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Building personality: Seven lessons for today's youth from Swami Vivekananda

These quotes from Swami Vivekananda are timeless. For the youth of today these can serve as an anchor and guide.

"Be moral. Be brave. The secret of religion is not in theories but in practice. Read the Gita every day to the best of your ability".  - Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda was a Hindu monk, philosopher and author. He was a disciple of Guru Ramakrishna and has been credited for bringing Hinduism to the world stage. His speech at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago was so powerful and impactful that an American paper described him as "an orator by divine right and undoubtedly the greatest figure at the Parliament". He was born on 12th January and his birthday is celebrated annually in India as National Youth Day. His words inspire us decades after he is gone. His philosophical, religious and practical teachings motivate the youth to lead the nation and take it to great heights.

Defeating negative impressions on mind and thoughts: Building character

Swamiji said, 'Go on doing good, thinking holy thoughts continuously, that is the only way to suppress base impressions...'. By doing so we invoke our inner divinity, squash defeatest thoughts and build character. It is a sin, as per Swamiji, to think of self or someone else as 'weak'. 

Each experience and thought that we have left an impression on our mind. At any point in time, we are a product of the sum of past impressions. Swami Vivekananda says that, that is what is character. If good impressions prevail the character is good; and if angry, hateful, vicious impressions prevail, the character is not good. The character influences future thoughts and actions. 

The power of thoughts

If musical instruments in a room have been tuned alike then when one is struck, the others also vibrate with the same note. That is how our minds work as well. All minds with the same 'tuning' will be affected similarly by an occurrence. The influence of that occurrence on the mind will depend upon the factors like environment and distance but the mind will be open to influence. One indulging in an evil act will be in a certain vibration of mind. All minds of similar vibrations have the possibility of being affected by it. Someone indulging in elevated actions will be in another state of vibrations and will be able to connect with those with similar elevated vibrations. 

The waves of similar tension already present in the atmosphere will attempt to enter our minds. This is why those doing evil keep on doing evil and those who do good continue to do more and more good. This way our actions magnify and multiply with the power of our thoughts. 

I want each one of my children to be a hundred times greater than I could ever be. Every one of you must be great - must, that is my word -  Swami Vivekananda

Mistakes

Swami Vivekananda tells us to keep trying! He emphasised that it is better to fail a thousand times than to lead an inert existence like a wall.  Time is infinite, so do not let failure scare you. You can be successful the next time, the next attempt. Be steady and don't be restless for immediate success.

Self-reliance

This is one of the most empowering messages from Swamiji. 'We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves'. Swami Ji says, "Say, 'This misery that I am suffering is of my own doing, and that very thing proves that it will have to be undone by me alone'". This makes one understand that I can surely destroy what I created. I have all the agency to do so. I will bury the past and the infinite future is within my grasp.

Man making and the goal of education

What is the goal of education? Swamiji said that the 'personality of a person is two-thirds and his intellect/words the balance one-third'. Hence all education and training must be channelled towards strengthening the personality - 'What use is polishing up the outside when there is no inside'? 

My hope for the future lies in the youths of character, intelligence, renouncing all for the service of others, and obedient – good to themselves and the country at large - Swami Vivekananda

On bravery

Once some ships were caught in a cyclone in the South Sea Islands. All except one vessel were wrecked. The men in the ship had been all along cheering those steering their ship through the storm. They did not let fear win and did not blame fate.

Swami Ji says to be like those men. Banish fear and stamp upon it till it dies.

It is the coward and the fools who says, 'This is fate' - so says the Sanskrit proverb. But it is the strong man who stands up and says, 'I will make my fate'. 

On fitness

Mahakavi Kalidasa wrote the following shloka in Kumarasambhavam in the 4th CE: 

शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम् // śarīramādyaṃ khalu dharmasādhanam

- The human body is the first instrument for treading the path of dharma. 

Vivekananda says, be strong and fit. Play football to understand the Gita better. Swami Ji said, 'Bold words, but I have to say them as I love you. I know where the shoe pinches. I have gained a little experience. You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles a little stronger. You will understand the mighty genius and the mighty strength of Krishna better with a little of strong blood in you. You will understand the Upanishads better and the glory of the Atman when your body stands firm upon your feet, and you feel yourselves as men.'

​Swami Vivekananda had faith in one inherent and potential divinity. Faith in God came only after faith in self. For the divine is within each of us.

Read: Why did Swami Vivekananda compare the human personality to a glass globe?



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