Padmavibhushana Professor VKRV Rao, who studied with John Maynard Keynes in Cambridge, contributing to studies in National Income and Taxation was the founder of Delhi School of Economics, Institute of Economic Growth in Delhi and the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) in Bengaluru. He served as the Union Minister of Education in 1971. In addition to his rich academic, institutional and policy contributions Prof VKRV Rao was a great admirer and devotee of Swami Vivekananda. One of his significant Books is ‘Swami Vivekananda: The prophet of Vedantic Socialism” published by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India in 1978. The book has many thoughts of present day relevance.
Socialism cannot exist without spirituality
The Religion of Swami Vivekananda was indeed the practical Vedanta incorporating equality of Islam, service of Christianity, compassion of Buddhism, non-attachment and renunciation of Hinduism. Prof Rao concurred with Swami Vivekananda that Socialism without spirituality is akin to a motor without fuel. As water can be stored in vessels of different shapes and sizes, God is in different religions.
Guru with sinless personality as a teacher in Bhakthi, must know scriptures to transmit its spirit reflecting no difference between what he is, and what he says, not teaching for money, name or fame but with love of work for mankind. The taught must have purity, thirst for knowledge and perseverance, overcoming material desires with selfless and pure habits, not injuring anybody, not attaching with results of their work.
Where should we seek God – are not all the poor, the miserable, the weak, Gods? Why not worship them first? I believe in God and I believe in man. I believe in helping the miserable. I believe in even going to hell to save others. This is Vedantic socialism with ability to apply in every part of life. Ideals of religion to cover entire life entering into all thoughts for practice. As god is manifest in all humans, in the poor, in the suffering, in the daridra – narayana, serving them is the best way in finding god. God in the poor of all races, of all Species is the special object of worship. A Mahatman is whose heart bleeds for the poor and does not believe in a God or religion which cannot wipe the widow’s tears or bring a piece of bread to the orphan’s mouth.
No country is just a geographical entity or a philosophic concept, but means its people, the vast majority of its masses rather than the small minority of its classes. Patriotism lies in passionate love for the masses, practical solution for their problems and will to overcome obstructions to implementation of these solutions. ‘Do we feel that millions are starving today and millions have been starving for ages? Giving women their rightful place in society by removing their backwardness is crucial since women are the living embodiment of the Divine Mother, No man will dictate to a woman, nor a woman to a man..
Philosophy of equality
Vedantic philosophy of equality, independence for women, giving them education, removing their backwardness, giving them opportunity to play their rightful role in society is crucial. Life building, character making education is vital as education must also focus on compassion and fellow feeling for the common man along with development of body and mind.
Maintaining sound health is crucial and Swami Vivekananda said, understand Gita, the Upanishads, the glory of the Athman better with a firm body. Strength is goodness, weakness is sin. As Upanishads preach Abhaya or fearlessness, fear is the cause of degradation and sin, bringing misery, death, and breeds evil. In Udbodhana the Swami wrote (1899) “Forget not that the lower classes, the ignorant, the poor, the illiterate, the cobbler, the sweeper, are they flesh and blood, thy brothers. Proudly proclaim, ‘I am an Indian, every Indian is my brother’. Say ‘The soil of India is my highest heaven, the good of India is my good’. And pray day and night to the divine mother, ‘take away my weakness, take away my unmanliness and make me a man’.
Not affluent society
Swami Vivekananda was a believer in human development, not for the development of an affluent society as in the west. At the same time he did not want starvation, illiteracy, social and material backwardness for any section of the masses. We have to learn a little bit of materialism from the west and teach them a little bit of spirituality. Thus development should include both materiality and spirituality. The more advanced a society or nation is in spirituality, the more is that society or nation civilized. No nation can be said to have become civilized only because it has succeeded in increasing the comforts of material life by bringing into use lots of machinery and things of that sort. The present day western civilization is multiplying day by day only the wants and distresses of man.
Conduct and character
Engine of social change must have spirituality as its fuel. Vedanta gives divinity in man and sameness as the basis of social ethic of human welfare. Before flooding India with socialist or political ideas, deluge the land with spiritual ideas, and then will come that secular and every other knowledge that you want. The spiritual knowledge is the message of the Vedas, the Upanishads, Puranas, asserting universal divinity in all individuals, doctrine of universal love and service of man as worship of God. Recognizing the deep respect Professor VKRV Rao had on Swami Vivekananda’s writings and ideals, including Vedantic Socialism, during my stint as Director of the ISEC, ensured that photographs of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, mother Sharada Devi found a rightful place in the Institute.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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