Spirituality is the very foundation of India, according to Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), a prominent Indian spiritual leader, thinker, and reformer. He notes that every country has a specific ideal that permeates every aspect of its history and acts as its fundamental foundation. Politics for some, social culture, intellectual culture, and so on for others. Vivekananda declares, Since spirituality is the core of religion, we should note that Vivekananda used the term religion in the same sense as spirituality. “Our homeland has religion and religion alone for its backbone, for the bedrock upon which the entire building of its life has been based.”
If we look back on Indian culture, we can see that even in the earliest of the books, the Rig Veda, the Indian intellect was hinting at the existence of something divine and eternal inside itself. The Upanishads are a powerful collection of the man’s inner quest. The transcendental component of man—the aspect of Divinity that transcends humanity—is what the Upanishads aim to realise. Human awareness transcends the physical body, the senses, and the external environment when moving in this spiritual direction, and man understands that he is the immortal Self. The Bhagavad Gita, which follows the Upanishads, develops a complete philosophy of life by balancing the holy and the secular, work and devotion.
Swami Vivekananda freed into universality the spirituality that derives from the Vedas and the Upanishads and is supported by Sri Krishna, Buddha, Shankara, and others. He gives religion the authority to illuminate and direct all of human life. In the current essay, Vivekananda’s understanding of Vedanta—also referred to as Hinduism—is explained and examined. We will work to concentrate on the areas where his interpretation revitalises the spiritual heritage and adapts it to the contemporary environment.
Vivekananda’s View of Religion: Its Nature and Purpose
The Vedanta philosophy, which is a systematic exposition of the Upanishads, is where Vivekananda’s spiritual ideas are rooted. However, in order to make the old concepts applicable, he provides a contemporary interpretation. Therefore, The Vedanta as a religion must be extremely practical, he claims. It must be possible for us to implement it in every aspect of our lives. (2.291)
The individual soul and the supreme Soul are one, according to the fundamental and most universal tenet of Vedanta. Every soul have the potential to be divine, according to Vivekananda. The objective is to make this Divinity within manifest (1.257). According to him, the soul is naturally pure and good, and religion is nothing more than the expression of this fundamental nature. Swamiji starts by highlighting the significance of morals and moral behaviour in order to make religion practical.
He defined religion as a way of life that encourages us to express our higher selves via goodness, truth, and beauty in our words, deeds, and ideas. All motivations, ideas, and deeds that move one in this direction are intrinsically elevating, harmonising, and moral in the truest sense. Morality, therefore, which is necessary for being truly religious, can be attained by just being oneself and radiating the pure light of one’s own soul everywhere, at all times, and in all circumstances. Swamiji does not mean anything occult or weird when he uses the term spirituality. It is a natural reaction of either man’s genuine nature or divine nature.
Technique for Realization
Religion, in Vivekananda’s opinion, is the realisation of man’s true nature, as was before mentioned. According to him, religion is realisation rather than words, doctrine, or theories, no matter how lovely they may be. The whole soul is changing into what it thinks; it is not listening or acknowledging; it is being and becoming. Religion is that. It is clear from such an approach that spiritual realisation does not occur on its own. To achieve this culmination, the seeker must strive and labour. According to Vivekananda, this struggle for realisation is what constitutes dynamic spirituality, which refers to a person’s continual spiritual development.
He underlines that yoga, a comprehensive spiritual practise, is the only way to accomplish such spiritual progress. He clarifies that the word yoga (which means “union”) refers to the process by which an aspirant is united to his ultimate ideal. There are various styles of yoga to accommodate the various temperaments and natures of men. Jnana yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, and raja yoga are the appropriate styles of yoga for the four primary personality types—the intellectual, the energetic, the emotional, and the psychic or introspective—spiritual development. The ancient Indian sages discovered spiritual truths via the arduous practise of these yogas and recommended them as means of confirming these truths. According to Swamiji, “Therefore, the teachers of the science of Yoga.
According to Swamiji, “Therefore, the masters of the science of Yoga declare that religion is not only founded upon the experience of antiquity, but also that no individual can be religious unless he has the same senses himself.” The science of yoga shows us how to achieve these perceptions. (1.127)
Swamiji clarifies the divinity of the individual soul, the non-duality of the infinite Soul, the unity of all existence, and the harmony of all religions in jnana yoga on the basis of the Advaita Vedanta teachings. Jnana yoga demonstrates how to attain the discipline of distinction between the real and the unreal in order to realise oneness of the individual soul with the supreme Soul. Karma yoga illuminates the path to excellence for the world’s working man. Swamiji reshapes the Gita’s core principles in it while keeping in mind the need to adapt them to the ethical demands of modern India. He teaches us how to work without attachment in this chapter. To reach his spiritual goal, one must learn how to control his emotions through bhakti yoga. The second portion of it is concerned with the practise of higher discipline—love for love’s sake, without regard for reward or punishment—while the first part of it deals with specifics of tangible worship. The devotee understands the oneness of the lover and the Beloved via such love.
Raja yoga is an explanation of Patanjali’s contemplative method. However, Swamiji adds other texts to it and tops it off with a Vedantic perspective. Swamiji demonstrates that the mind has endless power in addition to the numerous concentration and meditation techniques for mind control, and that with the right application, this power can help a person comprehend that their spirit is distinct from their body. According to Swamiji, if each of these yogas is practised to the end, it will result in the highest spiritual realisation. It is up to the individual to identify and take the path that best suits him. Do this, in his words, “through work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy—by one or more of these, or by all of these… “(1.257).
According to Swamiji, a harmonious fusion of the yoga teachings aids in the growth of a spiritually balanced character. Swamiji emphasises the scientific nature of religion through these various techniques for achieving spiritual enlightenment.
“Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti,” according to the Rig Veda, “Truth is one yet sages call it by diverse names.” His great master Sri Ramakrishna lived and preached this universal Vedantic truth, and Vivekananda’s own revelation served as the foundation for his message of the harmony of all religions. He believed that while the world’s religions varied from one another, their fundamental goal—God realization—was the same. He uses the following example to support his claim. Truth can be viewed via several religious perspectives, just as the same water can be collected in containers of various sizes and forms. The image of God manifests in the form of the vessel in each vessel (of religion).
Swamiji calls our attention to the reality that the universe’s inherent design is oneness in variety. The same thing can appear different depending on your point of view while still being the same thing. Although a human and an animal are distinct from one another, as living things they are all one, and as a pure existence, man is one with the entire cosmos. Swamiji makes an effort to demonstrate through these examples that “all religions, from the lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, mean so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realise the infinite [God], each of them determined by the conditions of its birth and association, and each of them marking a stages of progress” (1.332).
The existence of several religions is explained by variations in racial makeup, cultural traditions, and temperaments. Swamiji promotes the idea of religion being universal by recognising that difference is a sign of life itself. However, he cautions us that he does not imply an amalgam of the most admirable aspects of other religious systems like Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism when he uses the term “global religion.” He will never advocate for the conversion of a Muslim or Hindu to Buddhism.
His universal religion makes it clear that one must adhere to their chosen religion while also acknowledging the deep connection that unites all religions. He asserts that if God is the centre of all faiths and everyone of us is heading toward him along one of these radii, then it is guaranteed that we will all eventually arrive at that centre as a guarantee of the possibility of universal religion. All of our differences will disappear at the centre, where all the radii meet. (2.384-5). Friends, the world would be a lot better place to live in if only Muslims and Christians held the same ideals as Swamiji.
Tolerance and acceptance of all people are two crucial corollaries of the unity of all religions, according to Swamiji. In the history of India, we observe concretization of these two notions all throughout. India has provided asylum to those who have been persecuted and displaced throughout history from all world religions and nationalities. I am proud to belong to a faith that has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance, Swamiji said at the Chicago Parliament of Religions in reference to this magnificent period of our cultural history. We regard all religions as true in addition to holding a belief in global tolerance (1.3). In order for us to live up to that ideal, Swamiji wants to make us aware of our spiritual inheritance through his teachings.
Tolerance and acceptance of all people are, in Swamiji’s opinion, two crucial corollaries of the unity of all religions. These two concepts are constantly being concretized throughout India’s history. India has for centuries provided asylum to those who have been persecuted and displaced from all world religions and nationalities. In reference to this illustrious period in our cultural history, Swamiji said at the Chicago Parliament of Religions: “I am proud to belong to a faith that has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. In addition to accepting all religions as true, we also believe in universal tolerance (1.3). Through his words, Swamiji hopes to educate us about our spiritual heritage and inspire us to uphold it.
The aforementioned study sheds light on Vivekananda’s humanistic, pragmatic, logical, and scientific view of India’s spiritual tradition, which revitalises it. He elevates Hinduism to the status of a universal religion intended for all humankind by stripping it of all its exclusivity and rigidity.
In every aspect of Swamiji’s vision of religion, humanistic traits are evident. He equates man with God because he is so driven to exalt man. Swamiji gives man a sense of dignity by maintaining that he is an immortal soul that is the same as the Absolute in his true essence.
He motivates people to pursue the values of goodness, truth, and beauty by defining religion as the embodiment of the inherent divinity of man. Swamiji seeks a balanced growth of man through his emphasis on spiritual realisation through detached activity, knowledge, devotion, and control of mind. He emphasises yoga practise in order to awaken man’s feeling of responsibility for his own future.
He views man as the manifestation of God, which clarifies the purpose and importance of service. To serve man as God is to be inspired. Vivekananda’s assessment unequivocally demonstrates his pragmatic perspective.
He is conscious that religion needs to adapt to modern society. He makes an effort to make his presentation rational, scientific, and sensitive to its needs because the current day is characterised by science and reason.
For Swamiji, religion or spirituality are not matters of assent or belief. He often states that the essence of religion is realisation or an experiential assurance. He has little interest in philosophical conjectures about the existence of God or the afterlife. Regardless of the road we take, Jesus offers us a message of courage and hope that God is latent in all of us and may be realised if we have the heart for it. Every man has the ability to be divine, which provides mankind hope for endless development.
According to Swamiji, the four yogas serve as a practical means of achieving the goal of religion. He makes it clear that practising the yogas does not entail surrendering your free will to priests or pledging your devotion to any supernatural messenger. Yoga advises you to hold fast to your logic and do the work yourself. According to Swamiji, religion may be studied by experimentation, its practises can be inferred from established truths, and its principles can be tested out in everyday life. He also demonstrates how, just as every branch of physical science seeks to understand the oneness of all phenomena, so too does religion seek to understand the unity of all reality.
He concludes by illuminating a doable path that results in world peace and harmony via the oneness of all religions. In conclusion, Swamiji creates a fresh understanding of our spiritual heritage via all of his endeavours.