As India celebrated its 75th Independence Day, we’re exploring the connection between Nationalism and Spirituality brought to light by Swami Vivekananad.
Swami Vivekananda, an Indian monk, philosopher and author (born Narendra Nath Datta) introduced the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world. He might be called the father of modern Indian Nationalism. He was a true nationalist. He is credited with raising interfaith awareness and his belief in the connection between Nationalism and Spirituality. It was Swami Vivekanand who re- introduced Indians to Vedas, Puranas, Geeta and their great past heritage. This is, in fact, where many of the teachings we get in Yogic philosophy comes from. He was also a great patriot. In his teachings, ge stressed on selfless service, a sense of human dignity, and manliness for national integration.
Swami Vivekananda associated nationalism with spiritualism. He said, “Each nation has a destiny to fulfill, each nation has a message to deliver, each nation has a mission to accomplish. Therefore we must have to understand the mission of our own race, the destiny it has to fulfill, the place it has to occupy in the march of nations and the role which it has to contribute to the harmony of races.” His views were based on Humanism and Universalism - the two core facets of India’s spiritual culture.
His teaching instilled in people to first get rid first of self-inflicted bondages and their resultant miseries. He took a non-materialistic approach to Nationalism - one that was purely spiritual. This is considered to be the source of all strength of Indian life. Unlike in the west where Nationalism is considered secular in nature, for Swami Vivekanand, Nationalism is based on the eternal religion, which is ingrained in many in the east.
He encouraged a deep and sincere concern for masses, freedom and equality with which one expresses themselves. This, along with spiritual integration of the world on universal brotherhood and what we call “Karma Yoga” or the yoga of actions. This inculcated a system of ethics to attain freedom both political and spiritual through selfless service making the basis of his nationalism.
Swami Vivekananda’s contemporary social and religious reforms taught the people about metaphysics but Vivekananda’s theory was different. He says, “An empty stomach is no good for religion.” He advocated that our first duty is the duty for our motherland. He took the motherland as a deity to be worshiped. He said by uplifting the poor and downtrodden, we can establish nationalism. He called on the people and especially Indian youth to ‘Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached’. Through intensive travels across India and the globe, lectures and writings Vivekananda imparted a sense of pride, cultural confidence to Indian people. He believed that it was very important to raise a feeling of nationalism among Indian people. He did this by encouraging the practice of ancient Indian philosophies like that of Yoga and Vedanta. A strong nation can be built only on the solid foundation of its own spiritual practices.
On this August day, let us remember and ponder over Swami Vivekananda’s call to connect the Spirit of independence and the Independence of Spirit.