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On Swami Vivekananda’s birth anniversary, a look at his teachings, message

GS- 4: Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world. 


In 1984, the government took the decision to celebrate January 12 as a National Youth day to commemorate the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. He was born in 1863. 


National Youth Day

  • National Youth Day is celebrated in an attempt to inspire, ignite, and empower the nation’s youth
  • It marks Vivekananda’s ideas on how the youth should work hard and contribute to their country’s overall development while upholding their values.

Views of Vivekananda

  • In 1881, he once asked Shri Ramakrishna Paramhans “Sir, have you seen God?” and got replied: “Yes, I have. I see Him as clearly as I see you, only in a much intenser sense.”
  • On September 11, 1893 at the World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago, he gave a speech that left an indelible mark on the gathering comprising religious and spiritual personalities of different faiths from across the world. 
  • He started his speech by addressing the gathering from the core of his heart as ‘sisters and brothers of America’ which was followed by thunderous applause from the audience.
  • In addition, he commented: “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration but we accept all religions as true ... I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations on earth.” 
  • Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose wrote: “Swamiji harmonized the East and the West, religion and science, past and present. And that is why he is great. Our countrymen have gained unprecedented self-respect, self-reliance and self-assertion from his teachings.”

Teachings of Vivekananda

  • The central theme of Vivekananda’s teachings is Spiritual primacy, through which human beings can succeed in every sphere of their lives. 
  • He propounded three instruments of knowledge – instincts, reason, and inspiration.
  • His teachings and philosophy are a reinterpretation and synthesis of various strands of Hindu thought such as classical yoga and (Advaita) Vedanta, with western esotericism and Universalism.

Vedantic Humanism

  • He saw the entire universe as a manifestation of the absolute One and believed that there is only one Self (one existence) in the universe. 
  • He believed that all paths lead to the one true God, as is also mentioned in Rig Veda that ‘Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuda Vadanti’ (Truth is one; the wise call it by various names.)
  • On the coexistence of various faiths, he believed religious acceptance, and not tolerance was important. 
  • He claimed that tolerance comes out of a superiority complex.
  • Thus, his views of modern Indian secularism were based on equal respect for all faiths and there was no place for appeasement in his views on secularism.
  • To establish harmony and peace in society, he supported religious tolerance as a part of public culture.
  • He did not propagate a world-negating concept of spirituality, rather he said that each and every chore of your life should be done with divinity
  • He articulated that external rituals of religion are of secondary importance but the spiritual essence of a religion should be preserved and accepted.

Divinity within ourselves

  • He asserted that each soul is potentially divine
  • The goal of human beings should be to manifest this divinity within, which can be done by controlling nature, external and internal.
  • In his words: “Infinite power is in the soul of man, whether he knows it or not. Its manifestation is only a question of being conscious of it. With the full consciousness of his infinite power and wisdom, the giant will rise to his feet.”

Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga:

  • He talked about the four pathways of attaining moksha from worldly pleasure and attachment –

1. Karma Yoga

  • “God can be attained through work.”
  • Karma Yoga teaches how to employ to the maximum advantage all our energies in our work.
  • In his words: “Whatever you do, let that be your worship for the time being,” he said.

2. Bhakti Yoga

  • Bhakti Yoga teaches that love is a vital element of all human beings.
  • In his words: “All love is expansion, all selfishness is contraction. Love is therefore the only law of life. He who loves lives, he who is selfish is dying.”

3. Raja Yoga

  • Raja Yoga opens up the psychological way to union with God through concentration in order to acquire knowledge.
  • In his words: “The more this power of concentration, the more knowledge is acquired. The stronger the power of concentration, the better will that thing be done.”
  • To explain this Yoga, he gives an example of a chemist who works in her laboratory, concentrating all the powers of her mind, bringing them into one focus, and throwing them onto the elements; the elements stand analysed and thus her knowledge comes.

Faith in oneself

  • He said: “you think, that you will be. If you think yourselves weak, weak you will be; if you think yourselves strong, strong you will be.”
  • He urges people to not shy away from taking responsibility for their actions
  • “We, as Vedantists, know for certain that there is no power in the universe to injure us unless we first injure ourselves. Let us blame none, let us blame our own karma. The effect is here and the cause is here too. We are to blame. Stand up, be bold, and take the blame on your own shoulders.”

"The more we come out and do good to others, the more our hearts will be purified."

  • He believed that the path to self-purification is through helping others. 
  • He encouraged people to engage in selfless service and to work towards the betterment of society. 

"Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached."

  • He taught that we should never give up on our goals and aspirations. 
  • He wanted youths with muscles of iron, nerves of steel and gigantic hearts to have strong will power to serve the motherland and masses.

"Be true to yourself, and you will be true to the world.”

  • He encouraged people to be authentic and not compromise their values for the sake of fitting in with others. 
  • He believed that by staying true to oneself, one will be able to positively impact the world.

"The greatest sin is to think yourself weak." and "Be a hero. Always say, I have no fear."

  • He believed that we all have the potential to be great and that we should not limit ourselves by thinking that we are not capable of achieving our goals.
  • By facing fears, one can become true hero in his own life.
  • He encouraged people to be courageous and not let fear hold them back from achieving their goals.

"Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man."

  • He saw education as the only means to improve their economic condition, and spiritual knowledge to infuse faith in themselves and strengthen their moral sense
  • In his words: “The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion — is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own legs.” That is self-confidence!


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Fact File

Ganga Vilas sails today: Here is what the Varanasi-Dibrugarh cruise offers tourists

  • The Prime Minister will flag off the world’s longest river cruise – MV Ganga Vilas – from Varanasi to Dibrugarh in Assam.
  • The project will be managed by private operators by supported by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI)under the Ministry of Shipping, Ports and Waterways (MoPSW).
  • MoPSW is the coordinator of ship tourism project.
  • The cruise will cover 3,200 km over 51 days, crossing 27 river systems in 5 states in India and Bangladesh and 50 tourist spots including World Heritage spots, national parks, river ghats, and major cities like Patna in Bihar, Sahibganj in Jharkhand, Kolkata in West Bengal, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Guwahati in Assam.
  • It will make pit-stops to cover the famous Ganga Arti in Varanasi, the Buddhist site of Sarnath, Mayong – known for its Tantric craft, Majuli – the largest river island in Assam, the Bihar School of Yoga, Vikramshila University, the Sunderbans in the Bay of Bengal delta, and the Kaziranga National Park.

River tourism

  • The global River cruise market has grown at ~5% over the last few years and is expected to constitute ~37% of cruise market by 2027. 
  • Europe has been driving growth with approx. 60% share of river cruise vessels in the world. 
  • In India, 8 river cruise vessels are operational between Kolkata and Varanasi while cruise movement is also operation on National Waterways 2 (Brahmaputra). 
  • Tourism activities like river rafting, camping, sightseeing, kayaking and so on are operation in many spots in the country.
  • The sector would generate employment opportunities in the hinterland. 
  • The river tourism circuits will be developed and integrated with the existing tourism circuits for maximum exposure and rapid development of this sector in the country.
  • The government of India has taken several initiatives to boost the country’s cruise tourism industry, including infrastructure upgrades, rationalisation of port fees, removal of ousting charges, priority berthing for cruise ships, and the provision of e-visa facilities. 
  • India aims to increase cruise passenger traffic from 0.4 million at present to 4 million. 
  • The economic potential of cruise tourism is expected to rise from $110 million to $5.5 billion in the coming years.
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