Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Universal Brotherhood Day : 2011

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Saprem Namaskar!
We are in the midst of the intense preparation of ‘Bharat Jago! Vishwa Jagao!- 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. The focus of the preparations for celebrations is on identifying the youth who would work for the country, to bring all the scattered spiritual forces together by involving all the Hindu organizations in the celebrations, preparation of literature which gives the message of ‘Bharat Jago! Vishwa Jagao!’. The celebration of 11 September in all branches as Universal Brotherhood Day offers us a good opportunity to take ahead these preparations.
The welcome and adoration that was given to the speeches of Swami Vivekananda during the Parliament of Religions at Chicago made it clear that world is in need of the message of Bharat, but Bharat has to awaken to its sense of duty. The Parliament of Religions was organized as the part of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the European discovery of America by Columbus. The purpose of the Parliament was to proclaim the Christianity as the ‘Only True Religion.’ The exclusive approach considers one’s religion as the only true religion. Once this exclusive approach is adopted then others’ religions are not tolerated. This intolerance impels the followers of exclusive religion to set out on large-scale conversion of others even by fraud and force.
Swami Vivekananda was aware that it is the exclusive approach of these Semitic religions like Christianity and Islam, which was responsible for so much bloodshed and human massacre in the human history. It is this exclusive approach which is the biggest obstacle in the realization of brotherhood of man. It is well-known that Swami Vivekananda addressed the audience as ‘Sisters and Brothers of America’ it had an electrifying effect on them. It was not merely a form of address but behind those words was the great spiritual strength of India, which has always practiced the universal brotherhood in her long history of more than 5000 years. Taking pride in this fact Swami Vivekananda said, "I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth." Hindus could have this universal approach because they never claim that, 'the God I worship is the 'Only True God' But they say that there is ‘only god’. Everything is the expression of that One.
So we do not say that ours is the only true god and others are false gods we say for others gods that ‘it is 'also' the form of God.’ Thus our approach is an inclusive approach, an 'also' approach. The exclusive approach says 'this only' whereas inclusive approach says 'this also'. It is because of this inclusive approach – 'also' approach that the Hindus never went destroying other religious faiths. To usher in Universal Brotherhood it is essential that all religions accept this inclusive –'also' approach.
The Hindus have this ‘also’ approach because they have the vision of Oneness for the whole existence. As Hindus view everything in the existence as the expression of One, all the manifestations are revered, are accepted. There is then respect for the diversity. As everything is expression of the One, the human soul too is not interpreted as the sinner but as immortal, complete wholeness. This is the message that India has to give to the world.
For the first time to that audience which was used to the exclusive claim to religious truth Swami Vivekananda gave the message, “Much has been said of the common ground of religious unity…. But if anyone here hopes that this unity will come by the triumph of any one of the religions and the destruction of others, to him I say, “Brother, yours is an impossible hope” ….If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity, and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance, “Help and not fight” “Assimilation and not Destruction” “ Harmony and Peace and not dissension.
For the first time to western audience, the message of universal Brotherhood and its proper understanding was given by Swami Vivekananda. Therefore Mananeeya Eknathji wanted this day to be celebrated as Universal Brotherhood Day. Homogenizing the humanity or bringing uniformity in the human society will not usher in Universal Brotherhood but it will only bring further dissentions and destruction. Integrating the various faiths and accepting, as ‘others’ faith also is good for them’ will bring in Universal Brotherhood. Homogenizing brings destruction of the identity and also the traditional values in the society where as the integration keeps the identity of the communities intact but binds them in the bonds of Brotherhood. Therefore on this day the message is also for those who are very exclusive in their approach and are undertaking the conversions by destroying the faiths and culture of various tribal and other communities.

Hindus by their philosophy and practice of inclusive approach are destined to give this message of Universal Brotherhood to the humanity. But in order to do that first Hindus will have to understand this unifying and integrating nature of their Dharma. In the Parliament of Religions Swami Vivekananda also gave us the unifying principles of Hinduism. As put very beautifully by Sister Nivedita, “Of the Swami’s address before the Parliament of Religions, it may be said that when he began to speak it was of “the religious ideas of the Hindus”, but when he ended Hinduism had been created.…These, then were the two mind-floods, two immense rivers of thought, as it were, Eastern and modern, of which the yellow-clad wanderer on the platform of the Parliament of Religions formed for a moment the point of confluence. The formulation of the common bases of Hinduism was the inevitable result of the shock of their contact, in a personality, so impersonal. For it was no experience of his own that rose to the lips of the swami Vivekananda there. He did not even take advantage of the occasion to tell the story of his master. Instead of either of these, it was the religious consciousness of India that spoke through him, the message of his whole people as determined by their whole past.” Thus on the Universal Brotherhood Day we have to study, absorb and highlight the message that Swami Vivekananda gave in the Parliament of Religions. Not just the lecture given on the first day of the parliament, which is very well known, but the main lecture that he gave in the Parliament of Religions - “ The Paper on Hinduism” needs to be studied. It is the study and application of this lecture, which will make us capable of giving the message of Universal Brotherhood Day to the world.
We should see to it that during the program these points also are given stress.
  • Universal Brotherhood is possible only in an atmosphere of inclusive approach and not by proclaiming that ‘my god alone is true’
  • Conversion brings dissentions and not brotherhood. Conversion is violence.
  • The really spiritual is always universal and inclusive. Rejection of others God as false shows ignorance about one’s own god too.
The occasion of the celebration of Universal Brotherhood Day can be used to reach out to interested youth who would want to give their couple of years for the 150th Jayanti celebrations. There can be elocution, essay competitions by the youth / college students on this lecture or life and message of Swami Vivekananda. We should reach out to many youth and a call also should go forth to them.
Throughout the year, through Karyapaddhati, various programmes and campaigns and shibirs, we keep contacting many people. Ours is a 'thought movement' and the thought which we talk to people through our samparka should take roots. Similarly many known organizations, institutions also could be involved in the celebrations as a prelude to the 150th Jayanti celebrations.
With warm regards and prayers,

Yours sincerely,
(B. Nivedita)

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