The Jawaharlal Nehru University witnessed unruly students vandalising Swami Vivekananda’s statue. It would be useful for them and us to read Nehru’s thoughts on Swami Vivekananda.
Here are excerpts from the talk delivered by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, on the 114th Birthday Celebrations of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa at the Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi, on 20 March 1949.
I do not know how many of the younger generation read the speeches and the writings of Swami Vivekananda.
But I can tell you that many of my generation were very powerfully influenced by him and I think that it would do a great deal of good to the present generation if they also went through Swami Vivekananda’s writings and speeches, and they would learn much from them.
That would, perhaps, as some of us did, enable us to catch a glimpse of that fire that raged in Swami Vivekananda’s mind and heart and which ultimately consumed him at an early age.
Because there was fire in his heart — the fire of a great personality coming out in eloquent and ennobling language — it was no empty talk that he was indulging in. He was putting his heart and soul into the words he uttered.
Therefore he became a great orator, not with the orators’ flashes and flourishes but with a deep conviction and earnestness of spirit. And so he influenced powerfully the minds of many in India and two or three generations of young men and women have no doubt been influenced by him.
Other things have happened in this country and a very great man came — Gandhiji, who shook up the whole of India — another great man in the old line of rishis of India.
Much has happened which perhaps makes some forget those who came before and who prepared India and shaped India in those early and difficult days. If you read Swami Vivekananda’s writings and speeches, the curious thing you will find is that they are not old.
It was told 56 years ago, and they are fresh today because what he wrote or spoke about dealt with certain fundamental matters and aspects of our problems or the world’s problems. Therefore they do not become old. They are fresh even though you read them now.
He gave us something which brings us, if I may use the word, a certain pride in our inheritance. He did not spare us. He talked of our weaknesses and our failings too. He did not wish to hide anything. Indeed he should not. Because we have to correct those failings.
He deals with those failings also. Sometimes he strikes hard at us, but sometimes points out the great things for which India stood and which even in the days of India’s downfall made her, in some measure, continue to be great.
So what Swamiji has written and said is of interest and must interest us and is likely to influence us for a long time to come.
He was no politician in the ordinary sense of the word and yet he was, I think, one of the great founders — if you like, you may use any other word — of the national modern movement of India, and a great number of people who took more or less an active part in that movement in a later date drew their inspiration from Swami Vivekananda.
Directly or indirectly he has powerfully influenced the India of today. And I think that our younger generation will take advantage of this fountain of wisdom, of spirit and fire that flows through Swami Vivekananda.
Now to come back to what I began with. Men like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, men like Swami Vivekananda and men like Mahatma Gandhi are great unifying forces, great constructive geniuses of the world not only in regard to the particular teachings that they taught, but their approach to the World and their conscious and unconscious influence on it is of the most vital importance to us.
You may or you may not accept some particular advice of Mahatmaji on economic or other grounds. But his fundamental approach to life, his constructive unifying approach as applied to various problems of India, that is of vital importance.
If you do not accept that, then you really are on the side of destruction and disruption. His approach — quite apart from the particular advice that he gave — his approach was fundamentally the approach of India, of the Indian Mind and of the Indian genius.” (Loud cheers).
Although Sri Ramakrishna was a man of God and religion, and was not saying anything about politics, it is his fundamental approach that counts.
And while, I am a man of politics, not dabbling much in or saying much about other matters, spiritually and the like, nevertheless, I do feel that our public affairs and our life in general, would become much the poorer in quality, if that spiritual element and the moral standard were lacking.
India, as the rest of the world, faces these difficult problems and questions, and all of us, whether as individuals, communities, groups or nations, are being put to very severe tests.
Because I have faith in India, I believe that India will not only survive these tests, but will make good: because, I think, that in spite of our weakness there is fundamental vitality which has enabled it to carry on all these millennia of years and which will now function much more effectively and vividly having got the opportunity now.
I have that faith; but faith is not enough. We have to work for it, and we have not only to work for it, but work for it with that clear vision before us. That vision we may apply to India, but it is essentially a larger vision to be applied to the world.
It is not a narrowing vision. Our nationalism must not be a narrow nationalism. Swami Vivekananda, though a great nationalist, never preached anything else. His was a kind of nationalism which automatically slipped into Indian nationalism which was part of internationalism.
So, it is that broad approach that we must learn from those great men and if we learn it and act upon it to the best of our ability, then we shall honour their memory and we shall serve our country with some advantage, and possibly also serve humanity. Jai Hind.