History is the story of human life told in the collective sense. It is a saga of the triumph of the human spirit throughout the ages against all odds. Swami Vivekananda not only studied the history of global events thoroughly but he also could draw resultant deductions out of it, which are intuitive as well as universal. They form an inherent part of his innumerable innovative thoughts, which are part and parcel of his unparalleled contribution to the world culture.
The modern scientific age began when Nicholas Copernicus proposed that the earth revolves around the sun. His ideas were later improvised by scientists like Kepler, Galileo, and notably by Isaac Newton, who discovered laws that governed the motion of the physical bodies and the law of gravitation. Further, James Clerk Maxwell showed that magnetism and electricity too could be deduced by a set of equations. The philosophical implication of these scientific developments is that the whole universe is determined by physical laws. This is called the principle of determinism. This law was prevalent in scientific circles up to the end of the 19th Century.
Religion always has been a dominant factor in the history of humankind. It primarily caters to the existential problems of an individual. Also, it gives a social identity to nations and groups of people, which is necessary for unity and belongingness. Besides, religion has influenced human intellectual pursuits like science, philosophy, and literature to a great extent.
Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavadgita: ‘He who is not hateful towards any creature, who is friendly and compassionate, who has no idea of “mine” and the idea of egoism, who is the same under sorrow and happiness, who is forgiving (is dear to Me).’
Suffering is one of the most profound and disturbing of human experiences. The very word suffering has a resonance that relates to our sense of life’s meaning and the threat suffering poses to our hopes of happiness. It does not refer just to maladies, pains, and difficulties with which we can and should cope. It involves crises and threats that constitute a degradation or alienation of our being.
In Indian tradition, there are two concepts of Godhead: Brahman and Ishwara. We find both the ideas highlighted in our sacred books. In Prashna Upanishad, the teacher says that the Omkara is both the para, the higher Brahman and apara, the lower Brahman. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad also declares that the Brahman has two forms—gross and subtle, mortal and immortal, limited and unlimited, defined and undefined. Sri Shankaracharya in his commentaries takes up the question of whether there are two forms of Brahman. The perusal of his commentary on the Brahma Sutra will give us a fair idea of how he solves this problem.In Indian tradition, there are two concepts of Godhead: Brahman and Ishwara. We find both the ideas highlighted in our sacred books. In Prashna Upanishad, the teacher says that the Omkara is both the para, the higher Brahman and apara, the lower Brahman. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad also declares that the Brahman has two forms—gross and subtle, mortal and immortal, limited and unlimited, defined and undefined. Sri Shankaracharya in his commentaries takes up the question of whether there are two forms of Brahman. The perusal of his commentary on the Brahma Sutra will give us a fair idea of how he solves this problem.
One day in February 1882, M. entered Sri Ramakrishna’s room in Dakshineshwar with his friend Sidhu. This was his first visit to the Master. He describes:
Entering the room, they found Sri Ramakrishna alone, seated on the wooden couch. … Sri Ramakrishna asked them: ‘Where do you live? What is your occupation? Why have you come to Baranagore?’ M. answered the questions, but he noticed that now and then the Master seemed to become absent-minded. Later he learnt that this mood is called bhāva, ecstasy. It is like the state of the angler who has been sitting with his rod: the fish comes and swallows the bait, and the float begins to tremble; the angler is on the alert; he grips the rod and watches the float steadily and eagerly; he will not speak to anyone. Such was the state of Sri Ramakrishna’s mind. Later M. heard, and himself noticed, that Sri Ramakrishna would often go into this mood after dusk, sometimes becoming totally unconscious of the outer world.
This bhāva, the divine mood, is the essential ingredient in the spiritual sadhana of Sri Ramakrishna. The story of his sadhana is marked by the gradual evolution of divine moods culminating in the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Swami Saradananda, in his magnum opus Sri Ramakrishna and His Divine Play, records this progression of divine moods of the Master enumerating in detail its philosophical and mystical significance.
Swami Vivekananda says that what Vedanta formulates is not ‘universal brotherhood’ but ‘universal oneness’. He also asserts that Vedanta is not antagonistic to anything, but it does not compromise or give up the truths which it considers fundamental.
The above statement gains importance in the present context in which ‘universal brotherhood’ is much stressed in religious and philosophical circles, but not ‘universal oneness’. This is because of the ignorance of the spiritual truths of the ‘oneness of existence’ and ‘eternal freedom of the soul’ preached by the Vedanta, which alone can bring about the genuine sense of equality, the heart and soul of true universal brotherhood. This deficiency is the cause of increasing conflicts and widening disparities that we are witnessing today between the people belonging to various races, religions, and nationalities. It is happening despite the extraordinary achievement in science and technology, which has transformed this world into a ‘global village’. The all-time relevance of Vedanta in human history lies in its teaching of an ageless solution to the problems humanity is facing; such a panacea, without being restricted to any nation or creed, is universal and all-embracing in nature.
The title of this write-up may look paradoxical. How is India’s awakening connected to the awakening of the world? But this precisely is the goal of this journal, which has been serving humankind for the last 125 years without deviating from the core vision of its illustrious founder Swami Vivekananda. What was that vision? That vision was to carry the spiritual message of Bharat all over the world to enlighten the human race.
What is the role played by Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi in the social scenario of 20th Century? It has been a matter of discussion among modern scholars for some years. The Holy Mother is in no way considered by them to be a social reformer, but her place and influence in the movements for women’s emancipation are not only recognised but regarded as vital in academic circles. However, Holy Mother’s role in these modern trends is that of an unseen silent force of divine affection and universal love, which inspired hundreds of educated women to find the roots of these reform movements in the spiritual and cultural ethos of India, unlike some scholars who find justification for such movements only in Western values. The Holy Mother, in this regard, stands for spiritual feminism that is inspired by the message of unity of existence and oneness of humanity preached in the Vedāntic tradition of India. Also, it has a wider canvass enveloping the entire humanity because of its universal appeal and contemporary relevance.