Revisiting the masterpiece of the great thinker and social worker Shri P Parameswaran during his
90th birth anniversary celebrations
Dr S Umadevi
A live topic of discussion, even among ordinary people in our society is the ideologies of Socialism and Cultural Nationalism. “Marx and Vivekananda: A Comparative Study” is a book of analytical and comparative study of Marxism and Indian nationalism by quoting the contributions of Swami Vivekananda. This book highlights the point that, the aims of both the intellectuals were the same but the ways they had chosen were entirely different. Transformation of world or society was the vision and mission of both of them. Parameswarji has given a clear narration about the same by quoting several proclamations of both the intellectuals.
The concept of Socialism (exclusively for Westerners) is substituted with spiritualism by Swamiji. This book has also described their views on religion. It can be seen that Marx viewed religion on unilateral manner which is Semitic religion, much familiar to him. But religion to us is religion of humanity through spirituality. In India, our religion is ‘Sanatana Dharma’ considered as the way of life. The 8th and 9th chapters of the book have clearly explained these points by quoting Marx and Vivekananda.
Further, Parameswarji has clearly explained the readings of Marx about the history of India. We can clearly understand the ignorance of Marx about India, whose writings on Indian history started only with the invasion of Muhammadeeyas. He has twisted all the events and incidents in the history of India. Unlike Marx, Swamiji studied all the societies throughout the world by observing, asking and learning. Swamiji visited so many nations several times and learnt every matter directly. Swamiji was not against western materialism, but Marx was criticising everything with blind eyes. Swamiji had several friends in different countries representing different fields, unlike Karl Marx who was confined only to himself. In his book Parameswarji clearly quoted and mentioned the critical statements of Marx about India and Her culture (P.75). From these statements an ordinary man can clearly understand the substandard conclusion and ignorance of Marx about our heritage and history.
The background of this study is concerned with the explanations of unique developments in western countries of England, Germany, Prussia etc. in the fields of science and technology, economic and political conditions. The condition of Indian society during the time of Swami Vivekananda is also mentioned in the book especially after the revolt of 1857 and conquest of East India Company. The 3rd chapter (p.11-p.16) deals with the influential personalities of both the philosophers. Marx was negatively influenced by Jewish traditions and Hegelian dialectics. Swamiji was under the influence of contemporary social situations all over the world. To understand everything for human life he met his great Master Sri Ramakrishna. This chapter gives a detailed narration about the then political, economic and social conditions of world society. The 4th chapter (p.18-p.25) is about their life sketches. The 5th chapter (p.26-p.39) is the core of the work dealing with their contributions to materialistic socialism and cultural socialism (Vedanta). The concept and term of socialism is not there in the dictionary of Indian philosophy. Actually cultural nationalism is a substitute for material socialism. Marx favoured the argument of dialectical materialism on which the entire world exists. The dialectical process is on thesis, antithesis and synthesis. But Swamiji explained the same by using the term and concept of Universe, by quoting Sankhya Philosophy, which is known as Vedantic approach.
The concept of ‘spirit’ in our philosophy is closely connected with ‘atman’ which is never-ending. In Indian Philosophy the process of dying means only the perishing of the body and entering of Atman into another body. While Marx argued that fundamental reality is matter, but to Vivekanada, it is spirit. The 6th chapter (p.40-p.51) is concerned about comparison between socialism and nationalism. Parameswarji gives a clear picture of the sayings of Swamiji regarding the notions of ‘history’ (p.41) and gradually defining the term democracy as the rising of ‘Shudra”. It is an interesting explanation and
Swamiji wanted to awaken Shudra by making them aware about their responsibility of self-government. This chapter is also contented with an opinion of Vivekananda by asserting himself as socialist and asserting the importance of ensuring bread to each and every body, everyday and treating all living beings in the nature equally by identifying God in them (p.45). Swamiji was the real Socialist and his way of Socialism was known as ‘Practical Vedanta’. But westerners including Marx considered themselves as the only caretakers of the happiness of the people. The 7th chapter (p.53-p.62) is concerned with their opinion about religion. To both religion is an illusion, unscientific and baseless. But it is interesting to notice that Marxian religion is entirely different from that of Swamiji’s. While Marx considered Hinduism is also having the status of semetic religion, Swamiji asserted that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. Unlike Marx, Swamiji believed that Science and religion or spirituality are complimentary (p.54-p.55, p.61).
The 8th chapter (p.63-p.69) is concerned about the ‘alienation’. Marx believed that ‘Capitalism is having three characteristics-classes, division of labour and money. So in this system, man himself is treated as a commodity. That is why, capitalism is the cause for alienation of labour class’. But Swamiji stated ‘The religion is self alienation and self realisation’. Swamiji explained this with the help of Vedantic tradition which considers, man essentially as soul, endowed with a body-mind complex ….. (p.66-67). The 9th chapter (p.70-p.82) is on the view about the Indian Society. By understanding this chapter, one can identify that Marx has done only a peripheral study about our society. Marx was concerned only about political, social and economic conditions ignoring India’s spiritual conditions. But both of them had same opinion that Indian society was under the exploitation of the British. This chapter gives a picture of their attitude and sincerity towards Indian tradition. This chapter is also exposing EMS Namboodiripad’s wrong statement about the contribution of Marx on British India (p.80-81).
The 10th chapter (p.83-p.110) is a comparative study and conclusions of personalities of both the philosophers. While Marx was for struggle or revolution for existence, Swamiji was a reformist with compromises. But both made super human effort to collect information and to propagate forcefully their ideologies in the society. This chapter gives an explanation on the first contribution of Marx ‘Communist Manifesto’ and Swamiji’s Chicago address. It also critically evaluates the contributions of Marx, like violent resolution to destruct unjust in the society, and analyses Swamiji’s vision about unity and harmony, friendship and cooperation.
The 11th chapter (p.112-p.126) gives the impact of the contributions of both the philosophers. The contribution of Marx was creating transformation on economic and political scene around the world. But Vivekanada’s influence was inward. It works in the realism. It deeply influenced and permanently transmitted the inner nature of man. It is because of Marxian concept of man was itself that of a material being who later on developed non-material attributes, whereas Vivekanada conceived man as essentially a spiritual entity—a soul embodied. Swamiji always named men as ‘children of immortality’ (Amrutasya Putra).
As far as the studies of ‘ism’ are concerned, the research and findings of Parameswarji have been valuable. It is an asset to the future generation to mobilise cause and effect, loopholes, drawbacks, utopianism of western ideas. It is a necessity to publish this book in all regional languages to give maximum publicity among ordinary people. It is also to be considered an attempt to curb the base of such socially averted ideology. This work on Marx and Vivekananda is just one among the vibrant contributions of our intellectual giant.
Pranam to Parameswarji on his 90th birth anniversary year!!!
(The writer is Vice-President, Bharatiya Vichara Kendram)