Vivekananda Kendra International is the third step in the growth and evolution of the great mission initiated by Eknathji Ranade. The first was the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. The second was the work of Vivekananda Kendra at the National level. Today we are celebrating the fruition and fulfillment of third step?Vivekananda Kendra International. These remind us about the three long strides taken by Vishnu, ?the Trivikrama?, in his Vamana Avatara.
Vivekananda Kendra International at Chanakyapuri is an excellent concept. Swami Vivekananda was a great practical philosopher who called his philosophy ?Practical Vedanta?. Arya Chanakya was the world 'sgreatest strategist who successfully utilised his ideas to build up a powerful Hindu empire?the most powerful in his times.
In a sense, Vivekananda Kendra International will function as a centre of strategic studies in order to explore how the practical Vedantic philosophy of Swami Vivekananda could be applied to the present global scenario, so that, as Swamiji had predicted ?We will then go every country under the sun, and our ideas will before long be a component of the many forces that are working to make up every nation in the world. We must enter into life of every race in India and abroad; we shall have to work to bring this about?.
Vivekananda Kendra International is a Centre of activity rooted in and centered around the life and message of Swami Vivekananda. Though headquartered in Delhi, its sphere of activities is global.
It is the immortal message of Sanatana Dharma that VKI is new packaging and broadcasting all over the world. The message is beyond time and clime, and absolutely impersonal. Then, why the name Vivekananda? Vivekananda is the brand name that has irresistibly appealing beyond cultural boundaries, national identities and ideological differences. It is through him that the relevant and basic ideas can be effectively and appealingly propagated. This is evidenced by the fact that every year new books dealing with different aspects of Swamiji are being brought out in every language. So Swami Vivekananda is the vehicle that can carry the message all over the new globalised world.
That does not mean that VKI is trying to confine its activities to the one single personality of Swami Vivekananda. Even Swamiji would not have approved it. He never approved of any personality cult. It is striking that in all his innumerable lectures in the East and the West, he very rarely eulogized the personality of his great Guru although he had the highest reverence for him whom he considered God incarnate. But he used to say that he only preach the eternal and the universal principles of the Upanishads. VKI will do the same, bringing out the relevance of the Upanishad teachings of Advaita to the crucial issues faced by the contemporary humanity.
VKI is essentially an ideological forum where there would be continuous dialogue between the various civilisational thought currents. Even after the collapse of the Communist experiment, Marxian intellectuals continue to repackage the materialistic thought in ever so many new forms, changing labels in order to market it better. Even in India this process is being systematically cultivated by academicians deeply entrenched in various universities and centres of cultural activities. VKI is never afraid of any new thought patterns. We are ready to engage with them. But the basic difference of the VKI approach and the approach of the Marxist intellectuals is this: we say, connect yourself to the past, keep the life current intact and then march forward into the promised land of the future.
Swamiji has said, ?look as far back into your past as you can derive inspiration and then go forward to build up a far brighter future. ??an absolutely positive approach. But the leftist intellectual says, ?cut off all your connections with the past because they are all obscurantist superstitions and take a leap into the darkness of the future.? This is suicidal, as recent history has amply demonstrated. So VKI looks upon Swami Vivekananda as the role model for communicating with the rest of the world.
Vivekananda lived at a time when imperial powers form the west were bringing the countries of the world under their domination. He had a message for them, appropriate to the prevailing situation. Empires were the fore runners of the present global set up.
Today as we stand at the dawn of the ?Global Millennium? Swamiji'slife and message are extremely relevant, perhaps more relevant than at the time he lived. Swami Vivekananda was one of the most prominent internationalist thrown up by modern India.
He was the most authentic spokesperson of Hinduism as is evidenced by the fact that his lectures at the ?Parliament of Religions? were most heartily and unanimously welcomed as the authentic voice of Hinduism. More than a century afterwards it is only Swami Vivekananda and his speeches are gratefully remembered, preciously treasured and widely propagated all over the word.
His pronouncement of the eternal and universal principles of Hinduism came out of the depth of his own personal realisation. He was not preaching any dogma or doctrine received second hand from any religious text or scripture. He carried conviction because to him ?Religion is realisation. Religion is being and becoming. It is verifiable and hence absolutely scientific?. He was bold enough to say that it is better to be an honest atheist or rationalist than a blind believer or fanatic.
Swami Vivekananda said, as the Vedic Rishis had told much earlier, that ?Truth is one, sages call it by various names?. There is only one God which people call by different names. The same God?the ultimate goal of all-can be approached following different paths. Swamiji said various religions are various paths leading to the same goal. There needs no quarrel or conflict among the various routes different men adopt. He was the preacher and practitioner of true and genuine harmony.
Vivekananda Kendra International is set up with the intention of making it a powerful centre of this most authentic Hindus thought which alone can bring about cultural and religious harmony in a strife?torn and struggling world, mutually intolerant and violently aggressive.
About one and a quarter century have elapsed since Swamiji made his debut at the parliament of Religions, Chicago and delivered his life giving , historic message. Much has changed since then, changed beyond recognition. But the sense and essence of his teaching are so relevant even today, since they provide ausucers for the most crying needs of the present world situation.
Swamiji was a ?Patriotic Hindu?, a ?Cyclonic Hindu Monk? as he was then called. At the same time he was a true globalist as every true Hindu is ?Vasudhaiva Kudumbakam? was his credo. He had foreseen that a global situation is developing and that the time has come when even local problems have to be seen in the context of the global perspective and solutions to be sought from that point of views. ?Think globally and act locally? was not a concept which was strange or unknown to him. In fact he followed that dictum. Some of the most pressing problems of the day threatening the very survival of human civilisation were foreseen by Swami Vivekananda. He had warned us about them Religious intolerance, cultural exclusiveness and blind fanaticism were identified by him as dangerous portents. In his famous Chicago address he had forcefully brought out that these dark forces had deluged the world with rivers of human blood and brought beautiful civilisations to extinction. He quoted profusely from Hindu scriptures to show how ?Sanatana Dharma? has established a cultural and civilisation pattern for spontaneous and principled co operation among people following different religions and how it was actually practiced on a country wide scale for centuries together. India was the model for harmony among civilisations instead of conflict of civilisations.
Swamiji preached practical Vedanta as the Universal Religion of the future which will gladly accept every religion into its loving embrace and also provide space for such religions as will be born in the future. He visualised a spiritually comprehensive philosophy which will ultimately taken man beyond every creedal religions and every written text, to the infinite realm of a transcendental spiritual experience.
(To be continued)