My Homage to Swami Vivekananda
(The following blog is based upon my thoughts I shared with Vivekananda Vidyapith’s students, teachers, parents, and helpers during Youth Day Celebration Speech Competitions held on Saturday and Sunday, January 6th and 7th of 2018.)
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) lived only for 39 years, but his life and teachings will continue to inspire people as long as a single person on earth searches for the eternal truth. All over the world, we can see the positive and uplifting effect of Swami Vivekananda’s life and teachings helping the humanity for its good. His teachings about strength, the divinity of the soul, oneness of existence, and harmony of religions have been appealing to more and more people. These teachings encourage them to search for their inner divinity and try to manifest it in their thoughts, speech, and actions, especially through their unselfish service to the society. His emphasis on serving the “Living God,” the sum total of all living beings, touches the hearts of even atheists.
We could see a fraction of this positive effect during the Vidyapith’s Youth Day Celebration Speech Competition. The temperature during last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were in single digit close to zero degrees Fahrenheit and the wind-chill was in negative degrees. But, the Vivdyapith’s students and helpers joyfully loaded and unloaded a truck in the cold with the things needed for the competition. Several other people worked unselfishly for countless hours to make this competition a great success. For all of them, it was a labor of love. Also, almost all the students from grades sixth through twelfth came for the competition and presented their excellent speeches. The students, teachers, and the helpers were inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s life and teachings.
The following are few of my thoughts I shared with the Vidyapith’s students, teachers, and helpers:
“Swami Vivekananda is our beloved teacher, leader, and a role-model. He was a saint, a prophet, a yogi, a great teacher, an orator, a poet, a reformer, a humanitarian, a patriot, a world-leader, a visionary and many more.
He told about himself that, “He is a voice without a body.” His voice was and is the voice of the Vedanta – the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. He also said that “As Buddha had a message for the east, he has a message for the west.”
There are many teachings of Swami Vivekananda which we have to learn and practice in our life. As students, one teaching we have to really learn is his definition of education. He said, “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.” By ‘man’ he meant men and women. This perfection is the perfection of the Atman dwelling in each one of us. We have to realize this perfection and then try to manifest it in our thoughts, speech, and actions.
To me, the simple meaning of perfection is ‘Be happy with what we have and be always ready to improve our performance.’ With this simple rule, we will constantly improve our study, our work, and our performance in every field.
There is another aspect of education. In schools and colleges, we learn about the topics related to the physical and mental world. There, we do not learn about our true identity which is beyond our body and mind. For that, we have to learn to go deeper within ourselves and search for our true identity. Swami Vivekananda says that our true identity is divine. In order to search our true identity (or divinity dwelling within), Bhagavad Gita has described four paths, namely Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga. We can do every day four simple spiritual practices which cover all these four yogas: (1) Spend few minutes doing prayer, Japa and meditation, (2) read couple of pages from inspiring books and seek holy company which encourages us in our search for our true identity, (3) practice values which help us realize this true identity (for example the values described in the 12th chapter of Bhagavad Gita shlokas 13-19), and (4) do unselfish service. If we do these four practices regularly and properly, then definitely we will go deeper within and realize our true identity which is divine.
Note that the goal of all the Vidyapith’s classes and all activities including this speech competition is to help us to learn about our true identity (the divinity dwelling within) and encourage us to realize it and manifest it in our thoughts, speech, and actions. But, we have to do our homework by practicing the above mentioned four practices. Just as we do homework after taking classes in schools and college and educate ourselves, similarly in this search also we have to do our homework.
What do we get by realizing our inner divinity? We see that each person irrespective of his/her color of skin, religion, culture, country, physical appearance or any external difference is divine. The basic life-force in all beings is the same. Once we realize that then we love all and be ready to help all. We do not hate anyone. We will get control on our lower nature including our anger, jealousy, greed, lust, ego, and other impurities. We become sincere, honest, and humble. This makes us a better person fit to live in the society.
When we realize this inner divinity, then we can understand Swami Vivekananda’s teachings of Vedanta, namely the divinity of the soul, oneness of existence, harmony of religions, and service to the ‘Living God’. With oneness of existence, we realize ‘unity in diversity’. This is the best way to celebrate Swami Vivekananda’s birthday. May we all get inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s life and teachings and make our life blessed.”