Swami Vivekananda and why he is relevant a century later

IBNLive Blog - Jan 18, 2013

The ideas of Swami Vivekananda have been a treasure for people across the world. In the backdrop of his 150th birth anniversary, it is imperative that one looks at his ocean of knowledge to seek more clarity. In my view, even though he lived a century ago, some of his views are applicable to today's young India more than any other era. I am no expert in his works but from my limited understanding thus far of his writing, the relevance to todays world is pretty significant. This might be striking but the visionary was so ahead of his time, that it is important to understand his views on the youth even today.

Women empowerment:
The progressive agenda that Vivekananda had towards women is very well known. In his own words, he says "That country and that nation which doesn't respect women will never become great now and nor will ever in future." This relentless pursuit of his to treat both genders with equality is evident through most of this discourses. At this juncture, Indian society is at a tipping point especially with the recent increase in number of rape incidents across the country. The increase in education standards among females is triggering them to ask questions and confront the patriarchal nature of social systems which have diluted the equal space that women were offered even in our ancient scriptures. In this context, Vivekananda's message of greater education and equality for the female is pertinent especially with his visionary thinking of making female empowerment the benchmark for the measurement of any society's growth.

Positive thinking:
The works of Vivekananda are more than 100 years old. Within this time span, the world has changed so much in relation to technology and scientific development. Despite such massive change, the words of Vivekananda resonate so energetically amidst the reader even today. He thunders "Arise, Awake and stop not till the goal is reached". He even talks about a broader vision for India with progressive values in an interview published in the 'The Hindu' in 1897(!). At this juncture in Indian history, with so much negative energy around, the positive energy of the saint is something that is so dearly needed especially for the younger generation. A leader with a level of sky level optimism, his words resonate a sense of exuberance even among his least ardent followers.

Rationality in religion:
He had the rare distinction to challenge intellectually and with reason, his spiritual renaissance. This was a rare quality since reasoning complex spiritual understanding to the common man is not easy by any means. The arguments had a scientific outlook to it, had reason, it had debate and it won over individuals neither by force nor brutality but by sheer intellectual superiority and sound reasoning. In a time where reason is the mantra for any belief system, his works would provide a broader scientific and logical understanding of the goals of spirituality and religion as a whole. The positive vibe and optimistic zeal in his words are even more magnified when he provides the template that every Indian misses in today's era- an identity which is inclusive and Indian by nature.

An inclusive Indian identity:
One of the biggest traits of Vivekananda's legacy is his firm belief in an Indian identity which is inclusive and encompasses the various religions and multiple cultures across the country. This is a dire need in a society which is by and large still in a colonial hangover with regards to its glorious history and its prosperous past. To put it bluntly, the younger generation post liberalization is at odds with the rich heritage that it hears "once in a while" and the modern upbringing which is very Americanised in nature. Ironically one of the major reasons for countries such as America to succeed is their strong sense of pride and identity with their own roots and heritage. The words of Vivekananda would provide the much needed impetus and clarity in the minds of the younger generation which is bursting to succeed yet is in a confused state about its own past.

Vivekananda's works would indeed instill a matter of pride and aura around our heritage and provide a well chartered out identity that the younger generation craves so much

I have learned this much from my limited understanding of the Swamiji's great works; I cant imagine the knowledge one would gain by examining most of his works across time. His speech in Chicago in the World Religions Summit in 1893 epitomises his rich legacy and his inclusive vision for the entire country.

The biggest testament to his greatness is that his words are as much relevant today as it was a century or so ago, such is the greatness of Swami Vivekananda.

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