Tuesday, 1 August 2023

Universal Brotherhood Day :Yuva Bharati August-2023


For organisational work to grow, Mananeeya Eknathji has given us chatusutri. The base of chatusutri is contacts, lokasampark. The broader the base of  chatusutri, more  trained karyakartas we ultimately get for our work at the fourth stage called lokavyavastha. The utsava of universal brotherhood day is more for reaching out to new contacts and renewing the earlier contacts and involving them in our work. We celebrate Universal Brotherhood Day to test our strength as a team as to how many people can we bring together for a function and also to reach out to the people effectively with the message of Swami Vivekananda.

 This time to organise the universal brotherhood day, sit together to think at your own Nagar level as to what all the ways should we adopt to make the function attractive, very solemn, impressive and in what all ways can you reach out and get maximum number of people. As we have completed 50 years as an organization, can we think and get the strength of minimum 500 as audience? How that can be achieved? Let all the Karyakartas in Nagar think, plan and execute it together. After the function is over, you can report in activity group in Telegram about how you worked to get more than 500 audience.

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 life was exactly to show the fallacy in each of this point.

      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


Saturday, 1 July 2023

Gurupoornima: Yuva Bharati - July 2023


The Gurupoornima for this year is on 3rd July. Gurupoornima is an occasion to remind ourselves that we are doing the work of Isvara – ‘Isvaraprityartham’ or as we say in Kendra Prarthana 'nijaparamahitartham' - nija means in this context for one's own Self as well as for the society. The Self refers here to the divinity within i.e. we have taken up this work for manifesting the divinity within and for worshiping the divine which is pervading everywhere in our society and in nature.

The Jayanti of Maharishi Veda Vyasa is celebrated since time immemorial in our country as Gurupoornima. His whole life was to organize the Vedas and our Vedic heritage in such a way that its continuity and purposefulness is maintained. The message of Oneness given by Vedas is essential for the well-being of the world which is getting disintegrated because of excessive materialism and individualism. The humanity for its further spiritual evolution needs this Vedic Vision of Oneness. It is the work of Ishvara. But to be able to do that we Indians need to shake off our confused understanding of Dharma which is limited at present only to religious practices; we also need to shake off whatever lethargy, jealousy and selfishness that has entered due to the invasions and the colonial rule.

Since the testing times of invasions and more since the time of Swami Vivekananda, various organized efforts are being taken up, for establishing Dharma. Vivekananda Kendra is also one such effort. While explaining Swami Vivekananda’s message, Mananeeya Eknathji used to tell that, “Intense practice of Dharma means experiencing the presence of God in one’s own self and in the world. That makes one conscious of the divine within and urges him to work for its unfoldment and enables him to grow spiritually. Simultaneously, it generates in him a sense of oneness with God’s creation and, consequently, an intense fellow-feeling for the members of his own species – the human race – and prompts him to work with zest for human welfare and progress… If, and as long as, the spiritual awakening intensifies on these lines, it is dynamic and full of tremendous potentialities for the transformation of humanity into higher and higher planes of existence. But, if it remains limited to rituals, forms of worship and offerings to God, or prayers and praises addressed to Him, it becomes static and has hardly any role to play in human advancement.” Being aware of the need of the society, Eknathji envisaged a thought movement which would take into account the natural god-wardness of our people and channelize it in man-wardness for practicing Dharma which helps one manifest one’s divinity and also propels him to work for the society.

For Eknathji, the Memorial for Swami Vivekananda was not limited to the one at the Rock but he wanted a vibrant memorial to Swami Vivekananda ‘in an organized efforts’ so that India becomes capable in delivering her mission. Therefore, Eknathji founded Vivekananda Kendra, a spiritually oriented service mission. Explaining about the need of such organization Eknathji said, “The remedy for the ills of our country, therefore, lies in launching a mighty movement of right thought sweeping the entire country. It has to be a two-pronged move. On the one hand, it is to be aimed at (1) transforming our people’s inherent God-wardness into the right spiritual urge rising out of the teachings of the Upanishads, namely, (a) each soul is potentially divine and (b) faith in God, in turn means faith in one’s self, i.e. in one’s potentiality to rise to divine heights. On the other hand, it is (2) to convert the spiritual fervour thus released into works of national reconstruction."

To continue with vigour such spiritually oriented work, a timeless source of inspiration and guidance is required. A source which represents all that India has stood for; a source to which Karyakarta has to surrender and also can draw succour for oneself; a source which can motivate a karyakarta coming from any region and tradition of India; a source which would link Karyakartas to the hoary past of our ancient land and yet has the potentiality to embrace the whole world is to be accepted. Obviously a personality howsoever great could not be chosen for the same. In this Ishwariya Karya – God’s work -who should be our guide other than Ishwara? Our Kendra prayer also focuses on Tavaivakaryartham Iha Upajatah – we are born to do Your work only. Our guide in doing this work of God is none other than God Himself. How is God understood? How will He speak to us? Tasya Vachakah Pranavah says Patanjali. The God speaks to us through Omkar. Omkar is verily the expression of God. Thus, Omkar Upasana is necessary for those who work for the well-being of the whole universe. Therefore, in Vivekananda Kendra, Omkar is our Guru.

Omkar encompasses all the names and forms of God. When we say God is our guide what do we mean? God is not going to tell us directly to do this or do that. The whole universe has come out of Omkar, thus God has manifested as this universe. Swami Vivekananda says, “When He is less manifested, it is called darkness, evil; and when He is more manifested, it is called light. That is all. Good and evil are only a question of degree: more manifested or less manifested. …The difference is only in degree. It is all a manifestation of that Atman; He is being manifested in everything; only, when the manifestation is (covered) very thickly we call it evil; and when it is (covered) very thinly, we call it good. It is the best, when all covering goes away. So everything that is in the universe is to be meditated upon in that sense alone, that we can see it as all good, because it is the best.”

Where there is thought for others, service of others, absence of selfishness, absence of jealousy; Ishwara is manifested more explicitly. Thus, Ishwara is manifested in our Karya, our dayitva and also in the team of Karyakartas with whom we work. When we worship our Guru, it means actually we are reiterating our resolve to be steadfast to our goal, to work in an organized way. Therefore, Omkar as our Guru gives us the understanding that individual opinions are to be submitted for collective wisdom; the collective decisions are taken as the guidance of God; each Karyakarta becomes precious to all; organizational functioning and discipline is followed as sacred Sadhana.

Omkar means affirmation, creation, inclusive approach and self-effacement. Thus, every Karyakarta by Omkar Upasana strives for self-effacement and is constructive and positive in his approach. Omkar Upasana has been followed in India since time immemorial and thus India has been inclusive in her approach. To maintain and nurture this all inclusive and all-embracing spiritual tradition of India many Rishis, saints, warriors have lived and died for it. Thus, Omkar Upasana also means all those personalities, incidents become the source of inspiration for us to keep the flame of this spiritual land alive and vibrant.

In this 'Vishesh Prashikshan Varsha', celebrating Gurupurnima gives added significance as it enables us to inculcate the vision and values with which we should work. We can focus this year on the practice of self-enrichment as we celebrate Gurupoornima in our branch centers so as to strengthen ourselves as a right instrument in the hands of God. 

Some of the quotes picked from different sources that we can ponder upon for self enrichment are : 

The best way to change the world is in concentric circles: start with yourself and work your way out from there.

The other best way to change the world, start celebrating others' success, and learning to listen.

You're never ready for what you have to do. You just do it. That makes you ready.

Success is better when credit is shared with the team. 

Learn to listen. Opportunity sometimes knocks very softly.

The myth is that there isn't enough time. There is plenty of time. There isn't enough focus with the time you have. You win by directing your attention toward better things.

It's hard to remember that this day will never come again. That the time is now and the place is here and that there are no second chances at a single moment.  

A happy life consists not in the absence of hardships, but in the mastery of hardships.

 Nivedita Raghunath Bhide


Thursday, 1 June 2023

It's India’s story, not just Kerala’s… : Yuva Bharati - June 2023

The release of the Movie “The Kerala Story” kicked up a controversy recently. The movie showing the darker sides of the proselytizing face of Islam is bound to raise many dissenting voices. This is not unexpected in a society where tyrants like Tipu Sultan are glorified. The movie centers around the alleged religious indoctrination in Kerala and how Hindu and Christian girls are being targeted by radical Islamic clerics. The film claims that these women were converted to Islam and later sent to countries like Yemen and Syria, “to fight for the cause of Islam”.

The liberals in Kerala which includes two major political parties who are opposed to this movie stating that it spreads hate and false information intended to defame Muslims and Kerala. One of their arguments in opposing the movie is that the movie peddles a very big number as the women who have been converted and sent to other countries to fight the religious war. They say that the number is far less and not in thousands as alleged in the Film. Even the liberals who are the campaign managers for the anti-India forces are not able to outrightly deny it. Let us assume that the numbers are less as argued by the liberals. Does it reduce the enormity of issue? The fact that these elements are having a free hand in a culturally rooted state like Kerala to hoodwink the women in the guise of Love, convert them to their religion for the sake of Marriage, brainwash them in the name of imparting religious teaching and then transport them to hostile territories which are not safe for even men, proves that these fundamentalist elements are having enough scope and support in our country to operate and carry out their designs. Whether the number is ten or ten thousand, it is something to worry about. And this is not something that is confined to Kerala alone. The borders of our cultural nation are breached and we hear the sad stories from every other state.

There is a question which the Hindu society has to ponder about. How a person who was brought up in a culture for twenty years, is made turn up against it within six months or one year? They even go to the extent of working against the country and killing their own brethren. Does this mean that the campaign by the fundamentalists is so powerful and compelling? We have to a soul searching here.  Anybody in his sane elements will reject these fundamentalist doctrines for their sheer absence of Logic and its ruthless intention to hurt others who do not subscribe to their point of view. Then what is that which lures them?  What can our society do to avert this? The absence of connect to their cultural roots and heritage is the main reason for this. We have to groom our kids to be proud of our culture. This is an uphill task, but a task of civilizational importance, because the narrative which is popular among our youth make them shun all the symbols of our culture. It starts from small things like the Bindi on the Fore head or our ethnic dresses, or the rituals one should follow, to the Indian way of life, our medicines, our art forms, our value systems. Our youth are ready to shun them for embracing the alternatives from the west. This situation must be reversed. Swami Vivekananda once said that, we must think hundred times before rejecting anything from our culture and should think thousand times before accepting anything from other cultures.

We as a society are duty bound to make them feel proud about their own heritage, because it is now or never.



Monday, 1 May 2023

Progress to the destined role. : May 2023


Progress to the destined role.

Vishwa Guru

Many of us would have heard the terms Bharat, the Jagat Guru or India, the Vishwa Guru, uttered by our boudhik pramukhs in the Hindu organizations. These terms are being dismissed by our liberal society as cliched or mere rhetoric propagated by the right wing. But during the second week of April, we heard this term from totally unexpected quarters. It came from the deputy foreign minister of Ukraine Emine Dzhaparova. She while requesting India to intervene and play a greater role in bringing peace to the war-torn country of Her’s, also said that Ukraine views India as a Vishwaguru. For the first time in many years, we got to know about how other countries view us. She also said that our country has an important civilizational voice and Ukraine shares a common path with us as we promote values. This is in tune with the rising popularity of India as a Global Power.

We witnessed in recent times how our country managed to wriggle out of problems like the Pandemic and the problematic economic condition the world is currently in. While many around the world thought that India is one country which may find it difficult to handle such crisis because of its huge population, we proved to them wrong as we not only managed the crisis but also reached out with help to other countries. India’s image has improved globally through these endeavors, that too in spite of the farcical coverage by the biased western media. Our Prime Minister Sri Modi ji also chided the western media for this biased approach. The recent G20 presidency is another good opportunity for India to showcase her economic progress as well as the rich cultural heritage.

However, while we head the G20 summit and we are being hailed by foreign ministers and countries and even after helping the United states by supplying crucial medicines during the pandemic, when it comes to Indian students trying to study in foreign countries with the help of scholarships, many universities view our nation as a third world country and it lays down rules that the student who wishes to study in that particular university has to have taken up some leadership role apart from studies in order to qualify for the scholarship programs. It puts them in a spot where they have to prove their credentials which students from few other countries will not be needing to. This shows that we must not settle with the praise we are getting as there are developments and improvements which need to be done and it is high time, we take back the glory our country once had.

Students should be able to study whatever they want, wherever they want and that should happen because of the fact that India is really a vishwaguru and not because India is a third world country in the eyes of other countries’ education systems. The New Education policy which will be implemented from the 2023 - 2024 academic year could be the first step to that reform and the recent scrapping of chapters about Mughal invaders portrayed as emperors is a good step to denounce the false narrative and teach India’s future leaders, the correct history and history as it happened and not as how it was told to us through these false narratives. It would be great to see our country take its rightful place globally as it is high time we bounce back from the countless years of invasion and colonization. To do that we must take all the praise and recognition we are receiving and move forward using them as motivation rather than slowing down.



Saturday, 1 April 2023

Vasudaiva Kutumbakam… :April 2023


India has taken up the responsibility of presidentship for the G20 summit for the year 2023. This is a premier forum intended for International economic cooperation. It plays an important role in shaping the governance on all major international economic issues. Being the biggest democracy and home to 1.4 billion people India befits the role in more ways than one, though the responsibility comes to every one of the member countries by rotation. The logo for this year’s summit is Vasudaiva Kutumbakam, One earth, One family, One future. As one of the oldest surviving civilizations of the world and a country with a rich plurality, this message is not another jargon but one that comes from India’s vast civilizational experience. This message is also the one which is the need of the hour. We demonstrated this message through our action during Covid Pandemic crisis, with our Vaccine diplomacy. The Logo and the Theme together convey this much needed message in a powerful manner.  They represent the Indian Vedantic ideal of living in Harmony with the Nature and fellow beings.

While we gear ourselves to celebrate the humanity with measures that can sustain and foster happiness for all, we do hear some detestable voices in some parts of our country. In the last couple of months there is a rise in the voice against the migrant workers in Tamilnadu. This is not just against the ethos of our plural culture but also against the Constitution. Our constitution Guarantees safety to each and every citizen through its article 19 (1)(e) which says that every citizen of India has the right to reside and settle in any part of India. The hue and cry is not just against the people who are in the white collar job, but also against the poor workers who migrate to other parts of India for their survival. These protests completely hide the fact that there is very minimal workforce available in the state. The business community is forced to seek the workforce from other parts of the country. No one would prefer to employ a labour who is not conversant with the local language. But in spite of hardships faced in the working environment, the migrant workers quickly adapt to the new circumstances, learning the local language, and bridging the gap between them and their employer. The same vested interests who protest now will be mute when the issue of illegal immigrants is raised. For them an illegal immigrant, who is inimical to the sovereignty of our nation is more acceptable than their own countrymen. The abhorrent voices raised just in time when we gear ourselves up to deliver the Universal Brotherhood message to the world from a responsible position is not a mere coincidence. This only shows that the path ahead in our journey towards the ideal is full of challenges. The strength of falsehood lies in its power to propagate, while the strength of truth is inherent in its message. Satyam Eva Jayate.



Wednesday, 1 March 2023

The Spirit of Holi…

Just like the Bhogi festival in Tamilnadu, people in other parts of our country celebrate Holi, a festival which symbolizes the victory of Good over Evil. People throughout India celebrate this colorful festival with great zeal and enthusiasm. As one of the oldest festivals, there are many interesting stories associated with the festival's origin as one moves across the different states from North to South and East to West. Holi is famous as Basant Utsav in rural India. Gulal, abeer and pichkaris are synonymous with the festival. Elaborate plans are made to throw colors at the near and dear ones. Everybody wants to be the first one to color the other. In the ensuing battle of colors, everybody is drowned not just in colors of gulal but also in love and mirth. People love to drench others and themselves in colored water. 
But amidst all these festivities we should not forget the real spirit of this festival, which is to destroy the evils within oneself. While taking the festival to the next generation along with its puranic references is important, this symbolism should also be told to them. It marks the end of winter and beginning of spring. It marks the beginning of blossoming and fertility. All our festivals are in one way or the other intended to purify us internally. The vratas, japas and other elaborate processes which we undergo in each and every festival are meant for this self unfoldment only. Many of our festivals are celebrated with great pomp and buoyancy with the society. However splendorous they are, they still are for our personal refinement. Likewise, Holika Dahan also should remind us of getting rid of our negative emotions like Ego, Selfishness, wickedness, Greed, Lust and excessive indulgence in materialistic pleasures. Tradition and Culture will have meaning and bear fruits when we remember and imbibe the spirit behind observing them. This will not only help us but will also ensure that the legacy is carried on without any generation loss.


Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Somnath: The Spirit of Sanatana and Invincible Bharat : February 2023

 Though one can read about Somnath from various angles in this volume, howsoever what Somnath really stands for? Somnath temple represents the spirit of Sanatana Bharat and the invincible Bharat.

The wealth of Somnath attracted many greedy invaders. But it was not just wealth that motivated them. Actually, they were possessed by their exclusive religious ideology which taught them that their god was the only true god and others worshiped just idols. Thus their gods are false gods worth to be destroyed. They believed so much in their fallacy that they thought that if they break the 'idols', the 'idolators' will lose their faith. They did not know that Hindus worship Bhagawan in all the forms. We worship the One who is formless, who is ever present in all the forms and thus even if the forms are broken, the formless continues to exist everywhere, pervading everything. It is like the space in the pot. If the pot is broken, the space continues to exist. The eternal is always present.

Those who hold on to Eternal, cannot be wiped out at the destruction of the ethereal or apparent. This fact, the invaders just failed to understand and so they thought that if the temples were broken, these Hindus would be finished. They did not know that they were attacking India at a very superficial level. And thus the moment the invaders turned their back or as the Hindus gathered back their strength, again and again the grand temples arose. India thus holding on to the Eternal became invincible. The temple of Somnath symbolises the eternal and invincible Bharat.

Someone might ask that if India is Sanatana and invincible, why was there such degradation? Swami Vivekananda answers, 'There have been periods of decay and degradation. I do not attach much importance to them; we all know that. Such periods have been necessary. A mighty tree produces a beautiful ripe fruit. That fruit falls on the ground, it decays and rots, and out of that decay springs the root and the future tree, perhaps mightier than the first one. This period of decay through which we have passed was all the more necessary. Out of this decay is coming the India of the future; it is sprouting, its first leaves are already out; and a mighty, gigantic tree, the Urdhvamula, is here, already beginning to appear...'

Thus the intervening period of degradation was necessary for India to rise again more glorious to respond to the problems of humanity. To manifest the invincibility of India, to make her great again, to enable India to fulfill her ordained mission, Swami Vivekananda emphasized mainly on three things. Firstly, realizing that Dharma is the life center of India, we should practice Dharma vibrantly. Secondly, to unify the scattered spiritual forces of our nation focus on the life-giving common principles of our Dharma so that these are internalized. And thirdly, the need of the organized efforts to enable India to her ordained mission of helping humanity to evolve spiritually.

Dharma: The life center of India

Dharma is the life-center of India. Swami Vivekanand explains this, 'We have seen that our vigour, our strength, nay, our national life is in our Dharma. I am not going to discuss now whether it is right or not, whether it is correct or not, 'whether it is beneficial or not in the long run, to have this vitality in Dharma, but for good or evil it is there; you cannot get out of it, you have it now and for ever, and you have to stand by it, even if you have not the same faith that I have in our Dharma. You are bound by it, and if you give it up, you are smashed to pieces. That is the life of our race and that must be strengthened. You have withstood the shocks of centuries simply because you took great care of it, you sacrificed everything else for it. Your forefathers underwent everything boldly, even death itself, but preserved their Dharma. Temple after temple was broken down by the foreign conqueror, but no sooner had the wave passed than the spire of the temple rose up again. Some of these old temples of Southern India and those like Somnâth of Gujarat will teach you volumes of wisdom, will give you a keener insight into the history of the race than any amount of books. Mark how these temples bear the marks of a hundred attacks and a hundred regenerations, continually destroyed and continually springing up out of the ruins, rejuvenated and strong as ever! That is the national mind, that is the national life-current. Follow it and it leads to glory. Give it up and you die; death will be the only result, annihilation the only effect, the moment you step beyond that life-current. I do not mean to say that other things are not necessary. I do not mean to say that political or social improvements are not necessary, but what I mean is this, and I want you to bear it in mind, that they are secondary here and that Dharma is primary.' 

Uniting the Scattered Spiritual Forces

 How do we bring together the scattered strength in India? Swami Vivekananda said, 'The one common ground that we have is our sacred tradition, our Dharma. That is the only common ground, and upon that we shall have to build. In Europe, political ideas form the national unity. In Asia, Dharmik ideals form the national unity. The unity in Dharma, therefore, is absolutely necessary as the first condition of the future of India. There must be the recognition of one Dharma throughout the length and breadth of this land. What do I mean by one Dharma? Not in the sense of one religion as held among the Christians, or the Mohammedans, or the Buddhists. We know that our Dharma has certain common grounds, common to all our sects, however varying their conclusions may be, however different their claims may be. So there are certain common grounds; and within their limitation this Dharma of ours admits of a marvellous variation, an infinite amount of liberty to think and live our own lives. We all know that, at least those of us who have thought; and what we want is to bring out these lifegiving common principles of our Dharma, and let every man, woman, and child, throughout the length and breadth of this country, understand them, know them, and try to bring them out in their lives. This is the first step; and, therefore, it has to be taken.'

He further says, 'We see how in Asia, and especially in India, race difficulties, linguistic difficulties, social difficulties, national difficulties, all melt away before this unifying power of Dharma. We know that to the Indian mind there is nothing higher than Dharmik ideals, that this is the keynote of Indian life, and we can only work in the line of least resistance.'

In the speech 'Common bases of Hinduism' given by Swami Vivekananda we read about these life-giving principles. In Spite of the various sampradaya, the principles which are common are to us all are: God is everywhere, the existence is interconnected and interdependent; the manifested existence is without beginning and without end, it just disappears and appears again but is not destroyed; man is not body but Atman; man takes many births as per his karma; death is not an end to existence but just giving up the body to take another one; Atman is ever pure, eternal and immortal; the purpose of human life is to know Atman, our real Self; Dharma is not in believing but in being and becoming.

The need of organized efforts

Swami Vivekananda wanted us to organize to serve the needy and deprived persons in the society at the same time to rejuvenate our motherland. To attack on our temples, like Somnath, we could give a befitting reply only when we organized. The attacks on our civilization and Dharma continue even today though the nature of it is different. The attacks are more at thought level. Thus we need to organize to respond to those attacks. But the organizing ourself is not reactionary in nature. Even if the attacks are not there, we need to organize and work for raising the mankind to the higher consciousness, as only that can solve many problems facing humanity like, disintegration, degradation of nature, excessive individualism, crass selfishness and fanaticism that come out of exclusive religious ideologies. For all this we have to refocus on and internalise our life-giving principles. The thought that led to the formation of Vivekananda Kendra is based on these life giving principles. As Atman is our real Swaroopa, we must have conviction in our Atmic strength, which is eternal. Then while working for the society, whatever might be the problems we shall not crumble. The more we are rooted in our Atman, more we shall feel affinity, oneness with all. And thus working for Dharma, serving others without any apparent expectations like fame, money and power or subtle expectations like satisfaction of ego etc., will become spontaneous. In short, if we hold on to the Eternal, we become invincible; no change in situations, relationships, health status, behaviour of others, our own mental afflictions can deter us from the work for Dharma. 

In the book 'Spiritualising Life' Mananeeya Eknathji explains how a Kendra karyakarta should hold on to the unchangeable, the eternal in him so that he can face all the challenges. He says, 'To change the atmosphere, you must have an element of ‘Unchangeable’ in you. The gravitational pulls are so much that unless you are extraordinarily conscious of your own duty and your own role you will be undone in no time. If you have to change the atmosphere there must be some element of ‘unchangeable’ in you. Others change within two minutes, whereas you take five minutes. But you also change. You also don’t have resistance. The question is of only degrees. People fall a victim within 10 minutes and you fall a victim after 20 minutes. How the change could be brought about? So it means there must be at least a few persons who stand out and take upon themselves the responsibilities of bringing about a change in the society. Those who feel ordained to do it; those who feel called upon to do it; what should be their nature, what may be their quality? If in them there is something, some element that makes them different from others, and especially in the society where things are going wrong and only few people are there who can deliver the goods then more responsibilities lie upon them.

'Self-propelled workers do not know going back. Today in our country the situation is like this. Suppose a ton of wet fuel is put on the small fire, it will not be the fuel which will begin to burn. It will be the fire which will get extinguished. There may be fire. But then if the timber is wet, if the wet fuel is going to fall upon that small glow, fire would not be enough to set off the power of the whole lot of fuel. The timber will extinguish the fire. The fire will not burn them. This is the position. So you must have extra-ordinary inspiration in you. Then alone you can bring about a change. So when we say we are preparing a cadre of workers that means specialized cadre who are outstanding, and ordinarily whatever happens those laws are not applicable to them. There is something extra-ordinary in them. Then alone we can think of bringing about a change. We are out to build a team of self-propelled workers. Once they are set in motion, they go ahead. They do not know going back. They don’t have depressions. They don’t know ups and downs. Straight way they must go ahead. They are self-propelled. They never reach a point of exhaustion. This quality of making oneself self-propelled is the most important quality required of a worker if something great is to be achieved. Just as I said earlier that when we set out one should not say that well his capacity to go ahead is only for one year, two years. After two years, he will reach a breaking point. ‘It may be said of all others. But it should not be said of myself. I should not be belonging to that category. I should be self- propelled. Others may require a push.’

This is the spirit of Somnath that if we hold on to the unchangeable, to the eternal, if we hold on to the Atomic power within us, then we can face any challenging situation and we are not crumbled by the challenges of time or place. When we take the darshan of Somnath if we remember this, then as Swami Vivekananda says, 'the temple of Somnath will teach you the volumes of wisdom', we shall really have the insight in the secret of Sanatana and invincible Bharat.

 To conclude it in the words of Swami Vivekananda, 'Life is short, but the soul is immortal and eternal, and one thing being certain, death, let us therefore take up a great ideal and give up our whole life to it. Let this be our determination, and may He, the Lord, who "comes again and again for the salvation of His own people", to quote from our scriptures — may the great Krishna Bless us and lead us all to the fulfilment of our aims!' 

                                                                                                                          Nivedita Raghunath Bhide

Monday, 2 January 2023

Samartha Bharat Parva and Vivekananda Jayanti : January 2023

 Vivekananda Kendra celebrates Samartha Bharat Parva from 25th December to 12th January.  Swami Vivekananda started his historical meditation on the Rock on 25th December 1892. He meditated there for three days and nights. His meditation was not for his own salvation but for the upliftment of Mother India. What was the content of his meditation and what was its culmination? 

The salient points of meditation of Swami Vivekananda on Rock at Kanyakumari: 

1. Each nation has a destiny to fulfill, a message to deliver, a mission to accomplish. 

2. The mission of India is to guide the world in spirituality.

3. Spirituality is a way of life based on the vision of Oneness, on the interconnected and interdependent view of the universe.

4. India since ages has understood, owned, nourished and developed this vision, by developing a social order based on it. But due to various reasons this effort was interfered with. 

5. The repeated foreign invasions in a way, set in fatigue, impaired the self-confidence of the nation as well as blurred the vision and knowledge of its purpose. The dynamic spirit was lost and what remained were only the rigid forms. So though we continued to be a Dharmik society apparently, the nation degenerated. Swami Vivekananda asked himself, ' What is it that I should do for the regeneration of India’. 

6. A capable India was necessary in the interest of the society.  

Swamiji sitting on the Rock for three days and three nights on 25, 26 and 27th of December 1892, meditated on this state of India and came to the conclusion that it was not the Dharma of India which was responsible for the degeneration of India. Our lack of understanding of our Dharma and the lack of the dynamic application of the eternal truths in our life  led to degeneration. The degeneration in turn led to loss of confidence in oneself, in one’s traditions and culture. The way out was to take a gigantic plan of man-making, of creating men with capital M. He wanted to awaken the dormant spirit of our countrymen and organize them into a powerful nation. 

Thus this meditation on the Rock which started on 25th December 1892 became the forerunner of a new era for India.  India got back her confidence and also a way out for regeneration. To build a developed India, an awakened India, a powerful India to accomplish her mission, we need to know about her strength and potentiality. Therefore, it was decided that we should take up the period starting from 25th December to 12th January - the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda - to be celebrated as Samartha Bharat Parva. In this celebration the main thrust is to awaken Indians to India and her strength. 

Being the victim of media, we are not able to see the inherent strength as well as the actual achievements of India in various fields in the past and also in present. The celebration during this period is to focus on that. First January– the day that we celebrate as Kalpataru day comes during Samartha Bharat Parva. We can focus on how Sri Ramakrishna was born to protect and propagate Sanatana Dharma. If we take care of protection of Sanatana Dharma then we too would not lack anything – 'Dharmo rakshati rakshitah'– that is Sanatana Dharma is the Kalpataru for all of us. The India’s regeneration is possible only if we forget our own individual interest and give the primary importance for the nation. Exactly this is what Swami Vivekananda did while sitting on the Rock. He did not meditate for his own salvation but for the upliftment of India. Thus he became the cause for setting in motion the process of regeneration of India. Since then, many great persons have contributed and accelerated this process. 

We have to increase the pace of our work to thwart the incessant designs of anti-national forces to fragment our nation or provoke mutual jealousy or to make Indian youth despise India or to lose confidence in India. The youth of India have tremendous potential that is untapped, unopened because this confidence is not awakened. The youth also have the inherent capacity to respond to the call of sacrifice and service if they are appealed properly. The examples of sacrifice move them. During Samartha Bharat Parva we can also focus on the examples of sacrifice in the past and present, also the security personnel which gave their life protecting the Parliament against the attack of the terrorist or at Kargil, Galwan or the surgical strike of Indian army at Balakote. The focus of the program should be on awakening the confidence and patriotism of the people by taking right information to them either through the CD show or through the exhibition, lectures etc. We have to also formulate the program which would awaken the desire of the youth to dedicate themselves for the nation, to strive for great achievements and to feel as part of the society. Bringing youth together in camps, making them to participate in competitions related to culture, etc can be the focus of the program. Unfortunately, we see that the youth get attracted towards the celebration of 1st January as the New Year day by taking to drinks and indulging in unwanted bash which degrades them further. Therefore, we have to organize the program very powerfully so as to wean away the youth from destructive program and channelize their energies in nation-building. 

On 1st December, India has taken over the Presidency of G20. In the logo of G20 as designed by Government of India, first time the thought that world is a family and not just market is being introduced. It is remarkable to note that Swami Vivekananda had immense faith in potentialities of India. Thus, in spite of the poverty, ignorance, degeneration and the oppressive British rule, Swami Vivekananda said with conviction, 'I do not see into the future; nor do I care to see. But one vision I see dear as life before me: that the ancient Mother has awakened once more, sitting on Her throne rejuvenated, more glorious than ever. Proclaim Her to all the world with the voice of peace and benediction.’ 

Today it is an undeniable fact that India is emerging as a great power, we have to motivate the youth to know about it and hasten her emergence as a powerful nation. But it is also to be seen that the power of India is in the hands of Hindu society which has made India a distinct nation. For that, the Hindus would have to be organized. The youth who get motivated through our programs should also be inspired to get associated with Kendra for working in organized way for the nation. Therefore, the planning of the celebration of Samartha Bharat Parva should also include about in what way the new persons coming in contacts with Kendra, would be associated with Kendra in the coming days. 

Swami Vivekananda Jayanti on 12th January 2023 should be a grand program. Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsava also can be linked with that. As you are aware that Vivekananda Kendra is part of the core team of C20 i.e. Civil Society 20. C20 is one of the few verticals that works and organizes seminars, symposiums with international organisations to send recommendations to the world leaders of G20. The work of Vivekananda Kendra is increasingly being noticed at various levels, we too have to fulfill the needs and expectations of our society by properly utilising the occasions like Swami Vivekananda Jayanti by reaching out to many, involving many and serving many more.

                                                                                                                          Nivedita Raghunath Bhide