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Vivekananda’s Ideas On Reconstruction Of Hinduism

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Swami Vivekananda was a great political thinker. His social, political, religious and philosophical ideas are catered in many of his letters written to his disciples, his friends, his donors and his followers. Vivekananda was a many sided genius, a many sided personality is rather a poor description of his life and contribution to the Indian renaissance. Indeed, he was so great that one could talk about him endlessly that would fill the pages of a huge encyclopedia. He was a powerful preacher of Vedanta, a religious rejuvenator and a great sociological thinker. He has played all these roles in an exemplary manner. Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was right when he said that Swamiji put his heart and soul into the words he uttered and into the words, he wrote . Therefore, he may be regarded as a prophet. Indeed a prophet is one who comes with a sense of mission and tries to translate that mission into action.

Swami Vivekananda’s , by his efforts to save Hinduism by reconstructing ancient religion in his lifetime became the living example and the most powerful exponent of reconstructive ideas of Hinduism . Vivekananda’s ideas of social reconstruction can be placed in the background of his role as a religious rejuvenator and his role as a social thinker. He was both the product as well as molder of what is called the Indian Renaissance. During the time of Swami Vivekananda, the dazzling European civilization blinded many and it was a period of all acceptance- anything coming from the West was considered to be the best. It was also a period of reinforcing ancient Indian values. . Swamiji believed that Indians should return to India’s ancient culture. Therefore, Swami Vivekananda is not only a product of the Indian Renaissance but also one of its leading fashioners and molders.

Two cordial traits of Swamiji’s practical Vedantha that have always enchanted readers are its universality or brotherhood and its wonderful appreciation. The Oxford philosopher, professor Zachner had remarked that Vivekananda performed the extraordinary feat of breathing life into the static monism of Shankara. Everyone knows well that Swamiji’s practical Vedantha has done a lot of good to the society. One good is that it has preached the idea of oneness; it has speared the message of freedom- freedom for oneself and freedom to be able to perceive the unity with others. The French Revolution preached the maxim of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. There was however no reference to Oneness. This Oneness was infused into the concept of social reconstruction of Swami Vivekananda.

Vivekananda always a believer in revolution, certainly he was. It was a different kind of revolution- a bloodless revolution. Spensor’s first principle says Evolution as Evolution through expansion, growth and decay. Evolution results in good for some time, but it is also ascent of over thousands of years. Swamiji had patience with that sort of philosophy. First society would become industrialized, then people will be educated, the men and women will have what they need. Swamiji did not have any patience with that kind of sluggish transformation. He wanted to have it here and now. This is the sort of revolution Swamiji expected in India, politically, socially, religiously and philosophically.

Swamiji wanted man to become God. Attainment of Godhood was his cordial call. Here he was largely anthropocentric than geocentric or animistic so was his master Sri Ramakrishna. Yet it is an irony that human societies suffer from polarization. He wanted a synthesis of the two. The common folk must have material benefits. He reminds everyone that there should be sufficiency for all instead of over abundance for a few. This was what Swamiji stood for. It is the highest expression of Humanism. How to reach this highest point of development? There are a number of ways. One of them is to jump off our self. This desire or instinct enables human beings to jump out of themselves as much as possible. It is possible only by developing the impulse to renowned one’s puny, narrow, limited cells. This can be done very well by proper education. Keeping the people shackled and Swami Vivekananda hated spreading social evils like untouchabiity. His strongly called for the removal of such social curses and became the pioneer of liberal thinking in India. Although this process was started by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, he could not go so far but because of Swamiji’s trumping voice against these social imperfections, as he call them, the constitutional prohibition of untouchabiity and all these have been possible in later years. To be able to diagnose such imperfections and to proceed for their removal, what is necessary is the proper education.

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Proper education can only make men and women of character. Swamiji named this type of education ma n making education. When such men and women abound social reconstruction, is automatically effected. Otherwise, it would be just putting the cart before the bullock. The spiritual Father of French Revolution was Rousseau who wrote about a city statues, democracy and what not. All these he prescribes are only mechanism and at the far end of his life he lamented and realizes that nothing could happen until and unless the moral compass of humankind was prepared. The moral compass of humankind is nothing but the man making education of Swami Vivekananda.

“A bird in the course of his fly, reaches a spot where it looks on the ground below with supreme calmness. Have you reached that spot? He who has not reached that has no rights to teach others. Relax, your limbs and float with the current, and your are sure to reach your destination,” says Swamiji in his letter to Swami Ramakrishnananda from Chicago (Letter no 35 Pg 85 vol 6).

The above passage mentions about the knowledge of the person who is eligible to teach religion one who has reached the height of knowledge or one who knows thoroughly about the religion can only teach religion. Swamiji teaches his disciples to be perfect before making others perfect. This is the advice he is giving for man making education, which will be the foundation for reconstruction for any religion.

He was a Sanyasin of the highest order, a Paramahamsa Parivrajakacharya, who dwelt constantly at the super conscious realm. As a master of fact, the whole of his public life was a continual act of self-sacrifice at the altar of love for humanity.

One main contribution that Swamiji to Hinduism was to give it a proper identity, a totality, wholeness. Before Swamiji came on the scene there were only several sects each more or less independent, each claiming superiority over others. There was no clear understanding of Hinduism as the common ground for all these sects. Sister Niveditha, in her introduction to the complete works of Swami Vivekananda wrote, “Of the Swami’s address before the Parliament of Religion, it may be said that when he began to speak it was the religious ideas of Hindus, but when he ended Hinduism had been created”. It was Swami Vivekananda who showed for the first time that Hinduism has a whole has certain basic concept, which is common to all the sects. These basic concepts give Hinduism a distinctive identity. Swamiji gave Hinduism not only identity but also unity. By going to America, as the first Hindu missionary to West, by representing Hinduism at the Parliament of Religion in 1893, and by preaching Hinduism in the West, Swamiji himself became the symbol of Unity of Hinduism. Through his letters and lectures, he roused the consciousness of Hindus, reminded them of their common heritage and strengthened the bond of unity among the Hindus. Swamiji have Hindus a sense of common community.

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