Every creation of the Universe, consciously or subconsciously, craves to flourish, to evolve, and for eternal peace in both outer and inner worlds, and it is only this desire that led humans to think of a place called heaven. Our ancestors and sages, with the wisdom of the soul, later realised that all the heavens and knowledge of the universe lie within us, and religion is just a medium to purify the self, making the soul realise its true spiritual identity, its oneness with every soul and with the universal spirit. Thus, we can conclude that various paths leading to spiritual awareness are already there, all we need is a strong will and courage to walk that path. The path is tough and sometimes disheartening, but under the guidance and motivation of a true Guru one can attain the ultimate aim of the soul; and one such Guru is Swami Vivekananda. Swami ji’s way of practicing religion and spirituality can be the torch bearer for youth, but before discussing ‘how’, we need to discuss the three hidden ‘why’ in that ‘how’ which are :
1. Why does there arise a need to show the path of religion and spirituality?
2. Why the main target is youth?
3. Why the path of Swami Vivekananda?
Religion and spirituality are two words that are quite simple yet complicated. Many times we fail to decipher their true meaning despite reading volumes of sacred books and listening to long sermons. For a common man, spirituality signifies a mysterious experience attained through meditation while religion has become synonymous with dividing people based on their beliefs. People have accepted this explanation not because their personal experiences proved it to be true but because they are constantly being misled by some traders of religion and spirituality.
The day people understand the true meaning and essence of religion and spirituality, they will realise that the path is easy and the aim is the purity of soul and for that one need not renounce the world or meditate for long hours; one can also attain the highest level of spirituality by simple acts of goodness.
The Hindi translation of the word religion is dharma which signifies the path of righteousness, and the one who never gives up that path, despite facing many hurdles, is religious in the true sense. But the religion of today is bounded by the narrow notion, depicting it as varieties of sects represented by personal God, symbols, and sacred books, with their own predefined rules and rituals. The religion, which was supposed to remove the veil of ignorance and help the soul of mankind to realise its true nature, is itself suffering from the dreadful disease of fanaticism. Thus, there is a need to bring back the true essence of religion and spirituality which gives the message of unity among diversity even at the soul level thus bringing universal harmony.
Every small act when practiced regularly becomes a habit and that habit in the long run becomes belief; the same happened with religion where superstitions of yesterday became traditions of today.
Changing a belief requires a lot of effort and youth of every era possess that tremendous energy to bring both positive as well as negative change. A child’s mind is like a lump of clay which can be moulded in any form while that of an adult has already been moulded with imprints of certain beliefs. Youth is the connecting link between these two stages. The mind of youth is still undergoing the process of molding; that mind is still soft enough to take the desired shape but also possesses the ability to reason the cause and consequences of that change. The youth of today is not only the veterans of tomorrow but also the guiding light of coming generations. Thus, youth is the only medium that can bring changes in the society.
Now, after addressing the first two questions, here comes the main question, why is the path of Swami Vivekananda? There are many known and unknown great sages, who by following the purest form of religion gained spiritual wisdom leading to liberation of their soul; but whenever there comes a thought of progress of nation or world by empowering youth, the only name that comes in our mind is that of Swami Vivekananda. Swami Ji always dreamt of India as a strong and progressive nation and he knew, that to achieve this, we need to have an amalgam of our ancient spiritual wisdom with the materialistic knowledge of the West. He knew that only strong-willed people with the energy of youth could turn his dream into reality; in Swami Ji’s words, for his work, he wanted “men with muscles of iron and nerves of steel, inside which dwells a mind of the same material as that of which the thunderbolt is made”.
Swami ji was a proud Hindu, believer of Advaita philosophy but he was not orthodox. He always believed that the essence of all religions is the same, they all teach purity, morality, and eternity of soul. He was against that religion which created a divide among people. He believed that religion cannot be limited by books and worship of personal Gods; true religion is realising that the whole universe is a temple and God resides everywhere, in every form.
Religion aims to make the soul realise its real strength, to remove the veil of ignorance, and to help man reach that highest state of spirituality where he can realise that the kingdom of heaven is within him. The youth of today need to understand that the present notion of religion, where every sect is fighting others to prove its superiority, is nothing but a degraded form that not only degrades the human mind but also destroys the whole world.
The path of Swami ji is more practical than traditional, and thus can easily be adopted in the 21st century. Swami Ji always emphasised that instead of blindly following anything or anyone, one must try to reason it first. He believed that everything a religion claims must be judged from the standpoint of reason; and, not only youth, but everyone, must adopt the same approach instead of accepting everything served in the name of religion. This is the path of Swami Ji where he believed that it is better to be an atheist by following reason rather than blindly believing in two hundred millions of Gods on the authority of everybody. Swami Ji was not against the idea of a personal God, but he believed that before having faith in God, we should have faith in ourselves, we should rely on our strength, and discard everything that weakens us, be it some orthodox belief or tradition. The youth of today need to understand that only their inner strength and spiritual knowledge can set them free from the miseries of life, and religion is just a medium for this realisation.
When it comes to spirituality, many of us are unaware of the fact that we all are spiritual, the
level might be different. This can further be corroborated by the fact that we feel pained not only by our miseries but also by the sufferings of others. Every soul is born to reach the highest state of spirituality which can be attained by purifying one’s mind and karmas. Many ways can lead us to that state of purity; one can reach there by worshipping Gods with full devotion, by meditation, or by following the paths of great teachers like Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Vivekananda believed that doing selfless acts with the pure intention of helping others is equivalent to worshipping God. This is the path of Swami ji, which teaches that the perfection of the soul can also be attained by doing the duties assigned to us with pure devotion, helping the one in need without expecting anything in return, and not cursing anyone. We all must learn not to judge others by merely the nature of their duties but by the manner and intentions with which they perform. Swami ji taught us that the power of good actions can help mankind reach a point where one is ready to give up his life for others, and that state is a state of perfection that many yogis attain by years of penance. Thus, with due respect to the beliefs of others, all I can say is that the path shown by Swami Ji is easy to follow, the only need is the purity of thoughts and control over one’s mind.
In the end, I pray, that along with youth, the whole world should imbibe the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, which can be summed up as, Vasudhaiva kutumbakam and Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti i.e. the whole world is a family and the Universal Spirit residing in every creation is the one which sages call by different names.
About the article
Uma Painuli's award-winning article, 'Youth and Spirituality,' explores the universal craving for growth, inner peace, and the realization that heaven lies within. The piece delves into the essence of religion and spirituality, emphasizing the need for a revival of their true meaning. Painuli argues that the youth, with their energy and ability to bring change, are pivotal in this transformation. Swami Vivekananda's pragmatic path is highlighted as a beacon for modern times, advocating reason over blind faith and promoting selfless actions as a form of worship. The article concludes with a plea for the world to embrace Vivekananda's teachings, fostering unity and recognizing the universal spirit in all creations.