Swami Vivekanand: Man and Message for Youth

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On the occasion of National Youth Day (12 January), which is marked to commemorate the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekanand, it would be a real tribute to the unparalleled contributions and matchless sacrifices which Swami Jee made for the nation to imbibe, inculcate and implement his ideals in life. Only taking out processions, holding out meetings, seminars and symposia, pomp and show of any sort doesn’t serve the whole purpose, it is by ‘walking their talk’ we render a befitting homage to great men.

Demographically, today’s India is at its youngest best and has all the requisite potential and possibility to meet the emerging challenges. The need is to awaken the dormant potential which may be channelised for the advancement of self and society. Education is the very foundation on which solid edifice of society is erected. Unfortunately, of late there has been sharp decline and deterioration in the standard of education. To revive and restore the glorious past of India it’s imperative on our part to revisit its rich educational and cultural heritage.

In the name of modernity, talking about incorporation of ethical and human values in education system may be misconstrued as parochialism and insularity. No individual, group, society, culture, organisation, institution or nation thrives uprooted from its root. There are innumerable examples before us prove this that in whatever enterprise and endeavour people have excelled and have left their mark, it’s because of their rootedness.

The most common Indian word for Education is ‘shiksha’  derived from the Sanskrit verbal root ‘shas’ which means ‘to discipline’, ‘to control,’ ‘to instruct’ and ‘to teach’. Many prominent philosophers, thinkers and educationists have defined the aims, objectives and principles of education and school organisation in their own ways.  The educational philosophy of Swami Vivekanand is all inclusive and holistic which encompasses in itself the gist of all major philosophies. It lays emphasis on all-round drawing out of the best in man and making man self-reliant and selfless. Vivekananda says “Education is the manifestation of the divine perfection already existing in man”. The word ‘manifestation’ implies that something already exists and is waiting to be expressed. The main focus in learning is to make dormant or latent ability of a learner manifest. According to him, knowledge is inherent in man, not acquired from external sources. Manifestation also indicates spontaneous growth, provided that the impediments, if any are removed. Vivekananda said “what a man learns is what he ‘discovers’, by taking the cover off his soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge”. Vivekananda has summed up the aims of education in two words- “man-making”. The gist of his vision of education is that the emphasis should be laid on inner essence, on something which has the potential to bring all happiness and success in life. The heart of education should be education of the ‘heart’. The aim must be “Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamaya” i.e. journey from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge.In post-modern age everything is being commodified and commercialised and shockingly even education is not spared. It appears that education largely produces the money minting machines not the man of Vivekananda’s vision. Now a days, human values such as love, compassion, peace, happiness, truthfulness, honesty, sincerity, non-violence, fearlessness, self-restraint are replaced by hatred, cruelty, deceit, greed, dishonesty, lust, anger, fear, selfishness, violence, etc. which has created a vacuum in the hearts of people. Most of the crimes are perpetrated by students coming out of schools and colleges. Education only makes individuals capable of securing jobs or fair well in examinations. It does not teach us how to face the pulls and pressures, stress and strain of life. They easily succumb to the upheavals, tension and turmoil of life. For a second let us take the claim of today’s education system of making phenomenal progress to be true, now the pertinent questions that arise are:

  1. Why lakhs of students, academician, administrators succumb to the taxing and demanding circumstances of life and take their own life?
  2. Why in spite of having all luxuries and facilities in life,  people feel dejection, loneliness, boredom, and number of mental and psychological cases is growing day by day?
  3. Why there is rapid rise in crimes like rape, molestation, eve-teasing, theft, communalism, regionalism, extremism and terrorism?
  4. Why even educated youth are entrapped in the vicious cycle of corruption and crimes?
  5. Why young boys and girls look emaciated, weak, sickly, bereft of vitality and strength or there is no sign of vitality and vigour of youth?
  6. Why do the youth become puppets in the hands of political leaders and indulge in rowdyism and hooliganism?

There are many more such crucial questions which need to be pondered.  The obvious reason is that the education and training they receive are awfully deficient. In the present time the scientific and technical progress is indispensable for leading a decent and dignified life but undue emphasis on it will create and is creating innumerable complexities. We have to find a ‘Golden mean’, ‘middle way’ between traditional and ‘progressive education’. Swami asks and then answers ‘What is education? Is it book learning? No. Is it diverse knowledge? Not even that. The training by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful is called education. To him, the very essence of education is the concentration of mind, not the collection of facts. The Swami says, “We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded and by which one can stand on one’s feet.” Normally, the meaning of the phrase “stand on one’s feet” is confined to economic independence overlooking broader connotation the phrase has.

The probable causes for the absence of edification in present education system are corruption,   privatisation of educational institutions, undue political interference, lack of value education in curriculum etc. Private institutions are least bothered about the moral, ethical, spiritual health and well-being of students. With the mushrooming of these commercial private institutes in the modern time, the education has acquired the status of a marketable commodity, where educational institutes are the traders and students are the customers. Education sector has become an industry where investment is made with the sole purpose of maximum of monetary gains. The unbridled and uncontrolled growth of private institutions has made teaching-learning process a commodity where only facts and information are sold. In contrary every year they produce thousands of money minting machines.

It is high time to identify the major causes of declining moral and ethical values in Indian educational system. Society is like a structure and the youth are like its bricks. The strength of the structure depends upon the strength of these bricks. So, if the present generation of young people behave in an irresponsible way, they ruin both themselves as well as the society

To make brighter, greater, much higher than India ever was, we have to recall and recollect our glorious past and great ancestry. The development of education should not be judged on the basis of number of students enrolled in schools and colleges.


Also published on Medium.