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Relevance of Swami Vivekananda's ideas in the 21st century

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

How is it to have a torch fire in the middle of a forest, in the middle of a rainy night and roaring thunderstorms, quite relevant right? Fire removes the fear of being lost in the forest. Gives warmth, spreads light, and shows the path. It also threatens any ferocious forces to come nearby! Ideas of Swami Vivekananda are nothing different, standing in the twilight of the 21st century.

One is lost in the forest of fast-paced life, in the forest of proliferating technological interventions, in the forest of unlimited choices of career craftsmanship, in the forest of opinionated societies, superiorities, ideals, intellectuals, concepts, and proofs. It leads one to fizzle one’s awareness. And the lack of awareness hides one’s ability to discriminate between right and wrong and hides one’s ability to use the faculty of what is called as the ‘viveka’ or one’s intellect. And that brings the night to one’s life. When one loses awareness and intellect, a storm arises. But there is still hope. Swami Vivekananda had ignited through his timeless wisdom for us to ignite the torch, the torch of ‘believing in one self’ which can bring light to one’s path among the doubting clouds that poured rains of despair that poured from time to time.

Shiv's Message to India's Youth
Stay away from addictions, intoxicants, from bad habits. If you find there is confusion, conflict, and chaos in life, you must counter them with other 3C's. That is Compassion, Commitment, and Context. Compassion for yourself and for others. Commitment to growth, to spreading positivity and solace in society. And lastly see life from a bigger spectrum, a bigger context. Zoom out and see the uncertainty and insignificance of life in terms of cosmic time and space. Culture your nervous system with positive and pious thoughts. Meditate and listen to soulful music every day. It's your safety valve of life from aggression and depression. Do not let your achievements stay in your head and failures stay in your heart. Respect and care for your parents.

The ease of operations with the advent of seamless technologies and allied advancements of this century had dialed a sedentary lifestyle and invited a plethora of medical anomalies whether at the psychological level or at the physiological front. We are unwarily allowing our biological faculties to become slaves of a digital universe. Never heard psychic diseases and disorders have become quite a common phenomenon in the societies, we live in. Are we not distorting our nervous system? Are we not negating the need to involve ourselves more in a robust and vibrant healthy habit? And how relevant the idea that Swamiji had recalled to the youth of this nation by quoting – ‘What we want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel’. A weak body can’t thrive to shoulder upon challenges and a weak mind can’t withstand criticism. But a robust body and a vibrant nervous system can!

Be it in the spiritual arena or finding the real meaning of education or at the front of societal restructuring, his vision, his ideas, and his thoughts can pave the foundation of this 21st century which can become more agile and resilient in the years to come.

Talking about different schools of thought on spirituality in the world, Swami Vivekananda emphasized the idea of ‘selfless service for the better good of humanity as the core of spiritual reflection of a person, sect, society, or nation. When one serves the other without something in return, one is serving the Lord directly – ‘Jive Shiva’ Vedanta and Hinduism saw effulgence in the early 21st century because of the fire of knowledge and sharpness of logic that Swamiji had put forward on the Western grounds. Unlike the East which values their faith, rituals, and practices over and above logic and hands-on proofs, the West had to be agreed on objective terms whether or not to believe in a supreme force governing this creation. Swamiji turned the table into something unimaginable! He emphasized the need for self-reflection, the need for self-introspection as the first step towards believing in some higher energy or God. He said, ‘You Cannot believe in God unless you believe in yourself’. When one does not have self-worth, what worth he/she can create for society? When one lacks faith in oneself, what faith the person can instill in others?

Swamiji’s ideas on education and self-development are not only relevant in the current times but prove to be the secret keys to compounding success which is sustainable and directed towards a better good for society in general. This century has been a witness to the changing dynamics of education and the nature of professions and modes of earning a livelihood. A skill-based and gig-based economy is what we are moving towards which demands nothing less than 100% in terms of quality and execution. Standing on the other shore, we can feel how important to have an unwavering focus, and an unshakeable concentration to master a skill, master a subject, master a specialization. This is why Swamiji stated, ‘essence of education is not collecting of facts, but the concentration of mind’. Younger generations of this century, feel it quite cool to multi-task and do ten things at one time. Such concepts only create attention deficiencies or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Swamiji knew this might happen in the centuries to come when one will have much to accomplish within limited resources of time and money and so advocated the principle of success by stating – ‘do one thing at a time and while doing it put your whole soul into it, to the exclusion of all else’. The importance of being uni-focused on one thing at one time will actually lessen the time to accomplish the task, and hence more tasks can get accomplished.

Swamiji also mentioned that memory is not education. Good memory is no doubt a natural gift but merely remembering a few facts misses the whole idea of the real essence of education what 21st-century youths need to understand. Swamiji ideated a holistic stratum of the complete blossoming of a person not only at the stratum of qualification or a degree-oriented education but also at another stratum of physical, mental, and spiritual planes. Because after a certain level of achievement, it’s all about skills to connect, orient and inspire people in various spheres of our lives.

The 21st century has no doubt brought the best-in-class systems, processes, and modernization that eased complex operations, and man-made operations seamlessly and flawlessly with the advent of tech and innovation. But at the same time, this century has been a witness to divisions of societies, divisions of classes, divisions of sects, ideals, and mindsets. It has also been witness to the divisions to the extent of how one should be treated. Here is the relevance of the message of compassion and brotherhood that had sprouted long ago at the dais of the Parliament of the World’s Religion, at Chicago by Swamiji’s magical speech that poured the audience’s hearts with a sweetness of empathy and compassion – ‘sisters and brothers of America...’

Swamiji’s ideas on women's empowerment have become more relevant and lively when we see women taking off fighter jets for simulation training, becoming the managing director of a multinational company, saving that critical patient in the operation theatre, giving the dosage of a vaccine in the midst of a life-threatening pandemic of this century, to becoming the president of India!

Swami Vivekananda and his ideas come from a space of compassion, character-building, self-reflection, irresistible willpower, and unwavering focus. The literal meaning of ‘viveka’ is intellect and ‘ananda’ means to be joyful, vibrant, and full of life. We need both the intellect that can dissect the right and not-so-right for us also we need to be a messenger of happiness, compassion, and truth to make this century revive with peace, harmony, and prosperity.

About this article
Shiva Kumar Bera, a distinguished gold medalist from Sri Sri University and a former associate of the rapidly growing trade finance fintech company, 360tf, is currently dedicated to assisting his family business. Beyond his business pursuits, Shiva is a passionate writer and holds certifications as an Astro-Numerologist and a practicing Nadi-Astrologer. His article, "Relevance of Swami Vivekananda's ideas in the 21st century," stood out as an exceptional contribution in 'The Trailblazers 2023,' a prestigious national-level article writing competition organized by the Youthisthan Foundation. The article delves into the enduring significance of Swami Vivekananda's ideas in our contemporary era, offering profound insights and perspectives.


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