Where to go ahead of Swami Vivekananda?

Yajvan
Widgets Magazine
The canvas of views of is so vast, varied and contextual that to almost all of his assertions we can find diametrically opposite views also. (1)
 
Swami Vivekananda is unique phenomenon in the Santana tradition. He was first and foremost Dharmic scholar who was well aware of evolving dominance of Western civilization and possessed a deep insight in its history, scientific achievements, philosophy and religions. Perhaps no single person in the history of mankind has been as influential and successful as Swami Vivekananda (SV) was, in establishing a broad framework for civil interfaith discussion.
 
SV’s place is iconic in Sanatana dharmic world as the tradition entered into modernity with him. He had many illustrious reformist thinkers before him right from Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, MG Ranade, B G Tilak or Jyotiba Phule. The tradition of great Dharma-Shastra scholars among householders and renunciates is obscure owing to diminution of their role in affairs of society and state engineered by the British rule and the constitution of India. But SV’s acceptance and position is unique among them all.
 
To Start with, In SV’s thoughts and work (in form of Ramakrishna Math and Mission), we see SV’s emphasis on Tyaga or renunciation as ideal of dharma. He held householders to be ineffectual to preach dharma. He says “If Bhagavân (God) incarnates Himself as a householder, I can never believe Him to be sincere. When a householder takes the position of the leader of a religious sect, he begins to serve his own interests in the name of principle, hiding the former in the garb of the latter, and the result is the sect becomes rotten to the core. All religious movements headed by householders have shared the same fate. Without renunciation religion can never stand.”

It appears that his study in history of religions lead him to believe that a Bauddha or Sankara’s Dashnami type structure is better guardian of dharmic thought. A Sannyasin free from ‘Kamini-Kanchana’ or Lust and greed is best to lead dharmic society.
 
We can safely assert that Vedanta’s popularity in the world spread greatly due to SV’s expositions. SV saw Advaita philosophy (and experience) as the crux of all religions. He says "Advaita is the One Eternal Religion in which truth is realized and it is the goal of all particular religions towards which they all point. It is this Religion that is expressed and manifested in every existent religion. And it is this that is "the essence" and "the kernel of all religions".

He says: “I learnt from my Master … the wonderful truth that the religions of the world are not contradictory or antagonistic. They are but various phases of one eternal religion. That one eternal religion is applied to different planes of existence, is applied to the opinions of various minds and various races. One Infinite religion existed all through eternity and will ever exist, and this religion is expressing itself in various countries in various ways. Therefore we must respect all religions and we must try to accept them all as far as we can.”
 
We see two set of processes happening side by side in SV, first is classification and categorization of philosophies of diverse schools and sects (for example his expositions of Karma Yoga, Raj Yoga, Jnana Yoga) with a primacy of Vedantic milieu; secondly a more ambitious attempt to classify ‘religions’ of world on basis of development of Vedanta schools. Like, in May 1895, SV wrote to one of his disciple, “Now I will tell you my discovery. All of religion is contained in the Vedanta, that is, in the three stages of the Vedanta philosophy, the Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita, and Advaita; one comes after the other. These are the three stages of spiritual growth in man. Each one is necessary. This is the essential of religion: the Vedanta, applied to the various ethnic customs and creeds of India, is Hinduism. The first stage, i.e. Dvaita, applied to the ideas of the ethnic groups of Europe, is Christianity; as applied to the Semitic groups, Mohammedanism. The Advaita, as applied in its Yoga-perception form, is Buddhism etc. Now by religion is meant the Vedanta; the applications must vary according to the different needs, surroundings, and other circumstances of different nations.” (2)
 
It is important to note some distinctive features of SV’s accomplishments :
 
1) The language of his exposition was primarily English, Hindi and Bangla (and not Sanskrit)
2)  His audience is primarily emerging urban middle-class of India educated in British education system, Americans and Europeans.
3) He engaged with few orthodox scholars on problems faced by dharmic society and possible solutions from within the Shastra and society (3)
4) Being a realist and pragmatist he didn’t speak of dharmic core concepts like Varnashrama dharma, Smriti values in practical working sense and to bring changes in it from within. He saw a difference between in the essence-values of such customs and their degeneration due to ignorance and human weaknesses. Also he spoke of ethics and morality in general universal terms and his criticism of customs and practices like social discrimination, child marriage and widow suffering was from such perspective.  
 
Based on the above assessment we humbly submit that SV was more a product of typical times. His work is yet not over and we need an honest assessment and creative ways to move forward. Like,
 
1. SV’s contribution is unique as a response to western hegemony  but time has come to take his work further on platform provided by him.  
2. His attempt to provide Vedantic rationale to study world religions was contemporaneous because – religious truths are relative and depend on civilizational and cultural factor. We know that his grand ideas are misappropriated by secular western academia to lump serious dharmic darshana with new-age fringe thoughts. And it is too much to imagine Church and Islamic mainstream to accept his thoughts.
3. Now that we have arrived at certain level of understanding and promotion of dharma due to his tireless work, we today need to work qualitatively on revival of Shruti-Smruti tradition, Varnashrma values and Sanatana dharmic paradigms promotion of environment from within.
4. We know that SV’s non-shruti-shastric grand Vedantic narrative lacked dharmic authority or sanction of tradition (4); and it has provided respectability popularity to residual anti-dharmic forces present in Government structure who gainfully employed to harm Dharmic civilization’s values and structure. At political vision and governmental policy level we should learn from Japan, the way it revived local tradition and maintained dominance of traditional values as to conduct and values. For example Japan used Samurai structure to shape its education system which is the best in the world. Likewise we could learn from Judaic tradition and Israel in revival of Hebrew and protecting traditional scholarship.
 
Reference:
 
(1) http://www.oiirj.org/oiirj/may-june2013/18.pdf
(2) Marie Louise Burke points out; a detailed study of Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts shows that: Never before Swamiji’s time had the term [Vedanta] been given such universal significance as he gave it. Never before had it been broadened into a philosophy and religion which included every faith of the world and every noble effort of man— reconciling spirituality and material advancement, faith and reason, science and mysticism, work and contemplation, service to man and absorption in God. Never before had it been conceived as the one universal religion, by accepting the principles of which the follower of any or no creed could continue along his own path and at the same time be able to identify himself with every other creed and aspect of religion.
(3) For orthodox Sanatani dharmic scholar, owning to his Jati-Varna SV was not even entitled for study of Veda-Shastras and Sannyasa. When he returned back from his tour to America there were huge protests from the dharmic orthodoxy in Calcutta and other places.
(4) The Advaita Vedanta darshana is not concerned with an individual’s dharmic conduct and morality and ethics. It is primarily a Nivrutti Marga school focused on liberation from cycle of birth and death. It is the last Ashrama for a suitable person belonging to Brahmana who is well versed in Vedas and has fulfilled all his duties. In fact an ideal Sannyasin is not responsible towards parents, family, culture and even nation; this is domain of householder and is conduct is ruled by Smurti rules. Promotion of Nivrutti Marga as moral super structure muddles the natural and holistic Varnashrma dharma based order. Presence of strong restriction in form of Adhikarvada and reference of Kalivarjya prakarana in tradition also supports this view.
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