Isn’t it amusing that humans often regard spirituality as the highest form of metamorphosis into their sublime selves, yet when asked to supervene through the very practice, they regard it as duplicity, trickery, or unsubstantiated? Why have people been seeing spirituality only through two lenses: either through swindling the masses by wearing khadaus, draping a long piece of cloth that barely covers the entire body, and self-proclamation as the voice of a god, or an irrational way of living that can hardly exist in today’s temporal civilizations, given that everyone wants to be regarded as the best and enjoy the riches of life?
I remember I was travelling with my father on one chilly winter morning to take my exam, and on our way, we saw police constables exercising in an open field. My father made a statement that has since stuck with me. He said that in an attempt to find something, people are losing themselves. I had no idea why he said that, but now that I am part of the incessant hustle of life, I am bound to think about it. All our lives, even before we are born, we are told what we are supposed to do. Every time we are trying to prove ourselves and whenever we strike off something on our list, it comes with a new promise and a new temptation to pursue. However grand the accomplishment, we risk losing ourselves, forgetting what we were before we were labeled. And that’s when it becomes important to take a pause, to introspect, and to experience the divinity within oneself, because that’s where everything that we seek lies.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA AND HIS REPRESENTATION OF SPIRITUALITY
In a world drowning in stress, war, and pandemics, one might ask, where does spirituality even fit in? Is this age-old pursuit a remedy to the soaring chaos, or is it just yet another drift toward the multiple heedless actions that now define most of our lives? Spirituality acts as a medium; it paves the way for us to reach our higher selves, helping us differentiate our real identity from our physical reality. And one man who pioneered our way to divulge this reality of spirituality and religion was Swami Vivekananda. With a legion of discourses on the art of spirituality, Swami Vivekananda’s beliefs and teachings provide a bedrock for inculcating mindfulness and sustainable living in contemporary times. Vivekananda was way ahead of his time; a tenacious monk with a fiery spirit, the vibrant reality of his words has forged the path where spirituality and social responsibility intertwine, which now has begun to resonate with newfound urgency given that the world today is drowning in the falsification of their religious creed and power.
Spirituality, as discussed before, is often associated with temples and scriptures, but it extends far beyond. And this candour of spirituality was ideally described by Vivekananda. Revealing India’s spiritual greatness to a largely unaware audience in the world, he sincerely promoted spiritual teachings through yoga and the principles of Vedanta. The philosophy of Vedanta, which also forms the basis of the Vedas, is universal to all countries and cultures and not restricted to Hinduism. According to Vedanta, God, or the truth that we seek, dwells within ourselves, or Atman. And that’s what Swami Vivekananda preached throughout: true spirituality isn't just religion or faith; it’s looking within oneself and experiencing the greatness of one’s being. Achieved through yogic practices and meditation, he taught about experiential spirituality and shared with the world India’s great practices for those who have been deprived of knowledge and fractured by inequality.
YOUTH AND SPIRITUALITY
Swami Vivekananda knew the potential that lies within our country. He knew that India, a young nation at heart but vehemently connected with its roots, would change the course of time for the entire world, spearheaded by its youth. But what was it that made him have blind faith in the capacity of the Indian youth? Today, when India is emerging as a celebrated global leader and is on the cusp of an economic boost, the Indian youth has a significant role to play in this shift. Indian youth, or the ‘Gen Z’, as colloquially referred to by many, is the generation of progress; it is the generation of hustle, rebellion, and innovation. Despite countless internal struggles and untold stories of exclusion and trauma, with their sheer perseverance, they do know how to emerge stronger than before, ready to fathom the challenges that yet another day brings. Agreed, they are often described as careless and uninhibited, and they don't have legacies to narrate, but they do move fast, with every step creating and building something inconceivable and embracing learning. Even though it’s undeniable that the spirit of the youth is enigmatic, it is also true that despite all the valour, they face a dilemma. Just like an inoperable compass whose needle quivers wildly instead of pointing north, the young minds of today are pulled by the forces of societal expectations and their burning ambitions, quivering between the two. Unsure if the path to success leads to fulfilment or burnout, they are left disoriented. Therefore, in these times of uncertainty, having a conversation within and understanding that life is more than what’s seen and told will open the way for them to a life of co-existence and equilibrium. As I already mentioned, in Swami Vivekananda’s view, spirituality and religion are the realisation of one’s real nature. As he quoted, ‘Religion is realization; not talk, not doctrine, nor theories. It is being and becoming, not hearing and acknowledging.’ And this proves that spiritual realisation isn't something that manifests itself; it is something to strive for. In an era that is highly westernised, Vivekananda’s explication is rather sensible.
In a world that inhabits different cultures and races, he explains the diversity of religions. Even though we are divided by boundaries and parlance, what unites us all is the core of being human. The universality of religion leads us to the point where all our differences cease and acceptance with peace begins, accrediting every single experience, faith, and religion to be true. And that’s how young minds today should flourish, given their interconnectedness with others. Further, his assertion that every man is potentially divine gives young minds infinite hope; that supreme power is latent in each of us, and with true passion for the revelation, we can cling to our reason and take the grip of our lives in our own hands. Seeking spiritual growth will make the young minds one step closer to their higher self, a self that’s always surrounded by acquisitiveness but will know how to live life in harmony. With the tranquil practice of meditation, Vivekananda reinforced the idea that spirituality can be achieved only after the development of the intellect, the emotions, the psyche, and the active being. These practices help in building a sense of belongingness and entireness with oneself and the world, helping in expanding the pluralistic culture that truly underlines the essence of humanity in humans despite myriad power struggles and enticements.
With their intellectual minds and reasoning prowess, the young minds are surely repositioning the world into infinity—into a physical space that is gradually yet cogently changing their way of living. Yet, today, when the youth are told to aim for the stars and are even making it possible, some questions still linger. One fact that always bothers me is why people always appreciate visible things. Why are awards and numbers appreciated more than efforts? Why is impact, growth, or change expected to be tangible—something that can be boasted about and not something that is perceived? In the frenzy of being the best, we sacrifice precious moments of our transformation for our achievements. But what if we realize that the greatest validation lies not in the eyes of others but in the reflection of our souls? When will we realize that the most fulfilling journey of our lives isn’t the one that is filled with chasing triumphs or our growing desires, but the one that leads us home to ourselves? And to attain that level of understanding and composure within the self, getting spiritually aligned provides guidance. When we ask difficult questions within ourselves, when we assess the meaning of our existence and seek reasons for our every action, it is then that we shed layers of pretense that have plummeted our awareness. Finding the true path amidst turbulence isn’t a one-time feat but a continuous conquest, demanding perseverance, patience, and the occasional gentle push against the noise. It’s about acknowledging the void and recognizing our pain points, not filling them with distractions, so that we discover within it the way to a more accomplished journey. Not to forget that before the thunderous applause and the crowds chanting his name at the parliament of religions, it was the journey towards spirituality that sculpted Narendranath Datta into the iconic Swami Vivekananda, an eternal testament to the spiritual transformation.
About the article
Sanya Tyagi's award-winning article, "Youth and Spirituality," explores the paradoxical perception of spirituality in today's fast-paced world. Drawing inspiration from Swami Vivekananda's teachings, the article emphasizes the significance of spiritual introspection for the youth. It delves into the challenges faced by the modern generation, caught between societal expectations and personal ambitions, and advocates for a deeper connection with one's true self. Through Vivekananda's philosophies, the article encourages young minds to embrace spiritual practices, fostering a sense of belonging and harmony in the ever-changing landscape of life.