INDIA DIES NOT

We have an idea that we Indians can do something, and amongst the Indians we Bengalis may laugh at this idea; but I do not. My mission in life is to rouse a struggle in you. Whether you are an Advaitin, whether you are a qualified monist or dualist, it does not matter much. But let me draw your attention to one thing which unfortunately we always forget: that is — “O man, have faith in yourself.” That isle the way by which we can have faith in God. Whether you are an Advaitist or a dualist, whether you are a believer in the system of Yoga or a believer in Shankarâchârya, whether you are a follower of Vyâsa or Vishvâmitra, it does not matter much. But the thing is that on this point Indian thought differs from that of all the rest of the world. Let us remember for a moment that, whereas in every other religion and in every other country, the power of the soul is entirely ignored — the soul is thought of as almost powerless, weak, and inert — we in India consider the soul to be eternal and hold that it will remain perfect through all eternity. We should always bear in mind the teachings of the Upanishads.


Remember your great mission in life. We Indians, and especially those of Bengal, have been invaded by a vast amount of foreign ideas that are eating into the very vitals of our national religion. Why are we so backwards nowadays? Why are ninety-nine per cent of us made up of entirely foreign ideas and elements? This has to be thrown out if we want to rise in the scale of nations. If we want to rise, we must also remember that we have many things to learn from the West. We should learn from the West her arts and her sciences. From the West we have to learn the sciences of physical nature, while on the other hand the West has to come to us to learn and assimilate religion and spiritual knowledge. We Hindu must believe that we are the teachers of the world. We have been clamouring here for getting political rights ant many other such things. Very well. Rights and privileges and other things can only come through friendship, and friendship can only be expected between two equals When one of the parties is a beggar, what friendship can there be? It is all very well to speak so, but I say that without mutual co-operation we can never make ourselves strong men. So, I must call upon you to go out to England and America, not as beggars but as teachers of religion. The law of exchange must be applied to the best of our power. If we have to learn from them the ways and methods of making ourselves happy in this life, why, in return, should we not give them the methods and ways that would make them happy for all eternity? Above all, work for the good of humanity. Give up the so-called boast of your narrow orthodox life. Death is waiting for every one, and mark you this — the most marvellous historical fact — that all the nations of the world have to sit down patiently at the feet of India to learn the eternal truths embodied in her literature. India dies not.

-Swami Vivekananda

Natchiketas and Yama

Vivekananda, Letter to Mohammed Sarfaraz Husain of Naini Tal, Almora

10th June, 1898.

MY DEAR FRIEND,

I appreciate your letter very much and am extremely happy to learn that the Lord is silently preparing wonderful things for our motherland.

Whether we call it Vedantism or any ism, the truth is that Advaitism is the last word of religion and thought and the only position from which one can look upon all religions and sects with love. I believe it is the religion of the future enlightened humanity. The Hindus may get the credit of arriving at it earlier than other races, they being an older race than either the Hebrew or the Arab; yet practical Advaitism, which looks upon and behaves to all mankind as one’s own soul, was never developed among the Hindus universally.

On the other hand, my experience is that if ever any religion approached to this equality in an appreciable manner, it is Islam and Islam alone.

Therefore I am firmly persuaded that without the help of practical Islam, theories of Vedantism, however fine and wonderful they may be, are entirely valueless to the vast mass of mankind. We want to lead mankind to the place where there is neither the Vedas, nor the Bible, nor the Koran; yet this has to be done by harmonising the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran. Mankind ought to be taught that religions are but the varied expressions of THE RELIGION, which is Oneness, so that each may choose that path that suits him best.

For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam — Vedanta brain and Islam body — is the only hope.

I see in my mind’s eye the future perfect India rising out of this chaos and strife, glorious and invincible, with Vedanta brain and Islam body.

Ever praying that the Lord may make of you a great instrument for the help of mankind, and especially of our poor, poor motherland.

Yours with love,
VIVEKANANDA.

The Salt of the Earth

Sw. Vivekananda, Meditation Pose, Sw. Tadatmananda

The peasant, the shoemaker, the sweeper, and such other lower classes of India have much greater capacity for work and self-reliance than you. They have been silently working through long ages and producing the entire wealth of the land, without a word of complaint. (8) Never mind if they have not read a few books like you—if they have not acquired your tailor-made civilisation. What do these matter? But they are the backbone of the nation in all countries. If these lower classes stop work, from where will you get your food and clothing? If the sweepers of Calcutta stop work for a day, it creates a panic, and if they strike for three days, the whole town will be depopulated by the outbreak of epidemics. If the labourers stop work, your supply of food and clothes also stops. And you regard them as low-class people and vaunt your own culture! (9) These common people have suffered oppression for thousands of years—suffered it without murmur, and as a result have got wonderful fortitude. They have suffered eternal misery, which has given them unflinching vitality. Living on a handful of grain, they can convulse the world; give them only half a piece of bread, and the whole world will not be big enough to contain their energy; they are endowed with the inexhaustible vitality of a Raktabija. And, besides, they have got the wonderful strength that comes of a pure and moral life, which is not to be found anywhere else in the world. Such peacefulness, such contentment, such love, such power of silent and incessant work, and such manifestation of lion’s strength in times of action—where else will you find these! (10) Many turn out to be heroes when they have some great task to perform. Even a coward easily gives up his life, and the most selfish man behaves disinterestedly, when there is a multitude to cheer them on; but blessed indeed is he who manifests the same unselfishness and devotion to duty in the smallest of acts, unnoticed by all—and it is you who are actually doing this ye ever-trampled labouring classes of India! I bow to you.

–Sw. Vivekananda, Rebuild India

Sw. Vireswarananda, President, Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Preface to Sw. Vivekananda’s Rebuild India

All over the country, since Independence, there has been a great deal of enthusiasm amongst the people, particularly among our young men, to rebuild our nation. It is very commendable. But then, before one takes up this work one must have a clear idea of the India that is to be. A painter paints a picture on the canvas only after he has a clear image, as it were, in his mind of what he wants to paint. Similarly, an engineer, before he begins the construction of any building, first gets complete information as to what purpose the building will be used for—school, hospital, public office, or residence. After that he draws the plan and then constructs the building accordingly. So we too must have a clear picture of the future India and then begin building the nation. Are we going to make India a great military nation? I am sure we are not, for no military power has lived long. Just see the fate of Hitler and Mussolini.

We are a poor nation, and we want wealth to be able to feed our masses. But will mere bread and butter solve our problem? Have the people of America and other advanced nations peace of mind and true happiness in spite of their wealth? They do not seem to have. Look at the young people of some of these countries, children of affluence, boys and girls, who feel frustration with nothing to achieve in life, wandering about. Some of them are very, very rich, but often they feel a sort of terrible purposelessness, having no goal in life. We want military strength to protect our freedom and not to rob our neighbours; we want wealth to feed our masses who are poor, but this cannot be the ideal of the nation. Something more is required besides these two. What is that which will bring peace to us along with wealth and power?

It is possible to go through our ancient history and see how great India was in power, wealth, and happiness during the times of Ashoka, Chandragupta, Kanishka and others. During the Vedic period and during the Buddhistic period evidently we had great ideals that could make India so great in the past. But then how has this degeneration come about? We have to find out the causes that led to our downfall. So in constructing the future India we must accept the ideals that made us great, reject what caused degeneration, and supply newly what were not there at that time, viz. science and technology.

We nowadays swear by science. We say, if something is not scientific, it is superstitious. But is it scientific to ignore altogether our past, not caring to know what good it contained and what has sustained us as a nation for the last three thousand years, and to run after Western ideas which have not stood the test of time, which are at best two hundred years old and some of them of even more recent times? Have these ideals solved the problem of the Western nations? Are they happy and at peace? They do not seem to be. So why go after those ideals?

We are human beings. God has given us reason to be used, and not to allow ourselves to be driven like cattle by anyone and everyone who comes and tells us something vehemently. So I feel that we should gather all materials, all information about our past and present, think well, and plan the future. We should not be led by emotion.

First of all, the most necessary thing is character. Without character nothing great can be achieved. Look at Mahatmaji. See how by his character he swayed the nation and forced England to quit India. He did not use guns, atom-bombs, etc. So if we want to make India great, we must build our character first, then use our reason and find out what sort of India we want to build, and then begin to work for it, even if it means sacrificing our lives for it. For this kind of study, Swami Vivekananda’s works will be a guidebook to us to introduce us to the greatness of Indian culture and ideals.

This brochure collected from Swamiji’s works will give at a glance his ideas about the causes of India’s fall, her present condition, and the way to her regeneration. I hope this book will help our young men who are aspiring to build a great India.

23 December 1980 (Swami Vireswarananda)

President Belur Math Ramakrishna Math and

Ramakrishna Mission

Karenge Ya Marenge (Do or Die) by Countee Cullen

Dark Rapture, Beauford Delaney
Wherein are words sublime or noble? What 
Invests one speech with haloed eminence, 
Makes it the sesame for all doors shut, 
Yet in its like sees but impertinence? 
Is it the hue? Is it the cast of eye, 
The curve of lip or Asiatic breath, 
Which mark a lesser place for Gandhi’s cry 
Than “Give me liberty or give me death!” Is Indian speech so quaint, so weak, so rude, 
So like its land enslaved, denied, and crude, 
That men who claim they fight for liberty 
Can hear this battle-shout impassively, 
Yet to their arms with high resolve have sprung 
At those same words cried in the English tongue?

Mahatma Gandhi observing the leprosy bacteria, 1942, Sevagram Ashram

What is this? Where is weakness? Who is strong? What is great and what is small? What is high and what is low in this marvellous interdependence of existence where the smallest atom is necessary for the existence of the whole? Who is great and who is small? It is past finding out! And why? Because none is great and none is small. All things are interpenetrated by that infinite ocean; their reality is that infinite; and whatever there is on the surface is but that infinite. The tree is infinite; so is everything that you see or feel — every grain of sand, every thought, every soul, everything that exists, is infinite. Infinite is finite and finite infinite. This is our existence.

—Swami Vivekananda, Practical Vedanta

My art derived from a desire to find the common ground between the religions of the world, which all share an abiding faith in the possibility of love, truth, and peace in liberating humankind from the bondage to suffering. As a Hindu, who is a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda and Holy Mother Sarada Devi, I believe that God exists in us all and so, acts through us all. Sri Ramakrishna said that we must look for God in all for we are all His creations and in Him we are One. Accordingly, I believe that a work of art should strive to render this purity of the soul force, which is none other than God himself working through us.

Pictured below is a painting of Mahatma Gandhi, India’s apostle of peace, observing the leprosy bacteria under a microscope in 1942, rendered in oil, acrylic, and ink on a 16 x 20 canvas. Gandhi prophesied that the choice that we face today is not between nonviolence and violence but nonviolence and self-annihilation. Though our present pandemic affects all, the poor of oppressed nations are most debilitated by its economic and political consequences. I wondered as I painted this what Gandhi might say of our own times, a time where modern medicine has discovered marvelous remedies for all manner of ailments and yet, arguably, we are, on the whole, in poorer shape healthwise. As the world teeters on the brink of war and as our immune systems struggle against the stress of modernity, we might humbly return to his message of peace delivered not just to those seeking freedom from the brutalities of racial oppression under colonial rule but to all humankind seeking deliverance from its own brute nature, as we stumble and fumble our way towards God.