It is a matter of joy that we are celebrating the 125th anniversary of Prabuddha Bharata. This is no ordinary journal. It was started by none other than Swami Vivekananda back in 1896. That too, at the young age of thirty three. It is among the longest running English journals of the country.
Prabuddha Bharata, there is a very powerful thought behind this name. Swami Vivekananda named this journal Prabuddha Bharata to manifest the spirit of our nation. He wanted to create an ‘Awakened India’. Those who understand Bharat are aware that it is beyond just a political or territorial entity. Swami Vivekananda expressed this very boldly and proudly. He saw India as a cultural consciousness that has been living and breathing for centuries. An India that only emerges stronger after every challenge, despite predictions to the contrary. Swami Vivekananda wanted to make India ‘Prabuddha’ or awakened. He wanted to awaken the self-belief that as a nation, we can aspire for greatness.
Swami Vivekananda had great compassion for the poor. He truly believed that poverty was at the root of every problem. Therefore, poverty had to be removed from the nation. He gave top-most importance to ‘Daridra Narayana’.
From USA, Swami Vivekananda wrote many letters. I would like to refer to the letters he wrote to the Maharaja of Mysore and to Swami Ramakrishnananda ji. In these letters, two clear thoughts emerge about Swami Ji’s approach to empowering the poor. First, he wanted empowerment to be taken to the poor, if the poor themselves cannot easily go to empowerment. Second, he said about India’s poor, “They are to be given ideas; their eyes are to be opened to what is going on in the world around them; and then they will work out their own salvation.
This is the approach with which India is moving ahead today. If the poor cannot access banks, then banks must reach the poor. That is what the Jan Dhan Yojana did. If the poor cannot access insurance, then insurance must reach the poor. This is what the Jan Suraksha schemes did. If the poor cannot access health-care, then we must take health-care to the poor. This is what Ayushman Bharat scheme did. Roads, education, electricity and internet connectivity are being taken to every corner of the country, especially to the poor. This is igniting aspirations among the poor. And, it is these aspirations that are driving the growth of the country.
Swami Vivekananda said, “The remedy for weakness is not brooding over it, but thinking of strength”. When we are thinking in terms of obstacles, we get buried in them. But when we think in terms of opportunities, we get the way to move forward. Take the Covid-19 global pandemic as an example. What did India do? It did not only see the problem and remain helpless. India focussed on solutions. From producing PPE kits to becoming a pharmacy for the world, our country has gone from strength to strength. It has also become a source of support for the world during the crisis. India is at the forefront of developing Covid-19 vaccines. Just a few days ago India launched the world’s largest vaccination drive. We are using these capacities to also help other nations.
Climate change is another obstacle that the whole world is facing. However, we did not only complain about the problem. We brought a solution in the form of the International Solar Alliance. We are also advocating greater use of renewable resources. This is the Prabuddha Bharata of Swami Vivekananda’s vision being built. This is an India which is giving solutions to the world’s problems.
Swami Vivekananda had big dreams for India because he had immense faith in India’s youth. He saw India’s youth as powerhouse of skill and self-confidence. “Give me Hundred energetic youngsters and I shall transform India” he said. Today we see this spirit in India’s business leaders, sports persons, technocrats, professionals, scientists, innovators and so many others. They push boundaries and make the impossible into possible.
But how to further encourage such a spirit among our youth? In his lectures on Practical Vedanta, Swami Vivekananda brings out some deep insights. He talks about overcoming setbacks and to see them as a part of the learning curve. Second thing that must be instilled in people is: To be fearless and To be full of self-belief. To be fearless is the lesson we learn from Swami Vivekananda’s own life too. In whatever he did, he went ahead with self-belief. He was confident about himself. He was confident that he represented an ethos that is centuries old.
The thoughts of Swami Vivekananda are eternal. And, we must always remember: True immortality is to be achieved by creating something of value to the world. Something that will outlive ourselves. Our Puranic stories teach us something valuable. They teach us that those who chased immortality almost never got it. But, those who had the goal of serving others almost always became immortal. As Swami Ji himself said, “only those live, who live for others.” This can also be seen in Swami Vivekananda’s life. He did not go out to achieve anything for himself. His heart always beat for the poor of our country. His heart always beat for the Motherland which was in chains.
Swami Vivekananda did not see spiritual and economic progress as mutually exclusive. Most importantly, he was against the approach where people romanticise poverty. In his lectures about Practical Vedanta, he says, “The fictitious difference between religion and the life of the world must vanish, for the Vedanta teaches oneness”.
Swami Ji was a spiritual giant, a highly elevated soul. Yet, he did not renounce the idea of economic progress for the poor. Swami Ji was a Sanyasi himself. He never sought for himself a single paisa of money. But, he helped raise funds to build great institutions. These institutions have fought poverty and promoted innovation.
There are several such treasures from Swami Vivekananda that guide us. Prabuddha Bharata has run for 125 years, spreading Swami Ji’s ideas. They have built upon his vision of educating the youth, and awakening the nation. It has contributed significantly towards making Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts immortal. I wish Prabuddha Bharata the very best for their future endeavours.