Humanistic Philosophy of Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda was a savant and philosopher of the highest order. The Philosophy of Swami Vivekananda is a gospel of humanism, for man is the central pillar of his life and teachings. Man, manliness, man-making these were the constant mantra on his lips. It sprang forth authentically from his own realization of the Divine that existed in himself and all. He therefore raised the dignity, and worth of man to the pinnacle of divine excellence.
He exemplified man in his universal dimension which expressed itself in a concern for him everywhere and in every field of his life. It made him the exponent of humanism as much deep as significant in illuminating the whole of mankind from time to eternity. Swami Ranganthananda opines about Swami Vivekananda as: “What was unique about him as a spiritual teacher of mankind, however, was his deep interest in man and his untiring work for total human development and fulfillment everywhere.
And this interest and work, we should not fail to note, was not just religious in the narrow sense of that word – just helping men and women to secure the salvation of their souls, as all other spiritual teachers have done – but covered all aspects of human life, as much economic and social as moral and religious. In fact, this all-round human interest formed the central theme of Swami Vivekananda’s life and work. ” Romain Rolland speaks about Swami Vivekananda’s humanistic philosophy of man, as he exemplified man in his universal aspect, and not in the narrow racial, national, or sectarian aspects.
That universal dimension expressed itself in a deep concern for man everywhere and in every field of his life; it made them the exponents and exemplars of humanism, as much deep as wide, as much intellectually stimulating as spiritually inspiring. What is humanism? The term ‘humanism’ is derived from the Latin word ‘humanitas’ implying ontological individualism and the quest for the perfection of the human spirit through the consummation of man’s inherent potentialities is subjectivist and optimistic in its orientation. Humanism is thus an approach n study, or the practice that focuses on human values and concerns, attaching prime importance to human efforts. Humanism is not a creed or code but the fullness of a qualitative development of the emotional and cogitative potencies of the empirical human, Jiva that is the object of quest of the humanist. In the words of the Buddhist Tripitakas it can be said that ‘liberality, courtesy, benevolence, unselfishness under all circumstances’ and ‘concord of fraternity’ mark the life of the humanist. Swami Vivekananda’s Humanistic Philosophy
Swami Vivekananda assimilated and modified the philosophical ideas of the Vedanta, adapting them to the conditions of the new life. In contrast to the materialistic view of man, Vivekananda’s humanistic philosophy possesses many features of active humanism and in his fervent desire to elevate man he put forward the idea that the highest divine substance Brahman is personified in millions. “… the ideal of Vedanta is to know man as he really is, and this is its message, that if you cannot worship your brother man, the manifested God, how can you worship a God who is unmanifested? The uniqueness of Vivekananda was to reinterpret this philosophy of man that is at once creative and synthetic and uses it for achieving highest human excellence. Swami Vivekananda viewed man as a multi-leveled being, a composite of physical, mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual faculties. Swami Vivekananda clearly showed in his exposition of four yogas that the various faculties of man have to be harnessed for one’s spiritual growth. Swami Vivekananda is of the opinion that when man is able to integrate all of the faculties, he attains the manhood in entirety.
He advises the youth to have a strong body. “You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger. You will understand the mighty genius and the mighty strength of Krishna better with a little of strong blood in you. You will understand the Upanishads better and the glory of the Atman when your body stands firm upon your feet, and you feel yourselves as men. Thus we have to apply these to our needs. ” “Makes your nerves strong, what we want is the muscles of iron and nerves of steel. … Stand on your own feet and be men. The faculty of reason should be cultivated to harness the full potential of being human. Swami Vivekananda says: “Why was reason given us if we have to believe? Is it not tremendously blasphemous to believe against reason? What right have we not to use the greatest gift that God has given to us? I am sure God will pardon a man who will use his reason and cannot believe, rather than a man who believes blindly instead of using the faculties He has given him. ” Swami Vivekananda feels that, religion is not a separate pursuit divorced from the humdrum of life. On the other hand, it envelops the whole life.
The way man looks at himself, his conception of his own nature, governs all his other concepts. The value of the reorientation of man’s view of himself extends from value to the individual in the development of his character to the humanity as a whole. This reorientation of man’s view of himself results in a new kind of holistic awareness where the so-called distinction between the religious and secular vanishes. Referring to this approach Sister Nivedita in her Introduction to the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda says: “….. No distinction henceforth between sacred and secular.
To labour is to pray. To conquer is to renounce. Life is itself religion. To have and to hold is as stern a trust as to quit and to avoid. This is the realisation which makes Vivekananda the great preacher of Karma, not as divorced from, but as expressing Jnana and Bhakti. To him, the workshop, the study, the farmyard and the field are as true and fit scenes for the meeting of God with man as the cell of the monk or the door of the temple. ” She continues, “All his (Swami Vivekananda) words, from one point of view, read as a commentary upon this central conviction. Art, science, and religion”, he said once, “are but three different ways of expressing a single truth. But in order to understand this we must have the theory of Advaita. ” There is a faith in the greatness of man as expressed through his different socio-cultural activities in this material world. He strongly feels that, it is a greatest sin to call the human being is a sinner. He is potentially divine. But there are unlimited creative possibilities in man, beyond this limited humanistic analysis. For this Vivekananda explains this creativity as the potential infiniteness or divinity in man as spiritual man.
This idea of man does not merely explain the material or individual existence of man with the material development of life. On the other hand, it synthesizes the material and the spiritual dimension of man and thus evaluates the material or individual, collective or social and spiritual or transcendental values of life with their expressions in harmonious forms and manners. In order to explain the infinite potency of man, Vivekananda points out: “Do you know how much energy, how many powers, how many forces, are still lurking behind that frame of yours?
What scientist has known all that is in man? Millions of years have passed since man first came here, and yet but one infinitesimal part of his powers has been manifested. Therefore you must not say that you are weak. How do you know that possibilities lie behind that degradation on the surface? You know but little of that which is within you. For behind you is the ocean of infinite power and blessedness. ” In this way Vivekananda pleads for the spiritual Man, expressing the creative multi-natured divinity as the ‘ocean of infinite power and blessedness. Man, in the observation of Vivekananda, has an unlimited fund of energy which is not fully exhausted in fulfilling his limited material or biological demands. The unlimited energy in man, expressed through different creative states of existence, develop his infinite personality as the manifestation of his potential perfection as the sense of unity. Thus in the background of the evaluation of the ideas of man and humanism in the form of spiritual humanism advanced by Swami Vivekananda, we get a synthetic view of ‘multidimensional man’ in the spiritual process of developing individuality and universality.
Such a synthetic view will facilitate an advancement of Unity in different states of existence in different degrees. His profound spirituality, the scintillating brilliance of his intellect and the presence of his personality invested in him with a magic fascination which none could ignore our resist. Here was a man who spoke inspiring words to the masses like Messiah who has come to save their lives from darkness and misery. Here was one who spoke for ancient learning in highest praise, but at the same time urged that we throw off the shackles of convention.
He was of the traditional and revolutionary, whose mission was not only reawakening the people to a consciousness of their great heritage but also to make them know man who could make a new India. “I consider that the great national sin is the neglect of the masses, and that is one of the causes of our downfall. No amount of politics would be of any avail until the masses in India are once more well educated, well fed, and well cared for. They pay for our education, they build our temples, but in return they get kicks. They are practically our slaves. Through his doctrine of the potential divinity of all beings, Swami Vivekananda sought to bring about a radical transformation in the society. To quote Nivedita again, ‘His prime concern was vindication of Humanity, never abandoned, never weakened, always rising to new heights of defence of the undefended, of the chivalry of the weak’. Swami Vivekananda advises that let the people be your God. Think of them, work for them, pray for their well being. His definition about great soul is “Him I call a mahatman whose heart bleeds for the poor, otherwise he is duratman. Swami Vivekananda gave a new responsibility to the institution of monasticism by exhorting sannyasins to come out from the caves and work for betterment of the humanity. ‘Shivajnane Jivaseva’ – based on this aphorism he asked monks to work for the welfare of others. The present open education system was dreamt by Swami Vivekananda a century ago. He advised the sannyasins to go to every village to impart education for every individual irrespective of their castes, creed, sex with the help of cameras, maps, globes and such other accessories.
He asked to give education, and instill faith in individual by that masses can gain their lost individuality and dignity of human labour. Once a young disciple asked Swami Vivekananda, how can we raise India again? He answers emphatically that, “Your duty at present is to go from one part of the country to another, from village to village, and make the people understand that mere sitting idly won’t do any more. Make them understand their real condition and say, “O ye brothers, arise! Awake! How much longer would you remain asleep! Go and advise them how to improve their own condition, and make them comprehend the sublime truths of the Shastras (scriptures), by presenting them in a lucid and popular way. … Also instruct them, in simple words, about the necessities of life, and in trade, commerce, agriculture, etc. If you cannot do this, then fie upon your education and culture, and fie upon your studying the Vedas and Vedanta! ” Swami Vivekanand’s heart bled for the poor masses. “For centuries people have been taught theories of degradation. They have been told that they are nothing.
The masses have been told all over the world that they are not human beings. They have been so frightened for centuries, till they have nearly become animals. Never were they allowed to hear of the Atman. Let them hear of the Atman–that even the lowest of the low have the Atman within, which never dies and never is born–of Him whom the sword cannot pierce, nor the fire burn, nor the air dry–immortal, without beginning or end, the all-pure, omnipotent, and omnipresent Atman! ” In his lion-like roar he enthused men to follow the practical humanism and not to be satisfied with a weak sentimental approach to it.
His fiery words to feel for the suffering masses are as forceful even now as when they come out of his mouth. “Do you feel? Do you feel that millions and millions of the descendants of gods and of sages have become next-door neighbors to brutes? Do you feel that millions are starving today, and millions have been starving for ages? Do you feel that ignorance has come over the land as a dark cloud? Does it make you restless? Does it make you sleepless? Has it gone into your blood, coursing through your veins, becoming consonant with your heartbeats? Has it made you almost mad?
Are you seized with that one idea of the misery of ruin, and have you forgotten all about your name, your fame, your wives, your children, your property, even your own bodies? Have you done that? That is the first step to become a patriot, the very first step. ” Swami Vivekananda’s concern about the Indian mass is phenomenal. The poor and illiterate form the bulk of Indian population. But they are being treated worse than animals for the last thousand years or so. According to Swamiji, the cause of degradation of India lies in depriving Indian masses of their basic rights of livelihood and education.
He says, “Remember that our nation lives in the cottage. But alas! Nobody ever did anything to them… The fate of nation… depends upon the condition of the masses. Can you raise them? Can you give back to them their lost individuality? … This is to be done and we will do it. ” As such, his approach to social and political problems of India was facing at that time is totally humanistic in nature. He says that awakening of the masses by giving them proper education is the only panacea for all the ills India is facing now.
In this regard he says, “All the wealth of the world cannot help one little Indian village if the people are not taught to help themselves. Our work should be mainly educational, both moral and intellectual…” Conclusion Swami Vivekananda says, “… I may be born again and again, and suffer thousands of miseries so that I may worship the only God that exists, the only God I believe in, the sum total of all souls-and above all, my God the wicked, my guard the miserable, my guard the pool of all races, of all species, is the special object of my worship. Sister Nivedita testifies to Swami Vivekananda’s love for man: “No institution, no environment, stood between him and any human heart. His confidence in that Divine-within-Man of which he talked, was as Perfect, and his appeal as direct, when he talked with the imperialist aristocrat or the American millionaire, as with the exploited and oppressed. But the outflow of his love and courtesy were always for the simple. Swami Vivekananda’s humanism is based on spiritual illumination, which he got through Vedantic means.
As Vedanta stands for truth and eternity, with its focus on concept of divinity of man, the humanistic philosophy envisioned by Swami Vivekananda is centred on eternal principles of life. Here we find no conflict but perfect harmony between the religious and the secular, between the mundane and the transcendent and also between the individual and the collective. What the world wants now is not friction and fight but accommodation and acceptance. This should be the goal of any kind of humanism. Vedantic humanism lived and taught by Swami Vivekananda is a perfect archetype of this.