Lessons From Life of Indian Thinkers: Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda was a pioneer of rational thought, in ethics and religion, in modern India. He tried to reconciliate Sankara’s concept of Advaita in Ramakrishna Paramhansa’s teachings. He tried to give a rational, concrete and scientific account of practical Vedanta. He viewed the central point of Vedanta as the unity in diversity. His ideas synthesize the philosophical and material aspects. He worked to bring out the philosophical ideas in the Hindu religion out for the common man. His version of Vedanta is called Practical Vedanta. Vivekananda’s teachings are full of ideas of humanism.
His philosophy is based on the idea of worship through the ‘service of Man’, or Narnarayana. Every creature embodies the essence of the divine. Thus, worship of God can be best done through service to the other living beings. All human beings are potentially divine. Vivekananda did not accept an impersonal and supernatural image of the God.
Elements of Practical Vedanta:
The truths of Vedanta has to be practiced in the social world.
Vedanta is a universal religion. The three stages, doctrines of Vedanta- Advaita, Visistadvaita and Dvaita- are nothing but the three stages in the spiritual growth of man. All the elements, of Vedanta, are supplementary to each other. While Advaita is the complete truth; visistadvaita and dvaita are partial truths. One can reach the absolute truth only after passing the partial ones. Vedanta is universal in the sense that its truth and principles apply to the whole of mankind. It is rooted in the idea of oneness of all.
Vedanta does not believe in incarnations. It’s principles are based on certain foundations, which are seen as logical and rational. It alone is the universal religion. Other religions are partial truths, as they are based on the lives of some great leaders. Vedanta puts emphasis on truths, rather than the person.
Vedanta is compatible with the methods and results of the modern sciences. It’s conclusions are rational, based on lived experience of the ages. Vivekananda firmly believed in the unity of humankind. It is this spiritual oneness of Vedanta that serves as a firm ground of all ethical teachings. Vivekananda believed that application of Vedantic truth to life results in the spiritualization of democracy, socialism, liberty, equality and fraternity. Vedanta does not discard reason in favor of faith.
Vedanta is the religion of strength and hope. It teaches an unshakeable optimism. It makes the person strong and self-reliant. It respects and upholds the inherent divinity of the human soul under all circumstances. This sense of dignity and sacredness is often absent in other religions.
It is the dominant principle in the ideas of Vivekananda. The concept of Narnarayana respects the divine element in every individual. Service to Man is Service to God. Vivekananda believed that it is a sin to try to preach a poor and hungry. A poor must first be fed and then taught. Ignorance and illiteracy are the biggest impediments in the development of a person. It is the moral responsibility of every educated one to help the others in removing their ignorance and illiteracy. He found an urgent need to brings about a religious regeneration of the society, through service and renunciation.
Vivekananda viewed religion as a matter of experience, and not of dogmas. Thus, he remained dissatisfied with the perspective of the West and the East. He distinguished between a true religion and an institutional one. True religion is a personal religion, where an individual can reach to the divine personally, in any shape and form. A true spiritual encounter can be made only when one surpasses the lures of the material world. No initiation and ritual can make the realization of the divine. Personal religion is practiced through service to the humanity. In helping others, we see God in them.
Religion is the highest expression of love and devotion. Religion consists in higher spiritual urges of the inner self. If such feeling is curbed by any dogma or senseless ritual, the true spirit of religion is hampered. Thus, religion does not consist in subscribing to a particular creed or faith, but in spiritual realization. This moulding of life and character is the true essence of religion. Religion does not imply an escapist tendency, to run away from the world. True religion inculcates the strength to face the adverse situations, with faith and determination.
To Sum Up
Thus, Vivekananda advocates a gospel of love and humanity, through his concept of religion. It is only through love that humanity can be united. However, he also mentions that, love and emotions should be confused for sentimentality. Thus, rituals and traditions does not necessarily corresponds with religion. Vivekananda attacked the ritualistic religions, that link religion to a barter process, making God an instrument of exchange.
Similarly, he argued that a religion that only teaches the gospel of inaction and renunciation is of no good. A religion that views man as a sinner and helpless being, is not admired by Vivekananda. Religion should not inculcate a poor belief in the individual. Religion should be a source of hope and strength. True religion consists in realization. It cannot be found in books.
He said- ‘The religions of the world are not contradictory and antagonistic. They are but various phases of one eternal religion’.
Team Aspirant Forum