A patriotic saint, a man who stood tall both literally and figuratively and created ripples not only in India but also in the West, Swami Vivekananda was much more than a religious figure. In my opinion, he is the greatest saint India has seen. “Arise, awake and stop not that till the goal is reached” was his clarion call to the youth and it’s a message that resonates with us even today.
Yesterday, India celebrated National Youth Day on the occasion of Vivekananda’s birth anniversary. It was his 150th Birth Anniversary, and it’s worth wondering whether Vivekananda remains relevant to the youth of India. Has he faded into oblivion? Sadly, yes. And yet, he remains an inspirational figure. He was a man who went across nations spreading knowledge. From Mahatma Gandhi to Rabindranath Tagore to Margaret Elizabeth, Vivekananda was held in high regard by one and all. Gandhi once said, “My love for India has become a thousandfold after thorough reading of Swami Vivekananda.”
Vivekananda was absolutely fearless. He used to say, “Fly from evil and terror and misery, and they will follow you. Face them and they will flee.” He understood that undertaking any social change needed enormous energy and will, which was why he called upon the youth to not only hone their intellect, but also build upon physical prowess. “It would be better to play football than read the Gita…” is one of his controversial statements and it’s bound to resonate with Young India today. After all, our vision of India’s youth is similar to his: strong, fearless and independent. Incidentally, the above speech inspired Kolkata boys to earnestly take up football and these efforts culminated with a barefoot Mohun Bagan team defeating the Eastern Yorkshire Regiment team to become the first Indian team to win the IFA Shield in 1911.
Another one of Vivekananda’s missions was in the field of education. Did you know that the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore has a Vivekananda connection? Jamsetji Tata and Vivekananda accidentally met on a ship and discussed Tata’s plans to bring the steel industry to India. Impressed by Vivekananda’s views on science and leadership abilities, Jamsetji wanted him to lead this project. Vivekananda endorsed the project and Tata, with the aim of developing the country’s scientific capabilities, constituted a Provisional Committee to prepare a plan to set up an institute of research and higher education.
“Give me 100 energetic young men and I shall transform India”, Vivekananda had said. His faith in the Indian youth never wavered. “My faith is in younger generation, modern generation. Out of them will come my workers. They will work out whole problems like lions.” He believed and lived by the ideals of Tyaga (Sacrifice) and Seva (Service).
Vivekananda died at the age of 39. In less than four decades, he achieved greatness and impacted millions not just in India but all over the world. Here was a man who reached out to the youth with what he said, what he did and what he preached.