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Relevance of Swami Vivekananda's Ideas in the 21st Century

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

Swami Vivekananda’s ideas are boundless, infinite, and pervade universally to the whole of mankind. His teachings, messages, and ideas have universal appeal. Restricting their relevance to any time or place is not only inappropriate but impossible. Swami Ji belonged to total humanity. He strongly advocated for unity and tolerance among mankind. His limitless ideas coming straight from his soul directly impinge into the soul of the receiver like a thunderbolt. These well-meditated ideas fall within the purview of universal knowledge since they relate to the realm of basic human nature including intelligence, emotions, impulses, and tendencies. Hence, the Ideas of Swami Vivekananda remain relevant irrespective of space and time. These are the result of his deep insight, his limitless love for humanity, and his concern for human dignity.

Vivekananda’s philosophy of knowledge evolved from the larger philosophy of life. Values of tolerance and inclusiveness are engrained into it. Thinking of the great saint had crossed the borders of rational knowledge. Diving deep inward he discovered the inner self and inner unity through inner vision and inner intuitive experience. Swami Ji’s heart bled with grief and despair on witnessing the miserable condition of the Indian people. He contemplated ways and means to raise the deprived and the downtrodden. He believed in empowering these people by awakening their consciences. He was greatly moved by seeing the lack of willpower and sluggishness among Indians. Swami Vivekananda specifically addressed the Indian youth. He exhorted them to be courageous, to banish inactivity, and to overcome the causes of their impoverishment.

Swami Vivekananda visualized every being as a divine entity. According to him the goal of life is to realize and manifest this divine nature through the process of Yoga. Vivekanada’s eternal ideas lead to a practical philosophy of life. Ideas and ideals of Vivekananda enliven the human soul. His utterances vigorously stir the inner being and fill in the person with a strong will to know oneself, to fight against all evils, and instill an inner courage to never ever yield to temptations, intolerance, bigotry, or social injustice. Today when India once again is determined to fight against poverty and doing everything possible under the present political leadership to raise the living standards of the disadvantaged, the women, and other weaker sections, Swami Ji’s teachings and messages as quoted below give hope, courage, and strength to move ahead with confidence. Vivekananda exhorted the people of India to shake off their hypnotic inertia and recognize their divine identity.

“ are the makers of your own fortunes, you make yourselves suffer, you make good and evil, and it is you who put your hands before your eyes and says it is dark."
"You are effulgent, you are perfect already, from the very beginning”
“Do not pity anyone. Look upon all as your equal”
“All power is within you; you can do anything and everything.”

Belief in the divine self, philosophy of practical Vedanta, interpretation of religion, breaking of caste and class divisions, harmony with all, the message of tolerance and selfless service, inclusiveness, and equality alone will lead humanity to solve the emerging problems in the 21st century. Ideas of Swami Vivekananda will inspire people across the globe and will remain relevant forever. His powerful ideas will illuminate our path in the new millennium. His spiritual humanism will serve as a beacon light to communities and nations.

Prof. Manjit Sen Gupta's Message to India's Youth
Be brave, strong and righteous to serve the needy and the weak.

Religious bigotry breeds terrorism. Every single thing in life today, may it be dress, food, or even games is being seen from a narrow religious angle. Countries are being ruled based on age-old religious doctrines. Hundreds of people are being killed by religious bigots. In such a polarized world Vivekananda’s teachings bring a ray of hope. He advocated diversity of paths to realize God and strongly emphasized the principle of unity in diversity. Vivekananda categorically declares “Religion has no business to formulate social laws and insist on the difference between beings because its aim and end is to obliterate all such fictions and monstrosities”.

His messages are capable of giving a strong foundation to the modern world and modern Indian Nation. Emphasizing the imperative of Women’s education Swami Ji said "The welfare of the world is not possible until the condition of women improves.” Today women’s education, empowerment, and equal rights are being globally discussed. It is worth noticing that “A Working Framework for 2030: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN proposes to “Attain gender equality, empower women and girls everywhere” It is crucial for elevating their status and also for accelerating economic development and social transformation. The National Education Policy 2020 too “recognizes the special and critical role that women play in society and in shaping social mores”.

Boys and girls or purush and prakriti have been conceived by nature as complementary to each other. Both have their distinct potentialities and hence specific roles to play. The objective of education is not to iron out these specificities. The aim instead should be to provide an environment conducive to the unfolding of their unique talents. Swami Ji recognized that “men and women have their own distinct natures on a psycho-physical plane and that each must grow and function according to his or her nature”. Instead of pushing for homogenous Unitarian equality, he sought more harmonious equality. Men and women are like two wheels of a cart in which wheels maintain a rhythmic movement. Vivekananda too considered men and women as two wings of a bird.

In a predominantly young country like India, his messages to the youth instill in them strong faith in their divine potentialities and fill them with courage and dedication to achieve their goal. India adopted democratic polity with a promise to create an egalitarian society based on social justice, liberty, equity, and equality. History tells us that the golden era of Bharat was lost mainly due to fissiparous tendencies, evils of class, caste, gender discrimination, and selfish ambitions. The independence movement could make successful inroads simply because it effectively highlighted Indian identity, infused pride in Indian goods, and strengthened Indian cultural and religious customs which transformed into strength, so essential to throw the mighty British out.

‘Man making is my mission’, he used to say. Indeed, a country’s future depends upon the intelligence, creativity, and capability of its people. He wanted education to provide ‘life-building, man-making and character-making assimilation of ideas’ by combining India’s idealism and spiritualism with Western efficiency and reason. But the present-day utilitarian education has led to complete materialism with total disregard for life – values. This has resulted in a culture of violence. Devoid of faith and spiritual satisfaction social tensions are giving an impetus to suicidal tendencies. Purely intellectual or heavily material culture bears the seed of death. Arnold Toynbee predicted, “It is already becoming clear that a chapter of world history which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race.”

About the author 
Prof. (Dr.) M. Sen Gupta is a distinguished scholar and educator with a wealth of qualifications, including B. Tech. Ed., M.A., M.Ed., and a Ph.D. He also completed a course on Vocational Education at Bristol University, U.K. With an impressive background, he has held positions such as Professor and Principal at RIE (NCERT), Bhopal, and has garnered accolades as a Fulbright Scholar to the USA, a Commonwealth Fellow at Bristol University, U.K., and a Foreign Expert for UGC in Nepal. Dr. Sen Gupta has been recognized with numerous national awards and prizes, and he has actively participated in both national and international conferences. As a Ph.D. Guide and the author of around 200 publications, his article, titled 'Relevance of Swami Vivekananda's ideas in the 21st century,' achieved the prestigious honor of being the first runner-up in 'The Trailblazers 2023,' a national-level article writing competition organized by the Youthisthan Foundation. The article promises profound insights into the enduring significance of Swami Vivekananda's ideas in the contemporary context, a testament to Dr. Sen Gupta's intellectual prowess and contributions.


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