Tuesday, 1 January 2019

January 2018

Vivekananda Jayanti is the festival for us to be celebrated at the grandest scale in Kendra. Since few years we celebrate this as the culmination of Samartha Bharat Parva which is from 25 December - the day Swami Vivekananda meditated on the Rock - till 12 January, the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. As we prepare ourselves to commemorate 50 years of Vivekananda Rock Memorial in 2020 and 50 years of Vivekananda Kendra in 2022, we have to make this festival purposeful and grand so that it prepares us for the celebration.

Swami Vivekananda preached and talked all the time about ‘Strength’ as the essence of his message. Swami Vivekananda Jayanti festival should therefore be celebrated in such a way that the society feels strengthened because of the awakening of its Self-confidence. This is what Swami Vivekananda did in his life for India. His participation in the Parliament of Religions at Chicago and the enormous respect for Vedanta, which he aroused in the West, awakened the self-confidence of our country. India realized that she had a message to deliver to the world, and a destiny to fulfill for which she has to prepare and equip herself.

Swami Vivekananda was the first person who went to the West and presented India from the Indian perspective. When he did it, he could change the very point of reference for the West to evaluate us. The West that derided India as a backward and Jungli country (incidentally, in India we do not associate Jungle with backwardness but with spirituality and contemplation as Aranyakas, a part of Veda; Vanaprasthashram; and the abode of Rishis in the forest indicate) suddenly woke up to the fact of her life-giving wisdom. After Swamiji’s participation in the Parliament of Religions in 1893 at Chicago, the leading newspaper ‘The New York Herald’ wrote. “He is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation.” (The Life – II)
Till then, we were only told about how uncivilized we were, but it was Swami Vivekananda who told us how great India had been in the past. He asked us to build on our strength. He made us aware that we belong to a country, which is unique, with a great past and a still greater future awaiting her. He made us aware of India’s contribution to the world. The debt, which the world owes to our Motherland, is immense. He said: ‘As I look back upon the history of my country, I do not find in the whole world another country which has done quite so much for the improvement of the human mind. Therefore, I have no words of condemnation for my nation. I tell them, “you have done well; only try to do better..” (C.W.III.195)

‘The same holds good with respect to sciences. India has given to antiquity the earliest scientific physicians, and, according to Sir William Hunter, she has even contributed to modern medical science by the discovery of various chemicals and by teaching you how to reform mis-shapen ears and noses. Even more it has done in mathematics, for algebra, geometry, astronomy, and the triumph of modern science-mixed mathematics-were all invented in India, just so much as the ten numerals, the very cornerstone of all present civilization, were discovered in India, and are in reality, Sanskrit words.

‘In philosophy we are even now head and shoulders above any other nation, as Schopenhauer, the great German philosopher has confessed. In music India gave the world her system of notation, with the seven cardinal notes and the diatonic scale….In philology, our Sanskrit language is now universally acknowledged to be the foundation of all European languages…(C.W.II.511-512)
‘In literature, our epics and poems and dramas rank as high as those of any language; our ‘Shaguntala (Shakuntala) was summarized by Germany’s greatest poet, as ‘heaven and earth united.’ India has given to the world the fables of Aesop, which were copied by Aesop from an old Sanskrit book; it has given the Arabian Nights, yes, even the story of Cinderella and the Bean Stalks. In manufacture, India was the first to make cotton and purple (dye), it was proficient in all works of jewellery, and the very word sugar as well as the article itself, is the product of India. Lastly she has invented the game of chess and the cards and the dice. So great in fact, was the superiority of India in every respect that it drew to her borders the hungry cohorts of Europe, and thereby indirectly brought about the discovery of America. (C.W.III.511-512)
‘And I challenge anybody to show one single period of her national life when India was lacking in spiritual giants, capable of moving the world. But her work is spiritual, and that cannot be done with blasts of war-trumpets or the march of cohorts. Her influence has fallen upon the world like that of the gentle dew, unheard and scarcely marked, yet bringing into bloom the fairest flowers of the earth’ (C.W.IV.315). Thus he elaborately dealt with the achievements of India in the past. But he was not a prisoner of the past. He believed that the future of India is going to be more glorious than the past as she has a mission to accomplish. He said, “This is the theme of Indian life-work, the burden of her eternal songs, the backbone of her existence, the foundation of her being, the reason d’être of her very existence – the spiritualization of the human race.” (C.W.IV.314-315)   

The confidence generated due to the message of Swami Vivekananda resulted in the numerous social, national and religious and spiritual movements. Samartha Bharat Parva is to be celebrated by organizing exhibitions, camps, and lectures for the college youth to take this message of inherent strength and the purpose of India to them. This confidence in turn will motivate them to work in an organised way for the upliftment of India. So the message that goes through the whole program of Samartha Bharat Parva culminating in the celebrations of Swami Vivekananda Jayanti should be the one of India’s destiny and the task we have to do for it. The burning love that Swami Vivekananda had for this motherland should be the central theme of the celebration. The awakening of the confidence and pride in India can be its main thrust. When one is proud of one’s motherland and conscious of the great future then surely a great power would get generated. With such efforts by all the mission of India to evolve an Ideal Social Order for the good of the world can be achieved.

Message of Swami Vivekananda in short was - Wake up Bharat to your inner strength and enlighten the world in the path of spirituality. He had said in his lecture “The Mission of Vedanta”, “There are times in the history of a man's life, nay, in the history of the lives of nations, when a sort of world - weariness becomes painfully predominant. It seems that such a tide of world - weariness has come upon the Western world. There, too, they have their thinkers, great men; and they are already finding out that this race after gold and power is all vanity of vanities; many, nay, most of the cultured men and women there, are already weary of this competition, this struggle, this brutality of their commercial civilisation, and they are looking forward towards something better. There is a class which still clings on to political and social changes as the only panacea for the evils in Europe, but among the great thinkers there, other ideals are growing. They have found out that no amount of political or social manipulation of human conditions can cure the evils of life. It is a change of the soul itself for the better that alone will cure the evils of life. No amount of force, or government, or legislative cruelty will change the conditions of a race, but it is spiritual culture and ethical culture alone that can change wrong racial tendencies for the better. Thus these races of the West are eager for some new thought, for some new philosophy… The thoughtful men of the West find in our ancient philosophy, especially in the Vedanta, the new impulse of thought they are seeking, the very spiritual food and drink for which they are hungering and thirsting. And it is no wonder that this is so.”  

Swami Vivekananda thus exhorted India, “Up India! Conquer the world with your spirituality!” To this task Swami Vivekananda wanted all to create the centers all over the country where Omkar would be enshrined. It means we have to steadily hasten to increase number of our branches. Vivekananda Jayanti is a good occasion to reach out to many new persons and expand our work. The focus should be by associating how many new persons we celebrate Vivekananda Jayanti every year. If only same team of Karyakartas is functioning then the work would not expand. Efforts should be taken to have the large media coverage for the function. Special supplements in the newspapers on Swami Vivekananda and his life-giving message to our motherland could also be attempted. Swami Vivekananda is a magical word. It creates resonance of love for India in every Indian heart.  His words have a great transforming power whereby youth can be helped to shape the future of India. Therefore, the celebration of Swami Vivekananda Jayanti should become an occasion when the name and message of Swamiji is taken to the maximum number of people and good number of new samparkit Karyakarta are motivated to become part of organizing team in the celebration. 

The program also should be such that it captivates the minds of all those who attend it. Swami Vivekananda was confident about the innate capacity of the youth to respond to the heroic call.  He said, “My faith is in the younger generation, modern generation, out of them will come my workers. They will work out the whole problems like lions. I have formulated the idea and have given my life to it.  If I do not achieve success, some better one will come after me to work it out, and I shall be content to struggle” (C.W.V.223). Therefore, Swami Vivekananda Jayanti is declared by the Government of India as the National Youth Day. That helps us also to go to as many colleges as possible. We can train teams of our youth karyakartas with various programs on Swami Vivekananda like – Geet, pathanatya, a short speech, recitation of his inspiring quotations, quiz etc. These teams can go to various colleges for celebrating the Swami Vivekananda Jayanti as a National Youth Day.  Thus, apart from a grand public program that we should strive for we can also have the programs in various colleges too, taking the name and message of Swami Vivekananda to as many as possible. 
If it is possible, the branch centers can think of about the following way of celebrating Samartha Bharat Parva and Vivekananda Jayanti keeping in mind the coming celebrations. We know that Vivekananda Rock Memorial built at mid-sea Rock at Kanyakumari is the result of the excellent and focused samparka that Eknathji undertook cutting across all differences and diversities. That is how Eknathji experienced that beyond all regional, political, sectarian colours the love and respect for Swami Vivekananda was common ground where all came together and saw to it that a Grand Memorial for Swami Vivekananda got built on the mid-sea rock at Kanyakumari. Thus, when we look forward to celebrate the 50 years of Vivekananda Rock Memorial we too can reach out to as many people as possible. Next year is the preparation for wide Samparka Abhiyan that we would take up for the commemoration of 50 years of Vivekananda Rock Memorial. From that point of view, it can be thought of as to how to organize the celebration of Samartha Bharat Parva so that we get in contact with persons from different fields this year. And then with the help of them we can make lists of Samparka to be done in your region, in various segments of society, at various levels like all India level, pranta level, vibhag level and nagar level. 

Secondly, the celebration of 50 years of Vivekananda Kendra also would be more an organizational celebration by consolidating and expanding our work. Thus, each Nagar Sthan and Karyasthan should develop one more branch of Kendra each with the help of Vibhag Samiti and Pranta Samiti. Already many branches have decided in which place they would develop one more branch of Kendra. The Vivekananda Samiti is a good occasion for contacting the people and constituting a Vivekananda Jayanti Samiti in that place only for the celebration of Vivekananda Jayanti. If the Samartha Bharat Parva or Vivekananda Jayanti can be organized in a good way a team that would emerge, can be involved in Kendra Varga. For Kendra Varga at least for initial 10-15 times a Karyakarta from the existing branch goes then gradually a team of Karyakartas can be created there and then other utsavas or shibirs can be thought of gradually leading to regular work. Thus, starting with this year celebration of Samartha Bharat Parva and Vivekananda Jayanti we can initiate the celebration of 50 years of Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Vivekananda Kendra. 

Nivedita Raghunath Bhide
Vice-President
Vivekananda Kendra

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Gita Jayanti

Gita Jayanti which is celebrated on Margashirsh Shukla Ekadashi comes this year on 19 December. Gita Jayanti is the Utsava we celebrate mainly to invigorate ourselves by diving deep into our scriptures. Gita gives us in a very simple and yet profound manner the Vedic Wisdom. Whether a pandit or an ordinary person, aged or young, a leader or a follower, Gita is for all. Gita represents not only the wisdom of Vedas but also gives such a synthesis of thought that we can resolve all the paradoxes of life. But this insight in Gita we cannot get by giving cursory reading for just celebrating Gita Jayanti. The study of Gita has to be daily with reverent contemplation for whole life.

Gita is like a mother who takes us in her lap when we are grieved and sad. She is like a Guru who guides us for achieving the goal of life and also guides us in our path. She is also like a goddess who protects us from the fall if we hold on to her. She is also the scriptural form of our dear motherland as She tells all that which this land of ours has been striving to manifest in her national life despite vicissitudes all through her national life. 

Sometimes people quote the saying of Swami Vivekananda that, “You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of Gita” and say that the game of football is more important than the study of Gita. But it is missing the point. Gita is not for mere intellectual study but it is to be practiced in life, as for us religion is not in believing but in being and becoming. Swami Vivekananda said, “You will understand Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger. You will understand the mighty genius and the mighty strength of Krishna better with a little of strong blood in you …If one reads this one shloka –Klaibyam ma sma gamah Partha …- one gets all the merits of reading the entire Gita; for in this one shloka lies embedded the whole Message of the Gita …for all of us in this world, life is a continuous fight … Many a time comes when we want to interpret our weakness and cowardice as forgiveness and renunciation … Gita opens with this very significant verse: Arise O Prince! Give up this fainthearted-ness, this weakness, Stand up and fight.” 
A tamasik and coward cannot face the battles of life. To be fearless and not to be chickenhearted one requires strong body and courageous heart. Strong and not weak men can practice Gita. It is to develop that strength, Swamiji said ‘Play Football’. 

Secondly, the game of football is completely a team game. Each second, each action and each intention of the team member is to be internalized by each team member. With all efforts and best play by a player, it is possible that the credit of making goal may not go to that player but some one else in the team. Each one in the team offers his best to the team effort and does not make any individual claims. That is what is Yagna- the central theme of Gita. Offer the fruit of your action to the society at large and partake only the Yganashishtah - whatever remains for you. That is, one must have that team spirit, that humility to be part of the team and then to do the best of whatever comes to our lot. After doing work to the best of the ability offer it again to the collectivity at large and partake whatever comes to your share. This dynamics can be seen explicitly in the game of football. That is why Swamiji had said that to understand Gita better play football. Here ‘playing football’ is not given as the remedy to understand Gita but as an indication of what is required to understand Gita.

Srikrishna tells us in Gita why conversion should not be resorted to. He says 'Paradharmo bhayavah' – the religious practices of others could be horrible for our growth. He says, 'swalpamapyasya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat' – even a little but regular practice of our own Dharma can be elevating. Commenting on that Swami Vivekananda had said, “Even if you have knowledge, do not disturb the childlike faith of the ignorant.” This is a very powerful idea, and it has become the ideal in India. That is why you can see a great philosopher or Vedantin like Sri Shankaracharya going into a temple and worshiping images. It is not hypocrisy. As a Vedantin who realized that there is only Ishwara everywhere, he could validate the religious practices of all communities. He or any realized religious leader in India never called God of any community as false or devil. A really spiritual person does not try to convert others but only integrates and expands the vision of Ishwara in others without injuring or denouncing their Ishta Devata, because they know that ‘Paradharmao Bhayavah” Swami Vivekananda while talking about the service to the masses always used to say that, “Elevate the masses without injuring their innate spirituality.”

Why there should be conversion at all? Only a person who has no understanding of God would resort to convert others or would limit God to his god. One who denounces others’ name of God actually has not understood what is God. By denouncing others’ name God degrades his God. God is not different but is only worshiped and prayed to with different names. Swami Vivekananda further explains, “Sri Krishna says, “Even those who worship other deities are really worshiping me” It is God incarnate whom man is worshiping. Would God be angry if you called Him by the wrong name? He would be no God at all! Can’t you understand that whatever a man has in his own heart is God-even if he worships a stone. What of that!
We will understand more clearly if we once get rid of the idea that religion consists in doctrines. One idea of a religion has been that the whole world was born because Adam ate the apple, and there is no way of escape. Believe in Jesus Christ-in a certain man’s death! But in India there is a quite different idea. There religion means realization, nothing else. It does not matter whether one approaches the destination in a carriage with four horses, in an electric car, or rolling on the ground. The goal is the same. For the Christians the problem is how to escape the wrath of the terrible God. For Indians it is how to become what they really are, to regain their lost selfhood…. Therefore, Krishna says, if your method is better and higher, you have no business to say that another man’s method is bad, however wicked you may think it.

Again we must consider, religion is a matter of growth, not a mass of foolish words. Two thousand years ago a man saw God. Moses saw God in a burning bush. Does what Moses did when he saw God save you? No man’s seeing God can help you least bit except that it may excite you and urge you to do the same thing. That is the whole value of the ancient’s examples. Nothing more. Just like signposts on the way. No man’s eating can satisfy another man. You have to see God yourself… Each one thinks his method is best. Very good. But remember, it may be good for you….Because it is good for you do not jump to the conclusion that your method is everybody’s method.

Sri Krishna says, “Better die in your own religion than attempt the path of another.” This is my path, and I am down here. And you are way up there, and I am down here. And you are way up there, and I am always tempted to give up my path thinking I will go there and be with you. And if I give up, I am neither there nor here. We must not lose sight of this doctrine. It is all a matter of growth. Wait and grow, and you attain everything; otherwise there will be great spiritual danger. Here is the fundamental secret of teaching religion. (Vol I – Gita III)” A person who is truly religious will never resort to convert others or deride the faith of others as false.

Even one of the attributes of God is that he accepts all the people as they are and does not exclude anyone. While talking about Krishna, Swamiji says, “This was the great work of Krishna: to clear our eyes and make us look with broader vision upon humanity in its march upward and onward. His was the first heart that was large enough to see truth in all, his the first lips that uttered beautiful words for each and all.” 

Whether management, sociology, self-development, education on each subject Gita has something to tell us. Now a days many such books are also coming in the market. We should try to understand Gita in present context and then pass it on to the next generation. They are bound to admire and practice Gita if it is told to them in today's language and paradigms. Our purpose of celebrating Gita Jayanti should be this that the relevance of Gita is understood and explained to the younger generation in today's terminology. That is why since few years we have linked the celebration Gita Jayanti to Kutumba Sammelan as Gita should become the basic book that is read and discussed in the families. Family is a place where children acquire views and values. In moulding the children, the influence of Gita would be most useful, elevating, guiding force not only in their childhood but also later when the parents are not around. Gita – as a mother would take care of the individual and any collective whole its life. This linking of our children, youth, Karyakarta to Gita is the purpose of celebrating Gita Jayanti. 

Nivedita Raghunath Bhide
Vice-President
Vivekananda Kendra

Friday, 2 November 2018

Sadhana Diwas 2018

Mananeeya Sri Eknathji, the founder of our Vivekananda Kendra - a spiritually oriented organization - was born on 19 November 1914. All the Kendra Kayakartas celebrate this day as the Sadhana Diwas. The work of "Man Making and Nation Building" which we have undertaken in Kendra is Sacred Sadhana for us. If we understand the dynamics involved in this work and do it accordingly then this work itself is Sadhana. The coming five years we are planning to expand our work which gives us an added opportunity to learn the Sadhana of team-building. 

The very essence of Sadhana is in two aspects- reducing of ego and expansion of consciousness to one's larger layers of existence. Thus more a person advances in Sadhana, his ego is reduced further and further and at the same time he also realizes the Reality as expressed in the bigger collectivity. Such a person will not consider his personal likes and dislikes or hurts and humiliations or discomforts and difficulties as more important than the good of the bigger collectivity. For a Karyakarta, the bigger collectivities are the organization, society and the nation. 

In the larger design of the organization, Karyakarta merges himself. And whatever work has come to him he takes in the Bhava of instrumentality of the Divine. Once the Bhava of instrumentality comes, then the surrender is easier. Service is the work of common good done with total surrender. Service is being an instrument of Divine work. Such Service is Sadhana. Eknathiji said in "Sadhana of Service”, “That service is the best and the noblest which is performed with the attitude of total surrender to God. ...the action must be performed without any attachment but sincerely and honestly to the best of our ability with an attitude of being a tool only. We have been called upon to execute whatever is essential and possible as willed by God. This is SERVICE. We are doing His work. Such work elevates us and leads to Self-realization, which is the supreme goal of human life."

As there are steps of progress in Sadhana, there is also the possibility of fall in Sadhana, for which one has to be more alert and aware. More a person climbs on a steep mountain more is the possibility of big fall. Thus a senior Karyakarta has far more the reason to be on his guard on this path of Sadhana than a new entrant. There are senior workers to give feedback and mould the new entrants. But as a Karyakarta grows in age and responsibility there are very few persons around to course-correct him. Therefore, the continuous self-introspection and contemplation on the three vows is essential to avoid a fal231l. The three vows are 1.Shuchita- Purity in words, thoughts and actions. 2.Aparigraha - Non-possession. Not getting attached to the place, persons, responsibility and any material acquisitions. As Mananeeya Eknathji said the Karyakarta should be free like an air, ready to go any where in any capacity to work for Kendra. 3.Anushasan - organizational discipline so as to maintain always a congenial atmosphere for growth.

The Sadhana of diminishing the ego and expansion of consciousness is best done in efforts of team-building. In the coming years our whole focus would be wielding the teams as we expand our work to new places. Mananeeya Parameswaranji during the Akhil Bharatiya Adhikari Baithak had explained this science of team-building very beautifully. The gist of it is: “We know the technique of team building at our level. Now we are thinking of the team building in wider context....While expanding the team, some problems may arise. We should know how to solve it. Our ideas are much bigger and wider."

We are planning to expand the work of Vivekananda Kendra. The celebration is not to praise Swami Vivekananda in big programs but to take the message of Swami Vivekananda to the far-flung areas and motivate the people to work for our country. Also it is not just the message but it is to be put into practice too. Our teams are not adequate for this purpose today. For that Mananeeya Sri Parameshwarnji says, "For this we will have to uplift our teams, so that they will go to society and more gifted, capable people from outside will join us. Thus for expanding our organization we have to go beyond the four walls of the organization. 

From crowd, create a group and from a group, a team is to be prepared. Group is more cohesive, durable and having clearer objectives than a crowd. Group agrees to disagree. But group is not stable and durable, not equally motivated. Group can split. But Team is cohesive, integrated, identified with each other. Team is like a living organism, it grows, expands and works in unison. This kind of team is the core of the organization. Various levels of teams are to be created. ... The teams are to be sustained by intimate and regular communications and contacts. No communication gaps. Communication gap leads to misunderstanding. There is a difference between Contact and Communication. Technology is a good servant but bad master. Hence utilize technology with care. For contact, like giving information etc. use technology like mobile, e-mails etc. but maximum inter – personal, informal and intimate contacts and communications build teams. By contact through mobile you can create group but not a team. As a matter of fact in a group, relationship is formal. 

Team is informal. Without informality team can not be formed. There should be deep inter-personal relationship. Ego, formalities should not come in-between. Heart to heart communication should be there with each other. Before Mahabharat war, Sanjay was sent to meet Pandavas. On returning he told Dhritarashtra what he saw while with Pandvas. He told : I saw Arjuna lying with his legs in the lap of Sri Krishna. Seeing this informal intimate relationship between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, Dhritarashtra said, 'Pandavas are invincible'. If we keep showing our superiority, expect others to treat us with respect and decorum then intimacy cannot be developed. you want to develop a team, do not stress decorum, do not maintain distance. Make it informal. Create intimacy. Respect and love each other. Our activities should be more like a family than the organization. It means so much sharing, interacting, respecting and accepting each other should be there. This type of team building should become a second nature of workers. Agenda is not necessary to meet each other. We should meet without agenda. That does not mean there should be no agenda in meetings. Agenda is necessary in meetings but even that should be covered informally. Cementing factor that will sail the agenda through to success is this informal talking with each other. It can come only if each team member tries to eliminate ego. Sri Aurobindo says: ego may be necessary initially but at certain level, it is a stumbling block. Therefore if you suppress ego it may boomerang. Hence enlarge your ego. Embrace everyone with your ego, feel one with them, accept them as your own.”

In our work we have to bring in new persons and slowly make them identified and befitting for Kendra work. Now this is sadhana! A very great Sadhana. Generally we expect others to change. But before changing others we have to change our ways of dealing with others. Mananeeya Parameswaranji explained this very beautifully: “If we try to change anyone he/she will resist. You be the change which you want to make in others. Very few will not respond to your sincere effort and patience. Swami Vivekananda consciously expanded his ego to the entire nation. Every agony of the team member is felt by the other members like the mother feeling the agony of her child. Hence team-building is a spiritual Sadhana. Three things are necessary - Put in a conscious and sincere effort, have a great patience and start with a change in yourself. 

Workers with talents, leadership quality and ready to sacrifice are required. Thus, we have to raise the level of team building effort. By the time the 50th year celebrations are over, our workers should have spread to all the places. Great work is done by the people who created great teams. No single person however great can build great work all alone, teams need to be created. Great people create teams. After Sri Ramakrishna’s mahasamadhi, disciples of Sri Ramakrishna wanted to go here and there. But Swami Vivekananda had the vision and kept them as a team together. That team of sanyasins created Sri Ramakrishna Mission. Dr. Hedgewar with 5 people started RSS. He was an angry man. But for the sake of the team he changed himself. This is the most essential quality in team building. You have to bring the desired change in yourself first. For creating teams we have to put our ego little behind, put people forward, enhance your capacity of motivating others, guide them  but from behind. Credit should be given to the team and for failure leader should take the responsibility.” 

In the coming years our Sadhana is creating, expanding teams at all levels. Problems would come but we have to solve them in the interest of nation. As told by Mananeeya Eknathji in 'Sadhana of Service', few injunctions we should remember – not to blow the incidents out of proportions, if any one makes mistakes talk to him directly and not to make it an item of agenda, not to generalize the mistakes of any person etc. As advised by Mananeeya Eknathji we should have large belly to swallow. The organizations are built on the capacity of the workers to digest the hurts and humiliations, and having the larger and forgiving hearts. Thus, on Sadhana Diwas let us contemplate on all these thoughts and prepare the minds of our Karyakartas from Gatapramukh onwards to undergo this Sadhana of team-building in which Mananeeya Eknathji was a master. Let us carry forward his legacy. 

Nivedita Raghunath Bhide
Vice-President
Vivekananda Kendra

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Womanhood at the Crossroads

We live in a society where media has some bizarre logic when it comes to issues regarding the faith of the minorities. First thing they will not name the religion if it is clash between them and Hindus and Hindus are the victims. It will be reported as a clash between two sections of the society. The sections will assume names if the Hindus instead of being a perennial victim, starts resisting and show some aggression. Likewise any alleged misdemeanor by a Hindu God man will be blown out of proportion by the media, with debates and discussions about the sorry plight of Hinduism hogging the telecast. But if the perpetrator of the crime happens to be a Muslim or a Christian clergy man our media will seldom talk about such issues. This is pathetic approach is the gift of the secularism in India. The recent rape case in Kerala, where a Bishop was alleged to have raped a nun and threatened her with dire consequences if she goes public about it. However, she reported that to the police as church authorities did not act on her repeated complaints against the clergyman. Church has on many previous occasions tried to push such allegations under the carpet. The top leadership’s Inertia in such matters will go to prove the chauvinistic attitude of the Church as an Institution has towards women.

For years voices of those who were exploited never got any exposure thanks to the pseudo secular Media.  They were venting their disgruntlement – in private, at conferences within the community and occasionally in public – regarding misogyny in the Church, the position taken on homosexuality and abortion by bumbling Church spokespersons on TV, financial corruption and more. The irony in India is it is this same Church with all its murky track record regarding women Freedom, takes a position of supremacy, and criticizes the Hindu society for treating women as less human. Our media and the clandestine relationship which the church has with some major political parties of India helps them to conceal their sheer vapidity.

But the world is changing fast and at this speed of information technology growth, we are bound to see a world with more awareness. Naturally this reduces the number of gullible people as people are closer to truth in this new shrunk world. If the church intends to change its misogynist ways into a more humane approach, in order to survive as an institution, it is not enough if it merely apes the rituals and customs of the native people. It has imbibe a holistic philosophy which will help them to shed their animosity towards the supposedly weaker sections of the society. For that it need not search elsewhere. The very same Hinduism, which they have been bashing for the last fifteen decades with their concoctions disguised as Invasion theories, has the solution for them. 

With the festival laden October coming, Hindus will show to the world, how they revere womanhood, with their Dasara celebrations. In India the woman is always looked up as a mother. Although, the present day scenario, due to acculturation by aping the west, is fast slipping from this noble vision nurtured by our ancestors, we can still say that the majority of our society is still living with lofty ideal. According to Swami Vivekananda, the ideal of womanhood in India is motherhood – that marvelous, unselfish, all-suffering, ever-forgiving mother. This motherhood is celebrated for ten days throughout India as Dasara. We worship Mother Goddess as Kali, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati who are embodiments of Courage, Prosperity, Knowledge and Love. The Church and the western world has a lesson or two to learn from the common man from India who nurtures this holistic vision. 
V.V.Balasubramanian
YB-ET

Friday, 31 August 2018

Universal Brotherhood Day

This year is the 125th year of Swami Vivekananda’s speech at Parliament of Religions, which we in Vivekananda Kendra celebrate as Universal Brotherhood Day. The welcome and adoration that was given to the speeches of Swami Vivekananda during the Parliament of Religions at Chicago made it clear that world is in need of the message of Bharat, but Bharat has to awaken to its sense of duty. The Parliament of Religions was organised as the part of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the European discovery of America by Columbus. The purpose of the Parliament was to proclaim the Christianity as the ‘Only True Religion.’ The exclusive approach considers one’s religion as the only true religion. Once this exclusive approach is adopted then others’ religions are not tolerated. This intolerance impels the followers of exclusive religion to set out on large-scale conversion of others even by fraud and force. 

Swami Vivekananda was aware that it is the exclusive approach of these Semitic religions like Christianity and Islam, which was responsible for so much bloodshed and human massacre in the human history.(For example 120 million native Americans were massacred by European Christians after Columbus discovered America. Or as described by Will Durant in the book “History of human Civilization” the bloodiest period in human history was the Muslim invasion period in India.) It is this exclusive approach which is the biggest obstacle in the realization of brotherhood of man. It is well-known that Swami Vivekananda addressed the audience as ‘Sisters and Brothers of America’ . It had an electrifying effect on them. It was not merely a form of address but behind those words was the great spiritual strength of India, which has always practiced the universal brotherhood in her long history of more than 5000 years. Taking pride in this fact Swami Vivekananda said, "I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth." Hindus could have this universal approach because they never claim that, 'the God I worship is the 'Only True God' But they say that there is ‘only God’. (that everything in this world is God alone) Everything is the expression of that One. 

So we do not say that ours is the only true god and others are false gods we say for other's gods that ‘it is 'also' the form of God.’ Thus our approach is an inclusive approach, an 'also' approach. The exclusive approach says 'this only' whereas inclusive approach says 'this also'.  It is because of this inclusive approach – 'also' approach that the Hindus never went destroying other religious faiths. To usher in Universal Brotherhood it is essential that all religions accept this inclusive –'also' approach. 

The Hindus have this ‘also’ approach because they have the vision of Oneness for the whole existence. As Hindus view everything in the existence as the expression of the One, all the manifestations are revered, are accepted. There is then respect for the diversity. As everything is expression of the One, the human soul too is not seen as the sinner but as pure, immortal, complete, whole. This is the message that India has to give to the world.   

For the first time to that audience which was used to the exclusive claims to religious truth, Swami Vivekananda gave the message, “Much has been said of the common ground of religious unity…. But if anyone here hopes that this unity will come by the triumph of any one of the religions and the destruction of others, to him I say, “Brother, yours is an impossible hope” ….If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity, and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance, “Help and not fight” “Assimilation and not Destruction” “ Harmony and Peace and not dissension.” 

For the first time to western audience, the message of universal Brotherhood and its proper understanding was given by Swami Vivekananda. Therefore, Mananeeya Eknathji - the Founder of Vivekananda Kendra -wanted this day to be celebrated as Universal Brotherhood Day. Homogenizing the humanity or bringing uniformity in the human society will not usher in Universal Brotherhood but it will only bring further dissentions and destruction. Integrating the various faiths and accepting, as ‘others’ faith also is good for them’ will bring in Universal Brotherhood. Homogenizing brings destruction of the identity and the traditional values in the society where as the integration or seeking harmony keeps the identity of the communities, intact and binds them in the bonds of Brotherhood. Therefore, on this day the message is also for those who are very exclusive in their approach and are undertaking the conversions by destroying the faiths and culture of various tribal and other communities. 

Hindus by their philosophy and practice of inclusive approach are destined to give this message of Universal Brotherhood to the humanity. But in order to do that first Hindus will have to understand this unifying and integrating nature of their Dharma. In the Parliament of Religions Swami Vivekananda also gave us the unifying principles of Hinduism. As put very beautifully by Sister Nivedita, “Of the Swami’s address before the Parliament of Religions, it may be said that when he began to speak it was of “the religious ideas of the Hindus”, but when he ended Hinduism had been created.…These, then were the two mind-floods, two immense rivers of thought, as it were, Eastern and modern, of which the yellow-clad wanderer on the platform of the Parliament of Religions formed for a moment the point of confluence. The formulation of the common bases of Hinduism was the inevitable result of the shock of their contact, in a personality, so impersonal. For it was no experience of his own that rose to the lips of the swami Vivekananda there. He did not even take advantage of the occasion to tell the story of his master. Instead of either of these, it was the religious consciousness of India that spoke through him, the message of his whole people as determined by their whole past.” Thus on the Universal Brotherhood Day we have to study, absorb and highlight the message that Swami Vivekananda gave in the Parliament of Religions. Not just, the lecture given on the first day of the parliament, which is very well known, but the main lecture that he gave in the Parliament of Religions - “The Paper on Hinduism” needs to be studied. It is the study and application of this lecture, which will make us capable of giving the message of Universal Brotherhood Day to the world. 

Nivedita Raghunath Bhide