Swami Vivekananda's speech on the future of India more than a hundred years ago has lessons which we have failed to learn.
Swami Vivekananda’s speech ‘Future Of India’ delineated a plan for transforming India into a prosperous and glorious nation. The uniqueness of Swami Vivekananda’s speech is that he hadn’t specified as to how material prosperity will be achieved. In fact, Swamiji had zeroed in on religion in India as he opined that the real reasons for our material as well as spiritual prosperity will be cloaked through the robustness of our religion. In the words of Swamiji,
“When the life-blood is strong and pure, no disease germ can live in that body. Our life-blood is our spirituality. If it flows clear, if it flows strong and pure and vigorous, everything is right; political, social, and any other material defects, even the poverty of the land, will all be cured if that blood is pure. For if the disease germ be thrown out, nothing will be able to enter into the blood”.
In this article, we will deal with Swamiji’s ‘Future of India’ speech and how far we have come on the path he had laid for us. Swami Vivekananda had broadly narrated 4 points which are still bogging down India from clinching its due place in the world. 1) India is a religious nation by nature which we have ignored 2) We as Indians failed to understand importance of Sanskrit and therefore we couldn’t bring forth the knowledge in our scriptures 3) India flounders in the squabble of caste, race, creed, sects 4) India has failed to understand its true essence and therefore is pursuing wrong educational policies instead of evolving into man-making education.
1) India is a religious nation by nature: Swamiji was far too empathetic about the religious nature of India as he thought that it’s there that our roots lie. It is our nature as Business is the nature of the Britishers and Politics of the French. Every prosperous nation according to Swamiji has trodden on the path of progress only through following her own true nature. India was always despised as a poor and savage nation by the West and after visiting the U.S, Swamiji was sure about the greatness of the religious prowess of India. He dreamt not only to resuscitate India’s latent energy for her own progress but he had intended to transform India as a global teacher of religion to show westerners that India does not export despair and gloom that they seem to believe. He wrote to the Maharaja of Mysore in his letter from the U.S that
“On the whole our poor Hindu people are infinitely more moral than any of the Westerners. In religion they practice here either hypocrisy or fanaticism. Sober-minded people have become disgusted with their superstitious religions and are looking forward to India for new light. Your Highness cannot realize without seeing how eagerly they take in any little bit of the grand thoughts of the holy Vedas, which resist and are unharmed by the terrible onslaughts of modern science”.
But the real question is whether religion can be the source of material prosperity? And the answer is yes. Religion(Dharma) is the only force existing on the earth which binds humans, otherwise, most other forces have their own divisive tendencies. Father of Modern Economics Adam Smith in his “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” says that
“One of the most economically significant functions of religious belief was to provide strong incentives to follow moral strictures that helped to support civil society, that is, honesty, benevolence, restraint from violence, and so forth’.
Religion is a bulwark against cut-throat competition, the pious nature of human beings leads to a more positive environment.
2) We as Indians failed to understand the importance of Sanskrit and therefore we failed to bring forth the knowledge in our scriptures: The Indian constitution officiates Sanskrit as one of the scheduled languages of India but why do we still fail to appreciate Sanskrit as a powerhouse and treasure trove of knowledge? Should we not uplift Sanskrit from hordes of other languages and give it supreme status? Swamiji was such a seer and savant that what he dreamt of then is now being followed by westerners today. How many of us are aware of the fact that in one US University aptly namely ‘Maharishi’, a fully devoted comparative study of Vedic science and modern science takes place? And would it not be shameful for Indians tomorrow if western nations teach us about Vedic science? Do we have any plan to extricate ourselves from this abashment? Swamiji was aware of this and therefore he urged us to revive Sanskrit. He said,
“My idea is, first of all, to bring out the gems of spirituality that are stored up in our books and in the possession of a few only, hidden, as it were, in monasteries and in forests — to bring them out; to bring the knowledge out of them, not only from the hands where it is hidden, but from the still more inaccessible chest, the language in which it is preserved, the incrustation of centuries of Sanskrit words. In one word, I want to make them popular. I want to bring out these ideas and let them be the common property of all, of every man in India, whether he knows the Sanskrit language or not”.
After Independence, the Indian government established a Sanskrit commission which submitted its report in 1957. It was referred to by the Supreme court in one of its judgement and quotes picked from that report to expatiate the importance of Sanskrit. Supreme court states as follows, ‘At page 71 of the report, it has been mentioned that Sanskrit is one of the greatest languages of the world and it is the classical language par excellence not only of India but of a good part of Asia as well. At page 73 the report states that the Indian people and the Indian civilisation were born, so to say, in the lap of Sanskrit and it went “hand in hand with the historical development of the Indian people, and gave the noblest expression to their mind and culture which has come down to our day as an inheritance of priceless order for India, nay, for the entire world”. The report further speaks at page 74 about the “great mental and spiritual link” Sanskrit and of it being the elder sister of Greek and Latin, and cousin of English, French and Russia’. As of today, Sanskrit has been given a short-shrift by government and nothing is being done on the governmental level to spread its knowledge at every village, district level.
3) India flounders in the squabble of caste, race, creed, sects etc as the schism further destroys its society. After the advent of the Constitution in India, any discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, language etc is prohibited but here it is relevant to quote a constituent assembly member H. J. Khandekar (C. P. & Berar) who rightly points out the ground picture:
“We have embodied an article No. 17 in this Constitution to remove untouchability and I am sure that untouchability will be removed, but I have seen Act for removing untouchability in the Provinces, the Temple Entry Act and the Removal of disabilities Acts passed by the different Provinces in this country. What is the effect of these laws? Not an inch of untouchability has been removed by these laws and, therefore, if this law of removing untouchability remains in the book of Constitution. itself, I do not think that untouchability will be removed. If at all the ghost of untouchability or the stigma of untouchability from India should go the minds of these crores and crores of Hindu folks should be changed and unless their hearts are changed, I do not hope. Sir, that untouchability will be removed. It is now up to the Hindu society not to observe untouchability in any shape or form.( CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF INDIA DEBATES (PROCEEDINGS) – VOLUME XI)
Now we see that the words of Mr. Khandekar were pretty accurate. What is the solution to such reservations? Maybe applied for a certain period of time but can it be a permanent solution? No, this argument is confirmed by Mr.Khandekar also he said
“I have got into practical knowledge of untouchability and I can say that it cannot be removed within ten years if the Hindu community is not sincere. It will take, in my opinion, very many years because the hearts of the Hindu society are not changed”.
Swamiji had an identical point of view on this problem, hence he proffered some remedies for us to resolve this deeply embedded issue. 1) Teach everyone Sanskrit 2) He urged Shudras and other castes to elevate themselves to the levels of Bramhinhood instead of fretting and fuming against Brahmins. Swamiji explained the true meaning of Brahmin and he emphatically said that everyone on this earth has the ultimate goal to attain Brahminhood. Swamiji further pointed out that in Indian societies, secular occupations are restricted only for non-Brahmin castes. Swamiji requested every Indian to become one by forgetting every other identity by the next fifty years at the very least. We have not heeded Swamiji’s advice, on the contrary, our politicians are dividing Indians on caste, religion, lines. Even though the Supreme Court has restricted reservation in public sector to 50% of total seats, states like Tamil Nadu are undeterred and have raised reservations up to 67%! What a downfall.
4) India has failed to understand it’s true essence and therefore has pursued wrong educational policies instead of evolving man-making education. Swamiji said in his speech on education that we are like a donkey carrying sandalwood on our backs who understands the weight of the item but do not understand the value of the same. The essentials of education according to Swamiji were: 1) Physical, mental, spiritual development 2) Harmonisation of western and eastern values 3) Sprucing up our power of concentration 4) Imparting an importance of brahmacharya and mind control. In India today, Swamiji’s ideas have fallen on deaf ears. Government has not even achieved the goal of hundred per cent literacy, let alone educated youth. Among those who are so-called literate cannot read and write properly, hence it is not hyperbolic to say that the government is following the literacy mission for namesake. Cognitive skills, and ability to think independently is not adequately developed. It is heartrending to note that not a single Indian university had made it to the list of top 200 universities across the globe in the QS World Ranking report recently unveiled. The Indian government in the name of secular education deterred to impart yogic techniques, including meditation to students, missing a vital element in their development. Education is being imparted as capital to augment money, and to goad students to hedonism. Education has become an instrument to shake the world instead of shaping the world. Swamiji says in his speech,
“A negative education or any training that is based on negation, is worse than death. The child is taken to school, and the first thing he learns is that his father is a fool, the second thing that his grandfather is a lunatic, the third thing that all his teachers are hypocrites, the fourth that all the sacred books are lies! By the time he is sixteen he is a mass of negation, lifeless and boneless. And the result is that fifty years of such education has not produced one original man in the three Presidencies. Every man of originality that has been produced has been educated elsewhere, and not in this country, or they have gone to the old universities once more to cleanse themselves of superstitions. Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested, all your life”.
Things have not metamorphosed in the last 65 years after independence. Hallmark of our education today is the poor quality of education, with weak infrastructure and inadequate pedagogic attention. A strong educational and industry connection is missing, therefore only bookish knowledge is being stuffed in the minds of youngsters and because of wrong educational policies, frustration, despair, anxiety is a common phenomenon among students. True knowledge never comes from outside but it only helps to discover what is inside. Hence education should always be a self-revelation and according to the ‘swadharma’ of every human being, otherwise it will wreak havoc in society. One dialogue between a professor and an English soldier during WW-II unfolds the role of a ‘GURU’ in the nation a background. The dialogue was as follows: A professor of Cambridge University is deeply engrossed in his study chamber. An agitated English soldier enters the study room and accuses the professor of not sharing the trauma of war which he and many others like him are facing while fighting Germans. The professor calmly asks the young soldier for whom he is fighting. Quick comes the reply that it is to defend the country. The wise man wants to know, what in this country is he willing to defend for which he is prepared to shed his blood. The soldier replies it is the territory and its people. On further questioning the soldier says, it is not only this but the culture of the country which he wants to defend. The professor quietly states that he is contributing to that culture. The soldier calms down and bows in respect to the professor and vows to defend with more vigour the cultural heritage of his country. Conclusion Swamiji in his letter to Justice Subramaniam Iyer says as follows:
“To show the Hindus that they have to give up nothing but only move in the line laid down by the sages and shake off their inertia, the result of centuries of servitude. Of course, we had to stop advancing during the Muslim tyranny, for then it was not a question of progress but of life and death. Now that that pressure has gone, we must move forward, not on the lines of destruction directed by renegades and missionaries, but along our own line, our own road. Everything is hideous because the building is unfinished. We had to stop building during centuries of oppression. Now finish the building and everything will look beautiful in its own place. This is my plan.”
This great responsibility has been shouldered on us by Swamiji and it is not only our duty but also our right to be a Global Guru. Hence India should chalk out a plan on the basis of this guiding speech of Swami Vivekananda. It would not be an exaggeration if it is said that this speech should be taught to every child in India as his/her plan of action for the future.