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Vivekananda –On Mass Education

Dr V.K.Maheshwari Dr S.Bansal K.K.Sharma

Principal Principal Chairman
D.I.M.S Gandhi Instt Gandhi Instt
Meerut Meerut Meerut

Swami Vivekananda strongly believe that a nation is advanced in

proportion as education and intelligence spread among the masses. The
chief cause of India's ruin has been the Mass education- monopolising of
the whole education and intelligence of the land among a handful of

Swamiji’s most unique contribution to the creation of new India was to open
the minds of Indians to their duty to the downtrodden masses. Long before
the ideas of Karl Marx were known in India, Swamiji spoke about the role of
the labouring classes in the production of the country’s wealth. Swamiji was
the first religious leader in India to speak for the masses, formulate a definite
philosophy of service, and organize large-scale social service
As a true patriot Swami Vivekananda was too emotional about the condition
of poor and down trodden masse of contemporary Indians, he once express
his deep sorrow-
My heart aches to think of the condition of the poor, the low in India. They
sink lower and day. They feel the blow nation an showered upon them by a
cruel society, but they do not know whence the blow comes. They have
forgotten that they too are men. My heart is too full to express my feelings.
So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a
traitor who ,having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to
them. Our great national sin is the neglect of the masses and that is the cause
of our downfall. No amount of politics would be of any avail until the
masses in India are once more well educated, well fed and well cared for

Swami Vivekananda strongly believe that a nation is advanced in

proportion as education and intelligence spread among the masses. The chief
cause of India's ruin has been the Mass education- monopolizing of the
whole education and intelligence of the land among a handful of men. If we
are to rise again, we shall have to do it by spreading education among the
masses. The only service to be done for our lower classes is to give them
education to develop their individuality. They are to be given ideas. Their
eyes are to be opened to what is going on in the world around them, and then
they will work out their own salvation.

. Vivekananda, however, was a genuine friend of the poor and the weak,
particularly the helpless masses of India, and he was the first Indian leader
who sought a solution to their problems through education. He argued that a
nation was advanced to the extent that education and culture reached the
masses. Unless there was uniform circulation of national blood all over the
body, the nation could not rise. He insisted that it was the duty of the upper
classes, who had received their education at the expense of the poor, to come
forward and uplift the poor through education and other means. In fact, the
Swami’s mission was for the poor. He once said, ‘there must be equal
chance for all – or if greater for some and for some less – the
weaker should be given more chance than the strong’ (Letters, 255).

Vivekananda felt that alienation of any kind from the masses of society, who
are mostly poor – whether it be alienation through learning, through wealth
or through force of arms – weakens the leadership of a country.
Therefore, for a sustainable regeneration of India, if not for anything else,
top priority must be given to educating the masses and restoring to them
their lost individuality. They should not only be given education to make
them self-reliant, but also ideas, moral training and an understanding of their
own historical situation so that they can work out their own salvation.
Furthermore, they must be given culture, without which there can be no
hope for their long-term .progress

According to Vivekananda, an important teaching he received from

Ramakrishna was that "Jiva is Shiva" (each individual is divinity itself).
This became his Mantra, and he coined the concept of daridra narayana
seva - the service of God in and through (poor) human beings. "If there truly
is the unity of Brahman underlying all phenomena, then on what basis do we
regard ourselves as better or worse, or even as better-off or worse-off, than
others?" - This was the question he posed to himself. Ultimately, he
concluded that these distinctions fade into nothingness in the light of the
oneness that the devotee experiences in Moksha. What arises then is
compassion for those "individuals" who remain unaware of this oneness and
a determination to help them

Swami Vivekananda belonged to that branch of Vedanta that held that no

one can be truly free until all of us are. Even the desire for personal salvation
has to be given up, and only tireless work for the salvation of others is the
true mark of theenlightened person. He founded the Sri Ramakrishna Math
and Mission on the principle of Atmano Mokshartham Jagat-hitaya
cha (आतमनॊ मोकाथरम् जगिद्धताय च) (for one's own salvation and for the welfare
of the World).

We have seen how Sri Ramakrishna would encourage even those whom we
considered worthless and change the very course of their lives thereby ! He
never destroyed a single man's special inclinations. He gave words of hope
and encouragement even to the most degraded of persons and lifted them up.

Vivekananda considers Liberty is the first condition of growth. It is wrong,

a thousand times wrong, if any of us dares to say, 'I will work out the
salvation of this woman or child/Hands off! They will solve their own
problems. Who are you to assume that you know everything ? How dare you
think that you have the right over God? For, don't you know that every soul
is the Soul of God ? Look upon every one as God. You can only serve. Serve
the children of the Lord if you have the privilege. If the Lord grants that you
can help any one of His children, blessed you are. Blessed you are that that
privilege was given to you when others had it not. Do it only as worship

Vivekananda invites , every man and every woman to work out their own
salvation. Give them ideas that is the only help they require and then the rest
must follow as effect. Ours is to put the chemicals together, the
crystallization comes in the law of nature.

An ideal society, according to Vivekananda, should provide the resources as

well as the opportunity for each of its members to develop his or her
potential to the maximum. Education must embrace the whole society, with
special attention to those who are most in need of it and who, for one reason
or another, are unable to avail themselves of the existing facilities

The education that does not help the common mass of people to equip
themselves for the struggle for life ,which does not bring out strength of
character, as spirit of philanthropy and the courage of a lion is it worth the
name .

The trend in recent years has been to shift the responsibility for education
from the family, religious institutions, private charities and so forth, to
public authorities ,particularly the State. Yet, in spite of this shift to the
State, education has hardly reached the most underprivileged. As they are
often victims of malnutrition, poor hygienic conditions and overcrowded
housing, they can hardly take advantage of any half hearted opportunity that
is offered.

The right to education for everyone, guaranteed by the Constitution of India,

was Vivekananda’s dream, but it is still a far cry from its goal. His idea of
continual, or lifelong, education, however, has been adopted in many
countries already. Moreover, because of the adoption of continuous
education in these countries, our idea of what constitutes success and failure
has altered, raising new hope for the weak, underprivileged section of these
societies – the very people who for various reasons cannot complete their
education when they are young. Vivekananda’s cry for the uplift of
the downtrodden masses, particularly of the long-neglected women, has
evoked a favorable response from different quarters, but societies tailor
education to meet their own needs, thereby often robbing the weak of their
freedom to determine their own destiny. Unless radical changes are made in
all societies the poor will never be able to raise themselves. This was a
major concern of the Swami.

It is remarkable the extent to which there are similarities between

Vivekanada’s thoughts and actions taking place one century ago and the
present concerns of UNESCO.
• His commitment towards universal values and tolerance, his active
identification with humanity as a whole.
• The struggle in favor of the poor and destitute, to reduce poverty and to
eliminate discrimination against women – reaching the unreached.
• His vision of education, science and culture as the essential instruments of
human development.
• That education should be a lifelong process.
• And the need to move away from rote learning.

Himself a visionary and an original thinker, Vivekananda pointed out in his

first public lecture in Asia, on 15 January 1897: ‘But education has yet to be
in the world, and civilisation – civilisation has begun nowhere yet’ (CW,
vol. III, p. 114). This is true. If we consider civilization to be the
manifestation of the divine in human beings, as Vivekananda conceived it to
be, no society has made much progress so far. This is why we find that
mildness, gentleness, forbearance, tolerance, sympathy and so forth
– the signs of a healthy civilization – have not taken root in any society on
an appreciable scale, although we prematurely boast of a global village. The
lack of basic necessities among the underprivileged all over the world is no
less striking than the lack of morality among the educated privileged ones.
To squarely meet this great challenge, Vivekananda prescribed ‘man-making
and character-building education’.

Vivekananda questions the lack of moral responsibility among the educated

privileged ones .He ask the youth of contemporary India ‘.
“Getting by heart the thoughts of others in a foreign language and stuffing
your brain with them and taking some university degrees, education you
consider yourself educated. Is this education ? What is the goal of your
education ? Either a clerkship, or being a lawyer, or at the most a Deputy
Magistrate, which is another form of clerkship isn't that all ?What good will
it do you or the country at large ?Open your eyes and see what a piteous cry
for food is rising in the land of Bharata, proverbial for its food. Will your
education fulfill this want ?

Vivekananda suggests the youth of India “Only I want that numbers of our
young men should pay a visit to Japan and China every year. Especially to
the Japanese, India is still the dreamland of everything high and good. And
you, what are you? … talking twaddle all your lives, vain talkers, what are
you? Come, see these people, and then go and hide your faces in shame. A
race of dotards, you lose your caste if you come out! Sitting down these
hundreds of years with an ever-increasing load of crystallized superstition on
your heads, for hundreds of years spending all your energy upon discussing
the touchableness or untouchableness of this food or that, with all humanity
crushed out of you by the continuous social tyranny of ages – what are you?
And what are you doing now? … promenading the sea-shores with books in
your hands – repeating undigested stray bits of European brainwork, and the
whole soul bent upon getting a thirty rupee clerkship, or at best becoming a
lawyer – the height of young India’s ambition – and every student with a
whole brood of hungry children cackling at his heels and asking for bread! Is
there not water enough in the sea to drown you, books, gowns, university
diplomas, and all?

According to Swami Vivekananda ,Three things are necessary for great

achievements. First, feel from the heart. What is in the intellect or reason ? It
goes a few Requisites tor steps and there it stops. But through
great achievements: Feeling, the heart comes inspiration. Love opens the
most impossible gates. Feel, therefore, my would-be patriots. Do you feel ?
Do you feel that millions and millions of the descendants of gods and of
sages have become next-door neighbors to brutes ? Do you feel that millions
are starving to-day, and millions have been starving for ages ? Do you feel
that ignorance has come over the land as a dark cloud ? Does it make you
restless ? Does it make you sleepless ? Has it gone into your blood, coursing
through your veins, becoming consonant with your heart-beats ? Has it
made you almost mad ? Are you seized with the one idea of the misery of
ruin, and have you forgotten all about your name, your fame, your wives,
your children, your property, even your own bodies ? Have you done that ?
That is the very first step. You may feel then ; but instead of spending your
energies in frothy talk, have you found any practical solution, to 'the their
miseries, to bring them out of this living death ? Yet that is not all. Have you
got the will to surmount mountain-high obstructions ? If the whole world
stands against you, sword in hand, would you still dare to do what you think
is right? If your wives and children are against you, if all your name dies,
your wealth ,vanishes, would you still stick to it Would you still pursue it
and go on steadily towards your own goal ? As the great king Bhartrihari
says, Let the sages blame or let them praise ; let the Goddess of Fortune
come or let Her go wherever She likes, let death come to-day or let it come
in hundreds of years, he indeed is the steady man who does not move one
inch from the way of truth.' Have you got that steadfastness ? If you have
these three things, each one of you will work miracles.

Let us pray, 'Lead, kindly Light ; a beam will come through the dark, and a
hand will be stretched forth to lead us. Let each one of us pray day and night
for the down-trodden millions of India who are hold fast by poverty, priest
craft and tyranny ; pray day and night for them. I care more to preach to
them than to the high and the rich. I am no metaphysician, no philosopher,
nay, no saint. But I am poor. I love the poor. Who feels for the two hundred
millions of men and women sunken for ever in poverty and ignorance ? Him
I call a mahatman who feels for the poor. Who feels for them ? They cannot
find light or education. Who will bring the light to them who will travel
door to door bringing education to them ? Let these people be your God
think of them, work for them, pray for them incessantly the Lord will show
you the way

Vivekananda suggests the importance and usage of ancient scripture for the
upliftment of down trodden masses of India “My idea is first of all to bring
out the gems of spirituality that are stored up in our books and in the
possession of a few only, hidden Bring the as it were in monasteries and
forests 1 to brine them out ; to brines the reach of all. knowledge out of
them, not only from the hands where it is hidden, but from the still more
inaccessible chest, the language in which it is preserved, the incrustation of
centuries- of Sanskrit words. In one word, I want to make them popular. I
want to bring out these ideas and let them be the common property of all, of
every man in India, whether he knows the Sanskrit language or not. The
great difficulty in the way is the Sanskrit language, this glorious language of
ours, and this difficulty cannot be removed until, if it is possible, the whole
of our nation are good Sanskrit scholars. You will understand the difficulty
when I tell you that I have been studying this language all my life and yet
every new book is new to me. How much more difficult would it then be for
people who never had time to study it thoroughly !

Therefore the ideas must be taught in the language of the people.

Teach the masses in the vernaculars. Give them ideas ; they will get
information, but something more will be necessary. Give them culture.
Until you can give them that, there can be no permanence in the raised
condition of the masses.

At the same time Sanskrit education must go along with it, because the very
sound of Sanskrit words gives a prestige, a power and a strength to the race-
Even lhe great Buddha made one false step when he stopped the Sanskrit
language from being studied by the masses. He wanted rapid and immediate
results ; and translated and preached in the language of the day Pali. That
was grand ; he spoke the language of the people and the people understood
him. It spread the ideas quickly and made them reach far and wide. But
along with that Sanskrit ought to have been spread. Knowledge came, but
prestige was not there. Until you give them that, there will be another caste
created, having the advantage of the Sanskrit language, which will quickly
get above the rest.

There are thousands of single-minded, self-sacrificing sannyasins in our own

country, going from village to village, teaching religion. If some of them can
be organized as teachers of secular things also, they will go from place to
place, from door to door, not only preaching but teaching also. Suppose two
of these men go to a village in the evening with a camera, a globe, some
maps etc., they can teach a great deal of astronomy and geography to the
ignorant. By telling stories about different nations, they can give the poor a
hundred times more information through the ear than they can get in a
lifetime through books. Kindle their knowledge with the help of modern
science. Teach them History, Geography, Science, Literature and .along with
these the profound truths of Religion through these.

Remember that the nation lives in the cottage. Your duty at present is to go
from one part of the country to another, from village to village and make the
people understand that mere sitting about idly won't do any more. Make
them understand their real condition and say,
' O ye Brothers, all arise ! awake ! How much longer would you remain
asleep !' Go and advise them how to improve their own condition and make
them comprehend the sublime truths of the shastras, by presenting them in a
lucid and popular way. Impress upon their minds that they have the .same
right to religion as the Brahmanas. Initiate, even down to the Chandalas, in
these fiery mantras. Also instruct them in simple words about the necessities
of life, and in trade, commerce, agriculture, etc.
Centuries and centuries, a thousand years of crushing tyranny of castes,
kings and foreigners Spiritualize all have taken out all their strength, walks ,
And the first step in gelling strength is to uphold the Upanishads and believe
I -am the Soul', 'Me the sword cannot cut; nor weapons pierce ; me the fire
cannot burn ; me the air cannot dry; I am the Omnipotent. I am the
Omniscient.' These conceptions of the Vedanta must come out from the
forest and the cave, they must come out to work at the bar and the bench, in
the pulpit and in the cottage of the poor man, with the fishermen that are
catching fish and with the students that are studying. They call to every man,
woman and child, whatever their occupation, wherever they may be. How
can the fishermen and all these carry out the ideas of the Upanishads ? The
way has been shown. If the fisherman thinks that he is the spirit, he will be a
better fisherman ; if a student thinks he is the spirit, he will be a better

The one thing that is at the root of all evils in India is the condition of the
poor .Suppose you provide a free school in every village, reach everywhere
still it would do no good, for the me' poverty in India is such that the poor
boys would rather go to help their fathers in the fields or otherwise try to
make a living than come to the school. Now if the mountain does not come
to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain. If the poor boy cannot
come to education, education must go to him .Engrossed in the struggle for
existence, they had not the opportunity for the awakening of knowledge
.They have worked so long like machines and the clever educated section
have taken the substantial part of the fruits of their labor. But times have
changed. The lower classes are gradually awakening to this fact, and making
a united front against this. The upper classes will no longer be able to repress
the lower, try they ever so much. The wellbeing of the higher classes now
lies in helping the lower to get their legitimate rights. Therefore 1 say : set
yourself to the task of spreading education among the masses. Tell them and
make them understand, 'You are our brothers, a part and parcel of our
bodies.' If they receive this sympathy from you, their enthusiasm for work
will be increased a hundredfold.
There have been many changes in the field of education since Swami
Vivekananda passed away one hundred years ago, but not as many changes
as in other areas of society. One such noticeable change in education is that
it is now engaged in preparing human beings for a new type of society, and it
is trying to create a new type of human being for it. Interestingly, Swami
Vivekananda had envisioned a society with a new type of human being in
whom knowledge, action, work and concentration were harmoniously
blended, and he proposed a new type of education for achieving this.

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Sudipa dutta Roy , July 2001

Education In The Vision Of Swami Vivekananda



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