There are so many negative events happening in the country that even a hardcore optimist is likely to lose faith that our country can achieve greatness. The situation over the last 100 years has been a very challenging one for India. From our freedom struggle to getting Independence, giving ourselves a Constitution and becoming a Republic – all have been major events in the life of our country. Recent issues like corruption, political polarization, cultural confusion, lack of leadership at all levels, rapid globalization, privatization and increasing poverty are other challenges that the country is now grappling with. Is there any light visible at the end of the tunnel? Can any country surmount these kinds of problems and grow and thrive and provide a reasonable future for itself and its citizens? One wonders how Swami Vivekananda would have looked at our societal problems of today and thought through solutions for them. In one context talking about the role religion played in a new system of society, he had said “The basis of all systems, social or political, rests upon the goodness of men. No nation is great or good because Parliament enacts this or that, but because its men are great and good. Christ saw that the basis is not law, that morality and purity are the only strength. Your spirituality, in a sense will have to form the basis of the new order of society.”

Swami Vivekananda believed in the essential goodness of the human spirit and he saw this to be the platform on which National reconstruction rested. Whether it is the Lokpal Act to fight corruption or the growing clout of financial forces due to raising consumerism, Swamiji saw a value-based leadership built on spiritual foundations as a means of overcoming these dangers. He had remarked, “In our sight, here in India, there are several dangers. Of these, the two, rank materialism and its opposite arrant superstition, must be avoided.” He often cited Japan as an example where such leadership made the Nation great. He said, “The faith of the Japanese in themselves, and their love for their country is what makes them great. When you have men who are ready to sacrifice their everything for their country, sincere to the backbone – when such men arise, India will become great in every respect. It is the men that make the country! If you catch the social morality and the political morality of the Japanese, you will be as great as they are. They Japanese are ready to sacrifice their everything for their country, and they have become a great people. The Japanese don’t talk, they act. There are noblemen now living in Japan as peasants, having given up their princedoms without a word to create the unity of the empire. There in Japan, you find a fine assimilation of knowledge, and not its indigestion, as we have here. They have taken everything from the Europeans, but they remain Japanese all the same, and have not turned European; while in our country, the terrible mania of becoming westernized has seized upon us like a plague. I wish that every one of our young men could visit Japan once at least in his lifetime.”

While many things have changed since Swamiji’s lifetime both there and in India, it is indeed true that a great Nation can emanate only from the people living in that country. And true greatness is not doing great or heroic acts, but living an ethical, value-based life with faith in oneself and in the goodness of man, coupled with the ability to sacrifice personal interest for the larger National interest.

Kannada version in Prajavani (06-Dec-12)