'EACH nation has a destiny to fulfill, a message to deliver and a Mission to accomplish,’ Swami Vivekananda proclaimed at Madurai after his triumphant return from the west. This was a revolutionary application of Vedantic principle that human beings have distinguished individuality. Similarly, the organic collectivity expressed in form of nationality has unique characteristics. These are evolved through collective historical and cultural experiences of the people.
The society and people at large act in the normal times, react to the external stimulus and respond to the challenges according to their national character. Swami Vivekananda further elaborates – the national character of Briton is politics and that of America is commerce and of France is aesthetics. When four Americans come together they discuss profit and will soon launch a company. This is their nature. So what is the national character of Bharat? Swami Vivekananda says it is Dharma. Dharma is the soul of Bharat. As way of illustration, he explained, though at that time India was ruled by the British; hardly anyone knew who their queen was. But on the other hand even a peasant in the remotest part of Bharat knew that some Hindu Monk had gone abroad and had conquered the World Parliament of Religions. They may not know the name of the monk or the venue of the event but they knew about the conquest.
This is evident from the memoirs of a British soldier who witnessed the majestic welcome accorded to Swamiji on his return from the west. One Subhedar Suraj Rao who was on leave then, was present at the public welcome in Madurai. He was overwhelmed by Swamiji’s clarion call and wanted to meet him again. He was instrumental in stopping Swamiji’s train at his village station. The villagers inspired by Suraj Rao blocked the railway line when the station Master refused to halt the train at this unscheduled stop. The train had to be eventually halted at that small station. Swamiji came to the compartment door and blessed the villagers. The train was headed to Chennai. Suraj Rao was not satisfied with this brief meeting. He decided to walk along the western coast to Chennai to join Swamiji. On way to Chennai he came across a small hamlet of fishermen in the evening. There was festive mood with songs, dance and lamps everywhere. When Suraj Rao enquired as to the occasion for such celebrations; the villagers asked back, “Don’t you know one of our Hindu Monks has just returned from foreign lands after conquering them with his knowledge and spiritual power?”
This is real Bharat. Swami Vivekananda realized the soul and the spirit of Bharat in its entirety. This is what he represented at Chicago. His well applauded opening address ‘Sisters and brothers of America’ was an expression of the integral philosophy of oneness practiced from time immemorial in this divine land. Swamiji had internalized this ‘way of life’ through his national devotion (Bharat Bhakti). He not only understood the intellectual sublimity of this eternal (Sanatana) thought but realized it through his experience of the daily life of the common masses across the length and breadth of the country.
This was message of practical Vedanta that he carried with him to the west. He preached the time-tested principles of Hindutva aptly termed Sanatana Dharma, the eternal law to America, the land of bounty, pleasure and vanity. He proclaimed that Vedanta was the future religion of the whole humanity. The idea of Universal Religion mooted by Swamiji in the west was the poetic expression of the inherent eternal spirit of Bharat.
The fact that Dharma is the life blood of this land is evident even today. If one travels in the general bogie of Indian Railways and listens to the general discussion; one will understand the undercurrent of Bharat’s national life. The discussion may start from any mundane topic like politics, corruption or inflation but would soon steer towards Dharma. The author has timed it many times and the longest was 12 minutes within which the discussion turned Dharmic. There will be quotes from scriptures. People will fluently quote from Ramcharitmanas and Kabir in the north, from Thirukurral in the south, from Narasi Mehta in Gujarat and Shrimat Shankardeva in Assam. This is what real Bharat cares for and not the worthless discussions on the so called national media.
The tragedy of the time is that this spirit of Bharat as enunciated by the masses in their daily life finds no expression in the established system of Governance. May it be legislative, administrative or judicial system; nothing is rooted in the cultural and historical experience of Bharat. Even after independence we have continued with these alien systems. It’s no wonder that the nation has yet to rise to the expectations of its own people and yet to live up to the potential often recognised by the world community.
The process of decolonisation initiated by seers like Swami Vivekananda in the beginning of last century evolved into the national renaissance and freedom struggle. Nationalistic spirit was expressed in all the walks of life. Nationalist educational institutions came into existence. This led to the inevitable outcome—independence of Bharat. But it seems the process is reversed since independence. We seem to be more colonised mentally now and more importantly there is no urge and effort to overthrow these shackles mental slavery.
The 150th anniversary of the patriot prophet is the right occasion on which we must once again kick-start the process of decolonisation as an urgent and mighty national movement. The protesters taking to the streets on various issues represent this national urge To Change. They may not be eloquent in their demands and they may not know that the remedy of all the illness is in creating a system based on indigenous thought and experience. It’s not their fault as they are not trained in the Dharma of the land. But it is very clear that Bharat wants the prevailing system to be scrapped. The energy of the youth needs to be channelised into a positive thought movement.
Swami Vivekananda will show the constructive, creative way. We need to formulate political, economic, judicial and most of all an educational system based on the eternal principles of the land. We need to prepare a Smriti for the present time. The soul of Nation, Dharma, needs to be expressed in the contemporary terminology. This will serve as the Real Constitution of the people of Bharat. Keeping this as the ultimate goal, the nation needs to work out a plan of action for reforms in all the sectors. This alone is the kind of movement that will succeed in Bharat.
Let us remember what Swamiji told us very clearly – Dharma is the Soul of Bharat. Spirituality is the message it has to deliver to the whole world. Guiding mankind to lead a purposeful, happy, holistic and sustainable life of eternal bliss is the mission of Bharat and to be the World-Teacher (Jagad Guru) is the destiny of Bharat which it has to attain.
Let us resolve to put our lives to work for this national mission.
(Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal, Sheshadri Sadan, Tulasibag Road, Mahal, Nagpur- 440032 [email protected])