Wednesday 26 December 2012

Let us initiate...… Swami Vivekananda...…

For more than a Century his thoughts are holding Sway over Nationlists and Spiritually Oriented persons.  Now on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary, Vivekananda Kendra along with other  likeminded organisations have planned for a grand and wide spread celebrations throughout the year.  These celebrations are going to be different from the celebrations that we are used to.
We have praised him a lot, worshipped him, read him, and written a lot about him. Adjectives are exhausted in his praise.  Libraries and stacked full with his books.  We have worked his ideas too.  But this is an area where we need to double up.  The enormity of the problems, which our society is facing and the vastness of the masses that are untouched by his life giving message imply that the work which we have done so far is not enough.  To address these specific needs Vivekananda Kendra has designed 5 Special programs which will take Swamiji's ever relevant messages to the 5 important segments of our society.  Youth, Women, Intellectuals, Rural people and Tribal people are these five.  Vivekananda Kendra has prudently joined hands with other organisations to ensure that this goal is achieved.  These events are going to be Historic.  They are going to be memorable not just for the people who are going to take an active part in it., but for the millions who are going to get benefited.  The Centenary Celebrations saw the launch of Vivekananda Kendra, a nationwide Service Organisation.  This 150th birth anniversary celebration will see the regeneration of the Spirit of Dharma and Spiritual Nationalism.

Let us all take part in these celebrations which will be a Yagna in our life.  Among our midst there will be many who are uninitiated to Swamiji's message.  Let us make a vow that we will take Swamiji's message to these hitherto uninitiated people.  Let us use this opportunity to make our life more meaningful. 

A generous dose of his Vedantic humanism is needed for the Present World which is sick due to the Religious fundamentalism.

If words the ethics, Morality, Compassions, and Truthfulness are not to become archaic in our usage, this work is vital.


Friday 7 December 2012

The vision of the Rock is the mission of the Gita

December has a very special place in Sri Ramakrishna – Vivekananda tradition. It was on December  of 1892 that Swami Vivekananda meditated in solitude for three days and three nights on the rock with waves roaring around him. Like Nachiketa who waited in solitude at the gates of Yama to penetrate the mystery of the very existence, Swami Vivekananda meditated on the mystery of the National Existence of India – feeling the Essence of its spiritual heartbeat. Like Siddhartha of Sakhya clan who felt the sufferings of all beings in his own heart and meditated to discover the ultimate liberation, Swami Vivekananda felt the pain of the Nation and Her multitudes, pulsating in all intensity in every cell of his being and he sought a vision to galvanize Her children from her slavery and slumber.   

A mendicant young monk was given a vision and a nation rose from her deep sleep resolving a mission.

Sri Ramakrishna - Swami Vivekananda tradition is unique in the spiritual history of India. Swami Vivekananda was the first Hindu monk to tell in modern times that our downfall was due to the neglect of the masses.  We need to take the Vedantic message to the masses of India and then they shall liberate themselves.  However Sri Ramakrishna – Swami Vivekananda did not stop at mere taking of Vedanta to the masses. The very notion of superiority and inferiority which is well rooted in the socially stagnant pseudo-culture of traditionalists had to be destroyed utterly. And that is not easy. As Dr.Ambedkar rightly points out the inequality of the system is not universal inequality in which case it could be easily combated. But it is 'graded inequality'. Such an inequality cannot be fought with binaries and hatred.  It needs extreme spiritual strength and courage. That courage and spiritual strength was given to the nation through the Sadhana of Sri Ramakrishna.

As Swami Ranganathananda Maharaj points out in his famous lecture 'Adi Shankara and the Untouchable', Bhagwan Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's sadhana was unique in the history of humanity. It signifies a new dawn. Sri Ramakrishna cleaned the toilet of a Dalit, with his own hair, all the while praying to the Mother of the Universe, to remove all feelings of superiority or inferiority and praying to the Divine Mother to make Him the servant of all humanity.  And that is Karma yoga at the highest, the practical Vedanta in action. Today caste wars are fragmenting our society and our brothers and sisters are rendered homeless, killed and maimed in the name of caste. Forces of fragmentation are working overtime to exploit every injustice many real and some perceived. Cycle of violence is reinforced and rekindled. To break free of this cycle of violence one needs to break free of the conditioned mindset of caste differences. It is here that the meditation on this Sadhana of Bhagwan Sri Ramakrishna  will liberate us from the evils of casteism. It is a sure armour and also a weapon to unite and not divide the society in harmony, peace and justice.

Viewed from the hermeneutics of Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda tradition, the message of Bhagwad Gita becomes the message of social harmony too. Here Sri Krishna rejects the idea of Kula-Dharma as put forward by Arjuna and in its place He provides Swadharma – individual's Dharma. If this great leap forward is not enough Sri Krishna terms those who consider themselves superior by birth or lineage as 'demonic' (16:15).  Bhagawad Gita's Varna system is not only not birth-placed, it even implicitly ignores the stratified though organic symbolism of Purusha Suktha. After all when Bhagwan shows His cosmic form in which even timelines are subsumed, the Varna-mapping of Purusha Suktha is conspicuous by its absence. It should also be noted that contrary to the popular conception the word Varna is never mentioned in Purusha Suktha.  The origin of Varna system as elaborated in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad does not refer to any social gradation amongst the Varnas.(BU 1.4.11-15).  If we remember that the Upanishads are the epicenters of Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Vedanta, then in the framework of Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda tradition, Bhagavat Gita becomes a strong spiritual source for social justice.

We live today in a fractured world and we live today in a wounded society. This month brings both Gita Jayanthi and also the days of meditation of Swami Vivekananda on the rock. May we dedicate ourselves to the mission and vision of Swami Vivekananda – which is to annihilate injustice through love and benediction, so that Mother India shall again arise and give this planet the message of Samanvaya. And that mission like charity begins right in our own house.  

Aravindan Neelakandan

Thursday 8 November 2012

Ignorance can rarely be bliss

During the reign of Louis XVI of France there was a famine which created widespread sufferings. When people were struggling to have at least one meal a day, the king was rolling in luxury and indulgence. The queen quiet oblivious of the sufferings of the people, advised them to eat cake if bread is not available.” if there is no bread, eat cake” is a infamous and callous saying attributed to the queen Marion Antonio, though there are disputes whether she actually said these words.

Rulers indifference to the apathy of the common man is not a thing of past. The very recent uttering by our Prime Minister that “Money does not grow on trees”  in trying to justify the nod given by his government FDI in retail, is sure to become one of the most insensitive statements ever. The government's stealthy move to allow FDI in retail was passed over with minimal discussions and debate.

The traders and farmers do agitate. But it is seldom given enough exposure by our Media. It is no secret that the companies which are going to swallow the Indian market are the crooked cronies of our Media, which gets its pelf from the advertisements and expects a bigger chunk from these foreign players.

People for and against the FDI are putting forth their views and they are mainly about the economic fallouts. Last 2 decades have seen a lot of growth in the industrial sector and information technology as a result of Globalization. While some of us are proud of getting the status of the “back office of the Western world” there are some who rue the progress as it has put to sword the values which our society endeared. Cultural degradation which is an unavoidable after shock of the Globalization has resulted in many broken families.
The situation has deteriorated to such a level that we now hear voices to legitimise gay marriages and live in relationships. The government has probably felt that the degradation is not fast enough and to fasten that has introduced the FDI in retail. The urge to ape the west with lust and greed as tools to do it, our society is sadly losing its destined path. It would be apt to recall what Swami Vivekananda has said about this craving to ape others.

“Another great lesson we have to remember; imitation is not civilization…Imitation, cowardly imitation, never makes for progress. It is verily the sign of awful degradation in a Man…  We have indeed many things to learn from others, yea, that man who refuses to learn is already dead…  learn everything that is good from others, but bring it in, and in your own way absorb it; do not become others. Do not be dragged away out of this Indian life; do not for a moment think that it would be better for India if all the Indians dressed, ate, and behaved like another race.”

 Time to wake up.


Saturday 20 October 2012


Tapas is a Sanskrit word which cannot be literally translated into any non‐Indian language. Language embodies culture. It uses words as vehicles for its communication. This is true of all great classical languages. Sanskrit, the world's oldest classical language, is rich in words like Dharma, Tapas etc. They are pregnant with concepts and values which are unique in themselves and hence untranslatable in their full sense. In India, it is a household word with which every Indian is conversant and experiences no difficulty in grasping its full significance.

There are various definitions of the word Tapas in our ancient literature. For example, the great sage Yajnavalkya has defined Tapas in the Yanjavalkya Smriti. Swami Ranganathananda explains: "मनस च  इन्द्रियाणां च हैकाग्य्रम् परमं तपः" The concentration of the energies of the sense and the mind is called supreme Tapas. Anyone can quote it in any university in the world. Everybody will look up to it. It is a wonderful definition. All achievements come to us through that concentration. The sensory energies are scattered about. When we concentrate them, we achieve success. Mind's energies are scattered. We concentrate them, and then we achieve success in making money, in getting knowledge, in obtaining a degree, in doing great work for society, in achieving political elevation. All this comes from Tapas, by intelligent hard work. तज्जयः सर्व धर्मेभ्यः That is the supreme Dharma among all the Dharmas by which we concentrate the energies given to us in the body, the mind and the senses, and direct that energy to the problems in front of us. स धर्मः परा उच्यते That dharma is known to be Supreme. That is called tapas. (Page 360, Universal Message of the Bhagavad Gita, Vol‐1).

In the Bhagavad Gita, there are copious references to the importance of Tapas in our day to day life. Srimad Bhagvad Gita describes Tapas as one of the three duties which must not be given up under any circumstances, Yajna and Dana being the other two.  यज्ञदानतपः कर्म न त्याज्यं कार्यमेव तत् | यज्ञो दानं तपश्चैव पावनानि मनीषिणाम् (B.G.18‐5) The work of Yajna, Dana and Tapas should not be relinquished, but it should indeed be performed; (For) these are purifying agents according to wise.

Swami Vivekananda has to say this about the kind of Tapas which is relevant and necessary during the present situation through which we are passing. Swami Vivekananda was a revolutionary Sanyasin. He interpreted the traditional concepts in a very modern way, as a more suitable response for the contemporary challenges. He said the traditional form of Tapas of the Hatha Yogis like standing on one leg will not yield fruits in this Yuga. "The Tapas and the other hard Yogas that were practiced in other Yugas do not work now" (Vedantism Volume 3). In conversations with his young disciple Sarat Chandra Chakravarty he discusses this in detail. Dispelling all doubts, he states categorically that working for the good of the society is the best form of Tapas in today's context. “True, power comes of austerities; but again, working for the sake of others itself constitutes Tapasya (practice of austerity). The karma‐yogins regard work itself as part of Tapasya. As on the one hand the practice of Tapasya intensifies altruistic feelings
in the devotee and actuates him to unselfish work, so also the pursuit of work for the sake of others carries the worker to the last fruition of Tapasya, namely the purification of the heart, and leads him thus to the realisation of the supreme Âtman (Self)."

Tapas literally means heat. Sister Nivedita has equated heat with energy. Tapas, though of different kinds, all generate energy which is the source of activities whether creative or destructive. In the long history of our country we find Tapas has been practiced by people both for creative and destructive objectives. It is also shown that those who do Tapas for the sake of destructive power will ultimately end up by destroying themselves where as those who perform Tapas for the sake of one's own self‐development as well as that of the world brings about good to the world.

According to our ancient tradition the entire creation is the outcome of Tapas. It is stated in the Puranas, Brahma of the divine trinity is endowed with the mission of creation while Vishnu sustains it and Siva destroys. How Brahma created the entire universe by the power of Tapas is described in our ancient Vedas. Swami Ranganathananda beautifully explains this in his commentary on Bhagavad Gita. “When the time for creation comes, a lotus comes out of His (Vishnu's) navel. On the lotus appears Brahma. That is the story in the Srimad Bhagavatam. And Brahma wonders, what am I to do? He looks around, and finds nothing there. He goes through the lotus stalk into Vishnu Himself. Then he understands. Yes, I must have some work to do, the Lord is omniscient. Then he comes out and hears a sound, “tapa tapa”. Do tapas, do tapas. Not physical tapas but 'jnanamayam tapah', knowledge tapas. Through that tapas he understood the entire world of knowledge‐every law, every theory, everything connected with the universe to come. He knew it all. So he is called 'Vedamaya' or 'Vedamurti', the embodiment of Veda. Veda means knowledge inclusive of the science of physical nature and the science of human possibilities which is the science of spirituality. Thorough knowledge is called Veda.

When Brahma heard this word “tapa, tapa”, he got this profound message and he engaged himself in tapas. What kind of tapas? Intense concentration to understand what is this work in front of me. After those tapas, the universe comes out”.

There is another beautiful story which shows the importance and the power of Tapas in achieving things which are normally unachievable. The story of Bhageeratha who successfully brought down the mighty river Ganga from the heaven to this earth for the sake of liberating the souls of his ancestors as they were under a curse. First, he performs Tapas for years together to propitiate Ganga and make her agree to pour down to earth. But there was none other than Siva who could bear the impact of the tremendous downpour. So Bhageeratha had again to perform Tapas to propitiate Siva and make him agree to bear the impact. Bhageeratha's Tapas is unique in the history of world. Had he not undertaken these hardest Tapas, the land of Bharat would have remained a dreary desert like Sahara. The entire prosperity of India is due to the Bhageeratha's Tapas.

Tapas can achieve anything and without Tapas, nothing can be achieved. "Great things can be achieved by great sacrifices only" These are words of Swami Vivekananda. They are the product of his life‐long Tapas, the constant struggle this warrior Monk had to wage with internal and external world. The amount of physical agony he suffered due to different ailments and the mental agony of humiliation and hurt at the hands of not only the alien but many times from his own countrymen for whom his heart bled is unimaginable. Enduring all these, he continued his work of awakening the dormant spirit of Mother Bharat by constant travel throughout the length and breadth of Bharat, arousing her young sons with his clarion call. Tapas is the basis of all his achievements. The great historians like Jadunath Sarkar and R C Majumdar concur that Swami Vivekananda was the prime mover of the cultural and spiritual renaissance of Bharat in th the last decade of 19th century which evolved into a total national renaissance in the first half of the 20th century. Jadunath Sarkar says, "Ninety‐one years ago a boy was born who has turned the lives of millions of us in India into a new channel, and thousands in the West to find their own
souls amidst the doubts and distractions of this mechanical civilization. When we calmly reflect on our social scene, we feel bound to admit that the moral revolution not merely preached but actually accomplished by his life and example, is the dominating force of Hindu Society in the 20th century."

Another Great Historian R C Majumdar writes, "He (Vivekananda) was a product of the nineteenth century Renaissance in Bengal, in its initial stage, but it was his genius and personality that molded it into the shape it finally assumed. ......The Ideal he placed before the country was an all‐round development by imbibing both the spirituality of ancient India and the material culture of the West. Such a synthesis was not only necessary for India but its scope, according to Swamiji, extended to the West also. As a matter of fact Swamiji regarded this synthesis as essential for the whole humanity. It would appear that Swami Vivekananda has lain before us the final phase of the Renaissance Movement that is still leading us forward and India will derive the fullest benefit from it if she follows the path laid down by him."

“It is unfortunate, if not tragic, that after our political independence we have forgotten the word tapas in every department of life, except in making one's own money by every crooked means possible. That is all what we have understood now. That tapas of the past must come back. Our education will become wonderful when tapas enters into it. Our politics will become wonderful when tapas enters into it. Today, one becomes a political leader if he or she shouts about and goes round throwing stones. There is no difficulty at all. And so, the Gita provides a comprehensive and profound philosophy of life and work. It can be appreciated only by those who have entered that phase of tapas where some training of the sensory and mental energies has been undertaken. Then if he or she looks up to the Gita, he or she will get some blessing, some message from this great book. So the verse says, ना आतपस्काद वाच्यम।, don't communicate this truth to one who has not done any tapas." (Page no.360, Universal Message of the Bhagvad Gita, Vol‐1)

The workers of Vivekananda Kendra know very well how the rock memorial, and, following it, Vivekananda Kendra itself, came into existence only because of the great Tapas performed by modern Bhageeratha like Mananeeya Eknathji Ranade. The rock itself was sanctified by the Tapas of Swami Vivekananda where, sitting in meditation, he gained knowledge about his life mission. It can be compared to the Tapas of Brahma before creation of the world and later on the Tapas of Buddha under the Bodhi tree where he attained enlightenment. Tapas is in the very blood of Hindus. In other countries, there may be stray examples of men of Tapas who have achieved great things, but the history of India is replete with the names of men of Tapas who have sustained the great legacy of our culture right from prehistoric times. The name of Sankaracharya comes before our mind's eye. Like Swami Vivekananda, within a very short span of time Sri Sankara made such a historic contribution to Bharat and the world for which we cannot be too grateful. It is on account of such great personalities that Bharat has been known as Punya Bhoomi as well as Tapo Bhoomi. It was the great dream of Swami Vivekananda to restore
the uniqueness of Bharat once again so that she will be able to show the way to the rest of the world. He has entrusted to us a great responsibility to achieve what he envisaged. The 150 birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda is the most auspicious occasion for all of us to accomplish this great mission. We in Vivekananda Kendra are the descendants of this tradition of Tapas, concentrating all the energies for the work of selfless service.

Swamiji extolled, "Let New India arise in your place. Let her arise — out of the peasants' cottage, grasping the plough; out of the huts of the fisherman, the cobbler, and the sweeper. Let her spring from the grocer's shop, from beside the oven of the fritter‐seller. Let her emanate from the factory, from marts, and from markets. Let her emerge from groves and forests, from hills and mountains." This is a call for a new creation out or the old. Every creation demands tapas. What Bharat needs today is intense Tapas by its sons and daughters. We have a great occasion before us – Swami Vivekananda's 150th birth anniversary. Let us come together and do national Tapas to make his dream a reality. Let us all become Bhagirathas and put ourselves to work.

Gita has prescribed Tapas at three levels, Physical, Oral, and mental. They are as follows. In the earlier chapter Tapas at three levels physical (Sharir), oral (Vangmay) and mental (Manas) are explained. देवद्विजगुरुप्राज्ञपूजनं शौचमार्जवम्। ब्रह्मचर्यमहिंसा च शारीरं तप उच्यते।।  (Gita 17‐14) Worship of Gods, the twice born, the Gurus, and the wise; purity, straight‐forwardness, observance of Brahmacharya and nonviolence are called Tapas of the Body. अनुद्वेगकरं वाक्यं सत्यं प्रियहितं च यत्। स्वाध्यायाभ्यसनं चैव वाङ् मयं तप उच्यते।।  (Gita 17‐15) Speech which causes no vexation, and which is true, also agreeable and beneficial and regular study of scriptures are called the Tapas of speech.  मनःप्रसाद सौम्यत्वं मौनमात्मविनिग्रहः। भावसंशुद्धिरित्येतत्तपो मानसमुच्यते।। (Gita 17‐ 16) Serenity of mind, kindliness, silence, self‐control, honest of motive – this is  called the Mental Tapas.

There is another very important aspect to the Tapas the Kendra workers are expected to perform. Individual Tapas is comparatively easy because it concerns only one particular person. Each one of our workers in his or her own way is already doing it. But collective Tapas is much more difficult and beset with innumerable obstacles. We all experience how difficult it is for a team to function harmoniously. But, with persistent effort, we have managed to function as a th team within the organization. But the 150 birth anniversary celebrations demand that the Kendra workers, along with a number of Institutions and Organisations who have the same common objectives, but whose training and habits might differ in various degrees to learn to work with will require immense capacity of adjustment and accommodation. That will be a collective Tapas to bring about the glorious future which we all have set before our eyes and which is what Swami Vivekananda expects each one of us.

P. Parameswaran

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Vedantic Humanism - The Future

When Swami Vivekananda said the words, “Sisters and Brothers of America” at the World Parliament of Religions at Chicago, he also declared that the movement of Vedantic humanism has come of age. Vedantic humanism is fundamentally different from the humanist philosophies of the West in the sense that it is based on the fundamental unity of all existence manifested in the oneness of humanity. The West was then still struggling to come to terms with the idea of common unity of humanity and the discovery that humanity is but one branch in the grand tree of life as revealed by Charles Darwin.

Social Darwinism was the answer the West gave to Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection. Both the left and right wing philosophers of the West, here we are not dealing with religious fundamentalists who outright rejected evolution but the philosophers of the West, embraced varying degrees of social Darwinism and speculated that non-European races are 'less evolved' and thus colonization was for them a justified social process which either eliminates or elevates the 'lower races' through a very slow process of 'civilizing' that happens of course under colonization. Even Marx and Engels were basically advocates of such a process. Here it should be stated that Charles Darwin himself was not very comfortable with the idea of social Darwinism.

However one finds in Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo the complete rejection of such Social Darwinist models of human society. Swami Vivekananda observes:

Today the evolution theory of the ancient Yogis will be better understood in the light of modern research. And yet the theory of the Yogis is a better explanation. The two causes of evolution advanced by the moderns, viz. sexual selection and survival of the fittest, are inadequate….The result of this theory is to furnish every oppressor with an argument to calm the qualms of conscience. Men are not lacking, who, posing as philosophers, want to kill out all wicked and incompetent persons (they are, of course, the only judges of competency) and thus preserve the human race! But the great ancient evolutionist, Patanjali, declares that the true secret of evolution is the manifestation of the perfection which is already in every being; that this perfection has been barred and the infinite tide behind is struggling to express itself. These struggles and competitions are but the results of our ignorance, because we do not know the proper way to unlock the gate and let the water in. This infinite tide behind must express itself; it is the cause of all manifestation. Competitions for life or sex-gratification are only momentary, unnecessary, extraneous effects, caused by ignorance. Even when all competition has ceased, this perfect nature behind will make us go forward until everyone has become perfect. Therefore there is no reason to believe that competition is necessary to progress. In the animal the man was suppressed, but as soon as the door was opened, out rushed man. So in man there is the potential god, kept in by the locks and bars of ignorance. When knowledge breaks these bars, the god becomes manifest.

It should be remembered that the Western society post-enlightenment was drunk to saturation with the idea of eugenics and social-Darwinism. Those who were labeled invalids and hereditary criminals were barred from marriages and jailed. Sometimes they were forcefully made sterile. All these inhuman practices were justified in the name of social Darwinism. In India they enacted the 'Criminal Tribes Acts' and branded entire social groups as criminals based on birth. However Swami Vivekananda rose against the tide of Social Darwinism and declared that human evolution is based on qualitatively different process. It was only after the Nazi holocaust and the horrors of mass killing of mentally challenged and physically challenged populations as well as elimination of the ethnic groups labeled as 'inferior' by Nazi state machine that the Western thinkers realized the immense folly of their upholding of social Darwinism.

As against these there have been voices in isolated isles of the West which spoke against social Darwinism and interestingly invariably these voices had a Vedantic connection.  One such example is Pyotr Kropotkin. Kropotkin emphasized that not struggle but mutual cooperation is a strong process that shapes evolution. His book 'Mutual Aid a Factor in Evolution' was published in 1902. In 1900 he met Swami Vivekananda at Paris. Author P.Mukherjee writes: “The core of these meetings, I would like to believe (and believe) is to explore the distinctiveness of different shades of opinion, however, diverse they are or they might look to be.”

Swami Vivekananda's observation, that the evolution of non-human organic life and human evolution making an organically united yet a qualitatively different process is accepted by evolutionists today. Even die-hard neo-Darwinian like Richard Dawkins speaks of human evolution as governed by memes and extended phenotypes unlike the other organisms where genes and selection pressures alone determine evolution. This is a collective evolution. System biologists like V.I.Vernadsky speak of transition from biosphere to noosphere. Sri Aurobindo took forward the vision of Swami Vivekananda and spoke of supra-mental consciousness descending on the planet. And this vision never favored any specific race or culture but entire humanity. Both Sri Aurobindo and Swami Viveakananda recognized that all humanity owes its evolution to all humanity. In fact Swami Vivekananda rejecting the Aryan race theory sharply reacted to those who spoke high of their 'Aryan' superiority or Aryans civilizing the world thus: “If I am grateful to my white-skinned Aryan ancestor, I am far more so to my yellow-skinned Mongolian ancestor, and most so of all, to the black-skinned Negritoid!”

So what Swami Vivekananda set in motion on September 11 at Chicago is the continuing declaration of Vedantic humanist ideal which manifests itself when humanity liberates itself from the shackles of all artificial barriers it has built around it and realizes that it is part of the great Cosmic Divinity that permeates and animates all existence.
                                                                                                                              Aravindan Neelakandan
                                                                                                                                                        YB ET
      Youth Icon : Yuvabharati Editorial : August 2012

Vivekananda Kendra Calling

This call comes to you from our land's southernmost tip, where the waters of the three seas wash the feet of Mother India. This unique spot may be described as a perfect symbol of unity as well as sanctity. A meeting point of three oceans, it is also a place where the north and the south as also the east and the west lose their separateness. It is here, at the southern extremity of the country, that Virgin Kanyakumari, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva, has been standing in eternal Tapasya, longing to meet her Lord, whose abode is in the Himalayas in the distant north. It is again here only, that one's eyes can feast upon the wonderful spectacle of the golden disc of the morning sun, emerging from the Bengal sea in the east, and at the end of the day's journey, entering into the Arabian sea on the west, scattering a rich riot of colours on the horizon.

This message radiates from a place, which is a veritable symbol of purity and serenity as well. Fascinated by the serenity of the spot, Gandhiji said, "The place furnishes a sight unequalled in history; for this is no port of call for vessels; like the Goddess, the waters around are virgin.. .. This place is eminently suited for contemplation. I wish I were to stay here for ever."

A mind attuned to the elevating atmosphere here, soars high and penetrates deep and refuses to entertain any thought that is base or petty and narrow or ephemeral.

The humble musings, inspired at this hallowed place, will be broadcast to our readers, month after month, through these columns. It is but meet that a beginning is made, with the musings of the great patriot-saint, Swami Vivekananda, who came and meditated here eighty years ago.

What were the contents of Swamiji's meditation? In the words of his biographers (Life of Swami Vivekananda : By his Eastern and Western Disciples), "They were 'as deep as the Indian ages; they were all on India itself." "There, where all was silence, seated by himself on the last stone of India, he thought of the Purpose and the Fruition of the Indian World. He thought, not of Bengal or of Maharashtra, or of the Punjab, but of INDIA and of its very life. He passed in his thought through all the Indian centuries and he perceived, as few souls have ever done in India, the realities and potentialities of the Indian Experience."

"He saw the whole of India organically and synthetically as a great Master-builder sees the whole architectural design. He saw Religion as the very blood and life and spirit of the Indian millions. He saw its future regeneration as a whole, and he said in the silence of his heart, 'India shall rise through a renewal and a restoration of that Highest Spiritual Consciousness which has made of India at all times, the Cradle of the Nations and the Cradle of the Faith.'

"His mind surveyed the whole of India and everywhere he saw that the poor and the low had been oppressed and downtrodden for hundreds of years in turn by each Power that came in the flow of fortune to rule over them. But he saw that the worst masters and the worst fate that had ever befallen the masses came from within the pale of Hinduism itself. The autocracy of the priesthood, the despotism of caste, the terrible demarcations that these created within the social body, making of the majority of the followers of the Dharma, the outcasts of the earth, - these the Swami saw the almost insurmountable barriers that had blocked the progress of the Indian nation. Deep, deep down into the very heart of things his soul penetrated."

"He asked, with a start that shook his own personality to it very depths: 'But what have we, several millions of Sannyasins, bee doing for the masses? Teaching them metaphysics! This is all madness! Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna was right when he said that religion was not for men with empty stomachs! How can the' millions rise, how can the millions be spiritual when they are starved? We have, first of all, to improve their material condition and give them education along this line, and then they will themselves solve their own problems. TO EFFECT THIS, THE FIRST THING WANTED IS MEN ." 
Eknath Ranade
(This was published as the Editorial of August 1973 issue of Yuva Bharati)

Personal ego above national Interest- – a sure recipe for Disaster

Heroes yesterday!  Zeroes today.  This what our Tennis stars have made themselves now.  There were bickerings in the past, but they managed to burry them in order to play in the grand slam events.  But today with Olympics barely 5 weeks to go and with only pride and no great prize money at stake, they have brought their fight to the streets.  Leander and Mahesh, one of the best pair in the Men's Doubles are our Medal hopes.  But petty squabbles and personal Ego seems to be of more important to them than clinching the gold medal at Olympics.  But sad is the part the administration has played.  It is trying to assuage the individuals by announcing that it will send 2 teams instead of one, rather than advising them what their top priorities should be.  The big money involved in today's sports makes the sportsman think that he is much above the sports itself. 

A few years back a top ranking international badminton player, P.Gopichand refused to appear in a advertisement for a soft drink on the grounds that it is not good for the health.  But now we see sportsmen, especially cricketers are queuing up for endorsing such unworthy products.  Gone are the days when a certain Major Dhyan Chand, who used   score goals in dozens and made everyone wonder if it is hockey ground or his drawing room, was offered great positions and riches by none other than the German Head of the state Hitler.  He refused the riches saying that he gets pride in playing for his country.  This will sound like a mythology for the present generation children.  Today's sorry state of affairs should be corrected.  But for that the correction should happen at all level.  There is a Sanskrit saying “Yatha Raja, Thatha Praja”, which means the people will be just like their ruler.  In a democratic setup it works both ways as the leader comes from the society. All Vanity should vanish and pave way for national pride to take its seat. People who put nation above their self should lead the way.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Unending source of Inspiration..

Our nation's tryst with destiny had a lot of twists and turns. What we achieved in 1947 is not just due to the passive perseverance of some individuals, as our textbooks would like us to believe, but to the sweat and bloodshed of hundreds of people. After the repression of the first war of independence, the freedom struggle was like a rudderless boat with nobody to lead and organize the nationalist forces. This was the time when Swami Vivekananda blossomed as our Nation's Guru. Knowing very well that the lack of organizing skills led to our downfall in that first attempt, Swamiji emphasized the importance of organized work to our people. Swamiji felt that our country men lack this vital skill which is essential to knit a society. His trip to America further confirmed this opinion.  A nation steeped in slumber and lethargy needed a real whip to get itself stare at the reality. And it got it through the speeches that Swamiji gave after coming back from America. Many a great men were molded after listening to the inspiring messages given by Swamiji. Men of all hues, extremists and moderates jumped in and the struggle at last started getting organized.

 Swamiji prophesized that our nation will be free after fifty years and further said that freedom will not be a complete one. We now understand how true those words are. What we have now is a society fragmented in all possible lines like caste, religion, language and region. With democracy, a distant dream for many countries even today, we should have set many things right. But we became a little bit relent after the freedom, that we allowed ignoble people to run the show rather than those actually toiled for the freedom. Democracy appears to be an illusion to many, for it brings up only those who know the nuances of the game and not the deserving.  If the society is not organized on nationalistic lines then the creepers will claim that they are supporting the tree. We have caricatures fighting over a cartoon, just to shift the focus from the scam unearthed that day. But, democracy, which is just a tool, cannot be blamed. It is high time that the yet to be organized society learnt its lessons.

When he went to the famed Parliament of Religions, Swamiji gave the message of Universal Brotherhood, so unique to our nation, to the entire humanity. The message of Universal brotherhood can only save this world where the terror of religious fundamentalism looms large. That message is still relevant for the rest of the world and his message of organized work is even more relevant and direly needed for our society. Because if we are not organized, humanity will not see the light of Universal brotherhood. The Nation's guru must be heeded for Bharat to become Jagatguru.


Monday 1 October 2012

Beef Festival in Hyderabad University Campus

Recently University of Hyderabad saw some deadly clashes over a 'beef eating' feast. Students clashed and fought against each other.  Those who conducted the 'festival' claimed that eating beef was part of Dalit culture and hence attempt to suppress it was anti-democratic and anti-Dalit. Soon the media and the 'progressive' elements joined the chorus on expected lines. Eating beef is our cultural right they said. In a Pavlovian reaction Marxist historian D.N.Jha's book that claims that Vedic Brahmins sacrificed and ate cow, was dusted out and got quoted like a scripture by 'intellectual' debaters. Another attempt has been made at different levels to condition Dalit culture with beef eating. 

This raises a lot of issues. Beyond the political rhetoric is it true that beef eating is part of Dalit culture? Many 'scholars' at once bounce upon Dr.Ambedkar's book 'The Untouchables' in which he states that the resurgent Brahminism used beef eating as a tool to suppress Dalits who were actually those who refused to  reconvert to Brahminism.  Debatable as they are, Dr.Ambedkar's theory nevertheless rejects the racial origins of untouchability propounded by Dravidianists and Marxists. For example, Dr.Ambedkar says: “If the Brahmins are Aryans, the Untouchables are also Aryans. If the Brahmins are Dravidians the Untouchables are also Dravidians. If the Brahmins are Nagas, the Untouchables are also Nagas. “  With regard to ban on cow slaughter Dr. Ambedkar states that Buddhists were the first to campaign against cow slaughter: “The Buddhists rejected ... animal sacrifice, particularly of the cow. The objection to the sacrifice of the cow had taken a strong hold of the minds of the masses as they were an agricultural population and the cow was a very useful animal.” He further notes that ban on cow-slaughter by Gupta kings, in itself is not the cause for untouchability. Further he associates refusal of Dalits to taking the carrion for meat as a symbol of social reform and rebellion against caste system. So associating of Dalit culture with meat eating as its core feature is against the vision of Dr. Ambedkar. 

Dr. Ambedkar also recognized the civilizational rationale of cow veneration by Hindus. In his PhD thesis he stated: “The Hindoo devotion to the Cow has been an enigma to most of the foreigners and above all has been an efficient lore in the hands of those half-baked theological failures who go to India to conduct their missionary propaganda for blackmailing the Hindoo. The origin of cow worship is as much economic as that Roman practice of not offering wine to the Gods from unpruned vines. The cow and for that matter all draft animals, is the soul of the farmers. The cow gives birth to oxen which are absolutely necessary to the cultivation of the farm. If we kill the cow for meat, we jeopardize our agricultural prosperity. With full foresight, the ancient Hindoos tabooed cow-flesh and thus prevented cow killing.”

In resonance with this rational basis of Hindu cow veneration,  Dr. Ambedkar made cow protection part of the Directive Principles of Indian constitution. The Directive Principle -Article 48 of the constitution says: "The State shall endeavor to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and in particular take steps for preserving and improving the breeds and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and other milch and draught cattle. In 1971, Justice Gajendragadkar, who was a Supreme Court Judge, stated regarding this directive principle thus: "The truth of the matter is that in providing for a ban on the slaughter of cows and calves, and other milch and draught cattle in the last part of Article 48, the Constitution, in effect, treated the Hindu sentiments as both relevant and valid in laying down the directive principle."   It is interesting to note that Dr.Ambedkar made cow protection part of the scientific obligation of Indian nation rather than a religious edict to be followed. The same approach has been used by Marxist cultural anthropologist Marvin Harris when he explored the rationale for cow veneration by Hindus. Seen in this context, what happened at Hyderabad University campus, instigating students to violent clashes by peddling beef eating as a core Dalit cultural element, is nothing but sheer hate propaganda and dissemination of negative stereotype community relationships.  Cow veneration based on rational scientific secular considerations is part of Modern India as envisioned by its architects including Baba Saheb Ambedkar. This is a shared legacy that belongs to Dalits and other Hindus. 

Aravindan Neelakandan

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Youth Icon : Yuva Bharati Editorial : April 2012

Throughout modern history youths have needed an icon. Once there were the Beetles; then there was John Lennon. For those youngsters who love martial arts there was Bruce Lee followed by Jackie Chan. 

Now in the visible youth culture of today who is the youth icon? The honest answer is Che Guevara. 

The cigar smoking good looking South American Marxist today looks at us from every T-shirt and stares from beyond his grave through facebook walls. Cult of Che Guevara is marketed in the every conceivable consumer item that a youth may use. And he has been a grand success. 
What makes Che a youth icon?      

He is perceived by a vast majority of youths as a rebel who fought for a just world and gave his everything for that cause. For a youth who wears Che in his T-shirt, it’s a proclamation that he is a co-rebel in that cause. Forget that the youth in question may actually toil in the call center for US of A consumers. Forget that the youth in question may drink Coca Cola and burp fried chickens with Kentucky labels. Still with Che’s stern eyes looking out of his clothing, he can consider himself a rebellious quintessential angry youth. It’s the easy way out to be a rebel and at the same time lead a life confirming to all consumerist tendencies.

But the problem is not just a superficial statement of being a pseudo-rebel. Che is also a Trojan. Because in adoring Che, unknowingly certain thoughts get internalized and enter the general youth psyche like the worm malware tunneling into the computer. The youths begin to venerate the ideology that created Che and the violence that is inherent in it. In fact one important aspect of Che’s life philosophy has been violence – cold blooded calculated violence. In the ‘Message’ he sent his comrades he wanted them to develop “hatred as an element of struggle”. He elaborated this further:  “unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine.” The supreme irony is that the youth who wears Che on his clothing thinks that he is wearing an icon of universal love and making a statement of universal compassion! 

And slowly the poison enters his system: the poison of hatred for the ideological enemy – the demonizing and dehumanizing of the other. Che made diary entries when he was leading his ‘revolutionary’ life. They reveal a pathological killer in love with murder. For example, in January 1957, Guevara had a problem. Che developed doubts about one of his comrades Eutimio Guerra – that Guerra might be a spy. In his own words let us hear how he solved the problem: “I ended the problem with a .32 caliber pistol, in the right side of his brain.... His belongings were now mine.”  The pattern is repeated in diary entries – Che’s solution seems to be simple: when in doubt kill. 

Even Che’s martyrdom was a constructed myth. Far from being a socialist martyr fell by the  despicable capitalist and imperialist forces, information about Che’s movements in Bolivia which were passed on to the army, seemed to have originated from Cuba and reached CIA through Soviet hands. The ultimate betrayal of Che happened through his own personal weakness which was used by KGB to shadow him. And even in the end when he had actually an opportunity to become a martyr fighting the army, Che came out and surrendered to the authorities. He came out of his hiding with hands raised, pleading to spare his life as he was ‘more valuable to them alive than dead’.

The peak of paradox is that the very capitalist forces which Che despised so completely were the ones who had converted his face into a youth icon. Marketing Che as the face of the rebel youth started in 1997 – coinciding with the spread of globalization. Copyrights to Che merchandise generated income for capitalists in the American continent. Che is the globalized face of Euro-centric Marxism – essentially a colonial statement rather than a genuine statement of revolution or love for all humanity. In short Che is the Coca cola of revolutionaries.

Nevertheless youths do need an icon. They need an icon, who can enthuse the consumed youths of this consumerist age, with ideals to live and grow by. The world needs an icon who can charge the youth to become harbingers of true reform not in little bits and pieces but “root-and-branch reform”. 

We need an icon to galvanize the international youth into action by appealing to their innermost being and their most profound love. We need a personality who can assure the youth of today with conviction that Love and not brutal violence that shall bring the final victory. We need as our icon someone who will ask us straightly at our face, “Do you love your fellow men? Where should you go to seek for God -- are not all the poor, the miserable, the weak, Gods? Why not worship them first? Why go to dig a well on the shores of the Ganga? Believe in the omnipotent power of love. Who cares for these tinsel puffs of name?”  We need a youth icon who can assure us that if we have love we are omnipotent; if we are perfectly unselfish then we are irresistible. 

There is such a youth icon in Indian history already. With face radiant and with eyes that rival sun itself in brilliance, he stands on the rock surrounded by roaring waves. And he sends a clarion call to the youth – not appealing to their anger and hatred and not forging violence as the weapon- but appealing to the noblest elements vibrant in the youth of all ages. He calls us to work for a new world of oneness and peace and proclaims the heralding of that wonderful future with peace and benediction. 

It’s time we make Swami Vivekananda replace Che as the truly international youth icon – forever.