A Journey to Understanding Swami Vivekananda and The True Essence of The Vedanta

Swami Vivekananda was one of the world’s best known and leading elucidators of the Vedanta philosophy in both contemporary and modern periods. The real essence of the Vedanta can be seen in its call for universal unity that is beyond the principles of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakan [the whole world is but one family]. Swami Vivekananda’s writings and views, which he expressed on more than one occasion, covering a wide variety of his works while focusing on the principle that unity of the creator remains as the nucleus, which is, in fact, the most important aspect of the Vedanta.

Moreover, the Vedanta speaks of a Dharma [duty-bound karma] which is in fact necessary for making one’s life worthy and meaningful as well as having the ability to lead people to serve humanity and spread the seeds that remain present in everyone. Swami Vivekananda not only accepted this reality, but he simultaneously made it an indivisible part of his practices. He urged people to understand the reality of Dharma [religion] and to adopt it properly and respectfully. For this, he went to the extent of saying, “I have nothing whatever to do with ritual or dogma; my mission is to show that religion is in everything and is everything.”

Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda in 1893

The Dharma remains broad in its outlook. This is a must, there can be no exceptions, otherwise it will not be real and it will become welfaristic. [Welfarism is a form of consequentialism. Like all forms of consequentialism, welfarism is based on the premise that actions, policies, and/or rules should be evaluated on the basis of their consequences.]

Furthermore, it should be large enough so that proper food can be supplied to the mind. In other words, the mind could be filled with constructive approaches or ideas. Only the one who is with constructive approach and broad enough in ideas can move forward on the pathway to unity and the welfare of humanity.

In this regard, Swami Vivekananda desired people to follow the true Dharma and stressed the importance of accepting its fundamental principles. It is essential that the student’s mind be accepting to his imagination essentially the parts that include harmony-based unity as well as tolerance and forbearance. This way of thinking can be associated with his belief in the concept of pluralism and it can be observed from his following statement:

“I accept all religions that were in the past, and worship with them all; I worship God with every one of them, in whatever form they worship Him. I shall go to the mosque of the Mohammedan; I shall enter the Christian church and kneel before the crucifix; I shall enter the Buddhistic temple, where I shall take refuge in the Buddha, and in his law. I shall go into the forest and sit down in meditation with the Hindu, who is trying to see the light, which enlightens the heart of everyone.”

Swami Vivekananda’s life and mission was without any discrimination and prejudice, he was dedicated to the unity and welfare of mankind, in a broad sense to the creator, which is the essence of the Vedanta. The contributors to this volume through their respective articles have all revealed this fact. One special feature of these works can be found in the chapter entitled, Vivekananda and Gandhi: One Truth, Diverse Paths by learned Dr. Uma Majmudar.

It is strongly desired that this publication will receive a positive response. Those who are interested in familiarity with the life, views and mission of a revolutionary scholar, thinker, a leading saint and exponent of the Vedanta in contemporary time like Swami Vivekananda will find this publication to be informative and highly useful.

I am grateful to Professor Siddheshwar Prasad, Dr. Uma Majmudar, Dr. Ashu Pasricha, Dr. Nilamani Dutta, Ms. Bhunyapat Pongsawasdi, Ms. Kay Salady and Ms. Leena Bansod for their valuable contributions and for contributing the foreword to this volume.

Dr. Ravindra Kumar is an eminent writer, Indologist, political scientist and a former vice chancellor of Meerut University, India, who authored and edited over 100 works on great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and on various social-cultural issues.