Ideas and Ideals

“ATMANO MOKSHARTAM JAGAT HITAYA CHA” (for one’s own salvation and for the welfare of many)—is the motto Swami Vivekananda chose for the Ramakrishna Mission. But, it may be asked: what is meant by “one’s own salvation”?

LotusAccording to the Vedanta, the dominant philosophy of India, Atman—our realself— is already free.Then what is the meaning of salvation or freedom of the self?

The meaning is this: we have to realize that we are forever free, we are never bound, and there is nothing in this world which can bind us.  When we realize this truth, ignorance of our real nature,which is the cause of all our miseries, vanisheson its own accord. Realization of this truth is “one’s own salvation”.

Apart from striving for our own salvation, we should devote ourselves for the sake of others because, as Swami Vivekananda puts it, “The only God to worship is the human soul in the human body.  Of course all animals are temples too, but man is the highest, the Taj Mahal of temples.  If I cannot worship in that, no other temple will be of any advantage.  The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him—that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.”

Now, how can we achieve this?  For the answer, we have to turn to Swami Vivekananda again:  “Each soul is potentially divine.  The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature— external and internal.Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy—by one, or more or all of these—and be free.This is the whole or religion.  Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.”

If religion is the manifestation of the divinity already in man, education, according to Swamiji is “the manifestation of the perfection already in man.”  Swamiji, who deeply feltfor the youth because they are the backbone of the society, thought a good deal for their education. According to him, education is a misnomer if it is not essentially man-making.  He wanted our young men to develop “muscles of iron and nerves of steel, gigantic wills which nothing can resist.”  Physical training, strengthening of the willpower and control of emotions occupy important places in Swamiji’s scheme of education.  Moreover, the students have to be made aware of their cultural heritage.  He pointed out that the present educational system lacks the above essentials of a man-making, character-building education.  To make the educational system free from these defects, the Swami suggested that we should revive some of our ancient ideals of education, and adapt them to the requirements of modern university education. We need a perfect blending of para-vidyaand apara vidya—secular knowledge and spiritual knowledge—for the wholesome development of a student.

Swami Nirvedananda, endearingly called Anadi Maharaj,followed in the footsteps of Swami Vivekanandain givinga practical shape to the above educational ideas. He dedicated his whole life in this noble mission,through sacrifice and renunciation, through intense tapasya. The result?“Students’ Home”!

Ramakrishna Mission Calcutta Students’ Homehas been a blessingto innumerable youths for almost a hundred years. Students residing in the Student’s Home are encouraged to lead their life in pursuit of great ideals. Here prevailsan atmosphere where exists some of the best elements of ancient Hindu culture as well as the modern culture.

The students are allowed to grow spontaneously so that they can stand upon their own feet. Here everything happens so unobtrusively and so naturally that the students cannot even understand that they are being changed for better. They learn how to work in the temple, in the dining-room, even in the cultivation field. They learn how to study whole-heartedly, how to meditate,and how to do menial works like cleaning the toilets joyfully. As a result of such an all-round training, any student of the Students’ Home can take up any type of work and execute that properly.

The ability to live peacefully with others is a quality whose necessity is being felt all over the world now. The biggest lesson that the students learn in Students’ Home is how to live peacefully and harmoniously with others. Leaders emerge out of them. They learn how to help others without any selfish motive. In short, they get a harmonious development of ‘hand, head and heart.’ The idea that religion is our basis is infused in their heart. Here a student gets a clear idea about the goal of human life and how to achieve it. No wonder that even after the completion of the Ashrama-life,every student cherishes the great ideas and ideals and tries to lead a life accordingly.

Swamiji, with his prophetic vision,predicted that ”a time must come when everyman will be as intensely practical in the scientific world as in the spiritual, and then that Oneness, the harmony of Oneness, will pervade the whole world.” The Students’ Home, our sweet home, has been trying to produce, in its humble way, enlightened citizens who can play vital roles in building a new India as envisioned by Swami Vivekananda.