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. 


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. 

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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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

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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.

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