Himalayan Heritage Foundation

Center for policy research on Himalayan Region

Swami Vivekananda & Indian Consciousness

Swami Vivekananda revealed the power of Indian thought that still flows in the soul and the mind of its people

Written by: Dr. Mahesh Kaul || Posted in category: Thinkers || Dated: 2014-10-08

Swami Vivekananda

India as a nation has witnessed processes and challenges at all levels of human consciousness. The most affected areas have been religious, social, cultural and political. The Indian consciousness has been the amalgam of experiences in all these fields. The national spirit of the inhabitants has always emerged from the cultural spiritual core. This core has been the nucleus of this ancient civilisation.

What holds the nation together in spite of the invasions and vandalisation from outsiders and the colonisers? What has kept the land of Bharata alive when every external thrust was designed to subjugate the masses and crush the nation in every possible sphere?

Swami Vivekananda, the wandering monk who ignited the flame of Indian nationalism through the universal religion of Vedanta, answered all these questions and chalked out a plan of action for the future of the Indian nation. He provided solutions to the problems of modern India in an introductory article written for the Bangla fortnightly Udbhodhana, which was published on January 14, 1889.

He wrote with pride that “Of that ancient Indian race upon which the rays of civilisation first dawned, deep thoughtfulness first revealed itself in full glory, there are still found hundreds of thousands of its children, born of its mind — the inheritors of its thoughts and sentiments — ready to claim them.”

Swami Vivekananda revealed the power of Indian thought that still flows in the soul and the mind of its people, acting as glue binding the Indian nation with the cohesive force of spiritualism. And he was not bothered whether it flowed in the veins of the nation in ‘a distinct or in some subtle way’. This flow of Indian thought, he credited to universal ancient inheritance.

Elaborating on the predominant power structure and the political situation, Swami Vivekananda ponders over the inherent structure of the Indian national life and says, “Once, in far remote antiquity, Indian philosophy, coming in contact with Greek energy, led to the rise of the Persian, the Roman, and other great nations.

After the invasion of Alexander, these two great waterfalls, colliding with each other, deluged nearly half of the globe with spiritual tides, such as Christianity. Again, a similar commingling, resulting in the improvement and prosperity of Arabia, laid the foundation of the modern European civilisation. And perhaps in our own day, such a time for the conjunction of these two gigantic forces has presented itself again. This time their centre is India”.

Further explaining the nature of the Indian consciousness and its uniqueness, he said, “The air of India pre-eminently conduces to quietness, the nature of the yavana is the constant expression of power; profound meditation characterises the one, the indomitable spirit of dexterous activity, the other; one’s motto is “renunciation”, the other’s ‘enjoyment’.

One’s whole energy is directed inwards, the other’s outwards; one’s whole learning consists of knowledge of the Self or the Subject, the other’s, in the knowledge of the not-self or the object (perishable creation); one loves Moksha (spiritual freedom), the other loves political independence; one is unmindful of gaining prosperity in this world, the other sets his whole heart on making a heaven of this world; one, aspiring after eternal bliss, is indifferent to all the ephemeral pleasures of this life, and the other doubting the existence of eternal bliss, or knowing it to be far away, directs his whole energy to the attainment of earthly pleasures as much as possible.”

Swami Vivekananda’s analysis of the Indian existence, consciousness and the spiritual core enables one to understand the foundation of the Indian nation. With the conviction of the Vedantist, he boldly asks to assimilate spiritual calmness of the practical yogis to hold firm the roots of Indian civilisation amid all external turbulence, which is, in fact all illusion and not reality — the reality being the inner sense of introspection of the Vedantist.

Reflecting on the wrong interpretations on the caste system in India, he says they have great implications on the Indian national life in terms of religion and politics. He was quick to give his perspective for the future and well-being of modern India. He said, “What should we have is what we have not, perhaps what our forefathers even had not – that which the Yavanas had; that, impelled by the life-vibration of which, is issuing forth in rapid succession from the great dynamo Europe, the electric flow of that tremendous power vivifying the whole world. We want that energy, that love of independence, that spirit of self reliance , that immovable fortitude, that dexterity in action , that bond of unity of purpose, that thirst for improvement… we want that expansive vision infinitely projected forward; and we want that intense spirit of activity (Rajas) which will flow through our every vein from head to toe.”

This was his immediate remedy to the degeneration being caused to the national life. But he thought beyond the present scenario. He was concerned about the future of modern India — its development in all spheres — religious, social, political and economic. Swami Vivekananda said, “The quality of rajas is apt to die down as soon as it comes up, like a fire of palm leaves. The presence of Sattva and the Nitya or eternal reality is almost in a state of juxtaposition — Sattva is nearly Nitya. Whereas the nation in which the quality of Rajas predominates is not so long-lived, a nation with a preponderance of Sattva is immortal. History is a witness to this fact.”

To be specific, about India he said, “In India, the quality of Rajas is almost absent; the same is the case with Sattva in the West. It is certain therefore, that the real life of the Western world depends upon the influx, from India, of the current of Sattva or transcendentalism; and it is also certain that unless we empower and submerge our Tamas by the opposite tide of Rajas, we shall never gain any worldly good or welfare in this life; and it is also equally certain that we shall meet many formidable obstacles in the path of realisation of those noble aspirations and ideals connected with our after-life.”

To sum up, it is appropriate to quote from the Swami Vivekananda’s poem ‘To the Awakened India’, the wandering monk roars like a lion and says

“And tell the world-awake, arise, and dream no more!This is the land of dreams, where KarmaWeaves unthreaded garlands with our thoughtsOf flowers sweet or noxious, and noneHas root or stem, being born in naught, whichThe softest breath of Truth drives back toPrimal nothingness. Be bold, and faceThe truth! Be one with it! Let visions cease,Or, if you cannot, dream but truer dreams,Which are External Love and Service Free.”

Keywords: Swami Vivekananda, Vedanta, Udbhodhana, Spiritualism, Alexander, Christianity, Arabia, Islam, Religion,Rajas, Sattva, Nitya, Awakened India,Karma