Monday, January 12, 2015 is Swami Vivekananda’s 152nd birthday. All over the world, people who have been inspired by Swami Vivekananda will be celebrating his birthday with great joy.
Since 1984, India celebrates every January 12th, Swami Vivekananda’s birthday, as a National Youth Day. On that day, students in schools and colleges all over India participate in parades, youth conventions, youth-related seminars, presentations of speeches, recitations, essay-writing contests, yoga-asanas, and various athletic events.
Who was Swami Vivekananda? He was a saint, a prophet, a yogi, an Incarnation of all loving and compassionate Lord Shiva, a great orator, a poet, a writer, a musician, a great teacher, a scholar, a visionary, a thinker, a philosopher, an explorer of Vedanta, a humanitarian, a social reformer, a patriot, a lover of humanity and much more. His multi-faceted personality is blinding to the human eyes. He lived only for 39 years, but his positive impact on the society will go on inspiring people for thousands of years.
In 1976, on the occasion of America’s Bicentennial Celebration, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. displayed a large portrait of Swami Vivekananda as a part of its exhibition, called “Abroad in America: Visitors to the New Nation: 1776 -1914. ” This exhibition paid tribute to the great personalities who visited America from abroad and made a deep impression on the American mind. The commemorative volume of the exhibition reads: “The Swami charmed the audiences with his magical oratory, and left an indelible mark on America’s spiritual development.”
One can buy the commemorative volume “Abroad in America: Visitors to the New Nation: 1776 -1914” from amazon.com. The following is the cover page:
The following link connects to the Facebook page of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York, which has posted the cover and a few pages of the commemorative volume along with several photos.
The life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda can be a great source of inspiration for anyone who aspires to achieve something positive in life.
The best way to celebrate Swami Vivekananda is to reflect upon and practice a couple of his teachings. Let us do just that.
Everyone likes to achieve success in life. No one likes to fail. Swami Vivekananda gives a guideline on how to achieve success in life.
Swami Vivekananda says, “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, and live on it. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave other ideas alone. This is the way to success.”
Of course, the practice of this idea must be helpful and not harmful. It must be helpful to all beings, not just few. Let us think how we can apply this teaching in our lives.
First: We have to find a good idea. How do we find good ideas? For this we have to read inspiring books, especially biographies and teachings of people who have done something good to the world.
We have to be in the company of people who are engaged in doing some good to the world. Company plays an important role. We learn much more from living examples of good people and being in the company of good people. We have to fill our minds with good ideas. And another thing we have to remember is that if we do not fill our minds with good ideas, then our minds will pick up all kinds of harmful or useless ideas.
Second: We can reflect upon all the good ideas we collected, write about these ideas, and discuss these ideas with people who are interested in doing good things. Most importantly, we have to think of the following few things:
(i) What exactly do these good ideas mean?
(ii) Which idea appeals to me most?
(iii) Why should I practice this idea?
(iv) How can I practice this idea?
Swami Vivekananda advises us to “dream of that good idea.” Dream that we have practiced this idea in life and have been successful.
Third – Live the idea. When we try to practice a good idea in our lives, two things come:
(i) Obstacles and difficulties: If our good idea is challenging, then we may face more obstacles and more difficulties. But we should not take them negatively. Obstacles and difficulties come to test the intensity of our desire to practice the good idea. They come to measure our sincerity, commitment, and determination to attain success in manifesting the good idea in our lives. If there are no obstacles or difficulties, then we do not value the good idea. Obstacles and difficulties also build our mental strength. In spite of obstacles and difficulties, if we continue to work for the good idea, we can build up our mental strength and confidence in ourselves.
(ii) Failures: If we read biographies of people who lived inspiring lives and had done some good to the humanity, we find that they all met failures. Not a single one had an easy ride. They all had tremendous faith in themselves. Swami Vivekananda said, “Throughout the history of mankind, if any one motive power has been more potent than others in the lives of great men and women, it is that of faith in themselves. Born with the consciousness that they were to be great, they became great.”
In addition, people who have been doing good work successfully take struggles positively. We all know that Thomas A. Edison failed 10,000 times to invent the light bulb. But he said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We should also remember another quote of Thomas A. Edison: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Thus, if an idea is good and we have checked it for its goodness, thought about it, dreamt about it leaving all other ideas alone, and worked for it, then success will surely come.
(i) Now, not everyone has to have a new good idea to work towards to make a life successful. If someone had a good idea and we work towards that same idea with others, we can also be successful. Some great ideas need a team of people. Learn how to work as a team for a great idea and working for it will not be a small thing. It will give us fulfilment.
People from all over the world come to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. It is grand. It has 10,000 light bulbs and thousands of decorations. Each light bulb shining separately cannot create the same grandeur. Yet, on the other hand, each light bulb is important as each of the other 10,000 light bulbs. We can be those individuals who shine like light bulbs working as a team for a great cause.
(ii) If we work unselfishly for a good cause, then we will realize that ultimately a good idea comes from the Almighty Creator who has created this universe and has created our body and mind. Hence, if we are working for our own good idea or for someone else’s good idea, we will be working for the Creator’s idea. We then become an instrument working for the Creator.
(iii) I have never seen a person who even though living alone, cooks delicious dishes every day for him or herself, sits on a dining table alone, and enjoys eating these dishes. Usually, when a person is alone, he/she finds any food, whether leftovers or junk food, that can fill the stomach.
However, when one cooks for a family he/she loves, one enjoys cooking. Similarly, along with our family, there is more joy in cooking and feeding guests whom we love most than simply feeding ourselves. The reason is that our Soul or Atman is connected to everyone. When we remove the idea of our body and mind, then what remains is Atman. This Atman is the same in all and we are all connected by that Atman. So when we cook for ourselves only, there is little joy coming from the fulfillment of the desire of our body and mind. When we cook and eat with other people, we feel more joy because we are connected with them. Those who do unselfish service find that when they work for the good of all beings, then infinite joy comes from within, as if the Atman is dancing with joy in seeing that all are happy.
Swami Vivekananda said, “This life is short, the vanities of the world are transient, but they alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.” There is very little joy in selfishness. Unselfishness is what brings infinite joy.
I have only taken one of Swami Vivekananda’s teachings in this post. You can select one that you like, think about it, and live it.
(Thanks to Ronak Parikh for editing this post)