Whenever I think of the sad conditions prevailing in the country, and apprehensions of ?coming anarchy? cross my mind, I am driven to believe that India needs another Vivekananda. His birthday, January 12, is a fit occasion to delineate the contours of this belief.
New Cultural Stream
Few realise that Vivekananda was one of the principal architects to cut a new cultural stream that watered the parched soil of India and produced a rich harvest of men and women who brought her freedom. In a voice ringing with ?passionate intensity?, he declared: ?Here is the same India whose soil has been trodden by the feet of the greatest sages that ever lived. Here first arose the doctrines of the immortality of the soul, the existence of a supervising God, an immanent God in nature and in man? We are the children of such a country.?
These inspiring words removed the spell of diffidence caused by the colonial rule and created a wave of self-respect and self-confidence which brought men of sterling eminence like Gandhi and Tilak to the scene.
It is pertinent to recall what Sri Aurobindo said: ?British rule has been the record success in history in the hypnosis of a nation. It persuaded us to live in a ?death of will?, creating in ourselves the condition of morbid weakness the hypnotist desired, until the Master of a mightier hypnosis laid his finger on India'seyes and cried, ?Awake?. Then only the spell was broken, the slumbering mind realised itself and the dead soul lived again.?
Do we not now need another Vivekananda to arrest the increasing desertification of Indian mind and break the spell that is being cast by the emerging ?new masters??
India today is a pale shadow of what it should have been. She should have led the world in life-nurturing ideas; instead, she is being led by the crass materialism of others. Her economy should have been the care and culture of her people; instead, it has been dehumanised by reckless consumerism of rich and degrading passiveness of poor. She should have recreated and strengthened her tradition of unities in diversities?unity in the diversity of man, unity in the diversity of religion, unity in the diversity of nature; instead, she has been torn asunder by conflicts and confusion. Who has brought all this about?
In the second half of the 19th century, when dense clouds of social and cultural degeneration appeared to have engulfed the Indian horizon, almost in perpetuity, there arose Vivekananda with a dynamic mission to purge the Indian soul. Pointing to the main culprits, he thundered: ?You, the upper classes of India, do you think you are alive? You are but mummies ten thousand years old?In the world of maya, you are the real illusion. You merge yourself in the void and disappear. Let a new India arise in your place.?
If another Vivekananda were to appear on the scene today, I am sure he would speak to the present-day ruling elites in the same tenor and tone. He would tell them: ?You have betrayed the country. You have stifled the underlying inspiration for constitutional goals. You proceeded to set up political and administrative institutions, but failed to create the mind and motivation that would have given life and meaning to them. You built bodies without souls. You ignored ?the ancient nobility of temper? engendered in tyaga and tapasya and started worshipping the new gods of power and pelf. From the great storehouse of the past, you should have picked up the gems and thrown out the stones. You did exactly the opposite. You threw out the gems and picked up the stones. And they now hang around the country'sneck like a dead albatross. You have done enough damage. Go; in the name of Mother India, go.?
Vivekananda knew that, in building a healthy India, spiritual traditions had to play a crucial role. He said: ?Each nation, like each individual, has one theme in life, which is at its centre. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality, that nation dies.?
Unfortunately, while ushering in new era after Independence, this central vitality of Indian culture was ignored. But for occasional lip service, nothing was done to construct the nation from within. The decision-makers paid no heed to Vivekananda'ssane advice that ?a nation in India must be the union of those whose heart beat to the same spiritual tune.?
For this lapse, India is paying a heavy price. In the absence of spiritual underpinnings, things are truly falling apart and the country is witnessing, besides the rising blood-soaked tide of terrorism and subversion, one molestation every 15 minutes, one rape every 29 minutes, one dowry death every 74 minutes and one incident of sexual harassment every 53 minutes. The disparities of income have increased to such an extent that, while millions go to bed hungry, the combined wealth of 36 richest Indians have touched $191 billion. The institutions are tottering, and the constitutional goals are being rendered meaningless.
?We, the people? are sovereign says the Constitution. But how do we give expression to this sovereignty? By electing representatives to legislatures who have criminal records, who obtain money for tabling questions in Parliament, receive bribes for voting in the House in a particular manner, indulge in human trafficking and take oaths and other pledges only to break them with impunity, who are too deficient in intellect to understand the complex problems of India and of the world?
Equally spurious is our democracy. Can we legitimately call a system democratic, when 99 per cent of the members get into the Lok Sabha, as it happened in 2004, with less than half the electors voting for them? What type of democratic temper has been nursed when an election to a single State Assembly is held in seven phases, spread over a month and that, too, with the help of para-military forces? And where is the question of free exercise of ?will? when that ?will? itself has been imprisoned by the prejudices of caste, creed and community?
Clearly, every ideal enshrined in the Constitution and every aspiration expressed in the national symbols has remained on paper. The spark that was needed to ignite inner passions and galvanise the nation to build a noble India on the noble ideals and aspirations has not been generated.
India, ?the sleeping giant?, as Vivekananda called her, has woken up. But unfortunately, after a few correct steps, she has started moving on the wrong course. Another Vivekananda is now very much needed; a Vivekananda who could hold the errant ?giant? by the scruff of her neck, point to her the right path and make her move towards her true goal.
India could then present a new design for life, a model of contentment, compassion, balance and harmony; and also a nation that could teach to the world, as Will Durant believed, ?tolerance and gentleness of the mature mind, the quite content of the un-acquisitive soul, the calm of the understanding spirit, and a unifying, pacifying love for all living things.
(The writer is former Governor of Jammu & Kashmir and a former Union Minister.)