Monday, 7 September 2020

Universal Brotherhood Day 2020

In Vivekananda Kendra, Universal Brotherhood Day is a very important Utsav. Vivekananda Rock Memorial was inaugurated on Universal Brotherhood Day - by Tithi of 11 September 1893 the date being 2 September 1970 – the day Swami Vivekananda gave the message of Universal Brotherhood through his lectures in Parliament of Religions at Chicago. We need to understand the subtle nuances of the message of Swamiji through his lectures at the Parliament of Religions.

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. The Parliament of Religions was organized 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 internalized then others’ religions are not tolerated. This intolerance impels the followers of exclusive religion to set out on large-scale conversion of others by fraud and force. Swami Vivekananda was aware that the exclusive approach of the Semitic religions like Christianity and Islam was responsible for so much bloodshed and human massacre in the human history. 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 the audience. 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’. Everything is the expression of that One.

We do not say that ours is the only true god and others are false gods. We consider others’ gods as ‘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 towards God.

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

For the first time to that Western audience which was used to the exclusive claim 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, the message of universal Brotherhood and its proper understanding was given to western audience by Swami Vivekananda. Therefore, Mananeeya Eknathji wanted this day to be celebrated as Universal Brotherhood Day. Homogenizing the humanity or bringing uniformity in the human society as some exclusive religions or ideologies want to do, 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 also the traditional values in the society whereas the integration and seeking harmony keeps the identity of the communities intact and binds them in the bonds of Brotherhood. Therefore, the message of Universal Brotherhood Day 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 with 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. What he told in that lecture to the western audience, he told it to us in his famous lecture ‘Common Bases of Hinduism’ at Lahore. It is the study and application of these lectures, which will make us capable of giving the message of Universal Brotherhood Day to the world.  

But it is also to be remembered that by appeasing the followers of exclusive theology in vain search of peace only emboldens the exclusive forces to the detriment of all. At the same time this also is to be remembered that when we work against the exclusive forces, we are neither against the Jesus or Allah or our Christian or Muslim society. We also should not go into the habit of branding the whole communities as bad for the bad acts of certain elements in those communities. By doing that even well-meaning persons in that community get pushed into exclusive and extremist mode. Thus, it is neither the rejection nor appeasement but it is with self-assertion and also working for good of all and for the harmony of mankind   that will bring the brotherhood universally. As Swami Vivekananda had said the approach has to be, “Help and not fight” “Assimilation and not Destruction” “Harmony and Peace and not dissension.” It is a difficult goal, but not unachievable and if there is any civilization in the world which has philosophy and inner strength to work for it, it is this, ours Hindu civilization.

We should see that during the program, the points given below are stressed which Swami Vivekananda had put forward very candidly as well as without hurting the people:  

·        Universal Brotherhood is possible only in an atmosphere of inclusive approach and not by exclusive approach like proclaiming ‘my god alone is true’.

·        Conversion brings dissentions and not brotherhood. Conversion is violence. Not tolerance of others but acceptance is required. Mutual Respect is required. Mutual Respect means respect for Gods and Goddesses of other people.

·        The really spiritual is always universal and inclusive. Rejection of others’ God as false shows ignorance about one’s own God too.

·        Today, inclusiveness or universal approach is presented as appeasement of detractors or compromise with the interests of the nation or people. By appeasing the aggressive forces, they do not calm down but become more aggressive. Similarly standing for the interest of one’s own people also does not mean denouncing others or rejecting them permanently. Many a times certain violent acts of some elements in the other people is generalized and all are blamed. Even that is not correct. It pushes even the moderate people in those communities to the aggressive mode. Thus, this balance is to be maintained of protecting the interest of our people at the same time taking others with us, It will help in promoting universal brotherhood. Fear, appeasement, impracticality or hatred should not be the motivating factors when we work in the interest of the society. As Bhagawan Sri Krishna said it should be Yudhyaswa Vigatjwara. If you have to fight, fight but without hatred.


The very existence of India is to contribute these thoughts for the good of the humanity. Therefore, she could exist in spite of so many vicissitudes and attacks in her national life. Whenever this national destiny was forgotten, the degeneration set in. Thus, Swami Vivekananda’s message in the Parliament of Religions though it was of Universal Brotherhood, it has been the national destiny of India. It also became the call for the renaissance of our Hindu nation.

Vivekananda Rock Memorial represents the Hindu renaissance which started with 11th September 1893. Vivekananda Rock Memorial is the first newly constructed such grand temple like structure after hundreds of years to venerate great persons. Yes, some temples were rebuilt, but Vivekananda Rock Memorial was the first newly constructed grand monument. The first assertion of Hindu Civilization in concrete symbol, a tangible monument! We can understand how much confidence it has boosted in the society.  As Swamiji’s message propelled the freedom movement, Vivekananda Rock Memorial gave momentum to Vivekananda Kendra a spiritually oriented service mission.

In the construction of Vivekananda Rock Memorial, we see the dynamics of Universal Brotherhood were practiced by Mananeeya Eknathji. Working for Universal Brotherhood does not mean giving up one’s path and just compromising or forcing one’s thoughts on others but it is being firm on what is valid but also striving to take everyone together. There was stiff opposition at local level and at governmental level. To diffuse that Tamilnadu government had offered Eknathji a piece of land at the shore for building the memorial. Eknathji did not deviate from the mission of erecting the Vivekananda Memorial on the Rock where Swami Vivekananda had meditated. However, he also saw to it that in the process no one is antagonized. When construction was almost getting over someone had tried to throw a country bomb, but he did not hold the whole community responsible for it. He saw to it that the unwarranted incident was contained and was not given undue importance. Practicing the message of Swami Vivekananda, Eknathji saw to it that the grand memorial was constructed on the Rock and it became a rallying point for all constructive forces in the country irrespective of their caste, creed, community and region.

India has to claim its rightful place, and emerge as a mighty nation. Her strength is not in dominating or destroying others but it is to bring the blessings and peace to the humanity. She demonstrates and teaches the civilizations of the world to value the diversity with mutual respect and at the same time to focus on the Oneness of existence. It is this work of Bharat which would usher in Universal Brotherhood towards which, we all have to work.

Nivedita Raghunath Bhide

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Ram Mandir, a connect to the past and future.

The Bhumi pujan of Sri Ram Mandir at Ayodhya is going to mark a very significant happening in the history of mankind. Nowhere in the world and no other civilization has managed to win back a lost monument. The history is replete with instances of vanquished civilizations and ruins of yesteryear cultures. This will be the first time where a civilization has sprung up with one of its veritable treasure, a temple to its most venerated Gods.  The five century old tussle to win back the demolished temple and the century old legal battle for the ownership of that place came to an end with the Hon’ble Supreme Court ruling it in favor of Ram Mandir late last year.

The proposed Temple when completed will be one of the biggest of its kind. Infact it will be the third largest Hindu Temple in the world. The other two being the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia spread in an area of 401 acres followed by Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple in Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu. It is the second-largest temple spread over an area of 155 acre. It is certain to attract pilgrims from all over our country and tourists from all over the world. This new temple should also act as a symbol of revival of all the Pagan Cultures of the world. The Pagan cultures which were decimated by the proselytizing religions in the last millennium are craving for revival. The Abrahamic faiths have sunk the cultural distinctiveness, unique to each and every landscape, through their aggressive spread. This is what Mr Christopher Gerard, a Pagan revivalist from Belgium, has to say about their past which was ravaged by the aggressors. He believes that Europe has, in fact, already entered its "post-Christian" and "post-rationalist" phase. The church is becoming decreasingly important. Membership is dropping daily, the priesthood is declining, historical challenges are being made to the theology (such as those which resulted from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls) and multiple scandals have reduced the influence of the church. The current European mind is no longer significantly shaped in its thinking and activities by the Christian theology, whose basic tenets have become largely irrelevant to modern Euro-life. The Pagan revivalists are seeing many similarities between their old culture and the still active Hindu Culture. Gerard says,”India is a conservatory of traditions going back into our most ancient prehistory. The Paganism of our ancestors has miraculously survived there in spite of Muslim invasions, Christian missions and all the other agents of ethnocide [the systematic destruction of a culture]. The brahmins, brothers to our Druids, have never stopped offering ritual worship as we used to do 40 centuries ago. Pilgrimage to India is basic for every European Pagan because it allows him to reconnect with the living tradition, which is moreover Indo-European”. People like him who are now keen to unearth their lost original identities are looking towards Hinduism to provide them the needed inspiration and guidance. This temple will give them the necessary impetus and inspiration in their quest to regain their identity.


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Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Gurupurnima 2020

Gurupurnima is our traditional festival since thousands of years. It is celebrated on Jayanti of Bhagwan Vedvyasa i.e. on Ashadh Purnima. He was the son of the sage Parashar and the fisherwoman Satyavati. He was born on an island and that is why he is also known as  Davaipayana Krishna. Vedas are not the books written by any one. The rishis who did penance saw the truths of existence. They are seers of Truth. These Mantras are seen and heard by them and are passed on to their disciples. These Mantras are called  "Vedas". The gravitational force was in existence even before Newton discovered it. And it would continue even after we forget about it. Thus, Vedas were always there. The Rishis saw it and then passed it on to their disciples. Vedas are Apaurusheya. i.e. they are not man-made. 

Many rishis had received these Mantras. Vedavyasa collected all these Richas (Mantras) called as Samhitas and edited them in four Vedas with various branches. The four Vedas are Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, Atharvaveda. Each Veda is again classified in to four parts – Mantra or Samhita, Brahmana, Aaranyaka and Upanishad. He not only edited Vedas he also made the arrangements to protect the Vedas by allotting each branch to few families. Those families had to protect that branch of Vedas. He also allotted other various branches of knowledge like surgery, Ayurveda, architecture etc. to families belonging to various communities. Thus, each family, community became the custodian of protection of Vedas - knowledge making our country the Jnanbhoomi. 

The imparting of this knowledge was done by father to the son, by Guru to the disciple thus our Bharat, in spite of so many invasions, could remain the land of knowledge for thousands of years. Committing to protect some branch of knowledge, spiritual Vidyas and learning it from Guru and passing it on to the coming generation became the sacred duty of each family. It was Vyasa who devised this Guru tradition to protect the knowledge required for living in this world and for realizing Ishvara. Therefore, his Jayanti is celebrated as Gurupurnima. 

This festival is to remind us to be grateful to all the Gurus and to revere them who have taught us something or other of value in our life. This festival is to remind us that our family also should protect at least some knowledge, tradition, Vidya etc. This festival is also to see the good, divine in others and learn from them. 

All the problems in life come because we limit our sense of ‘I’ to our body-mind complex.  Body and mind are our instruments to know our real nature. If we see the first five shlokas of the Gurustotra, these are telling that my prostrations to that Guru who showed me my real state of being – Tat Padam Darshitam yen tasmai Shri Guruve namah.  Man considers he is a body-mind complex. But gradually the Guru makes him realize that he is the expanding circle of consciousness which pervades the Charachara - everything in this universe. What are those expanding circles of consciousness? 

Chaitanya - Consciousness expresses as various Samashtis. Thus, the expanding form of an individual is family. Do not think that the family is collection of few people. It is the consciousness which has manifested as family members.  The expanding form of family is society, the expanding form of a society is nation, the expanding form of nation is the whole existence. 

Thus, we are all interconnected interrelated and interdependent. Atman is same for all of us. We come across Gurus – some just indicate this fact. Some explain it. Some motivate us to live accordingly. Some Gurus can even guide us to realize it. Since birth our parents, grand-parents, teachers, saints, etc. are indicating this grand truth to us through simple practices in our homes, or through literature. For example, mother teaches the child to do namaskar to elders, teachers, cow, trees, etc. that is the living beings. She also teaches the child to bow down to inanimate things like books, food, equipments etc. What are such practices in our homes which indicate to the child that this charachar (animate and inanimate) is divine? 

Many a times we are caught up in the darkness of depression, self-pity, ignorance, selfishness, Dehabuddhi, ego etc. At such times whosoever helps us and guides us to be out of it and opens our eyes to the reality, that Guru could be either parents, grandparents, friends, siblings, teachers, neighbours etc. They are our Gurus. If we are haughty then we do not learn even if Narayana himself comes to teach us. What are such occasions in our life that someone guided us very well and opened our eyes. Let us share those experiences and pay our homage to them. 

The shloka gururbrhama, gururvishnu…. means both ways i.e. Guru is Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh. Guru guides us to God, thus Guru is God. But it also means that God is our guru. In this Ishvariya Karya – the nation-building work that we have undertaken, God guides us. Thus, in Vivekananda Kendra, Ishvara is chosen as Guru and not any human being. Pranav is considered as the best expression for Ishvara. All the Hindus can come to Omkara. Therefore, Omkara which is considered as the best name for Ishvara by Patanjali (tasya vachak: pranav:) is Guru is Vivekananda Kendra. It means what this whole divine tradition of our Gurus, Acharyas, saints is remembered, revered and given respect all through the year and we work to take ahead their work. On the day of Gurupurnima, we remind ourselves that Ishvara who pervades the Charaachar teaches us through all those around us. We can share that what all we learn from those around us. It can be human beings, it can be animals, birds, trees and even inanimate things. 

Gurupurnima is a day when we tune ourselves to receive the teachings of the Guru – Ishvara – from the whole universe. This humility to learn from others, this readiness to learns from others purifies our mind to see Ishvara everywhere. It also inspires us to work as the instrument of Ishvara for raising the humanity. The service, fulfilling of Dayitvas thus become the pooja and Aaradhana of Ishvara – Vibho Tav Aaradhanam Asmadiyam. 

This charachar which is imbued by Ishvara can teach us many things. Let us take a Sankalpa that from Charachar, I shall everyday learn something.

Nivedita Raghunath Bhide

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Yoga, the way out…

Yuva Bharati June 2020
The priorities of a society changes through different periods. The matrimonialcolumns in the newspapers act as mirror to show us what the society of that period aspired for. During the 60s ,70s and well into the 80s, the sole aim was to get into a bank or a public sector undertaking. During the 90s and afterwards, due to the IT revolution, people started shunning the aspirations of government jobs and were looking for greener pastures outside the country. With Wealth taking the predominance in their choice health has always been neglected by our people. People have always thought that they can take care of their health once they are financially settled in their life. This normally ends up in postponing their Health options indefinitely. Looking after ourselves inside and out is a fundamental part of living a happy, fulfilled life. Without good health it may be very difficult to do all the things one wants to do and to enjoy life to the fullest. No matter how rich you are, if you are sick, your money cannot give you a good sense of life. But many of us are neglecting our own wellbeing. Quite contrary to this new age life style, our tradition has always given much importance to the Physical as well as Mental Health. Shariramadyam khalu dharmasadhanam, this body is surely the foremost instrument of doing good deeds said Kalidasa in his renowned work kumarasambhavam [5.33].

You may very well remember that the present Indian Government’s endeavor to popularize Yoga, is also a step towards achieving this goal of keeping our Body and Mind Healthy. Nature has time and again reminded Humanity about the priorities in Life. This time in the form of the Pandemic COVID 19, it has once again reset the priorities of people. Man is left with Saucha, external cleanliness and Yoga, self disciplining our Body and Mind, being the only tools with which he can protect himself. It’s time for us to take up Yoga Asanas and Pranayama as a regular and serious activity in our life. June 21st, the International day of Yoga, is more pertinent this year to the Humanity than it was in the previous years. It is a reminder to go back to our roots.
V.V. Balasubramanian

Monday, 18 May 2020

Wake Up

On 16th of April Two Juna Akhara Sadhus Chikne Maharaj Kalpavrukshagiri (70 years old) and Sushilgiri Maharaj (35 years old) along with their 30-year-old driver Nilesh Telgade were Lynched to death by a frenzied mob at Palghar District, Maharashtra. This incident was not immediately reported by the Main stream media. But when they were constrained to report because of the Video of lynching which spread virally through Social media, they did report after a couple of days. 

The pre meditated attack was reported as an attack which happened because of mistaken identity. The main stream media is hoping that the short term memory of the Public coupled with its ‘Ostrich Syndrome’, will make this issue go into oblivion as soon as possible. This living in denial is what has made the life easy not just for the enemies of our state but also the media crooks who back them in all possible ways. 

The way this outrageous act has been reported by main stream media goes to prove that they are the benumbing agents for these attackers. If we believe the version of the media and believe that the lynching is a case of mistaken identity by the villagers, then we are the very embodiment of this ‘Ostrich syndrome’.

There is an unholy nexus between the Church and the naxal outfits, which targets the sadhus who work among the Tribals, to improve their social conditions. If we remember the gruesome killing of Swami lakshmananda Saraswati a few years ago, then we can see how this nexus works. During lockdown, how such a huge number of people assembled there, is a question which begs an answer. For the average Hindu this is just another news of violence. Every time when such a violence is reported we tend to think it is something happening in a faraway place and we are in no way impacted by this. Many among us are beset with this ‘Ostrich Syndrome’, which is nothing but trying to live in an imaginary world,not bothering to know about the imminent threats to our existence. Hindus will be shocked to know that most off the one off incidents are actually orchestrated attacks. 

It’s time for Hindus to wake up from this slumber and get our acts right. Putting a sad emoji or forwarding the news to others, alone will not suffice. We have to get organized. We have to make the dormant majority aware of this existential threat. We are in the midst of a civilisational war. A war between the exclusive fundamentalist religious ideologies and the inclusive Dharmic Ideology. A war which started several centuries ago. A war which we believe will not happen. A war in which we are yet to equip ourselves. A war which will define the destiny of the mankind. 

Wake Up.
V.V. Balasubramanian

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