By Vidhi Mittal
Western admirers once described Swami Vivekananda as being ‘young in years but eternal in wisdom’. Such was the impact on the 10-year-old me when I ﬁrst witnessed his journey through a beautifully designed lifetime experience at Akshardham in Delhi – that takes down the cultural heritage of great philosophers and India’s contributors.
Swami Vivekananda ﬁrmly believed in the gift of knowledge as the highest in the world, something he left the world to contemplate upon for centuries to come. A famous saying highlights upon his life journey of less than 40 years, “Lives of great men all-remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and departing leave behind us, Footprints on the sands of time.” Even though Swami Vivekananda belonged to the 19th century, yet his message and his life are more relevant today than in the past and perhaps, and it will continue to be even more relevant in the future.
The world has changed ever since, so has the man in its outlook and way of living, continuously adapting to things around. Once considered ‘the queen of heart’s adoration’, India is a free country from British rule just as he had predicted – ‘the country would be free within the next 50 years in most unforeseen circumstances.’ But India of today faces problems that weren’t prevalent in his times. Yet his teachings have ground solutions to those problems that could change a lot of perspectives and way of living for the fast-paced humans in the modern times if adapted. The messages, knowledge and inﬂuence he left behind for the world, goes without saying that it has gained momentum as years have passed by. However, it’ll take humanity to come to terms of the depth of its relevance in modern times with each passing day.
Swami Vivekananda was born as Narendranath Dutta into an afﬂuent Bengali family in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata), in the holy month of Makar Sankranti on January 12, 1863. He was one of the nine children of Vishwanath Dutta, attorney at the Calcutta High Court and his wife Bhubaneshwari Devi. Mischievous as a child he was a gifted one, who excelled in everything he did – music, studies, language and athletics. Wandering monks, spirituality and its aesthetics always fascinated the young Narendranath. Not just this, he grew up mastering Sanskrit, English and Bengali languages.
‘Arise! Awake! And stop not till the goal is reached,’ is not just a slogan inspired from the Katha Upanishad that he popularized in the late 19th century, but a motto that should be imbibed in youth of today and for generations to come. It is a situation faced by each one of us in our daily lives. We aim, dream, set goals to achieve them yet we give up on the journey towards that goal as it’s ﬁlled with thorns and spikes. In current times, we commonly come across the term ‘Keep moving. Don’t give up!’ is just the reﬂection of Swami Vivekananda’s teachings for the youth.
Swami Vivekananda was a great pious leader, a philosopher and also a devout personality with great principles, grew up as the symbol of youth power, hoisting the ﬂag of Indian culture overseas. ‘Simple living high thinking’ mirrors his entire life inspiring the thinking of millions of youth. Living in such unprecedented times, his way of living becomes pivotal. The youth across the globe are today bringing solutions for betterment of the society with limited resources in every area in both urban and rural. His teachings, principles nurtured new enthusiasm for progress among the youth to such an extent that today the whole world celebrated 12th January as the ‘National Youth Day.’ Swami Vivekananda represents the eternal youth of India.
Swami Vivekananda once said, “It may be that I shall ﬁnd it good to get outside my body to cast it off like a worn-out garment but I shall not cease to work. I shall inspire men everywhere, until the world shall know that it is one with god.” Swami Vivekananda was impressed by the material prosperity of the West, but he had also observed how it had blunted its moral perceptions. He wanted India to attain the same material prosperity yet retain her love for moral values. He wanted to combine material prosperity with deep moral sensitivity. However, the current picture of India draws an opposite picture that has adopted the material prosperity from the West but has blunted the moral values to some extent. Many reasons have led to such a situation and we could possibly say that technology is one of them, which have connected the world to disconnect from each other.
Nothing Swami Vivekananda preached is out-of-date. It’s rather a solution for current times that could save mankind from a disastrous end, something he had foreseen in his time. In the light of the teachings of his great master Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, he preached about spirituality, harmony and peace, to enlighten the world as a voice without a form. He took keen interest in everything concerning mankind – from religion to science, art, literature, history, politics, in short, everything. His views on some of these subjects were also fundamental. One could say that he is one supreme power that the world was blessed upon who had the heart of a Buddha and the brain of a Shankaracharya.
One can say that Swami Vivekananda was in favour of a creative social reformer, not a destroyer, and this makes him great from the social reformers of his time. Every issue that the 21st century is facing today has been raised and spoken about in his lifetime.
To discuss a few were; Lack of education – The world that’s caught in a rat race of career-oriented education, something he never favoured. For him true education was one that carves your character besides boosting one’s conﬁdence and knowledge. Unfortunately, in corona times, this has increased even more than before with lack of infrastructure and digital divide; Women emancipation – He always cited examples of women warriors such as Rani Lakshmi Bai, Padmini, Ahalya and Sita considering them as ideal for India because of their perseverance, resilience despite all odds they had to go through in their lifetime; Unity of society – Like Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, he too believed in the validity of the different paths suitable for different minds. The aim of his life to bring a social order has blurred today, with the increasing divide between the rich and the poor ﬁlled with prejudices; Belief in Youth – He not just had tremendous faith in the youth for India’s revival, but he believed that truly dedicated young guns of India can revolutionize the country. The spirit of philanthropy, service and feelings for the fellow countrymen he hinted towards was last seen in truest of its form among the young freedom ﬁghters who played a major role in India’s Independence. But today’s youth seem lost, engrossed in screen time, oblivious to responsibilities towards the nation and humanity.
He once said, “My faith is in the younger generation, the modern generation, out of them will become my workers, they will work out the whole problem. They will spread my message from center to center until we cover the whole of India.” However, heading towards the age of 30, today’s youth is mingling between one’s career and educational decisions that could fetch one with money, status and way of living. While at that very age Swami Vivekananda appeared on the platform of the parliament of religious conference held at Chicago in 1893, dwelling upon the capabilities of the youth that he believed had the power to change. However, many continue trying to bring some change in the smallest of ways yet the real goal is often lost when perceived through a macro perspective.
Swami Vivekananda has talked much on our weaknesses and failings too and his teachings are most relevant in today’s times. We must take keen interest rather than practice his teachings to spread his knowledge amongst ourselves for betterment of the society. We must have covered a long journey since independence becoming self-reliant in many ways and areas yet we remain divided in the name of caste and religion that throws us back 75 years. If India and its youth start following the path Swami Vivekananda has shown rather paved for us, the light at the end of the tunnel would still be visible to achieve.