Why Hate Has No Place in Swami Vivekananda’s India, New India

The last seven years have seen transformational changes in India. A lot can be written on some of the fundamental shifts – from furthering the idea of Integration to deepening of Democracy. 

One way to understand the process of social, economic, political change is to see the shifts and change through the eyes of thinkers and philosophers who have inspired the ruling class. Many would agree that Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Deendayal Upadhyay, Sri Aurobindo, and yes, Swami Vivekananda, have been among the icons who have enriched the collective consciousness, in the last few years.

Swami Vivekananda holds an extremely important position in this distinguished group. When Tradition meets Modernity, when Civilizational Ethos inspires the Future Roadmap, when a truly Universalistic Philosophy — representative of a diverse people and culture — is expressed most elegantly, one is reminded of Swami Vivekananda and his immortal words.

Indeed, today, his words resonate more clearly than ever before. When some err in reading New India – either out of their ignorance, or even due to some vested interests or agenda – it is always useful to re-read Swami Vivekananda.

Take for instance, the charge being woven into a narrative currently, that hate speeches by a fringe group — anyone who breaks law or commits a crime, is a criminal, and must face legal action – “has the sanction of the ruling class”. 

A philosophy which has taken shape, and is continuously inspired by Swami Vivekananda, will never condone any criminal act or hate speeches, by any group – whether it is by a fringe group claiming to be “Hindu religions leaders” or by an influential MP claiming to represent “Muslim interests”.

Indians are known to learn their Vivekananda early in their lives. His sayings, quotes, writings, portraits and philosophy enrich and enliven millions of children’s lives. In the last seven odd years, there has been a renewed interest in Swami Vivekananda’s life and times, writings and philosophy.

In the current context, it will be useful to reproduce two of his articulations to argue why a philosophy wedded to universalistic ideals, and with a commitment to global good, will never sanction particularistic slogans.

The first excerpt is from 1893. On the concluding day of the Parliament of Religions, Swami Vivekananda said: “If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world, it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: ‘Help and not fight’, ‘Assimilation and not Destruction’, ‘Harmony and Peace and not Dissension’.” 

The second excerpt is from a section where Swami Vivekananda speaks about himself. He says: “Our watchword, then, will be acceptance, and not exclusion… I accept all religions that were in the past, and worship with them all; I worship God with every one of them, in whatever form they worship Him. I shall go to the mosque of the Mohammedan; I shall enter the Christian’s church and kneel before the crucifix; I shall enter the Buddhist temple, where I shall take refuge in Buddha and in his Law. I shall go into the forest and sit down in meditation with the Hindu, who is trying to see the Light which enlightens the heart of every one (quoted in “Swami Vivekananda on Himself”)

When taken together, the two passages also explain the DNA of the average common Indian.

In the last seven years, Swami Vivekananda’s writings have acquired a greater prominence. Swami Vivekananda has often been an integral part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence-Day speeches, for instance.

In one of the speeches, the PM said: “When Swami Vivekananda used to talk about the future of India, when he used to see the magnificence of Mother Bharati in front of his eyes, he used to say – Try to look into the past as far as possible. Drink the water of the ever new spring flowing back there, and after that, look ahead. Go ahead and make India brighter, greater and better than before. In the 75th year of Independence, it is our duty to move forward believing in the immense potential of the country”. 

One another occasion, the PM said in his I-Day speech: “I have great faith in the pronouncements made by ascetics, sages, and saints and that is why today at the rampants of Lal Quila, I am reminded of the words of Swami Vivekananda. He had said, “I can see before my eyes Mother India awakening once again. My Mother India would be seated as the Vishwa Guru. Every Indian would render service towards (the) welfare of humanity. This legacy of India would be useful for the welfare of the world. Friends, the words of Vivekananda can never be untrue. The words of Vivekananda ji, his dream of seeing India ensconced as Word Guru, his vision… it is incumbent upon us to realize this dream.” 

Indeed, with its democratic ethos and a deep commitment to the “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam” philosophy, with unifying symbols as diverse as the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor and a new Startup Culture, with its interventions on the global stage on issues ranging from Climate Change to Inclusive Growth, Pluralism & Diversity, India is destined to be the Vishwa Guru. Hate has no place in this philosophy at all. It will never have, and it should never have, any place therein.

For a fuller understanding of today’s India and its future, Swami Vivekananda will always be the guiding light. One of India’s most-loved sons, and a towering thinker-philosopher, Swami Vivekananda is also India’s invaluable contribution to the world and to the idea of larger global good.

(The writer, a JNU alumnus, is a political analyst. Views are personal)

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