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VIVEKANANDA: THE FATHER OF RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL NATIONALISM IN INDIA
INTRODUCTION: Swami Vivekananda appeared at a critical phase in our history when India was struggling under the thraldom of the British and had almost lost her confidence in its culture and way of life. He can be considered as the first, foremost and finest spark that rekindled the flame of Indian spiritual renaissance.
DEVELOPMENT OF THOUGHT: Vivekananda had a firm faith in the unity of Godhood and the deeper unity of all religions. The real substance of all religions lies in their principles and it is there, that unity of all religions can be seen. Spiritualism refers to the steady manifestation of the divine within, out of which goodness, purity, love and service alone can manifest. Religion becomes a science only when we seek it, and not merely when we are born in it. The fullest development of man and the happiest of inter-human relations cannot be achieved by merely stressing, and overstressing, the ethical aspect of any religion. According to Vivekananda, ethical religion, with its do’s and dont’s can remain a base but we have to build the superstructure of spirituality on it. India, as enlivened by Vivekananda, gently whispers today into the ears of every one of us —Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh or others: We may start at the ethical dimension, but try to grow beyond it to the spiritual dimension, approach religion as a science of human growth, development, and fulfilment and as a means of happy and fruitful inter-human relation.
CONCLUSION: Thus, he was one of the greatest architects of modern India and the most prominent among the spiritual ambassadors ever sent by India to foreign countries. According to him, religion formed the ‘centre’, the keynote of the whole music of the national life of India and he was one of the who shook India out of her slumber and reawakened her soul.
Every religion has two dimensions; first, the ethical, or tribal or socio-political, and the second, the spiritual or scientific. It is good for our people to understand the nature and scope of these two dimensions of religion. Different results flow from each of these dimensions. When we use the words ‘Hindu’, `Muslim’, ‘Christian’, ‘Buddhist’, ‘Jain’, ‘Sikh’, etc., they refer to the ethical
the dimension of religion. It is the dimension of religion in which we are born. We have nothing to say in the matter. And we can remain in that dimension–virtuous or wicked, good or evil, peaceful or violent. Unselfish or selfish. But when we come to the second dimension of religion, namely, the scientific. We find a slow but steady spiritual growth in man, the steady manifestation of the divine within, out of which goodness, purity, love and service alone can manifest. Religion becomes a science only when we seek it, and not merely when we are “born in it. This is the characteristic of the scientific temper. Nobody is born into physics or chemistry, zoology or botany. One seeks to be a scientist in any of these fields. Without that seeking, there is no science. Science does not brook any ethical limitation. Similarly, we are born into the religion of the ethical dimension but we come to the science of religion only by seeking it and by achieving spiritual growth. There is such a thing as the spiritual growth of man, as there is such a thing as the physical and intellectual growth of man.
All the great mystics of the world’s religions are scientists in religion in this sense; they sought, experimented with, and experienced, religion; they achieved spiritual growth. They started their religious life, like any other person, as belonging to this or that ethical relation; but their spirit of seeking and experiment took them beyond that ethical dimension which is exclusive and narrow, to the spiritual dimension which is universal. Except for the ones who have remained narrow, by yielding to the authoritative and coercing power of the narrow dogmas of the ethical dimension of their religion, every mystic has manifested this universal dimension through the experience of God— not a God sitting far away in the sky but the one God is hidden in man and nature. Man has the organic capacity to realise, to experience, God in that sense. Such realisation takes him or her beyond his or her sensory limitations to the transcendental, infinite, and immortal dimension. This is what the scientific and spiritual dimension of religion means. Once we have a touch of that infinite immortal dimension us every word, our every action will be suffused only with love and peace.
The view of M. N. Roy is that the nationalism of Vivekananda was in the nature of spiritual imperialism. However, it is pointed out that the very idea of spiritual imperialism is a contradiction in terms. What Vivekananda pleaded for was not imperialism but nationalism based on spiritualism and hence Vivekananda can be described as the father of religious and spiritual nationalism in India. To quote Vivekananda, “Race, religion, Government, all these together make the nation. The one common ground that we have is our sacred tradition, our religion. This is the only common ground and upon that we shall have to build. In Europe, political ideas form national unity. The unity in religion, therefore, is absolutely necessary as the first condition of the future of Indian.”. Vivekananda explained that by one religion he did not mean denominational religion like Christianity or Buddhism. He maintained that in Hindu religion there were certain common grounds and Hindu religion also admitted variation. What he meant by religion was that of in fundamentals which were common to all religions, should be accepted throughout India. He emphasised the importance of one religion in bringing about unity in these words. “We see how in Asia and especially in India race difficulties, linguistic difficulties, national difficulties, social difficulties, all melt away before this unifying power of religion. In the case of India, it is the only basic means of work: work in any other line, without first strengthening this would be disastrous. Therefore that first plank in the making of a future India, the first step that is to be hewn out of that rock of ages, is this unification of all religions.”
Vivekananda has rightly been called the patriot-monk of India. He asked the young men of the country to be fearless and work for the glory of their country. He asked them as to why it was that forty million Englishmen were able to rule three hundred millions of Indians. He himself pointed out that the secret was the accumulation of will -power, coordination and bringing them all into focus. He also pointed out that the Indians lacked organisation and obedience to leadership. The organisation was the key to the understanding of the strength of modern societies and the people of India must the same. He called upon the Indians to give up their slavish mentality. To quote him,” For the next fifty years, this alone shall be our keynote, our great Mother India. Let all other vain Gods. disappear for that time from our minds. This is the only God that is awake, our own race, everywhere His Hands. Everywhere His feet, everywhere His ears. He covers everything. All other Gods are sleeping; when we have worshipped this, we shall be able to worship all the Gods.” Vivekananda put great emphasis on national education as he considered the existing educational system to be a negative one. To quote him, “The ideal, therefore, is that we must have the whole education of our country, spiritual and secular, in our own hands, and it must be on national lines, through national methods, as far as practicable.”
Vivekananda defines religion not as a creed or dogma, but as a manifestation of the divinity that is already in man. And so we respect the human being as a spark of divinity. Outwardly one may be a Hindu, Christian, Muslim, male, female, black or white. These are all external. There is nothing narrow or sectarian in what Vivekananda preached. The future of India, he said, “will be greater than its past.” And that India will have a tremendous impact on the world. India has existed with all its military power, but it has not conquered other nations. But it has conquered through ideas. Vivekananda said India will die if it becomes art aggressive, military nation.
Vivekananda was a Vedantist, He was a believer in Advaita or Monism. He had a firm faith in the unity of Godhood and the deeper unity of all religions. Every religion had its own rituals, mythology and fundamental principles. The real substance of all religions lies in the principles and it is there, that unity of all religions can be seen. To quote Vivekananda, “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so O Lord! The
different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee”.
The view of Vivekananda was that sectarianism, bigotry and fanaticism had no place in religion as all people were trying to reach the same goal. In order to gain infinite universal individuality, little prison individuality must go. To quote him, “Then alone can death cease when I am one with life, then alone can misery cease when I am one with happiness itself; then alone can error cease when I am one with knowledge itself, and this is the necessary scientific conclusion.” Again, “Even science is nothing but the confining of unity. Science has proved that physical individuality is a delusion, that my body is one little continuously changing body in an unbroken ocean of matter and Advaita is the necessary conclusion with my other counterpart, soul.”
Vivekananda maintained that there is abstract humanity which is common to all. There is a universal religion which runs through all the religions of the. the world in the form of God. It must and does exist through eternity.
Upanisads or Vedanta present religion as anubhava, experience, realisation. It is not second-hand knowledge like theology or mere rituals, but the first-hand experience. This wonderful vision of the ancient sages of India, exemplified in the great mystics of every religion, contains a profound message of the scientific !dimension of religion which our country must try to understand and cultivate in the modern period, with a view to achieving the fullest development of man and the happiest of inter-human relations. This cannot be done by merely stressing, and over-stressing, the ethical aspect of any religion. In a letter written to Sister Nivedita from London on 7 June 1895, Swami Vivekananda has pointed out the evils arising from religions keeping their followers stagnant at their ethical level and- failing to stimulate them to rise to their spiritual dimension.
Why has there been, and still is, so much violence, war, and persecution in the name of religion, apart from violence from racial and political sources? All these proceed from stagnation at the genetic dimension of man and at the ethical dimension of his or her religion. Religion, especially the great world religions, are meant to lift man above his or her genetic, tribal, and socio-political limitations. And yet the world has seen plenty of these evils coming out of religion. and, due to it, in the modern period, there has been a revulsion against religion, especially when it was viewed against the background of modern science with its love of truth and the spirit of free inquiry. Accordingly, there has been a tremendous growth of agnosticism and atheism, all over the modern world, not because people do not want spirituality, but because they do not know what it is, and what they currently see as religion holds no spiritual appeal. Stagnant ethnical religion has always been a net negative force.
If there is one country where the higher spiritual dimension of religion has not/been suppressed by its ethical dimension, but has been given the freest expression, it is our country, India. Religions that developed in India — Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh —all insist that people should not stagnate at the ethical dimension of religion, but take it only as a starting point, to rise from belief into the experience of God to realise God. They all proclaim that aim bhava, or experience, is the true test of religion. This has been stressed in India throughout the ages. So India does not persecute or kill her mystics or any other mystics; never. On the other hand, our people stand firm in reverence before every mystic, not only belonging to Hinduism but to whatever other religions he or she may belong. The attitude in which our people in India have been educated by our religion and philosophy is: If you have an experience of God, have realised God, we salute you. Nowhere else in the world will we find this attitude, this dominance of the spiritual over the ethical dimension of religion. It is a unique feature of our great country and we must cherish it and preserve‘ it.
Swami Vivekananda came in the modern period and observed the mockeries of all the ethical religions: but he did not say that, therefore, let us banish all religion; but he asked people in every religion to try to understand the true dimension of their religion by presenting to them, the scientific approach to religion. This scientific approach to religion was not ‘available in the modern West. Seeing the dogmatic irrational manifestations of religion and experiencing persecution from it, modern physical science in the ‘West condemned all religion as primitive superstition. Western social thought also condemned all religion, witnessing the intolerant and fanatic aspect of’ religion. in Europe and its exploitation of the common people by aligning itself with the iniquities of the early phase of the Industrial Revolution. Accordingly, We find Karl Marx reacting violently against religion in the famous utterance: ‘Religion is the soul of soulless conditions, the heart of a heartless world, the opium of the people.’
Swami Vivekananda found this criticism applicable to much of religion functioning in India also. Our religion, in its stagnant ethnical form, had functioned as the handmaid of a feudal order to exploit and Keep down millions of our – Ai common people. It had encouraged caste exclusiveness, untouchability, and other pernicious anti-human attitudes and practices, along with the cherishing of a bundle of superstitions and weakening ideas, and the divorcing of moral attitudes and acts from religion reduced to mere noisy and ‘stymy rituals. While reacting against this distortion of religion, Swami Vivekananda also educated our people to view religion as it is truly, as the science and technt4fue of man’s spiritual growth.
Religious thought in India was also a cultural thought. In the 19th century, culture responded to western intrusions. So, Indian thinkers examined what the strengths in Indian religious thoughts were. They/wanted these to help them in their cultural response to the west. This tendency got stronger in the late 19th century.
In this century, there was much thought of how cultural and spiritual ideas could be brought into the political movement. Tilak and Gandhi were searching for an idiom of communication which was not merely political. So they talked in terms of Shivaji festival or Ganesh festival or Ramarajya. But their idiom was not for a religious goal.
The Hindu communalists are now using the same idiom for establishing a Hindu nation. Vivekananda had a different purpose of creating confidence among Indians who under the colonial yoke had lost pride in their past. Vivekananda told them that they had a past to draw from that they were superior to the west in many ways. This is what he told the west too, in his Chicago address. In that, he laid stress on the great tolerance that the Hindus had in the past. He told the world that this was a country that never shed blood for religion. Today those who are shedding blood are not quoting that passage from his Chicago address. It is at this time that we realise the importance of Swami Vivekananda.