Swami Vivekananda & Organization

“Why is it that organization is so powerful? Do not say organization is material. Why is it, to take a case in point, that forty millions of Englishmen rule three hundred millions of people here? What is the psychological explanation? These forty millions put their wills together and that means infinite power, and you three hundred millions have a will each separate from the other. Therefore to make a great future India, the whole secret lies in organization, accumulation of power, co-ordination of wills.”

 I begin by quoting this passage from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. This passage appears in his lecture ‘Future of India’ delivered by the great Swami in Chennai on 14th Feb 1897.

We see a few interesting points in the above passage:

The first thing to note is that here we have a spiritual giant of the stature of Swami Vivekananda discussing such a mundane idea as making a nation great! Isn’t that the job of politicians and diplomats? Isn’t that the job of the leaders of political parties? Isn’t that the job of leaders who have legislative power? Should a monk speak or think on these issues?

The second thing to note is – Swamiji says that the forty millions of Englishmen put their wills together. Did they, really? If so, how and why? Does history mention any such development where the forty million Englishmen of the 19th century came together and decided that they would put their wills together? None of the history books mentions such a development. Why is Swamiji mentioning this here?

The third thing to note is – Swamiji says here ‘Do not say organization is material’. Who said organization is material? Most of us don’t even know what organization means! Some of us perhaps think that organization means corporations, consisting of profit-minded executives; some perhaps even think that it refers to groups of people who come together for a particular cause, such as the organization for blacks’ rights, or organization for the economically deprived. Even if we do understand this word to mean something like that, who amongst us ever felt that organization is ‘material’?

The fourth thing to note is – in order to become a great nation, India needs to do only one thing! There is no need to do many things. Only one thing is necessary, says Swamiji. And that is – ‘Coordinate the wills of the Indians’.

Let us deal with each of these points one by one.

Why is a spiritual man, a monk, and that too, one of the stature of Swami Vivekananda, talking about the future of a nation, about making India great, about organization? Shouldn’t a monk confine himself to spiritual practices, to scriptural study, to rituals and spiritual ministration? Isn’t it wrong for a monk to deal with ideas such as those mentioned in this passage?

Well, traditionally, monks have dealt with such issues. Our country has had a marvelous history.[1] The social power structure has always been managed by the two upper castes – the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas. Between them, they ruled the people of this country. When the Kshatriyas lost touch with the ground reality and became too dictatorial, the Brahmins overthrew the Kshatriyas and took power into their hands. Same thing happened when the Brahmins lost touch with the ground reality and became arrogantly powerful and oppressed the people whom they ruled. It is because of this dipole power structure in India from ancient times that class struggle (so fondly studied by the Communist historians) never arose here.

Over and above the four castes of this unique social structure, there was one more group of people who outlawed themselves from this four-caste structure and stayed outside the society. They were the monks. This group of people were quite objective in their perceptions of society and were sensitive to the tilts in the power balance of the ancient Indian society. Since the monks were self-declared outlaws, they did not need patronage from anyone, neither the Brahmins nor the Kshatriyas. They would boldly point out the flaws in their functioning and warn them to correct themselves or get ready for an upheaval and overthrowing from power. Moreover, since monks themselves were not beneficiaries in the resulting social change, their observations and advices carried a great moral value. Repeatedly, this happened in Indian history. However, the unwritten norm of the Hindu monks has been that the monk could at most point out the flaw and then hands off! The monk would not engage in actually re-structuring the power equations in society. From time immemorial, it was considered one of the activities assigned to monks to point out the corrective measures that society needed to get back on track; and it was simultaneously considered anathema for monks to directly get involved in engaging in the political activities required for bringing about the prescribed social changes.

This is what we see Swamiji do here. He was able to see why Indians lived as slaves to a foreign power. He was able to see why a foreign power was able to enslave the Indians and rule over them. He was able to see how Indians could break themselves from the shackles of such foreign domination. But, he wouldn’t involve himself directly in any political activity required for breaking India free from foreign rule. He however delineated what was required for Indians to become a great nation, which included obtaining political freedom, educational self-reliance and economic superiority in the comity of nations. If we were concerned about our country’s future, we would heed these words of Swamiji and work as directed by him.

Swamiji says that the forty millions of Englishmen put their wills together. Did they, really?

The rise of the Joint Stock Companies in Europe, especially in Britain was a watershed event in the history of mankind. This event fueled the Industrial Revolution as much as the scientific discoveries did, if not more. Man knew a particular type of production until then. Production activity was largely localized. And it was confined to a small group of people who held the technical knowhow as a safely guarded secret. All of a sudden, the British were engaged in a new type of production that required enormous coordination of the activities of an enormous number of people across enormous physical distances. For instance, a large number of people were engaged in one part of the world in growing cotton. Once they had grown the cotton, it was all collected by another large group of people and transported across oceans to huge mills situated in some other part of the globe. Yet another large group of people ran these huge mills. They worked day and night to manufacture standardized cotton threads. These threads were then collected by yet another large group of people who were engaged in manufacturing clothes out of those yarns. One more large group of people then transported those clothes all over the world and handed them over to a different large of people who then sold them to end-users.

This was the main reason behind the rise of the organization in Britain. The cause was economic in nature. More and more number of people joined together in a particular enterprise. Large amounts of money and resources were pooled in. Huge amounts of things were manufactured in a short time. And the things thus manufactured were more often than not, very complex. As long as man confined himself to the old style of manufacturing, all he could produce was a bullock cart, or a horse drawn carriage. Once large number of people came together, as they did in Britain, man was able to produce a motor car. It is impossible to produce a modern motor car in the old style of production.

Whatever be the reason, the British had found out a way to get a large number of people to come together, pool in their money, resources and effort, and consequently multiply their individual strengths while cancelling out their individual weaknesses. This strange form of community activity was later on given the term organization. Thus, the root of the modern organization, as we know it today, is purely economic, purely material.

The point that Swamiji is trying to make here is – granted that the western world’s organization has purely materialistic roots, but, once an organization has been formed, it no longer remains a purely materialistic entity. Why is that so? The objectives of forming an organization may be to earn money, to wage wars and kill people and to conquer new regions. But what exactly is an organization? Is any motley group of people called an organization? If a group of people is to be considered an organization, there are certain important criteria. First, there has to be a group of people, who, amongst them have a wide variety of skills, talents, experiences and abilities. This allows for division of labor amongst them. Secondly, they have jointly agreed upon a common goal, or a common set of goals to be achieved. Thirdly, all of them pool in their resources, energies and time to work together in order to achieve those commonly set goals. Fourthly, their attitudes and behaviors are conditioned by commonly accepted norms. And lastly, all of them recognize that the group has an existence of its own, just as all of the individual members have an existence independent of one another. In other words, the group is considered as a living entity, just as the individual members are. And this existence is recognized in all the individual and collective activities and decisions of the group. These criteria show one very important characteristic: the existence of the organization, therefore, is not temporal. The existence of organization is in the minds of the members. The more the individuals get identified with this mental construct, the stronger that organization becomes. The individual members pour in their life-force into the sustenance and growth of this organization. That organization now develops a life of its own, as it were. It develops individuality, as it were. Long story short, it comes into existence. All that exists has Spirit as its basis. Hence, Swamiji says that we shouldn’t write off organizations as inconsequential by thinking it is a mere material entity.

These ideas that we have explored till now in this article lead to a wonderful theory, which have enormous ramifications on our actions and on our lives. Let us try to analyze that briefly:

Swamiji said to Sister Nivedita once[2], “That is precisely my position about Brahman and the gods! I believe in Brahman and the gods, and not in anything else!”…. You see, I cannot but believe that there is somewhere a great Power that thinks of Herself as feminine, and called Kali, and Mother. And I believe in Brahman too …But is it not always like that? Is it not the multitude of cells in the body that make up the personality, the many brain-centers, not the one, that produce consciousness?… Unity in complexity! Just so! And why should it be different with Brahman? It is Brahman. It is the One. And yet and yet it is the gods too!” Elsewhere he makes a significant statement about God: “….the only God that exists, the only God I believe in, the sum total of all souls[3]” It seems fairly clear to us now that Swamiji saw God as the sum-total of souls, apart from subscribing to the Impersonal aspect. When we extend this idea to an organization, we find that when a group of people come together, putting in their wills together for a common goal, no matter how trivial or mundane that goal be, in effect, there is a spiritual entity, a god, that is created!

This is a very powerful idea.

Our actions here have a repercussion on the spiritual realm! It has always been believed to be the other way around. It has always been held that some entities somewhere in an unapproachable spiritual realm decides that something should occur on earth, in our lives, and then we human beings act out that decision of the gods. This has been the commonly held belief. When we combine these three ideas of Swamiji – first, that organization is a spiritual entity; second, Reality is Personal as well as Impersonal; third, Personal God is the sum total of souls; – we arrive at a totally different conception of human actions. Gods may or may not influence our actions. But it is of much greater importance for us that our actions here influence the spiritual realm! By our actions, we can create new spiritual entities. If we decide to get together and combine our wills, we give rise to a new god! And that god needs to be worshipped. How? By our actions, again. Take an organization such as a factory. The moment you consider yourself a part of that organization, you are in the presence of a new god, the spiritual entity associated with that organization. You will need to worship that new god. Since this new god has a strange form, unlike a stone image, consisting of buildings and machinery and people and processes, your worship will have to be in consonance with this new form. Your so-called ‘work’ in that factory will be nothing but worship that the new god demands.

Some readers may object to the line of thought presented here, saying, I am blowing a simple idea of Swamiji out of all proportions. To answer such objections, let me quote one amazing statement of Swamiji: “Now we have a new India, with its new God, new religion, and new Vedas.[4]

This brings us to the fourth point: What India needs for a bright and strong future is just this – organization. People living in the geographical confines of India should feel identified with India. That is one organization Swamiji definitely wanted to take shape. All through history, people have populated this particular geographical region but have seldom felt identified with it as a Nation. Our identity has all along been to the religious and cultural mores of the sub-regions rather than to the abstract concept of a Nation.

The historic struggle for freedom from the British Rule in the early 20th century saw the development of national sense in us. The post-independence period in India however has done little to ensure that this national sense grows in the coming generations. The national sense grows along various lines in different cultures. The Civic sense is the basis in most western countries. In India, we do not see much hope along that line. A poor nation, habituated to hunger and squalor cannot be expected to appreciate the civic sense to any decent degree. Our hope lies in spiritualizing the abstract concept of the Nation. Swamiji makes a significant observation in a letter as follows: “But, excuse me if I say that it is sheer ignorance and want of proper understanding to think like that, namely, that our national ideal has been a mistake. First go to other countries and study carefully their manners and conditions with your own eyes – not with others’ – and reflect on them with a thoughtful brain, if you have it: then read your own scriptures, your ancient literature, travel throughout India, and mark the people of her different parts and their ways and habits with the wide-awake eye of an intelligent and keen observer – not with a fool’s eye – and you will see as clear as noonday that the nation is still living intact and its life is surely pulsating. You will find there also that, hidden under the ashes of apparent death, the fire of our national life is yet smoldering and that the life of this nation is religion, its language religion, and its idea religion; and your politics, society, municipality, plague-prevention work, and famine-relief work – all these things will be done as they have been done all along here, viz. only through religion; otherwise all your frantic yelling and bewailing will end in nothing, my friend![5]

India is a living goddess and She demands our worship. Won’t we respond? Extrapolating this idea further, every sub-structure within the nation is also a goddess (or a god, if you will). Every organization constituting the national economy is a living goddess. Let us worship these goddesses with the appropriate form of rituals. While a stone or marble image of a goddess called for the ritualistic dashopachara or shodashopachara puja, these new goddesses call for meaningful, systematic labor of our hands, heads and hearts. Let us please these modern goddesses, which are organizations, and allow our Nation to reach great heights of economic and social development simultaneously achieving our own spiritual unfoldment, ‘Atmano moksha jagaddhitashcha’.

***************

[1] Cf: Complete works of Swami Vivekananda: Vol-4: Modern India: An essay written for Udbodhan magazine, wherein Swami Vivekananda delineates this history in a masterly fashion, giving ample evidences from Indian history.

[2] Cf: Complete works of Sister Nivedita: Vol-1: Master as I saw him: Ramakrishna Sarada Mission, Kolkata: 1967: pg-118

[3] We can recall here the fact that Sri Ramakrishna used to go into Bhava Samadhi whenever he saw a gathering of people assembled for singing the praises of the Lord. Could it be that he perceived a vision in those cases, the vision of the spiritual entity corresponding to that group? See for instance, Cf: Sri Ramakrishna & His divine play: Swami Saradananda: Vedanta Society of St. Louis: 2003: pg 235 & pg 858.

[4] Cf: Complete works of Swami Vivekananda: Vol-7: Epistles: Letter No. XXXII, dated 27th April, 1896, written from Reading, USA to his brother disciples at Alambazar Math

[5] Cf: Complete works of Swami Vivekananda: Vol-5: Writings: Prose and Poems: The East And The West (Translated from Bengali) Chapter-I: Introduction

 

A Blue-print for Academic Improvement in Arunachal Pradesh (As sought for by the Director of School Education)

Based on the lessons learnt in the last four and a half decades in Ramakrishna Mission School, Aalo (Along), West Siang District, we present a dissertation on improving academic education in Arunachal Pradesh.

 

Aim of Education:

By imparting education to the Arunachali child, we wish to achieve the following:

  1. Integration of the child with the Indian Nation.
  2. Empowering the child with sufficient skills to participate meaningfully in the Governmental machinery & social set-up.
  3. Acclimatizing the child with the basic concepts of language (at least three), science, mathematics and history, required for making sense of the natural and social phenomena occurring around him/her.
  4. Developing in the child a faculty to express its thoughts, feelings and emotions in terms of words, both spoken & written.
  5. Awakening in the child a sense of wonder, a faculty for searching for truth and a faculty of aesthetics.
  6. Enabling the child to become a part of a team in a meaningful way.
  7. Spontaneously developing in the child a capacity for delayed gratification of various hungers – in other words, sublimation of the various natural urges in the child.
  8. Enabling the child to acquire a valid certificate from the Board by passing the prescribed examination procedures, thereby creating a sound base for its further education in a university.

 

The ideas associated with academic improvement can be classified under two headings – Academia & Discipline.

 

Academia:

  1. Syllabus & plan for its completion: Since the School will have to be affiliated to any one of the recognized Boards, such as CBSE, New Delhi or Arun Board, Itanagar, there is no flexibility or freedom in framing the syllabus, as such. But regarding completion of the syllabus, the School can plan in great detail, much to the greater benefit of the students. The completion of syllabus must be evenly phased out through out the working year so that the load on the student is even. Especially for the Board Exam classes such as Class VIII, Class X & Class XII, the entire syllabus must be completed by December, so that the student gets sufficient time for self-study and repeated revisions.

 

  1. Exams & tests: At least three exams must be conducted before deciding whether the child can be sent to the next higher class. The syllabus for the 1st Part Exam need not be repeated for the 2nd part exam and so also for the 3rd and final part exam. This will reduce the load on the child as well as give the child sufficient scope to dive deep into the syllabus meant for that particular semester. Monthly Tests must be held, especially in English, Math and Science. This will keep the child always in touch with the subjects. Else, the typical Arunachali child has the habit of studying only during the exam period, which could be academically detrimental for its intellectual growth.

 

 

  1. Hostel life versus Day scholarship: In the general situation prevailing in the Arunachali society now-a-days, the child may often not get a congenial study atmosphere at home. A strictly run hostel, however, provides wonderful opportunities for study culture in the child. By the time a child enters a hostel at the age of 5 years, he/she must have learnt to control its bowel movements. By the time it crosses the age of 10, it should have learnt to sit continuously at one place for at least 2 hours at a stretch. Without this training, study habit cannot be formed. By the age of 13, it should be introduced to the moral training of restraining its limbs and senses. A hostel environment is ideal for achieving these.

 

  1. Unisex schooling versus co-educational schooling: It is heartening to note that the Arunachali society has inbuilt systems for meaningful and healthy interaction between boys and girls, right from babyhood. Unisex schooling could upset this advantage. Thus, even where hostels are provided, it would be socially beneficial to have both boys and girls in the school.

 

  1. Role of games, sports & PT: The Arunachali child has an instinctual ability for team work. Hence these children excel in team sports like football, handball, volleyball and cricket. However, there is a need to popularize games that enhance mental abilities such as chess, sudoku, crossword and scrabble. A hostel environment is ideal for this. The natural litheness and suppleness of the Arunachali child’s body makes it ideal for acrobatic games such as gymnastics. Hence the school must have a gymnastics teacher. Every child must be given physical training instruction through drills and exercises in the morning. This helps the child to regulate its limb movements.

 

  1. Role of co-curricula: Children have tremendous energy. And the Arunachali child seems to be especially so endowed. Various opportunities must be provided by the school for canalizing this energy in meaningful ways. NCC, Social service, scouts & guides, and band training must be provided for the extroverted child. Depending on the child’s preference, it can opt for any one of these from Class VI. Painting, clay modeling, Crafts and origami training must be available for the aesthetically oriented child. Quiz groups, debate groups, study circles and philately clubs must be available in the school for the intellectual child.

 

  1. Role of art: Compulsory training in line drawing and color drawing must be given in the school right from KG up to at least Class VIII. After Class V, however, the specially endowed children must be identified and given further training in advanced forms of drawing and painting such as landscaping, perspective drawing and abstract art. Structured music must be taught to the child. Every Arunachali child today grows up being able to sing only contemporary songs of the cinema and music bands. This however does nothing to infuse culture in the child. Structured music, on the other hand, strengthens the personality of the child. The child that is unable to sing classical music must at least be taught to appreciate it. Avenues must be available for the child to learn to play some musical instruments like the harmonium, tabla, flute, guitar and the mouth organ. It is very strange that this land of bamboos does not have flautists. Girls must be taught structured dances of various cultures, apart from traditional tribal dance forms. This will result in infusion of cultures later on in the Arunachali society. The innate ability of the Arunachali child to draw, paint, sing and dance is something unparalleled in the world. This ability has not drawn the world’s attention purely because there is still no systematic training being imparted to the Arunachali child in these fields.

 

  1. Need of the Library & reading room: The child must be exposed to the world of books. By the time a child passes class VIII, he/she must have developed a habit of spending at least a solitary hour with a book, speaking to the author through its contents. Awakening a love of reading in the child is one of the great achievements of the school.

 

  1. Need of computer education: Compulsory computer education must be imparted to the child at least from class V onwards. By the time a child passes class VIII, he/she must be conversant with working on MS office and browsing the worldwide web.

 

  1. Instruments for developing National Consciousness: By the time a child passes class VIII, he/she must have a clear identification with the State and the Country. National pride in every child is the greatest security that the nation can have. Special assemblies on Martyrs’ Day, Sadbhavana Divas, etc must be conducted by the school. Processions and Prabhat Pheris must be organized by the School and the children must be encouraged to participate in them at least once a year. Children must be guided to prepare wall magazines on topics related to Indian Nationalist movement, Nationalist leaders and issues concerning the nation presently.

 

  1. Instruments for developing Time Consciousness: the primary instrument is the Morning Assembly. Every child must be encouraged to attend it. The Assembly must be meaningfully structured and must be short. Other instruments include a strict time keeper in the school and hostel. Every day, he shall ring the bell at the stipulated hours, and this must be adhered to at any cost. The child who learns to stick to the routine by the clock during its school days will develop healthy work habits later on in life.

 

Discipline:

  1. Discipline defined: As we have noted in Sl.No. 3 under ‘Academia’ supra, by the time a child enters a hostel at the age of 5 years, he/she must have learnt to control its bowel movements. Without this habit, the child won’t have a healthy psychological growth. By the time it crosses the age of 10, it should have learnt to sit continuously at one place for at least 2 hours at a stretch. Without this training, study habit cannot be formed. By the age of 13, it should be introduced to the moral training of restraining its limbs and senses. Thus discipline means training of the sensory and motor organs.

 

  1. Instruments for disciplining the child:
    1. Dressing: Uniform must be worn. And that too in a particular fashion only. Hairstyle and footwear must not be allowed to deviate beyond a permissible limit.
    2. Routine: every child must stick to the routine as maintained by the school and hostel time keeper.
    3. Attendance: the child cannot be allowed to be absent from school or hostel without notice.
    4. Punishments for deviations from the norm:
  1. The norms must be clearly spelt out for the child again and again, and from time to time.
  2. The punishment for deviation from the norm must be aimed at the conscience of the child and not at its ego or self-esteem. Quite often, we hurt the self-esteem of the child while punishing him/her and this is counter-productive in the long run. We only end up creating imbalanced individuals by doing so.
  • Corporal punishment must be avoided at every cost, even for small children of the KG and primary classes.
  1. While punishing adolescent children, special care must be taken to safeguard their self-esteem and image in the student-society.

 

  1. Counseling: Children everywhere need counseling. And the Arunachali child needs it all the more. We say this because the Arunachali child starts asserting its individuality much earlier than children in most other parts of India. So the teachers need to enter into quasi-parental relationships with the child and teach the child what right behavior is & what prohibited behavior is.

 

  1. Factors to be considered while disciplining the child:
    1. All too often, disciplining the child tends to be negative. The child is taught ‘Don’t tell lies’. But the child is not taught how not to tell a lie. More importantly, the child gets punished if it tells the truth in most cases. Whatever be the case, whatever be the actual event or situation, when the child speaks the truth, it must be rewarded. That is the only way of establishing discipline and reinforcing discipline in the child. In this regard, teachers need to be specially trained in handling Arunachali children.
    2. The present system of education depends largely on strict parental control over the child’s mind and its behavior. The Arunachali social set-up frees the child from parental control by the time the child reaches the age of 12, especially for boys, as we have seen. Unless this system is altered, and parental control remains until the child finishes its university education, there seems to be hardly any way in which the present system of education can benefit Arunachali society. In this regard, the school aught to form a Parent-Teachers Association and discuss this matter seriously between themselves.
    3. Since parental control relaxes itself too early in the child’s life, the Arunachali child forms very strong peer relationships. But peer relationships can never provide a moral standard for the child. At the same time, no peer relationship must be forcibly broken by either teachers or parents. Forcible isolation of the child from its peer circle is counter-productive. Again, counseling by the teachers, who have to double-up as quasi-parents, and strengthening of parental control over the child alone can remedy the situation and provide the child with a solid moral rudder for forming its personality.
    4. Children learn by imitation. Hence our behavior while children are around must be highly regulated. For instance, it won’t work if we are impulsive and blow our top for every small reason and then expect the child to be calm and composed. Children seldom listen to our words. Rather they study our actions and then follow suit. If a child does not show respect to elders, we can be sure that he/she has seen some of us behaving disrespectfully towards those persons. If a child does not show sympathy and consideration towards other children, we can be sure that we have not set examples of sympathy & fellow-consideration in the vicinity of the child. It is impossible to invoke moral behavior in the child while we exhibit corrupt practices ourselves.
    5. Consumption of intoxicants among adolescents in Arunachal Pradesh must be given serious thought by both teachers and parents. Children are too susceptible for addictions. The Arunachali society, which is undergoing a transition, must urgently bring in certain checks & measures to prevent sale of intoxicants to minors. Teachers must regularly explain to the child the terrible consequences of substance abuse on the tender organs of the growing child.

 

Sympathetic teachers-Arunachal’s need of the hour:

True education boils down to presenting persons of high character, in the form of teachers, before the child during its schooling period. Especially for the Arunachali child, we need teachers, who can truly sympathize with the child, because the Arunachali child is typically very sensitive and has a soul of great plasticity. It is easy to find teachers who are stentorian and strict disciplinarians, whose stickler attitudes stifle the child rather than allowing it to blossom. But persons who can empathize with the child are needed in large numbers, and they are needed urgently; and once we get such persons, they must be encouraged to stick around.

This is a land of great potential in terms of human resources. Great potential also means greater responsibility in nurturing it and harnessing it.

We pray to the Lord Almighty that this immense potential finds its fullest manifestation.

 

(Swami Vedatitananda)

Principal

Academic improvement dissertation for DSE