150 Years Young and Going Strong – Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivek 150 JayantiThe sanyasi who declared “The national ideals of India are renunciation and service” is arguably the most popular youth icon in the country. Born on 12th Jan 1863, he is 150 years young and still going strong !

What makes Swami Vivekananda tick among the youth and what makes him the most sought after guiding force for crores of youngsters ? What makes his views on holistic personality development relevant even today ?

In his best-seller ” Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, world renowned management guru Stephen Covey writes about “The Personality Ethic” and “The Character Ethic”. He writes that the Western world has been emphasizing on the personality ethic which focuses on how to dress, how to smile, how to stand, how to talk, how to sit and so on. This is characterized by the thousands of books that have been published around this subject by authors like Dale Carnegie, Allan Pease, Napolean Hill and many more modern-age personality development writers. However, he emphasizes that “The Character Ethic” is more crucial. It is what one is on the inside that makes the long term impact. The development of the personality is not external but internal. This is the oriental way, he writes. The West’s understanding of Bharat’s legacy has been improving in recent times. Bharat’s world-view forms the fulcrum of what is termed as the oriental worldview and an excellent articulation of this was done by Swami Vivekananda.

Swami Vivekananda through his life and message exhorted the youth to develop their personality and work for the nation. He understood the limitations and travails of the youth of the country and gave the mantra of holistic personality development.

At the same time he was convinced that “A hundred thousand men and women, fired with the zeal of holiness, fortified with eternal faith in the Lord, and nerved to lion’s courage by their sympathy for the poor and the fallen and the downtrodden, will go over the length and breadth of the land, preaching the gospel of salvation, the gospel of help, the gospel of social raising-up — the gospel of equality.”

He spoke of Vyaktitva vikaas ( personality development) in a new paradigm while acknowledging that whatever he has said is not new but was part of our scriptures. His views gained more impact because he lived what he spoke.

It would be worthwhile to discuss his views on a holistic personality which was based on the traditional Bharatiya view of personality development , viz., pancha kosha vyaktitva vikas (the 5-fold personality development process). This development process is all the more vital for us because we are a country with 40% of youth-force and a holistic personality of the yuva-shakti is essential for a strong and vibrant nation.

1. Annamaya Kosha Vikas

– Developing Strength (Shakti )The development of a strong body falls in the realm of the Annamaya kosha.

He famously exhorted youth saying ” You will understand the Gita better with your muscles stronger”. Strength Is Life. The Gita preaches “Paritranay Saadhunam, Vinashaya Dushkrutan, Dharma Samsthapan“. ( protection of good persons, punishment of the wrong-doers and protection of Dharma). How can we achieve this without being strong ourselves ?

“Everything that can weaken us as a race we have had for the last thousand years. My friends, as one of your blood, as one that lives and dies with you, let me tell you that we want strength, strength, and every time strength”.

2. Pranamaya Kosha Vikas :

The control of prana, steadfastness the training of the mind and building a strong character fall in the realm of the Pranamaya and Manomaya kosha.

 – Developing Concentration & Steadfastness : He says” To me the very essence of education is concentration of mind, not the collecting of facts. If I had to do my education over again, and had any voice in the matter, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then with a perfect instrument I could collect facts at will. Side by side, should be developed the power of concentration and detachment.” He demonstrated this in his personal life by an incident where on he not only read the ‘Encyclopedia Britannica’ but also answered many questions on difficult and varied topics/subjects, from different volumes. Swamiji not only replied each correctly, but in many instances he quoted the very language of the books!

Later he greatly emphasized to cultivate power of mind in the form of purity and concentration for spiritual gains, so also perfection in many arts and studies in science and other branches of education.

3. Manomaya Kosha Vikas

– Developing Strong Character & A Strong Mind – A strong body with sound knowledge must have a healthy character. He says “The basis of all system, social or political, rests upon the goodness of men. No nation is great or good because Parliament enacts this or that, but because its men are great and good. Fill the brain with high thoughts, highest ideals, place them day and night before you, and out of that will come great work. Take up an idea, devote yourself to it, struggle on in patience, and the sun will rise for you”.

How to build a strong character he says is by doing good, thinking holy thoughts continuously, that is the only way to suppress base impressions….Character is repeated habits, and repeated habits alone can reform character. If a man thinks good thoughts and does good works, the sum total of these impressions will be good; and they….will force him to do good even in spite of himself.

4. Vignanamaya Kosha Vikas:

The process of acquisition of knowledge, both Para and Apara Vidya ( worldly and spiritual) form the realm of the Vignanamaya Kosha.

Swamiji was a great propounder that Indians need to equip themselves with both modern scientific knowledge and at the same time strive for the knowledge of the Atman. This is clearly demonstrated when he inspired Jamshedji Tata to start the Tata Institute of Science and personally encouraged Sir J.C.Bose in all his experiments. At the same time he said “realize that understanding human nature is the highest knowledge.”

Holistic Education – ” We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet. The ideal of all education, all training, should be man-making. But instead of that, we are always trying to polish up the outside. What use is polishing up the outside when there is nothing inside? The end and aim of all training is to make the man grow. The man who influences, who throws his magic, as it were, upon his fellow-beings, is a dynamo of power, and when that man is ready, he can do anything and everything he likes; that personality put upon anything will make it work. “

5. Anandamaya Kosha – The Sheath of Bliss

The acquisition of strength, knowledge and concentration is complete only when we identify ourselves with the larger society, when our qualities are useful to the nation. The process of merging our individuality for the greater good of the nation and humanity is the way to bliss – development of the Anandamaya kosha. This development of this sheath leads to bliss and true happiness.

Swamiji says ” Feel, my children, feel; feel for the poor, the ignorant, the downtrodden; feel till the heart stops and the brain reels and you think you will go mad; then pour the soul out at the feet of the Lord, and then will come power, help and indomitable energy. “

Moving Forward : The challenges before the country will have to be answered only by introspective youth who want to make a change. There are questions each of us has to ask ourselves. What are the challenges facing me and my country ? Where is my nation heading to? Where am I heading ? What is my life’s compass ? What is my dream of a strong & vibrant country and how can I contribute for it ? Out of this introspection will arise the answers and the ideal.

The next phase would be to stick to an ideal inspite of pressures from all quarters, both internal and external. That is the hall mark of a hero. Swamiji says” Hold Up An Ideal – Never mind failures; they are quite natural, they are the beauty of life, these failures. Hold the ideal a thousand times, and if you fail a thousand times, make the attempt once more.”

Out of these individual and collective goals and ideals, we would all be able to bring to reality the dream of Swamiji. He declared “One vision I can see clear as life before me that the ancient Mother has awakened once more, sitting on her throne- rejuvenated, more glorious than ever. Proclaim her to the entire world with the voice of peace and benediction”.

The 150 Years celebrations of his Jayanti ( birth anniversary) is a great occasion to resolve ourselves to the glory of our nation.

 Article originally published in Hans India –

1.http://www.thehansindia.info/News/Article.asp?category=1&subCategory=5&ContentId=113213#.UPE9uZ-hKvI.gmail

2.Short Linkhttp://tinyurl.com/bhwh5an

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7 thoughts on “150 Years Young and Going Strong – Swami Vivekananda

  1. Confused Krishna Bhakta in Canada

    Nice piece. I’ve been thinking back on our exchanges. Come to think of it, empathizing with the male view, they are eve teasing because they desire to have some exchange with girls/women and they don’t know how to go about it in a healthy and pleasing way because they lack those social skills.

    Part of “holistic education” could include this. How to interact with the opposite sex in healthy and pleasing ways, learning what makes them tick and how to attract them so that interactions between males and females can be friendly and satisfying to both parties.

    Reply
    1. skandaveera

      Two things – the context of crime does not come from the positive side but from the negative side, hence the question is not “why eve teasing is done at all” but how to contain it from undesirable things. Secondly, ragging or eve teasing as a means to know fellow humans is a very strange and alien situation. Where people come from a strong foundation of family and social relations, they also know how to treat humans and know each other. Boy or girl, the basic human tie in society is natural and a permanent phenomenon. Why disrupt society, atomise individuals and alienate them, and then create artificial and absurd means to get them together again?

      Reply
      1. Confused Krishan Bhakta in Canada

        “Secondly, ragging or eve teasing as a means to know fellow humans is a very strange and alien situation. Where people come from a strong foundation of family and social relations, they also know how to treat humans and know each other. Boy or girl, the basic human tie in society is natural and a permanent phenomenon. Why disrupt society, atomise individuals and alienate them, and then create artificial and absurd means to get them together again?”

        Are you saying eve teasers live alone and not with their families?

  2. skandaveera

    This is. a nice piece. A few thoughts –

    The annamaya kosa comprises the sthula sareera/gross body. Physical sustenance and activity ultimately is the most visible realization in society. Sasya syamala desa, society having enough produce, people having enough physical sustenance and activity, control of animal-conduct, physical discipline, all this and more can happen at this kosa.

    Pranamaya, manomaya and vijnanamaya kosa-s comprise the sukshma sareera/subtle body. Prana or life-force is the subtle principle that appears as strength in many cases, but the one that many times invisibly controls the whole world. As Swami Vivekananda notes, it is the force of prana that makes influential men control their surroundings – with or without their knowledge and once you control prana, you control the world. Arousal of the subtle prana and control of it, is the bases for any kind of socially conscious activity. In a way the most important one.

    Manomaya kosa is bhavanatmaka and the activity here is that of “mind-proper”. Cultivation of moral discipline, control of thought processes so as to keep generating righteous and powerful thought-currents, keeping noble thoughts around, making sure these thoughts are brought down to life with a strong prana control etc is all done here.

    Vijnanamaya kosa is vijnanatmaka – the faculty is intellect and works with knowledge. While the results of knowledge can be personal or social, knowledge itself is impersonal. The impersonal knowledge that descends into all the lower kosa-s as personal experience and awareness, is this stream of infinite knowledge. To tap into this is possible only through the discipline of lower faculties (all the above). Modern education involves an attempt to vijnana without that discipline, and hence results in several undesirable results in the society. Hindu traditions demand rigorous citta suddhi (cleansing of impressions) and svadhyaya (systematic eduction) for the formation of proper discipline that lets a person experience the fullest knowledge, without polluting it with the less than righteous experiences of the lower faculties. The descent of such knowledge is real sastra-jnana as understood in tradition, and not mere memorization of texts. Such vijnana alone can bring about elevation to the student as well as result in contributions of genuine well-being of the surroundings. One cannot help oneself or the world, without understanding the working principles of the world.

    Anandamaya kosa comprises the causal body, the impersonal sheath – it is the sublimation of ahankara and a complete elevation into vijnana that results in the dawn of this kosa. This is the sheath of existential bliss, that causes the creation. The true universalism in a person’s life and thought depends on how much the mind is dissolved into the impersonal knowledge and how much the higher kosa-s manifest in the being.

    Reply

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