Inaugural Address at Chotokhelna Surendra Smriti High School, Maligram, Purba Medinipur
Honorable MLA Dr Manas Ranjan Bhunia, Respected Dignitaries on the Dais, Respected Headmaster Sri Gourishankar Maity, Learned Teachers and dear students:
Before I start, I have two special requests to you students: first, I do not want anyone of you to speak amongst yourselves. I have come all the way from Belur Math. That’s a two and half hour journey one way. I have come to speak to you specially. I have something very specific to tell you all. I do not come here again and again, you see. So I want complete attention from all of you. Secondly, I want all of you to sit straight. Do not slump your back like old men. Sit straight. If you follow these two instructions, I promise I will keep my speech short. If you don’t, I will speak for maybe one or one and half hour! Thanks.
Today, we inaugurated the beautiful Vivekananda Auditorium. You will all be using it from now onwards. Imagine, the next time you have such a program; you will not have to sit like this in the sun. You will all be sitting inside that beautiful auditorium. That is very good.
Whose name does the auditorium bear? Yes, Swami Vivekananda. Who is this man? Who is this Swami Vivekananda? Why is this Auditorium dedicated in his name? He was no freedom fighter. He was no philosopher. He was no scholar. He was neither a scientist. Then why is he revered in this fashion? You find an Auditorium coming up here. Elsewhere you have a school coming up. Somewhere else, there is a college. Yet in another place, there is a University. All dedicated to Swami Vivekananda. What was so special in him that everyone, everywhere wants his name to be associated with their work? Let me tell you a story.
A man once wanted to purchase a talking bird, something like a parrot. He went to a pet shop. The shop owner showed him a bird and said, ‘This bird costs Rs. 25,000.’
“What! That much! Why?”
“Well, Sir, this bird can talk and operate a laptop computer. But, look at that bird over there. It costs you Rs. 50,000.”
“Good Lord! Rs. 50,000?!”
“Yes. It can talk, operate a laptop and can program in C++. But, do you see that bird in the corner over there? Well, that costs you Rs. 1 lakh.”
“Don’t tell me! What does it do?”
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know what it does. But these two birds call him ‘Boss’.”
Similar is the case with Swami Vivekananda. It is difficult to say what his specialty is. But, this much is true. The top people of every field call him their ‘Guru’. Take Netaji Subhash Bose, Gandhiji or Aurobindo Ghosh. These are some of our greatest freedom fighters. They all revered him as their Guru. Consider Sir J C Bose or S N Bose or Nikola Tesla. These great scientists of India and abroad consider him to be their Guru. President Sukarno of Indonesia, our Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi, Narendra Modi, etc. all consider him their Guru.
Swamiji said some extremely important things for you all, especially students. He had the greatest hope in you all. He used to say, “My hope is in you, the youth of India.” He also used to say to students like you, “On your work depends the coming of the India of the future.” Look at this statement. On our work depends the formation of the future India; how is that? Are we up to the mark? Are we on the right track? Just a little while ago, I saw that your teacher had to shout repeatedly over the microphone for you all to sit down and be quiet. Why did he have to repeat it? Is it his personal program? If you had felt that this program was yours too, that you too were an integral part of this school, would he have had to repeat his instruction?
I will tell you in a nutshell what Swami Vivekananda expected out of you all. He has said many things. But today, I will tell you a single statement of his, which, if you memorize, and put to action, will influence you all your life. A single statement of Swamiji. He once said, “What India needs is Western science coupled with Vedanta, with Brahmacharya as the guiding motto, and Shraddha or faith in oneself.” Repeat this statement after me. What are the four things Swamiji asks us to do? Get acquainted with Western Science. Good. Then, along with that, we must not become atheists, materialists, nihilists, or communists. We must have Vedanta. We must have our religion. You will get sufficient Western science from your school and college. That is enough. Being born in India, you will automatically get enough and more religion too. But, you must temper it with the wonderful, catholic ideas of Vedanta. Keep it in mind as something you need to do in your free time. Get acquainted with the broad ideas of Vedanta. Your conception of religion will then not become fanatical or intolerant towards others. Then there are two words he uses – Brahmacharya and Shraddha. What do these mean? I wish to spend some time on these two words.
Brahmacharya is not meant only for monks. Everyone, every student must know how to practice Brahmacharya. What does that word mean? It simply means ‘self-control’. Have you heard of the famous ‘Marshmallow Experiment’? In the 1960s, a scientist from Stanford University took some small kids and did an experiment. He took one child at a time and kept him in a room. He placed a small sweet in front of the child and said, “Look here. There is a sweet in front of you. I will be gone for about ten minutes. If you eat that sweet when I am gone, you will get nothing. If you wait till I return, then I will give you one more piece along with this.” He did this with many kids. Each case was video recorded. Some kids didn’t even wait for him to leave the room. They just gobbled up the sweet then and there. Some kids waited patiently for his return. Some displayed great conflict. ‘Will he return at all? What if he doesn’t? Will I lose even this one in my greed for another piece? What if he is a cheat? What if he does return and doesn’t keep his word?’ this man then studied the way these kids’ future unfolded over the next fifteen years. It is amazing – what he discovered. He found out that the kids that had displayed self-control and had waited for his return, all ended up as great achievers – some became senators, doctors, etc. All had sufficient higher education. All were earning a huge income. All the kids that were impulsive ended up as losers in adult life. This self-control is what Swamiji means by Brahmacharya. You are unable to sit without shaking your hands and legs for even 10 minutes. Tomorrow you will become a doctor. You expect me to get operated by you? Why, your hands could start shaking when you are trying to cut me open!
Then there is one more word – Shraddha. ‘If one man could do it, why can’t I?’ This idea is Shraddha. ‘I have done my duty. Now the result will come.’ This faith in oneself, in one’s own actions, is called Shraddha. Listen to a story. Once there was a great famine. It hadn’t rained for a long time. The village elders decided to conduct a grand Yajna to appease to rain god. Every person in the village was to participate in that yajna. In one house, the father started from his house along with his family to go to the site of the Yajna. He found that his little son ran back into the house. When he came back, he asked him why he had gone back. The little boy replied, “I went back to get an umbrella. I didn’t want to get wet in the rain.” See? That is Shraddha. The little boy believed that the Yajna would bear fruit. We all study. Then we complain that we do not remember what we read. Why is this? We lack Shraddha in our own studies. When we develop Shraddha, our life becomes interesting.
Remember these few points. You are all local boys and girls of this place. All your life, you will keep coming to this place. Each time you see this building, you will be reminded of its name ‘Vivekananda Auditorium’. Each time, you recall that name ‘Vivekananda’, you will recall this statement of Swamiji. “What India needs is Western science coupled with Vedanta, with Brahmacharya as the guiding motto, and Shraddha or faith in oneself.”
I pray to Thakur, Maa and Swamiji that each one of you grows up to be a great individual. With this prayer, I end my speech.
Did I not keep my word? I thank you all for keeping silent and listening to what I had to say. Remember, when your school program happens and guests come, these guests will be keenly observing you. Look at your Headmaster, Sri Gourishankar Maity. Not just his words, his entire body language exhibits humility. But, I am not going to judge your school by looking at him. I look at you all. I will judge your school’s quality by looking at you students. Similarly with all other guests who will come to this school. They will judge the quality of your school by observing you, your behavior, your demeanor. So, it is essential that you regulate your behavior in such a way as to impress the guests. That is what will grow tomorrow as national consciousness. Your relationship with your school today will flower into your relationship tomorrow with the entire nation. I once again pray to Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sharada Devi and Swami Vivekananda that they guide you all in your life.
Om Shantih, shanthih, shantihi.