“They alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.”
By Kanchan Banerjee
Religion and spirituality redefined
Many of his religious and spiritual admirers call him a true prophet. However he himself broke many dogmas in the name of religion within the scope of Indian heritage.
He created a clear distinction between belief and faith. Belief in super-natural without reasoning and understanding to him was mere animistic or fear based dogma. He emphasized on seeking, experience and faith. He called spirituality a science, just like material science this would be the ‘inner science’ which is essentially the universal and transcendental reality, can be experienced by all through sincere inquiry and finally called it the ‘science of consciousness’ with which he connected the modern materialistic science.
While he lamented: ‘religions of the world are mockery’ after seeing so much of bloodshed in the name of religion in the past and even now. Then he established that there should not be any conflict between the two sciences, since both are universally experiment-able and experience-able. He presented both as complementary, nay, he presented the science of spirit superior to the material one. This called for departure from superstitions, dogmas, blind believes, dominance and intolerance in order to pursue the path of harmony, cooperation, knowledge freedom and bliss. Even the great scientist Einstein admitted: “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind”.
He redefined the meaning of spirituality and said:”He is an atheist who does not believe in himself. The old religion said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is the atheist who does not believe in himself. But it is not selfish faith, because the Vedanta, again, is the doctrine of oneness. It means faith in all, because you are all.”
After putting Hinduism in its rightful place he set in motion the most powerful of ideas. He established Vedanta to be the religion for the modern era as well as for future. He basically moved thinking and rational minds to come out of less evolved ideas of ‘belief system’ and ‘blind faith’ and challenged all to define his or her own individual religion, which is the foundation of Vedanta.
He prepared the ground for the world to differentiate between individual beliefs, faith and practices which are individual religions of people, as compared to a Universal system which is embedded in the ideas of Dharma and Yoga. This renewed approach to Vedanta is applicable to rational, scientific, activist and devotional minds.
Which essentially teaches that Jnana (path of truth seeking and knowledge), Bhakti (path of devotion), Karma (selfless action) and Raja and other forms of Yogas can be practiced by people of various nature and yet can reach the same goal.
Then he moved on to his world mission of giving the message of Satya – Truth seeking, Avaya – Fearlessness, Mukti – Absolute Liberty and Amirta – immortality to all.
His famous quotation from the Kathopanishad, uttishthatajaagratapraapyavaraannibodhata – “Arise! Awake! Stop not till the goal is reached”, comes to our mind whenever one thinks of Swami Vivekananda. Now, what is the goal here? Swami Vivekananda said, “The goal is to manifest the divinity within.” That is the essence of Swami Vivekananda’s message.
He then said: “I have a message for the world, which I will deliver without fear and care for the future. To the reformers I will point out that I am a greater reformer than any one of them. They want to reform only little bits. I want root-and-branch reform.”
And finally like a true Avatar he proclaimed: “I have a message to the West, as Buddha had a message to the East.” And the message was what Vedanta offers: Freedom, fearlessness, harmony and liberation.
Like Sankaracharya, who lived a very short physical life but who rejuvenated India and added considerably to the world’s spiritual wealth, Swami Vivekananda possessed an illumined intellect, a vast and retentive memory, a heart devoted to God that was full of compassion for his fellow human beings.
He said: “Shankara left this Advaita [non-dual Vedanta] philosophy in the hills and forests; while I have come to bring it out of those places and scatter it broadcast before the work-a-day world and society. The lion-roar of Advaita must resound in every hearth and home, in meadows and groves, over hills and plains. Come all of you to my assistance, and set yourselves to work… “…granted that you attain personal liberation by means of the realization of the Advaita, but what matters it to the world? You must liberate the whole universe before you leave this body. Then only you will be established in the eternal Truth. Has that bliss any match…?
“You will be established in the bliss of the Infinite, which is limitless like the skies. You will be struck dumb to find your presence everywhere in the world of soul and matter! You will feel the whole sentient and insentient world as your own self. Then you cannot help treating all with the same kindness as you show towards yourself. This is indeed practical Vedanta.”
Another path-breaking contribution of Swamiji was to remove the wall between sacred and secular. To him, the entire creation is sacred.
Sister Nivedita noted: “If the many and the One be indeed the same Reality, then it is not all modes of worship alone, but equally all modes of work, all modes of struggle, all modes of creation, which are paths of realization. No distinction, henceforth, between sacred and secular. To labour is to pray. To conquer is to renounce. Life is itself religion. To have and to hold is as stern a trust as to quit and to avoid.”
This leads us to the true understanding of the greatest Indian idea of Dharma which stands for righteousness, sustainability, truth, justice, duties, code and ethics of conduct and much more. Here spiritual attainment and material prosperity both are valid.
He called that the new religion for the modern world is Vedanta, the essence of the Vedas in practice. Thus the knowledge of the Supreme, the Brahmajana is the final goal, and it happens by following Dharma and the path is one of many forms of Yoga.
Future of religion: A scientific spiritualism
The message of Swami Vivekananda was the message of Vedanta — a spiritual teaching that again and again saved India during periods of decline and crisis.
Swami Adiswarananda summed up the great life and mission of Swamiji first explaining Vedanta: “Its four cardinal points are non-duality of the Godhead, divinity of the soul, oneness of existence, and harmony of religions. Religion, in the light of Vedanta, is the manifestation of the divinity already in man. This spiritual harmony is to be realized by deepening our spiritual consciousness. The message was timely and powerful.
The message was powerful not because of its dialectical superiority or philosophical subtlety, but because of the personality of Swami Vivekananda. The message was an ancient one, but it bore a fire of conviction that was new. One familiar with the life of Swami Vivekananda will recall that his Master, Sri Ramakrishna, saw in him the power and potentiality of a great world teacher. Before the Master passed away, he prophesied: “Narendra (Swami Vivekananda) will teach others ….. Very soon he will shake the world by his intellectual and spiritual powers.”
Swami Vivekananda pronounced that Vedanta is the future religion of mankind. With his prophetic vision, he predicted that modern science and technology and new education system would break down the barriers between nations and prepare the ground for the fulfillment of the age-old dream of one united world, a democratic world. But one world is possible only when there is one common Soul of humanity that transcends the limitations of race, culture, and religious denominations.
Swami Vivekananda presents before humanity the World-Soul of Vedanta, the non-dual, nameless and formless all-pervading Pure Spirit that alone can make the dream of one world a reality. He foresaw a new world order in which science and religion would cooperate, mysticism would combine with humanism and spiritual harmony would replace religious dissension.
(This is part 7 of a 9 part series)