Swami Vivekananda: Meaning of Religion, Spirituality

Swami Vivekananda defined religion in such away that it would be equally acceptable to people professing any religion or belonging to any country. His definition of religion was divested of dogmas and creeds, and external aids like sacred books, rituals and ceremonials, some of his famous and cryptic definitions of religion are: 
  • Religion is the struggle to transcend the limitation of the senses.
  • Religion is the idea of raising the brute unto man and man unto God.
  • Religion is the eternal relationship between the eternal soul and eternal God.
  • Religion is the idea of evolution of the individual soul towards the infinite.
  • Religion is the manifestation of divinity that is already in man.
  • Religion is realisation
Swamiji said that in essence, the concepts of spirituality in different religions do not differ from one another. He Pointed out that whatever be the mode of practice in whichever religion, the following four disciplines alone form the basis of all spirituality.
  1. Control of the mind.
  2. Dispassion towards the things of the world.
  3. Company of holy men
  4. Love for fellow beings. 
Religion lead one by hand and shows him the way to realisation of the Self. That is, not only how to live the life but also how to give up the life (mundane) and achive the eternal life. Yad gatva na nivartante tat dhama paramam mama - Gita.

Om Shantih Shantih Shantih.

Swami Vivekananda's idea of Education

Nearly a hundred years ago Swami Vivekananda showed the close connection between culture and education. Wherever there is a great culture, you will find behind it, a highly developed system of education. Ancient India could produce a great culture because it developed a wonderful system of education. In those days, people took education seriously. In the Taittiriya Upanishad, we find a discussion on what true tapas is. The opinion of the Vedic Rishi is: "swadhyaya pravacana eva-eti" - "study and teaching alone" constitute true tapas. Education itself is the best tapas, that is, the best form of human effort. 

According to Swami Vivekananda, the basic purpose of education is the total development of human personality. Everyone is endowed with certain capacities, which remain dormant, although in a potential form, in childhood. Swami Vivekananda believed education is the process by which these inherent potentialities in human personality manifest themselves in completing his or her total development. 

This total development of human personality includes intellectual and moral development. Most of the present day school and college curriculum only aim at intellectual development. It is in this field that western science, technology and commerce have attained tremendous success. 

Science is systematic pursuit of knowledge at empirical level. The scientific method gives a very good training to the mind. It was by applying the scientific method that western countries made tremendous advancement in technology and acquired great wealth and power. 

Swami Vivekananda was one of the first among religious teachers to understand the importance of science and technology. In the first place, Swamiji saw that poor countries like India would be able to overcome poverty and backwardness only by mastering technology. Secondly, Swamiji saw that science is not contradictory to the eternal spiritual principles, which is the foundation of Indian culture. Both Science and eternal religion are concerned with truth. Science seeks truth in the physical world, whereas religion seeks truth in the spiritual realm. Thus, religion and science are complementary. 

The other primary purpose of education is to build character and to enable people to lead moral lives. However, this is precisely the field where most of the modern systems of education have failed. Swami Vivekananda has given a new definition of morality. To quote his words, "The only definition that can be given of morality is this: that which is selfish is immoral, and that which is unselfish is moral". For Swamiji unselfishness and service are not mere matters of rules and regulations but of reality. If God dwells in all beings as the Supreme Self, if every man is potentially divine, then to serve God in man or man as God is the best form of worship. To quote Swamiji's own words: "It is a privilege to serve mankind, for this is the worship of God. God is here in all these human souls. He is the soul of man." (C.W.I. 424) 

[Above is the excerpt taken from address by Most Revered Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj delivered/read out during the inauguration of Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Educational and Research Institute at Belur Math. Most Revered Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj served as 14th President of the Ramakrishna Order]