January 12, 1998
Vivekananda’s birthday, January 12, is a fit occasion to re-articulate the belief that India today requires an intellectual and spiritual giant who, like a big light-house, could show the right course to a tottering ship and save it from being wrecked on a stormy sea. Only a leader of Vivekananda’s verve and vision could save India from committing spiritual suicide.
Few realise that Vivekananda was one of the principal architects to cut a new cultural stream that watered the parched soil of India and produced a rich harvest of men and women who brought its freedom. He declared: “Here is the same India whose soul has been trodden by the feet of the greatest sages that ever lived. Here first arose the doctrines of the immortality of the soil, the existence of a supervising God, an immanent God in nature and in man …. We are the children of such a country.”
These inspiring words removed the spell of diffidence caused by the colonial rule and created a wave of self-respect and self-confidence which brought men of sterling eminence like Gandhi and Tilak to the scene.
India today is a pale shadow of what it should have been. It should have led the world in life-nurturing ideas; instead, it is being led by the crass materialism of others. Its economy should have been the care and culture of its people; instead, it has been dehumanised by reckless consumerism of the rich and degrading passiveness of the poor. It should have recreated and strengthened its tradition of unities in diversities; instead, it has been torn asunder by conflicts and confusion. Who has brought all this about?
Vivekananda knew that, in building a healthy India, spiritual traditions had to play a crucial role. He said: “Each nation, like each individual, has one theme in life, which is at its centre. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality, that nation dies. In India, religious life forms the centre.”
Unfortunately, while ushering in a new era after Independence, this central vitality of Indian culture was ignored. But for occasional lip service, nothing was done to construct the nation from within. The decision-makers paid no heed to Vivekananda’s sane advice that “a nation in India must be the union of those whose heart beats to the same spiritual tone.”
For this lapse, India is paying a heavy price. In the absence of spiritual underpinnings, its constitutional goals have become unattainable and its institutions effete.
The Preamble of our Constitution describes India as a sovereign, secular, democratic Republic, and sets out to secure for all its citizens justice — social, economic and political. But what is the position today 48 years after the Republic came into being?
Could India be called a truly sovereign nation, when it is indebted to the external agencies to the extent of $ 91 billion? Its democracy, too, exists only on the surface. Where is the question of free exercise of `will’ when that `will’ has itself been imprisoned by prejudices of caste, creed and language? So far as socialism is concerned, it has made a mockery of it. India’s secularism has also been perverted.
In 1950, India’s share of the world’s gross national product was two per cent; now it has come down to one per cent. In 1950s, 12 per cent of the Third World’s gross national product was contributed by India; now the corresponding contribution is about five per cent. It clearly shows that the pace of economic achievement has been slower not only in comparison to the world’s overall performance but also that of other developing countries.
One of the basic reasons for the non-materialisation of the constitutional goals and non-performance of the institutions is that voices like that of Vivekananda were not heard. If the core of Vivekananda’s message had been injected into the national ethos of the post-1947 India and made an integral part of people’s inner psyche, India’s commitment to constitutional goals would have acquired depth and the country would have become a truly sovereign, democratic, secular and socialist Republic.
India, `the sleeping giant’, as Vivekananda called it, has woken up. But, unfortunately, after a few correct steps, it has started moving on the wrong course. Another Vivekananda is now very much needed.
The writer is a former governor of J&K
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