Friday, 3 September 2021

Sanatana Dharma: The Basis for Universal Brotherhood

Swami Vivekananda gave his first speech in the Parliament of Religion on 11 September 1893. After that practically every day he spoke in the Parliament in various sessions. On 19th September he spoke on Hindu Dharma. The gist of all his lectures was that there should not be the exclusive claims to truth. The exclusive approach leads to violence. The principles and the life based on these principles like - Oneness of the existence, divinity of man, one manifesting as many – are the basis of universal brotherhood. Universal brotherhood cannot be achieved by forcing everyone to follow the same path. But by realizing the One beyond the many. It was this clarion call of Swami Vivekananda is being celebrated in Vivekananda Kendra as Universal Brotherhood Day on 11 September.

What was the uniqueness of the message of Swami Vivekananda and what is its relevance to India? The Parliament of Religions was organized at Chicago in 1893 to proclaim how Christianity alone was a true religion. In Parliament of Religions everyone was stressing that how his religion is the only true religion. This exclusive approach has led to clashes and violence in the history of mankind. Therefore, the whole history of exclusive religions is written in blood and extermination of communities all over the world. The terror attack on WTC on 11 September 2001 also proved the same thing in the recent years. The world is diverse. No two men or two leaves of the same tree are exactly the same. The mental, attitudinal growth of each person is different so there cannot be only one path to pray to Ishvara. 

Swami Vivekananda stressed that only that approach, which says that each religion is valid for its followers can bring peace to the world. This approach is the inclusive approach. It is inclusive because it understands the creation as the manifestation of One and everything in it as its parts. Therefore, each nation or religion, man or woman, family or community should accept others (not just tolerate) and contribute for the wellbeing of all. Religion cannot be dogmatic. It has to be experiential. This approach alone can bring the brotherhood. Anubhuti of that One which has manifested as many, is the central theme of Sanatana Dharma. India whose life center is Sanatana Dharma has to guide the world which is hampered with dogmatisms and materialism. It is to remind ourselves of the mission of India and also to give this message that we celebrate Universal Brotherhood Day on 11 September. 

India had forgotten her mission. To awaken us to give this message that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa took birth in 1836, exactly in the year when Macaulay introduced his ‘Minutes on Education’ to enslave our minds completely and permanently. 

The Macaulay education was deliberately designed to ridicule certain aspects of our Dharma. 

That Hindus are idol worshippers, 

They worship devils, 

Their languages are very crude and unless they learn English they cannot develop, 

India can be saved only if Hindus give up their Dharma and accept Jesus as the only son of God and Christianity as the only true religion. 

India is crude as she lives mostly in villages

Sri Ramakrishna's life was exactly to show the fallacy in each of these points. 

Sri Ramakrishna's whole spiritual Sadhana starts with idol worship. He showed through his Sadhana that we Hindus do not worship idols but worship God and realize Him through these idols. Thus, in all his Sadhanas he saw Only God everywhere and yet his worship through idols continued. Thus, worship of God in idols is the necessity of the beginner and is also the understanding of the realized. Because once the Truth is realized, one finds God in all that is around. 

His chosen deity for the idol worship was Kali whose terrible form may appear as devil for those who are in the nursery of spirituality. But he, by his Sadhana, realized Her as Mother of the Universe. 

He did not know English and yet the educated scholars like Keshav Chandra Sen, Narendranath Dutta sat at his feet to get the knowledge. Thus, he showed that ultimate knowledge to be acquired is beyond senses and languages. What matters is not scholarship but experiencing the Divine. 

He practiced various sadhanas including praying to Jesus and yet he remained in the Hindu Dharma nurtured by the Rishi tradition. He realized by his spiritual practices that Jesus was a son of God but not the only son of God. By his Sadhana of the exclusive religions he proved that exclusive claims by Abrahamic religionists is incorrect. After undergoing all types of spiritual practices, he said, "The Hindu religion alone is the Sanatana Dharma. The various creeds you hear nowadays have come into existence through the will of God and will disappear again through His will. They will not last forever. Therefore, I say, "I bow down at the feet of even the modern devotees." The Hindu religion has always existed and will always exist." (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna 6 Ed, P. 610) Sanatana Dharma is not about many Gods or One God but is based on the vision that there is only God. The whole creation is only an expression of God and God alone. This vision leads to inclusive and universal approach as everything becomes sacred and divine.

He was born and brought up in village and his life underlined that the villages of India do not denote crudeness or backwardness but are rich in spirituality.    

Swami Vivekananda was a disciple of such a person. Thus, it was very natural that when Swami Vivekananda went to America to participate in the Parliament of Religions, he stressed that all religions are valid for their followers. The whole Sadhana of Sri Ramakrishna was behind his words. And, therefore, his speech created such an everlasting impact.   

Romain Rolland puts the effect in the following words. " On Monday, September 11, 1893, the first session of the Parliament was opened...but it was the young man (Vivekananda) who represented nothing – and everything – the man belonging to no sect, but rather to India as a whole, who drew the glance of the assembled thousands...his speech was like a tongue of flame, it fired the souls of the listening throng.... Each of the other orators had spoken of his God, of the God of his sect. He – he alone – spoke of all their Gods, and embraced them all in the Universal Being. It was the breath of Ramakrishna, breaking down the barriers through the mouth of his great disciple... During the ensuing days he spoke again ten or twelve times. Each time he repeated with new arguments but with the same force of conviction his thesis of a universal religion without limit of time or space, uniting the whole Credo of human spirit from the enslaved fetishism of the savage to the most liberal creative affirmations of modern science. He harmonised them into a magnificent synthesis, which...helped all hopes to grow and flourish according to their own proper nature. There was to be no other dogma but the divinity inherent in man and his capacity of indefinite evolution... The effect of these mighty words was immense. Over the heads of the official representatives of the Parliament they were addressed to all and appealed to outside thought. Vivekananda's fame at once spread abroad, and India as a whole benefited..." 

“Swami Vivekananda, who completely surrendered himself to his most wonderful Master Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, could have easily given in to the temptation of talking about him. But then, he was there to represent all Hindus, the whole Rishi tradition. So in the true spirit of a Hindu, his speech gave the common principles of Hindus of all sects. In Sister Nivedita's words, "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 was created…. 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...Others stood beside the Swami Vivekananda, on the same platform as he, as apostles of particular creeds and churches. But it was his glory that he came to preach a religion to which each of these was, in his own words, 'only a traveling, a coming up, of different men, and women, through various conditions and circumstances to the same goal".

Swamiji who was proud of his religion and nation, which he unequivocally proclaimed there, could have stressed the greatness of his religion alone. But then he was there to represent the 'inclusive' and therefore, the universal aspects of Hindu Dharma so as to guide all other religions on the path of Universality. Though he never mentioned the name of Sri Ramakrishna or any other Rishi in his speech it was only their teachings that he spoke. In one of his letters he wrote, "But there is one thing to know: Great sages come with special messages for the world, and not for name; but their followers throw their teachings overboard and fight over their names-this is verily the history of the world. I do not take into any consideration whether people accept his name or not, but I am ready to lay down my life to help his teachings, his life, and his message spread all over the world."     

Thus, if anyone insists on the name and form of God as the only true name and only true form then it would lead to clashes. The insistence on name and form brings divisions. If we stress on the ‘message’ alone then Brotherhood is possible, because any realized soul is inclusive and therefore Universal in approach. A really spiritual person has to be inclusive. If someone claims spiritual status but is exclusive in approach, criticizes others’ Gods means the claim of spirituality is false. 

After his return from the West, Swamiji exhorted India to accomplish her world mission to give this knowledge for the evolution of humanity. For that she should raise herself. He asserted that Santana Dharma is the life center of India. Thus, to practice Dharma one also has to work for the country. His inspiring message moved many to fight for the freedom of India. This year we shall also be celebrating the 75 years of the Independence. 

The freedom movement was inspired by this vision that India has to raise not for herself but for the whole of humanity; she needs to be independent to express her national soul in all walks of life. Thus, Swami Vivekananda gave the ‘rousing call to the Hindu nation’ to be ‘Jagadguru’. Sri Aurobindo shared his realization that Sanatana Dharma is the nationalism, is the identity of India. Sri Bankimchandra envisaged her as the ‘Dashpraharandharini Durga’. Mahatma Gandhi aspired Ramrajya to commence with the independence of India. The visions of all these great persons are yet to be fully realized. 

Though the advent of Sri Ramakrishna put full stop to the dream of Macaulay- missionaries- colonial rulers combine to convert whole of India, but even after the Independence in 1947, we are not fully de-colonized mentally, intellectually and religiously. The year 2036 would be 200th year of the advent of Sri Ramakrishna and just after 11 years from it, would be the 100th year of Independence of India from the colonial rule. As we celebrate the completion of the 75 years of Independence, we should also make a resolve that by 2047 i.e., when India completes 100 years of Independence, the soul of India would manifest is all walks of national life and India would guide the world in spiritualty. Only when the Sanatana Dharma is understood and practiced world over, (Ishtadevatas and paths for religious practices could be many), the universal brotherhood would be experienced by the humanity. This role India is destined to play. Let us work towards such universal brotherhood.

Nivedita Raghunath Bhide

Wednesday, 4 August 2021


 In our public life today, we find that any group that feels aggrieved and wants the government to remove the cause of its grievances, resorts to destruction of public property as well as violence to public life by attempting to paralyse it. The idea, that more such disruption and destruction is wrought in support of an agitation, the more will be its efficacy to achieve the desired ends has now become a dictum and a formula for agitators of all categories.

Curiously enough, the above formula has never failed the agita­tors, so far, during the last over twenty five years of our independence. In recent history, the willful destruction of public property to ventilate one’s demands and to pressurise the government into yielding to them, was resorted to by our people, perhaps for the first time, during the Quit India Movement of 1942. But as the country was then under foreign rule, that measure could be justified by treating it as only a variant of what has been known as the ‘scorched earth’ policy of destroying one’s own national wealth, such as standing crops, bridges, water-reservoirs and other means of sustenance and supply to deny their use to the invading enemy forces. But its use as a political weapon by various groups of people, to coerce one’s own govern­ment, as is widely prevalent in India today, is totally un-understandable and extremely unfortunate.

How to account for this suicidal technique presently adopted by all political parties as well as other organised groups such as trade unions and student’s fronts in the country ? The following may be the only two valid reasons. Firstly, many people seem to be unaware of the amount of national wealth we are losing by every such orgy of violence and disruption and of the total damage caused to us on account of the destruction of our assets and resources as well as of the dissipation of human energy and time leading to inevitable loss of production, during-the last twenty five years. It will be worthwhile for someone to calculate and work out statistical figures of the total loss suffered by the country over the years and present them to our people. This knowledge may perhaps open their eyes and may, eventually, dissuade them from indulging in these orgies. Had our people not taken to this path of self-liquidation, the resources saved thereby might well have been more than enough to connect every village in the country with an all-weather road, provide every dry field with irrigation water, furnish every needy place with electric power and, perhaps as a result of all this, give every hand some fruitful work to do.

The other reason for this state of affairs is that the spirit of patrio­tism and the sense of national consciousness that were present in the people during our freedom struggle against British rule have, since the advent of freedom, undergone heavy corrosion, contrary to the natural expectation that these higher sentiments would get more and more intensified. In this, the worst affected is the educated class which provides leadership to a
ctivities in all spheres of national life. No one can concede that even the educated are ignorant of the heavy price the country has been paying on account of the destruction of public property and the breakdown of public life that accompany all violent agitations in which many of them not only merrily indulge but are also seen to be in the forefront. The only conclusion one can draw from this is that the national good has now ceased to be of the highest value in the minds of at least those among the educated who follow that course. What we witness today in our country is, indeed, the most unfortunate spectacle. On the one hand, the vision of Mother India that remained enthroned in the hearts of her children till recently as their supreme object of devotion is being slowly lost sight of by them. On the other hand, a tendency to regard their own respective group-interests, either regional, linguistic, economic or political as the be-all and end-all of life has been fast growing. In short, the place of higher values is being usurped by unworthy ones.

Some may argue that neither of the explanations given above is correct. They may say that there is no justification for doubting the patriotism of persons simply because they take to violence resulting in the destruction of their own national wealth and that we need not form so poor an opinion also about the illiterate sections of our countrymen that they are unaware of the colossal loss that is being suffered by our country on that account. Their own explanation may be simply this, that the people are compelled to take to these methods only out of righteous indignation and after having exhausted all peaceful means of getting justice and fair play from the government.

The above explanation amounts to accepting the view that patriotic behaviour is only a conditional obligation and can be waived if those conditions are not fulfilled. In other words, it may mean that people are expected to be patriotic, i.e. devoted to their country and to work for its welfare, only if the government of the day gives good and just administration and that the citizens are duty-bound to act patrioti­cally only to the extent that the above mentioned condition-precedent is fulfilled by the government. But, is this the proper view? According to our traditional way of thinking, to be patriotic is an ABSOLUTE DUTY on the part of every national. It has no corresponding rights whatsoever, as any of the ‘relative duties’ may have. To act patrioti­cally, i.e. to act in the interest of one’s nation and to refrain from any act that may be detrimental to it, is a CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE. If the people are dissatisfied with the performance of their government, they have every right to oust that government, lock, stock and barrel. In fact, patriotism demands of them that they remove from power a bad or a wicked government. But, more than that, it demands that the means employed by the people for such an overthrow of one’s own government, do not cripple the country and defeat the very purpose they propose to serve.

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Utsarati Iti Utsava

 Guru Purnima: We all enjoy festivals. Utsavas - festivals are for cultural continuation, for expressing the joy of life, strengthening the collectives like family, community, society, and nation and for expressing the gratitude towards the creation. Utsarati iti utsava - Festival is that which elevates us.

India is full of various festivals. The characteristic of our festivals is that no festival is without pooja. No festival is just for merry-making though in every festival we do enjoy. The festivals are to make us relevant in time as well as to continue our tradition. That is what made Hindu dharma and our nation as Nitya Nootan Chira Puratan - that is ‘ever new and most ancient’. Some festivals are celebrated ceremoniously with all splendour on large scale and some are celebrated quietly but very meaningfully. The festival of Gurupurnima comes in the second category. This year the Gurupurnima festival is coming on 23rd July.

This festival is celebrated on Ashadhi Purnima which is Jayanti - the birth anniversary of Maharishi Veda Vyasa, a son of  Rishi Parashar and  fisherwoman Satyawati. What was his work that made him so exalted a being that on his birthday Gurupurnima is celebrated? He did a fourfold work.

First, when he saw that the Vedas, which are a voluminous store of knowledge discovered by seers over the ages, were in the fear of getting extinct, he collected and compiled them.

Second, to protect Vedas, he allotted its Shakhas (branches) to various families to be preserved by Guru-Shishya tradition. That is in a family, father would teach to his son and along with that to some other willing and deserving children. It would also happen that the children would come from far off places and stay with the reputed Guru who would treat them as part of his own family. Gradually, the famous Gurukula system of India developed. In today's language it was the most extensive and privatized system of education in the world. Thus a very natural way of protection of knowledge as it was family based was devised by him.

Third, it was not just the Vedas but all the other branches of knowledge called as Upavedas like Ayurveda including Surgery; Sthapatya Veda which means sculpture including everything related to construction with metals, stones, mortars and wood; Gandharva Veda covering music, vocal and instrumental, dance, drama etc; Dhanurveda all skills and knowledge related to military warfare were also systematized by Veda Vyasa allotting its branches to various families and communities. Thus each family of every community became a repository of a branch of knowledge and so continuing the family tradition got equated with continuance of knowledge.

Fourth, for the common man to understand the Vedic truth he also composed Puranas and Mahabharat, so that the application of Vedic truth in life is clear to all. Religion is not just in believing but in being and becoming. Not just the information about one's religion but realizing the truths and then expressing it in our lives was the aim of Sanatana Dharma.

In this Guru-sishya tradition, the knowledge is learnt by observing the life of the Guru who may be one's own parents or a realized soul. Veda Vyasa succeeded in preserving and inculcating the respect for tradition. It is because of Vyasa that our Vedic knowledge survived and also the importance of Guru-tradition got established. Thus this is a day to remember all the Gurus who have contributed in continuation and propagation of our eternal tradition.

This sacred day also marks the very first transmission of the yogic sciences from Bhagwan Shiva - the Adiyogi or First Yogi - to the Saptarishis, the seven celebrated sages. Thus, the Adiyogi became the Adi Guru or the First Guru on this day. The Saptarishis carried this knowledge offered by Adiyogi throughout the world. Even today, every spiritual process on the planet draws knowingly or unknowingly from the knowledge given by Adiyogi.

Therefore, traditionally this is also the day to remember our whole tradition of Guru starting with Bhagwan Siva and to offer our respects to the Guru who guides us in life, who has handed over the tradition of knowledge and wisdom to us. This is also a day to express our gratitude and commitment to the Guru for carrying forward our culture vibrantly, with the vision of 'Krinvanto Vishwamaryam - let us make the whole world noble.'

Paying our obeisance to Guru on the day of Gurupurnima also means that like Veda Vyasa we shall work to protect our culture in changed times. We have to train our mind that we learn from everything and everyone around us about how to move toward our goal. On Gurupurnima day, let all of us introspect, analyze and vow to do our best for `1fulfilling our responsibilities towards our Country, Our Dharma and our society.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Face the trouble with Optimism

The entire Humanity is now engulfed with fear and pessimism. The fear of death is now more protruding than at any time in the last century. This virus has taken the Human Mind for a toll. The daily tolls and new case numbers are only adding fuel to the already blazing fear. This results in constant pumping of cortisol by our body which will be very harmful. But what is the way out? Thanks to our traditional wisdom we have the way. Yes, our Yoga is the panacea to all these evils caused by mental stress. Yoga teaches us to ward of the negative thinking in an easy manner. Yoga Sutras of Sage Patanjali teaches us the method called ‘Prati Paksha Bha- vanam’. 
It will not be possible for a person to stop having one particular thought. Instead he can adopt the method of ‘Prati Paksha Bhavanam’ wherein he has constantly think of the opposite. So to avoid having negative thoughts, we should dwell about positive issues more. When a negative thought comes up, counter act it with a positive thought. If one gets carried away by the negative thought process, then the reaction that one expresses will also be negative. So we should consciously allow the Positive thoughts to fill up the Mind. When the mind is caught in the wheels of Rajas and Tamas, stress and anxiety are experienced. But positive thought which are basically Sattwic in nature, brings Bliss and Peace to the Mind. Filling up the mind with positivity will en- sure there is no space of negativity. When we worry about our health, we attract ill-health. On the other hand, when focusing on feelings of appreciation, happiness, hope, love, joy and peace, all such emotions are positive and uplifting and so act on the body and mind to restore and maintain bal- ance and harmony and actually stimulate circulation and nutrition bringing to you wonderful experiences. 
 The one who does not allow himself to focus on or be influenced or con- trolled by fears or forebodings is the one who ordinarily does not yield to discouragements or disappointments. He who focuses on thoughts that evoke feeling good about oneself is continually drawing to him/her good things to happen. The good feeling thoughts are continually helping to actualize his/her vibration in the realm of the material and spiritual worlds. 
Yuva Bharati - Editorial Team

Monday, 3 May 2021

Yoga to the rescue.

 History has seen several pandemics. Nearly 500 million people have perished due to pandemics in the last 12 millenniums, says a study. The modern world with all its advancements in medicine and technology is beset with another problem now.  That is the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which will affect a considerable number of people even after the wave of virus recedes. People who themselves have suffered due to the virus attack; people who have learnt about the death of their dear ones but could not attend the funeral due to the restrictions in travel; people who have exposed themselves constantly to aversive details through social media; people who have first-hand experience of the suffering, e.g. Doctors, Hospital personnel. Health care workers etc, are bound to be affected by this problem.

Apart from this direct impact of the virus there are other causes which will also impair a person’s psyche in an enormous way, such as, social isolation, unemployment, economic losses etc. The fear of virus exposure may go away from the public memory, but the terrible experience due to the above mentioned reasons will have a lasting impact. This stress and depression will lead to many other health problems. Many studies are being undertaken throughout the world to gauge the psychological impact of this pandemic. 

We can take solace from the fact that the Humanity has bounced back to normalcy from the earlier pandemic attacks. This time too that will happen though with a little bit more difficulty. The very advancements in the fields of Medicine and Technology, which have made our life cozy and with more longevity, it will also be the one to impede our recovery. Because, the recovery essentially asks for a minimalistic life style, which is antithetical to the modern life style. But the bitter pill has to be swallowed nevertheless, in order to come out of this dreadful state.

This is where organizations like Vivekananda Kendra have a role to play in the society. The resultant mental fatigue of the Covid Pandemic can be tackled by switching over to the Yoga way of life. Though this is something which organizations like ours, do regularly, now there is a dire need to do this activity with more intensity and far wider outreach. Manah prasamanah upaya yoga- ityabhi dhiyate, It is a subtle technique to tackle the problems which arise in the Mind, says Yoga Vasishta. This is the purpose of Yoga too. This science is more needed now to Humanity than at any other point of time in the History.