, each one can grow and strengthen his personality. Yoga is a holistic approach to life. Yoga in administration can bring perfection and responsiveness. This is one of the great practical things and this is the secret of all education. This has a universal application in the life of the householder, in the life of the poor, the rich, the man of business. Swami Vivekananda says that they are laws, very fine, which are behind the physical laws, That is to say, there are no such realities as a physical world, a menial world, a spiritual world. Whatever is, is one. It is a soil of tapering existence, the thickest pad is here, it tapers and becomes; liner and finer; the lines is what we call spirit; the grossest, the body. And just as it is here, in the microcosm, it is exactly the same in the macrocosm. This universe of ours is exactly like that; it is the gross external thickness, and it tapers into something finer and finer until it becomes God.

Swami Vivekananda harmonised the conflict among the different attitudes. So says he: “Every man must develop according to his own nature. As every science has its methods so has every religion. The methods of attaining the end of religion are called Yoga by us and the different forms of Yoga we teach, are adapted to the different natures and temperaments of man. We classify them in the following way, under four heads:

  • Karma yoga: The manner in which a man realises his own divinity through works and duty.
  • Bhakti-yoga: The realisation of the divinity through devotion to, and love of, a Personal God.
  • Raja-Yoga: The realisation of the divinity through the control of mind.
  • Jnana-Yoga: The realisation of a man’s own divinity through knowledge.

The Potential Divinity of Soul

One of the novel and unique ideas of Vivekananda was the concept of ‘potential divinity of the soul’ and it is relevant still today. In the present age of humanism, scientific progress has greatly improved human material wellbeing. The communications revolution made the world a ‘global village’. But there has also been moral decay as evidenced in the great increase in broken homes, immorality, violence and crime. Vivekananda’s concept of potential divinity of the soul prevents this degradation, divinizes human relationships, and makes life meaningful and worth living. He is thus, also known as founder of ‘spiritual humanism’.

Important Quotations of Swami Vivekananda

  • “So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who having been educated at their expense pays not the least heed to them.”
  • Whatever you think, that you will be. If you think yourselves weak, weak you will be; if you think yourselves strong, strong you will be.
  • If you have faith in all the three hundred and thirty millions of your mythological gods…..and still have no faith in yourselves, there is no salvation for you. Have faith in yourselves, and stand up on that faith and be strong; that is what we need.
  • Arise! Awake! and stop not until the goal is reached.
  • You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.
  • In a conflict between the heart and the brain, follow your heart.
  • “Neither seek nor avoid, take what comes.”
  • “Comfort is no test of truth. Truth is often far from being comfortable.
  • “The fire that warms us can also consume us; it is not the fault of the fire.”
  • “Ask nothing; want nothing in return. Give what you have to give; it will come back to you, but do not think of that now.”
  • “Do one thing at a Time, and while doing it put your whole Soul into it to the exclusion of all else.”
  • The older I grow, the more everything seems to me to lie in manliness. This is my new Gospel.
  • Purity, patience, and perseverance are the three essentials to success, and above all, love.
  • Religion is realization; not talk, not doctrine, nor theories, however beautiful they may be. It is being and becoming, not hearing or acknowledging; it is the whole soul becoming changed into what it believes.
  • Religion is the manifestation of the Divinity already in man.
  • Teach yourselves, teach everyone his real nature, call upon the sleeping soul and see how it awakes. Power will come, glory will come, goodness will come, purity will come, and everything that is excellent will come when this sleeping soul is roused to self-conscious activity.
  • They alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.
  • This is the gist of all worship – to be pure and to do good to others. ,

Vivekananda is among the greatest Hindu saints. He fused Hindu Vedantic ideals with Western scientific and humanistic thought. He worked against the tendency of Hindus to devote themselves to exclusive sects and doctrines. He reminded Indians of their glorious traditions. He popularized Vedanta philosophy in the West. Above all, he reminded people of the need to help the masses submerged in poverty and ignorance.

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