Thursday, 28 December 2017

Swami Vivekananda and his path

India owes in a great measure to the wisdom given by Swami Vivekananda and the path shown by him. Likewise in equal measure the western society also is indebted to Swami Vivekananda. Prior to the emergence of Swamiji the impression that west had about India was that it is land of snake charmers and poor mendicants. An eminent Englishman described the Hindu religion as ‘idolatry with all rabble of impure deities, its monsters of wood and stone, its false principles and corrupt practices and its lying legends and fraudulent impositions.’ You can imagine the state of mind of west from which Swamiji has transformed it. When Swamiji spoke at the world parliament of religions at Chicago, it was reemergence of Vedic Indian wisdom which swept the western world. They got a better and proper understanding of the Oriental Philosophy and Culture.   Swami Ranganathananda, a great saint himself and Former president of the Ramakrishna Mission says that, ‘Swami Vivekananda is the one person who stands as a golden link between India and the western world, and who promises to be such a link between India and the rest of the world as well.’ He further says, ‘the west will one day learn to feel proud of this Emissary of modern India and learn from him the philosophy of comprehensive spirituality and total life fulfillment and the way to its own redemption from a soul killing materialism.’  

As the present society veers away from the social and spiritual message of Swami Vivekananda, the message becomes more and more relevant. Arnold Toynbee the distinguished Historian said, ‘It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation is the ancient Hindu way. Here we have the attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together in to a single family.’ The Vedantic wisdom clearly stands as the antidote for the evils that plague the modern society. Swami Vivekananda who took this wisdom to the doorsteps of the western world stands as the modern day messiah.

V.V.Balasubramanian
YB-ET

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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Swami Vivekananda: Very Special, Very Relevant…


The essence of India is its spirituality. Each and every century in India’s calendar has its own great seers and saints of that age. While spiritual  personalities are dime a dozen in this land of mystic charm, it requires more than some revelations and miracles, for a person to be revered and followed even after 100 years of his death. Every Guru and Saint is unique in his own way. But there is something which makes Swami Vivekananda special and very relevant even today. To know that we must know about the circumstances in which Swami Vivekananda grew up. Our nation was reeling under extreme poverty and hunger during the period in which he was born. Between 1850 and 1899, India suffered 24 major famines, a number higher than in any other recorded 50-year period, resulting in millions of deaths. Three years after his birth India suffered one of the worst famines ever. Nearly 10 million people died in Odisha alone during that famine. Bengal saw around 1.5 lakh people perish during that time because of that famine. Seeing all these sufferings of the poor around him impacted Narendranath Dutta, which later evolved into his wonderful exposition of Practical Vedanta when he became Swami Vivekananda. This also led Swami Vivekananda to lay more emphasis on social service. Swamiji was never interested in a world negating spirituality. He was one who didn’t want to disconnect himself from the sufferings seen around, in the guise of spirituality. 

Swamiji thought that it is a sin to preach religion to a man when he is suffering from hunger. He said,”I do not believe in a god who cannot give me bread here, giving me eternal bliss in heaven! Pooh! India is to be raised, the poor are to be fed, education is to be spread, and the evil priestcraft is to be removed”.  He insisted that, So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every person a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them!”.  So, for swami Vivekananda spirituality is not some elitist otherworldly idea, but a synchronization of that wonderful Realisation with the reality around us. He believed and rightly so, that the misery of our countrymen can be wiped off only with this kind of synchronization. 

With this undercurrent Swami Vivekananda went to the rock on December 25th 1892. He sat there on meditation for 3 days in order to find his life’s mission. He meditated on India’s past, present and future. During that meditation he got the vision that he should work for the resurgence of Dharma, which alone will make India come out of its pathetic situation and become great once again. It is this resolve and the work pursued thereafter which makes him special and very relevant. Not stopping with himself Swami Vivekananda created a monastic order which trains people for this onerous job of selfless service, and in the last hundred years many great monks have emerged from that Institution. This speaks volumes of his intense desire to awaken his Motherland from the slumber of ignorance. Swami Ranganadananda, another illuminating soul who got moulded in the Institution started by Swamiji feels that,failure of having this synchronization led to the social decadence and loss of political freedom. He says that, “We failed to stress this whole gamut of social virtues and graces, and to impart the relevant secular education which is the source of them. Instead we stressed an other-worldly excellence with its passive virtues, with inaction as its watchword; we failed to understand that social welfare comes from an activist ethics in the context of interaction with other members in society. The result was that we failed to achieve the more attainable ideals of character, work-efficiency, public spirit, and general well-being, while equally failing to achieve the high ideal of mukti and the virtues and graces associated with so great an ideal. The high spiritual inaction of the mukti path and ideal became deformed into laziness, inertia, and human unconcern, along with a type of worldliness, or “a piety-fringed worldliness” as I prefer to call it, more harmful than the worldliness of the modern Western type, which has at least character-efficiency and human concern to enrich it”. 

Those 3 days of meditation which paved way for India’s Freedom and awakening is celebrated as “Samarth Bharath parva”. A period to remind ourselves about the Great Monk, about the need to dedicate ourselves for the still unfinished work of social regeneration. Swamiji’s Vedanta starts with our self-purification through selfless service. When this purification happens, the detachment, which is a prerequisite for liberating ourselves from the bondages, will happen. It is not a detachment from this world, but being in this world by working to alleviate the miseries of poor and at the same time doing it as a sadhana, which is the essence of karma Yoga.

V.V.Balasubramanian
YB-ET

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Friday, 3 November 2017

To Rise up or not…

Last year Supreme Court had ordered cinemas across the country to play the National anthem before film screenings to encourage citizens to “feel this is my country and this is my motherland”. But this October they have reversed their stand by asking whether National anthem should be played in a place like Cinema theatre where the chances of National anthem getting disrespected is more. The sudden ‘U’ turn by the Apex court is surprising, but the excitement with which the so called liberals have welcomed this question is not a surprise though.  Debate shows are filled up by left weaning ‘scholars’ who repeatedly ask whether it is necessary for anyone to wear their patriotism on their sleeves. It was first said by Asaduddin Owaisi, a leader from the Hyderabad based Political party, and later echoed by all other ‘liberals’.

At this point we will have to remember the fact that this practice of playing National anthem in the Cinema theatres was first introduced after the 1962 India-China war. The whole of India was reeling under the sagging spirit after the terrible defeat in the war. Those were the times when we needed a succor of high national fervor. So the Government at that time decided that playing National anthem in Cinema halls, would instill that fervor. That practice was discontinued decades later because the generation which was ignorant of all these history, was not respecting the National anthem.  Later, while passing orders on a public interest litigation, On 30 November 2016, the Supreme Court said that the National Anthem must be played in public theaters across the country before a movie, without any dramatization. It also ordered that the national flag be shown on screen when the anthem is being played. The Supreme Court ruling invited sharp criticism, with many asking if patriotism can be forced upon citizens. Some critics pointed out the order was likely to embolden right wing groups pushing a strident brand of nationalism aimed at curbing dissent, while others said it raises questions on an individual's fundamental rights. It was under these circumstances the Supreme Court has given the above mentioned observations now. 

The majority in this country are not ruffled neither by the order to play nor by the order to stop playing the Anthem. But the people who orchestrate the protests in the name of liberalism are the ones who worry them. These are people who owe allegiance to ‘faiths’ and ‘isms’ which have committed pogroms and mass murders in the past. The leftists, for whom the term nationalism is a very bitter one, will conveniently hide the fact that people in china are convicted for disrespecting their National Anthem. And it is these people and their apologists who have filled up all the vantage positions in our country. Academia, literary field, cinema, arts and all other positions which will influence the public mind are held by these forces. So when these forces raise their voice against our National anthem, it is a matter of concern.  Students and academics who do not have a leftist bent of mind are being regularly victimsed by these comrades in their campuses. Any attempt to instill patriotic fervor among our people will be resisted by these groups as they dream of a pan national empire of their own ‘faiths’ and ‘isms’. 

These forces know very well that the purport of singing our National anthem or our National song is to raise the dormant spiritual energy which binds us together. It is exactly for that reason they oppose it. Let us  remember Swami  Vivekananda, who said,” For our national welfare, we must first seek out at the present day all the spiritual forces of the race, as was done in days of yore and will be done in times to come. National union in India must be a gathering up of its scattered spiritual forces. A nation in India must be a union of those whose hearts beat to the same spiritual tune”.

Patriotism is not just an emotional feeling. It is an expression of our solidarity and gratitude towards our hoary tradition which has given us our precious wisdom. This nation is a repository of that collective wisdom. Patriotism is a way by which we show our gratefulness to all those who have done immense sacrifice for the sake of protecting this Nation. Patriotism is an expression of harmony by the people, who otherwise have a lot of diversity. It is a way to show our camaraderie towards our fellow countrymen and instill the sense of belonging in all.   Patriotism is not an anti-thesis to humanism.  In fact it is the step which will lead us to that utopian ideal. 

V.V.Balasubramanian
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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

A feminist in the right sense.

We are naturally suspicious of all the ideas and people coming from the west. Though it is wrong to generalize and judge anything or anybody with a preconceived mind, there is also reason for this suspicion and hesitation. We have a history laden with treacherous bullies from west, who were bent on subduing us through crooked ideas. So when Sister Nivedita wanted to come over to India and serve her, Swami Vivekananda, had doubts whether she will be accepted wholeheartedly by our society. When Sister Nivedita came to India, Swami Vivekananda was a bit anxious how to make a place for her in Hindu society. But Holy Mother Saradama accommodated her in her own room. This made things easy for Swami Vivekananda as that action melted all the resistance which Swamiji perceived. That was a bold decision by Holy mother because that was a time when our society was sunk deep in its conservative attitudes. What we see in Sister Nivedita is all the reflections of the dynamism which holy Mother had in herself. 

Sister Nivedita’s view about Indian Womanhood was shaped by Holy Mother.  The exaltation of Motherhood is the bedrock of the Indian social structure. The west has idealized the wife, but India has exalted the Mother. It is this aspect of motherhood which was transmuted to Sister Nivedita by her Great Master and Holy Mother. She realized the high ideals of purity and chastity that lay unfathomed in the profound structure of the Hindu society. She took it as her duty to spread this light to the west in all matters with regard to India. She painted the immaculate purity of Sita, the undying fidelity of Savitri, the stead fast will of Parvati. The immortal women of India were painted with on a rich Oriental Tapestry, to remain as ideals for all the future generations. They have become sentinels directing womanhood in its march towards purity and perfection through Sister Nivedita’s pen. 

The modern day feminists, who believe that aping the maledom is all that which makes way for liberation,  should take a cue from her life.  An Indian woman modelled herself in the mould of Sita, will stand out as a thoroughly integrated, full-fledged and complete woman. Sister Nivedita’s love for this land was coupled with such ideals which this land fostered for ages. The ideals which made Motherhood, the axis around which the family, and its extension, the society spun. If we fail to exalt the Motherhood, we will also fail to see the Mother as the consciousness and force of the Divine. Both are inter related. 
V.V.Balasubramanian
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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

A String theory of our own…

Universal brotherhood is treating the entire creation as one with his own self.
It is a concept which makes you think that the whole world is just one big family.
Show empathy towards everyone and every being.
It is a notion which beckons peace and harmony for the entire Humanity.

If that’s the case one may wonder why even after advancing so much on the technological front, we have lot of reservation in embracing the idea of Universal Brotherhood. It maybe because of our instinct which often prevails over our intellect. We humans to defeat the idea of the ‘survival of the fittest’ have evolved this wonderful phenomena called civilization. Civilization is where people come together as families, families come together as communities, communities come together to merge as the society and all these without losing their own unique diverse identities, form a harmonious civilized whole. 

But after evolving and advancing as a civilized society, we still grope for that smaller identity from where we started. For example: When we visit another country, we will be happy if we see our countrymen. When we visit another state within our country we will be happy to converse with someone from our own state, if we are in our own state, then we will search for someone from our own locality. This will further shrink to our own caste till it reaches our family. It may be an insecured feeling which is at the root of this vain search. But this search for the lesser identity defeats the very idea of civilization. Our Indian society has long before unearthed a remedy for this insecured search, which is our Dharma. Dharma extols us to feel the entire creation as not just divine but one with our own self. Ishavasyam Idam Sarvam is a call to feel that oneness. It is the same Dharmic vision of oneness which made Swami Vivekananda give his clarion call to the Humanity during his epoch making address at the World parliament of religions at Chicago in 1893.

From team building efforts of a sports unit or an organization, to the efforts to instill patriotism among fellow countrymen are all similar to this vision. But they have a limitation. They cannot transcend from their frontiers. This Dharmic vision of oneness is different from them as it transcends all barriers. It is a call to feel the entire creation as your own family, Vasudaiva kudumbakam. By making us realize that the entire creation is divine, it allows a seamless transition to the higher self from the lower one. This Ishavasyam Idam Sarvam, the vision to feel the divinity, to feel the oneness, is the string which attaches and carries all the lower identities without any sway. 
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