Thursday, 3 August 2017

Agnishikha Bhagini Nivedita

Shivo Bhutva Shivam Yajet

When Swami Vivekananda went to the west, he was there without friends, without money and without recognition. Only the knowledge and experience of Hindu Dharma was with him. After his exposition of Hindu Dharma in the Parliament of Religions held in September 1983 at Chicago, he was revered in the West for his knowledge and help came from all quarters, the disciples gathered from all directions. Thus when he returned to India, he was a world-famous Swami Vivekananda; the western disciples were with him. This visual had a great psychological impact on people of India. They could feel and their confidence grew in the greatness and relevance of Hindu Dharma. Epitome of this efficacy and relevance of Hindu Dharma and of the work of Swami Vivekananda in the West was Sister Nivedita.
Margaret Noble as Nivedita was called before was from the very race, which had robbed India of her wealth as well as of her confidence. But Nivedita came to India to live like us, to serve us and also to practice all that was higher and noble in our spiritual tradition. She could see beauty and wisdom in all walks of Indian life.

How could a proud and an accomplished British woman see the beauty of Indian life? She had to undergo a painful process of transformation. Margaret Noble came to India to serve Indians after she was totally convinced about the Vedantic Truth of Oneness. After the Consecration ceremony, she was given the name ‘Nivedita’ – ‘the dedicated’.  But just a new name was not going to erase all the assumptions and biases that she had cherished till then as Margaret Noble. Swami Vivekananda in his classes attacked mercilessly her deep rooted perceptions and misconceptions.

Imagine! Swamiji was the only person who was known to her in this vast and strange land and he appeared so harsh. The anguish that Nivedita felt was very great. But not once a thought of returning back or doubting the wisdom of her decision of accepting Swami Vivekananda as her guru came to her mind. Her only concern was ‘whether ever I shall understand what my master is trying to tell me’. Her sincerity of purpose and utmost efforts ultimately transformed her completely. She became one with India to serve in total surrender. It is said that to truly offer worship to Siva you have to be Siva. ‘Sivo Bhutva Sivam Yajet’. Nivedita so to say became one with Mother India. She understood India in all her dimensions and loved Indians with all their faults. 

Not only all modes of worship, but equally all modes of work, struggle, creation, become paths of realization 

It is this total transformation of Nivedita which is a great example for Macaulay Educated Indians. If a proud and accomplished British woman can burn to ashes all her prejudices, misconceptions and her western mind-set and if with total paradigm shift she could become a true Indian, a great admirer, worshiper and servant of Mother India, then why not we? We the Macaulay educated can also burn to ashes completely all our preconceptions and ignorance and become true Indians. When she could get insight into the depths of Indian wisdom why not we? When one wants to serve Motherland one has to change oneself so as to become the right instrument in the hands of God.  Sister Nivedita is thus an inspiration for all those who want to serve our society. 

Nivedita was so one with the people, their aspirations that her life, her actions, her words reflected that oneness which she experienced. She always said our people, our country. We see many a times that those who go to ‘serve’ the people in villages and in tribal areas with the sense that they are going to ‘civilise’ and to ‘develop’ these people use words like ‘this society’, ‘these people’. They force their ideas and world-views on those simple people. This is what Swami Vivekananda did not want to happen with his foreign disciples. He wanted them to accept India as she was; he wanted them to learn from India. Sister Nivedita internalized it so fully that Bipin Chandra Pal said, “Nivedita came to us not as a teacher but as a learner, not as an adept but as a novice and she loved India more than even we Indians love her.”  

She inculcated and internalized the Vedantic vision so well that she wrote, ‘If the many and the One be indeed the same Reality, then it is not all modes of worship alone, but equally all modes of work, all modes of struggle, all modes of creation, which are paths of realisation. No distinction, henceforth, between sacred and secular. To labour is to pray. To conquer is to renounce. Life is itself religion. To have and to hold is as stern a trust as to quit and to avoid.’ 

That is what she imbibed from Swami Vivekananda. Thus she wrote about him, “This is the 
realisation which makes Vivekananda the great preacher of Karma, not as divorced from, but as expressing Jnana and Bhakti. To him, the workshop, the study, the farmyard, and the field are as true and fit scenes for the meeting of God with man as the cell of the monk or the door of the temple. To him, there is no difference between service of man and worship of God, between manliness and faith, between true righteousness and spirituality. All his words, from one point of view, read as a commentary upon this central conviction. "Art, science, and religion", he said once, "are but three different ways of expressing a single truth. But in order to understand this we must have the theory of Advaita." (Volume I Page xiv to xvi) For Nivedita Vedanta became practical. Her spirituality thus expressed in her contributions to all walks of life. 

It appears that the legacy of fire that was within Swami Vivekananda was given to Sister Nivedita. The flames of burning love for India in Sister Nivedita were so great that Sri Aurobindo called her Agnishikha – the flames of fire. No field of national life was left untouched by her fire. Her topmost concern was the well-being of India and the awakening of Indian national consciousness whatever may be the field of action.  

Education should be not only national but nation making

In the field of Education, Nivedita wanted, “Indian educators to extend and fulfill the vision of Swami Vivekananda”. How would it be done? She explained, “This thought that education is not only good for child himself but should be more so for Jana-Desh-Dharma should always be present in the minds of educators. There is no fear of weakness and selfishness for one whose whole training has been formed round this nucleus. Each day should begin with some conscious act of reference to it. Education in India today has to be not only national but Nation-making. We must surround our children with the thought of their nation and their country. …The centre of gravity must lie for them outside the family. We must demand their sacrifices for India; Bhakti for India; learning for India. The ideal for its own sake! India for the sake of India! This must be as the breath of life to them.

…It is a mistake to think that heroes are born. Nothing of the sort. They are made not born; made by the pressure of heroic thought. All human beings long at bottom of their heart for self sacrifice. No other thirst is so deep as this. Let us recognize this direct this towards single thought ie love for the country. …The universe is the creation of mind not matter. And can any force in the world resist a single thought held with intensity by 700 million of people? …How to do that? A national education then must be made up of familiar elements. Our Imagination must be based upon our heroic literature. Geographical ideals must be built up first through the ideals of India. Same is for history. All other histories should run around the Indian History.” The school that Nivedita run for the girls enshrined all these thoughts so well that when Sri Rabindranath Tagore wanted to start Shantiniketan, most of the lady-teachers were the former students of Nivedita’s school.

Greatness of Indian life depends on the place given to Women in social scheme

Sister Nivedita was so charmed by the womanhood of India among whom she lived in the lanes of Calcutta that her description about them are the best tribute. She says, “What differentiates the Indian training from others? I find one answer which outweighs all others in my estimate. It is this. The special greatness of Indian life and character depends more than on any other feature, on the place that is given to Woman in the social scheme. 

They say that Indian women are ignorant and oppressed. To all who make this statement we may answer that Indian women are certainly not oppressed. The crimes of ill-treating women is at once less common and less brutal in form here than in younger countries. And the happiness, the social importance, and may I say, the lofty character of Indian women are amongst the grandest possessions of the national life.

When we come to the charge that Indian women are ignorant, we meet with a far deeper fallacy. They are ignorant in the modern form, that is to say, few can write, and not very many can read. Are they then illiterate? If so, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and the Puranas and stories every mother and every grand-mother tells to the babies, are no literature. But European novels and Strand Magazine by the same token are? Can any of us accept this paradox?

The fact is, writing is not culture though it is an occasional result of culture. The greatest literature occurs at the beginning of a literary age and so, to those who know Indian life, it is easy to see that an Indian woman who has the education of the Indian home, the dignity, the gentleness, the cleanliness, the thrift, the religious training, the culture of mind and heart, which that home life entails, though she cannot perhaps read a word of her own language, much less sign her name, may be infinitely better educated in every true sense, and in the literary sense also, than her glib critic.” 

Dream the dreams great enough and thoughts noble enough 

Writings of Sister Nivedita were a symphony of her insight in Indian wisdom and tradition, her intense love for India, her sharp intellect and her mastery over language. So beautiful, deep and moving were her writings that it is really difficult to translate those in other languages. May be that is the reason that most of her literature even today remains un-translated. Her literature has not only historical and literary value but are good guide in the task of nation-building too. 

For example: while comparing with other nations she sums up in few words the journey and contribution of Hindu Nation from antiquity to till now. She writes, “Let it be said that to every people who possess the elements of truly national existence, with the responsibility of facing the problems of a nation, this question sooner or later comes to be faced. Have we in the past dreamt dreams great enough, thought thoughts noble enough, willed with a will clear enough, to enable us to strike out new paths into the untried, without error and without defeat? And perhaps of all the peoples of the world only the Hindu people, to this searching enquiry can answer yes”. 

She was a regular contributor to over 20 magazines and the topic always was India. Therefore, not just because Sister Nivedita was a great example of transformation but we have to study her life and works also because, even today she can give insight to us - the English educated -about our own nation and its significance. 

The love of country and its people and hope for future will bring in such a  tide of art, science and religion that no man can stop

While she helped the country bent under the burden of sorrow whether during plagues or floods or freedom struggle, she lived completely merged in the essence of its freedom one day to come. Thus, she wanted the cultural assertion, the national expression in all walks of life. She stated, ‘The birth of the National Art of India is my dearest dream.’  She disliked the art students imitating the European subjects in their art. When India has such rich culture and history of art she felt why should Indian artists imitate Europeans styles and subjects. She exhorted and inspired the young artists like Avanindranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose to choose India as their topic for expression. She would perceive the beauty of old houses of Bagh Bazar, and ruined temples but detested the modern utilitarian buildings built in India. 

In the field of science, she felt Indians have great ability to contribute. When the British scientists tried to sideline Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bose, she realized that Indians were not incapable but were incapacitated by British to achieve great heights. She came forward to help Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bose. To make his work known to the world she worked along with him on his six books. Even though, she herself would be suffering for want of money; she saw to it that the work of Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bose would not suffer monetarily.  When the revolutionaries would go to jail or in exile to other countries, she would take care of their families. Not a field of national life was left untouched by her.

Nivedita captured the fire of patriotism set alight by Swamiji and took it to all fields

As it was required, Sister Nivedita actively participated and promoted the freedom movement. For that she had to resign from Ramakrishna Mission. Ramakrishna Mission -the fledgling organization to propagate the message of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda was needed for India. And participation of Sister Nivedita in freedom movement and her active role in awakening national consciousness also was equally the need of the hour in the interest of India. Thus to protect Ramakrishna Mission and to promote the work of freedom of India, she resigned from Ramakrishna Mission. But, their relationships remained very cordial till end. 

Nivedita considered herself as part of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda thought movement. Whenever she was sick, she was immediately attended to by Ramakrishna Math. In her work too the help was given by Ramakrishna Math and Mission in all possible ways. When she realized she would not live, in her will she donated all the money that she had got from Mrs. Bull just some time before her own death or from her books to Ramakrishna Mission as an endowment for the use of Sister Christine Greenstidel to run the school; though Christine had left her. Bitterness had no place in her heart. She associated with persons whom she thought would be useful in India’s interest. But she would also disassociate herself from them if she found it otherwise. For anything and everything in her life, the deciding touchstone was India and her well-being.

One of the foremost revolutionary freedom fighter, Sri Hemachandra Ghosh’s reminiscence about Swami Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita narrated to Swami Purnatmananda were later translated from Bengali to English by Prof Kapila Chatterjee and brought out as a book titled as “I am India”. In that he says, “It is very true that it was Nivedita who captured the fire of patriotism set alight by Vivekananda. She not only caught that flame, she also scattered the sparks of Indian patriotism and nationalism far and wide, across the length and breadth of India. Wherever Nivedita went, in any city or province of India, her flaming speeches and heroic calls to the Indian people spread the message of Swamiji, his ideals, his patriotism. Side by side, she spread the ideals, the culture, the glory of India, too. To speak frankly, we got to know Swami Vivekananda better through coming in contact with Sister Nivedita. I was with Swamiji for a very short time. But, I have been with Nivedita for a much longer period. Through Nivedita, we got to know Swamiji better and through her India also better. …What I feel about Nivedita is – Sister Nivedita played two important roles in spreading the message and deeds of Vivekananda – one was the role of Mahadeva, the other, that of Bhagiratha. She absorbed the terrific force and power of Vivekananda in her own person, and at the same time she carried the mighty current of that force and directed it along proper channels like Bhagiratha”.

Her deep love for India was expressed in all walks of life –politics, education, art, literature, sociology, spirituality etc. A spiritual person is all dimensional. That is how Sister Nivedita was. She was a revolutionary, she was a Yogini too. She was an educationist and she was an art critic too. She was a writer and she was involved in rendering service to the people also, be at flood time or plague time. She was at once a child at the feet of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and also a Lokmata to all as she was called by Rabindranath Tagore and above all she was Sister of all. 

Swami Vivekananda had said, “O you of great fortune! I too believe that India will awake again if anyone could love with all his heart the people of the country -- bereft of the grace of affluence, of blasted fortune, their discretion totally lost, downtrodden, ever - starved, quarrelsome, and envious.” Sister Nivedita was a person of that great fortune! She loved India and Indians with all their faults. 150th Birth Anniversary of Sister Nivedita is a good occasion to study and understand her life and work. May her life make us love our motherland and our people! May her life give us an insight in our own country and inspiration to work for Mother India!  

Nivedita Raghunath Bhide
Vice-President

 Subscribe Online     or      Get Online eMagazine

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Society plays Geriatricks

Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.
                                              -Pearl S. Buck

By the year 2050 India will have the largest population of elderly people in the world, according to a projection based on the census taken in the year 2011.  Being a welfare state, our governments are taking all possible steps to ensure that the elderly are treated well and taken care off. Maintenance and Welfare of Senior Citizens and Parents Act 2007 is just a step towards that ideal. In 2014 the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment submitted its report, recommending the following:

Implementation of Existing Policies, i.e.:
- Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007,
- Setting up a helpline for senior citizens,
- Establishing a National Commission for Senior Citizens, and
- Establishing a National Trust for the Aged
Apart from these the Standing Committee in its report also recommended the formulation of new policies and laws for the welfare of senior citizens. Some of the recommendations made with this regard were:

- A comprehensive law on social security
- Pensions, health insurance and tax exemption schemes
- National Council for senior citizens
- Expansion of old age homes and geriatric facilities
- Formulation of standard norms and guidelines for old age homes

With the increase in life expectancy rates the elderly population across the world has increased and continues to. In India it is expected that by 2050, 20 per cent of entire population would consist of elderly people (60 and above). All the above recommendations appear to be on the right track, but the question which still remains elusive is whether these steps will ensure that the elderly are respected, loved and taken care off instead of being deserted by their own children. As a welfare state, our country has to ensure the welfare of elderly people, but at the same time we should also do an inquiry into the cause of this malaise. One main reason for the poor plight of elderly in our society is weaning away from the age old joint family system. Orphanages and Old age homes are something which are never heard off in our society before the advent of the colonial rulers. The colonial rulers saw that the strength of our society lies in the family system and they systematically planned to corrode this system which is the repository of all values. When people drifted from the Joint family system to the nuclear families the immediate victims are the elderly ones in the family. The most loved and revered ones became a liability over a period of time because in the nuclear family the economic burden is not shared. Parents have to shuttle between the houses of their children and many of them lost a permanent home. They lost their emotional connect with their next generation and were left to ponder when they will get relieved of this painful existence. A society which placed Mata and Pita in a higher pedestal than even the God himself, is now frantically searching for ideal old age homes to dump its parents. This fall is the direct result of getting alienated from our values. Schools nowadays teach children life skills like, how to face an interview, how to take part in a group discussion, how to address people, building their vocabulary etc. these skills are very important and vital for anyone who wants to come up in life braving all the challenges. But along with these if the children are also taught the most important values like empathy, sharing, sacrifice, honesty, respect to fellow human beings, love towards nature etc. that will not only ensure that they imbibe good qualities but will also pave way for society sans Orphanages and Old age homes. Major role in designing an ideal future society lies in the hands of present day parents. If they fail to impart values to their children then they will emerge only as educated zombies. They should make their children realize that life is not just about rights to enjoy, but a lot more about responsibilities and duties to fulfill.  Ideal society is not the one where there are adequate number of Old age homes with all the facilities, but the one which does not have the need to build Old age homes.
V.V.Balasubramanian
YB-ET

 Subscribe Online     or      Get Online eMagazine

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Being Happy…

Every human being’s ultimate aim in life is to be happy. It is towards this ever eluding happiness all human endeavors are aimed at. Our Work, Business, Politics, Recreation everything is intended to provide this Happiness, not only to us, but also to all those who are around us. When the whole world is trying to reach this Mirage called Happiness, our country has devised its own unique approach to be Happy always. It’s a product of our very ancient Vedic Cultural Heritage, its Yoga. Yoga, as popularly misunderstood, is not mere Asanas and Breathing practices. Yoga is wonderful science, which uses our Body and Mind as a tool to get liberated from the very same Body and Mind complex.

Our scriptures say that we are embodiment of happiness. But to realize this, which is the core of our personality, we have to get detached from bondages. We will be able to see that the entire creation is divine once we get ourselves detached from our bondages. Seeing the entire creation as one is the path to the abode of Happiness. Swami Vivekananda said, “Religion is not in Doctrines, in Dogmas, nor in intellectual argumentation; it is being and becoming, it is Realisation”.

Yoga helps us to get this vairagya, which is essential for getting the detachment. If we cling on to the lower truths, our spiritual quest can never become true. Then happiness will forever be a dream to be achieved. In fact we cling on to the bondages because we think that they are the sources of happiness. We also misunderstand that happiness means enjoyment. And try to pursue Happiness through enjoyment. But how do we pursue happiness effectively? After all, some recent scientific research actually cautions us against the pursuit of happiness. For instance, a study led by Iris Mauss, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, found that people instructed to feel happier while watching a pleasant film clip actually ended up feeling worse than people who were instructed just to watch the clip. Findings like this are echoed in the popular press. Renowned Writer Ruth Whippman wrote in a recent New York Times article that the pursuit of happiness is a “recipe for neurosis.” But then is happiness a dream which can never be achieved? Are we doomed to fail at the pursuit of happiness? It depends. The difference between effectively and ineffectively pursuing happiness may all be in how we go about it. Research suggests that people who strive to feel happy all of the time may suffer disappointment, and people who pursue happiness as if it were the only thing that matters may, ironically, chase happiness away. It’s because we search happiness in material beings and forget the real source of happiness.

But in yogic lore Santhosha which is the term many people misconstrue for happiness actually means contentment. It is not about enjoying or possessing valuables but being content with what life has given to you. If our mind is tuned with the help of yoga to get this santhosha then as a natural progression we will be able to get Ananda, the real happiness.

We, as a society, once gave this unending elixir of happiness to the humanity. Now, once again it is our responsibility to remind the world and also us, that the search for happiness can end with realizing that Ananda, which comes through proper understanding and practice of this wonderful Vedic technique called Yoga.
V.V.Balasubramanian

YB-ET


 Subscribe Online     or      Get Online eMagazine

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Choke them…

Another ambush, another round of condemnations, another reprisal will not see the end of the Naxal menace in our country, the tribal areas of which have become the hotbeds of secessionist activity. If the country has to see a lasting solution to these kinds of insurgent attacks, then it has to carry out combing operations not just in the Naxal infested tribal areas but also in the varsities known to be the breeding centres for these anti-national ideologies and activities. Maoists have long before captured many of the vantage positions in varsities like JNU and media where they continue their hoodwinking and influencing neutral minds without any check. These positions not only give them access to many young and fresh minds to be brainwashed, but also provide them their sustenance from the very state which they want to liquidate.  It is these breeding centres which incite innocent youngsters into fight against the Indian state. It is these breeding centres which with their contrived tales about our Ithihasas and Puranas, denigrate Hinduism, as they view it as their prime enemy. They foist tales to make Goddess Durga  as a scheming, fair-skinned, upper-caste woman who seduced a dark-skinned Dalit Mahishasura into defeat in a concocted festival that was named Mahishasur Shahadat Divas (Mahishasur Martyrdom Day). The unregistered union DSU does not only call for an armed rebellion against the Indian State. It also incites Dalit students for a civil war as much as it provokes the people of regions affected by Maoist terror. A poster it pasted prominently on the walls of some JNU hostels in 2015 reads: “Build a militant resistance against the mounting atrocities on Dalits.”


Maoist sympathizers and recruiters have time and again participated in programs conducted inside the JNU campus to instigate the student community to fight against the state. The administration of the varsities have turned a blind eye to all these kinds of unlawful and anti-national activities goes to prove our suspicion that this foreign funded menace has taken deep roots in our society. Many people think that the Maoist attacks are an uprising of the poor tribal against the rich political class who exploit them. But it is far from the truth. The poor tribal are forced to take up arms against the state by the Maoists. Maoists are against any development happening in the Tribal areas, as they want to stall the progress of our country. So they goad the villagers that their livelihood is being usurped by the development projects, but in reality it actually helps them in their livelihood. They want the tribal people to remain in their present miserable plight, so that they can continue their anti-national agenda by exploiting them. When the Maoists ask a villager to join their forces the villager has no other choice. Millions of tribal who doesn’t want to side with these anti-nationals have got displaced because of that in the last decade. Not many are fighting out of their own volition. If they refuse they will either be displaced or disposed. Fearing this many of the villagers join these Maoist insurgents. It is led by those who got infected by the Maoist plague in varsities like JNU. So choking the fountain head of this degenerate ideology is of utmost importance. All student bodies which identify themselves with the Maoist ideology should be banned and all the funding from foreign bodies to these varsities should be scrutinized and banned if needed. Those who eulogize people like Yakub Memon should be dealt with a stern hand. Along with the combing operations in the Naxal infested areas, these actions are also to be initiated to stop this menace from further bleeding our Nation.


V.V.Balasubramanian

YB-ET


 Subscribe Online     or      Get Online eMagazine

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

A Motion uncalled for…

The Canadian parliament passed a motion recently which curbs criticism of Islam as a religion. The anti-Islamophobia motion is also referred as the M-103 motion. It got a overwhelming majority of 201 votes in support against 91 who opposed it. This follows the weak kneed approach towards the refugees issue by many of the European countries. When the entire world is calling for a concerted action against the fundamentalist ideologies which threaten the humanity to its brink, this retrograde move comes as a shocker to the international community. This only emphasizes the fact that politicians are of the same ilk, wherever they are, acting against the interests of the humanity. Instead of safeguarding the victims they are siding with the aggressors, the kind of Dhimmitude, towards which all the aggressions are intended. 

Compare this with the plight which Hinduism faces in its birthplace. All sort of adverse inferences are cast against the country’s major religion by the so called liberal free speech votaries. This continues day in and day out, in all spheres and this goes very much unchallenged. In fact a similar motion is needed in our country, not to bar the criticisms, but only to save the much maligned religion, Hinduism from biased mudslinging. The oldest civilsation, is actually in a brittle condition due to continued smear campaign.

Years of exposure to this cesspool of lies have benumbed the general population of our country that they seldom react to such innuendos. Hence, a lie repeated several thousand times gets an exalted position equivalent to truth. Recently a report came about the maligning of Hindu gods in the text books for the fifth standard children, studying in kerala. There was no media discussion about that and as expected the social ramification in response to that report was an often experienced deafening silence. Thus these misdemeanors by the zealots go unabated with the support of media and the powers that be. Even in case  when any rare voice of assertion is raised amidst the stupor in which our society is drenched in, the liberals and the secular media will shout it down from the roof to ensure that such calls for real freedom of speech gets suppressed in the howling raised by them. Remember the noise raised when the name of a road in New Delhi was changed from Aurangazeb to Abdul Kalam? Though both were Muslims, Abdul Kalam was a nationalist and naming a road after him was much to the annoyance of the liberals, that too changing it from their favorite Bigot.  This kind of calumny has been going on in our nation for the last several decades without any opposition. But with the new changing world order a glimmer of light is seen at the far end of the tunnel.  Let our hopes become true, for the sake of Humanity.
V.V.Balasubramanian
YB-ET


 Subscribe Online     or      Get Online eMagazine