This whole function is to be organized to give the message of Universal Brotherhood properly. We have to see to it that proper understanding of the message of Swami Vivekananda given on 11 September 1893 takes place through our entire program - the speech by the chief guest, the geet, the demonstration of Yogasana, a Pathanatya, the introduction of the Kendra activities, etc. The uniqueness of the message of Swami Vivekananda and its relevance of the Universal Brotherhood - is to be presented and projected very effectively.
The Parliament of Religions was organized at Chicago in 1893 to proclaim how Christianity alone was a true religion. In Parliament of Religions, everyone while addressing was stressing as to how his religion alone 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 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 God.
Swami Vivekananda stressed that peace for world is ensured with the approach, which says that each religion is valid for its followers. 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 well-being of all. Each soul is potentially divine. Getting rooted in one’s own divine nature makes a person realize the Oneness of existence and brotherhood of human society. This is a message that Sanatana Dharma has given to the world and has to continue to give to the world. It is to remind ourselves of this mission of India and also to give this message, that we celebrate Universal Brotherhood Day.
But India had forgotten her mission. To awaken us to our ordained mission Sri Ramakrishna 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 like
● 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.
● 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 as other religions do through one or other symbols. Thus, in all his Sadhanas, he saw Only God everywhere and even after the highest realisation his worship through idols continued. The 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.
● The chosen deity of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa 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 She as Mother of the Universe.
● Sri Ramakrishna did not know English and yet the educated scholars like Keshava Chandra Sen, Narendranath Dutta sat at his feet to get the knowledge. He showed that ultimate knowledge to be acquired is beyond senses and languages, beyond Nama and Roopa or beyond time and space.
● Sri Ramakrishna practiced various sadhanas including praying to Jesus and Allah 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 these exclusive religions he proved that the exclusive claims of Christians and Muslims are 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.
Swami Vivekananda was a disciple of such a person. Therefore, 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. The whole Sadhana of Sri Ramakrishna was behind his words. And, therefore, it created such an everlasting impact on Western audience.
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 specific 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 his religious approach, then his claim of spirituality is false.
To make whole celebration meaningful and looking forward, we can focus on the message of Swami Vivekananda which Romain Rolland quotes as 'the divinity inherent in man and his capacity of indefinite evolution… ' What does it mean? To explain it in Sri Aurobindo’s terminology – it is the inner centre that holds each individuals highest evolutionary calling. It is the seat of what he called ‘true being’, and it is from here, he maintained, that a power and wisdom arises that sees perfectly in every instance what is, what must be done, and by what means to realise it's ultimate purpose. These cues, he says, are typically muffled in layers of ego, conditioning, and negative tendencies. But through persistent aspiration and effort one can encounter the presence of true being and increasingly dwell in it to evolve further.’
For India to rise and even after rising, more and more Bharatiyas have to be rooted in one's true being. In deeper layers of meditation, when we are rooted in the inner being we feel one with it and that strengthens the basis of brotherhood. Can our celebrations of Universal brotherhood day, focus on these both aspects? Outwardly, clarity of thought and inwardly rooted in Atman which frees us from our petty ego.
Nivedita Raghunath Bhide