Swami Vivekananda - Contemporary Relevance

Over a century ago and long before communications technology and capitalism promoted the idea of a global village, India offered the world a truly global citizen in Swami Vivekananda. He declared that man's quest for peace would remain incomplete so long as the West failed to acknowledge the spiritual and civilisational advances made by India and blend these thoughts with the ideas of modernity and progress. Likewise, he advised his countrymen to pay attention to national integration, cut through societal hierarchies and meaningless rituals, pursue a path of modernization alongside spiritual development. and bind all citizens to the task of once again making India a world leader.

Coming as it did in the closing years of the Nineteenth Century, Vivekananda's ideas, which emphasized the distinction between religion and spirituality and drew the attention of man to the limitations of the former and the unlimited powers of the latter, caught the imagination of the world. As he straddled across North America and undertook a whirlwind lecture tour, he became India's most prominent ambassador and opened the eyes of the West to the fount of knowledge and the civilisational treasures that lay across the seas in the East. Similarly, he traveled across the length and breadth of India and lectured incessantly on the ideas of modernity that Indians would pick up from the West.

Vivekananda's thoughts caught the imagination of people in diverse societies and cultures because of the universality of his preaching and the exalted goals that he set for man. Given the politics of his times and the social and economic environment that prevailed in India and large parts of the world, Vivekananda was a true revolutionary who was speaking ahead of his times. He ignited the minds of millions of people in India and outside because of his commitment to humanism, egalitarianism, equity, rational thinking and democratic values. He believed that a nation built on the bedrock of education and equality, including gender equality, which guaranteed a level playing field for all citizens, could never be a laggard in the comity of nations. The base of the national super structure should be a knowledge society he said and the mantra of equality should combine with spiritual strength and self belief. When this happened, a strong and vibrant India would emerge and this nation would once again be a global leader in the market place of ideas.

The first memorial for this great son of India was raised when a magnificent monument was built in 1970 on a rock off the shore of Kanyakumari at the tip of the Indian peninsula. This rock was the chosen location for Vivekananda's meditation on the future of India and the world. Every year 1.6 million visitors take a boat ride to this rock memorial to pay obeisance to this global guru.

In order to carry forward Vivekananda's great vision of eternal India and an integrated world, the Vivekananda Kendra was launched in 1972 to inspire the youth and to draw them towards the task of nation building. The Kendra pursues this task through 240 branches which have been established in all parts of the country including many far-flung areas.

While all this work is on to spread the message of Vivekananda in India, it was considered necessary to establish an international foundation that could be the well-spring of innovative ideas to carry forward the task of global integration and harmony.

This necessity has been addressed with the establishment of the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF).

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