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Nature of India's Contribution to the World
Swami Vivekananda's Views

The major contribution of India, in the world to day, would be in the sphere of spirituality. In the global division of labour this work has come to her lot and it is our duty to discharge this responsibility with sincerity and honesty. One hundred years back, Swami Vivekananda had said:

"Here in this blessed land, the foundation, the backbone, the life-centre is religion and religion alone. Let others talk of politics, of glory of acquisition of immense wealth poured in by trade, of the power and spread of commercialism, of the glorious fountain of physical liberty; but these the Hindu mind does not understand and does not want to understand. Touch him on spirituality, on religion, on God, on the soul, on the Infinite, on spiritual freedom, and I assure you, the lowest peasant in India is better informed on these subjects than many a so-called philosopher in other lands... We have yet something to teach to the world. This the very reason, the raison d'Ítre, that this nation has lived on, in spite of hundreds of years of persecution, in spite of nearly a thousand years of foreign rule and foreign oppression. This nation still lives; the raison d'Ítre is, it still holds to God, to the treasure house of religion and spirituality."

And lest we confuse the ideas of God, religion, and spirituality with our narrow cynical vision, the following words of Swami Vivekananda should make us feel at ease and give confidence. While defining religion and its true form, Swami Vivekananda said:

"Religion is the manifestation of the Divinity already in man."

"Religion is the idea which is raising the brute unto man, and man unto God."

"Try to be pure and unselfish -that is the whole of religion."

"Each soul is potentially divine. Religion is to manifest this Divinity within, by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy... and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines and dogmas, rituals and forms, books and temples are but secondary details."

After his triumphant return from the West (1897), Swami Vivekananda was accorded rousing welcome all over the country - from Colombo to Almora to Lahore. His replies to the welcome addresses form the substance and the essence of his message to his fellow countrymen. He firmly believed that the only thing of substance that India could give to the world community was spirituality; not politics, not military power, not sociology nor technology. True religion formed the backbone of Indian culture and ethos, and if that were broken it would cause immense loss to India as well as to world civilization. He maintained that, for the humanity to survive and progress, it was essential that the teachings of the Upanishads must be re-established in India, and thence in the whole world. Vedanta philosophy had the potential to become the basis for universal religion. Swami Vivekananda saw the modern society 'as almost borne down, half-killed, and degraded by political ambitions and social scheming.' The remedy he suggested was 'renunciation and service'. These twin ideals form the central theme of his message to bring back the hidden spirituality of a soul to the surface. He was optimistic and confident as far as Indian contribution to the revival of spirituality in the world was concerned.

This spread of spirituality depends on our understanding the science of values and the necessity to become selfless. 'Be and make', this is the key to spread the message and make the world better place to live in for us and for the generations to come. Swami Vivekananda had experienced these spiritual truths in his life, and hence could proclaim that every soul is potentially divine and religion consists of manifesting this divinity in every aspect of one's life. That every person should be able to put the teachings of Vedanta in practice was the sole purpose of Swami Vivekananda's message. He was against mere theoretical considerations, as he said: "One ounce of practice is worth twenty thousand tons of big talk."

He saw that this ideal was gradually getting diluted under the barbaric onslaught of combined materialism and science devoid of spiritual content. He was afraid that India might lose the ideal of Vedanta -of realizing inner Divinity- as the goal of life. Therefore, the revival of Indian masses by education and knowledge, both secular and spiritual, was uppermost in his mind. Swamiji's plan for educating the masses, emancipation of women, removing the 'blot of untouchability', etc. are a few examples of his love for the Motherland. One hundred years back he could see and pinpoint the social evils afflicting India, and in turn the whole world, and gave solutions for those problems, which we are trying to tackle today.

Our every action must revive and manifest sleeping divinity in us, and thereby all around, he maintained. He knew that the Upanishads are the storehouse of strength, and that the values and truths mentioned therein are eternal and lasting. He had full faith in those teachings. He did not see such wonderful glory of Eternal Dharma in the world outside, not even in the USA or in the UK. Therefore, he poignantly praised the motherland and pleaded with the Indians to carry on the tradition of spirituality of Vedanta.

"In this effort if the death comes welcome it," he said. "If one feels that this ship -national ship- which has ferried millions of souls across the waters of life to the shore of blessedness; if this ship appears to be leaking, appears to be damaged, take blame on yourself. Plug the holes with your brains and blood and keep the national ship afloat. I am come now to sit in your midst and if we are to sink let us sink together; but never let a curse rise to our lip."

Behind all his (Swami Vivekananda's) patriotism, deep down there was the spiritual motive. For him India was synonymous with the spirit of religion. 'If India is to die,' he had said, 'religion might be wiped off from the face of the earth, and with it the Truth.' He did not want to see India as a replica of a Western country. His dream of future India was that of material prosperity along with spiritual revival, with which she would extend the hand of peace and blessedness to all peoples of the world.
c s shah
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