Fostering Global Peace – Swami Vivekananda’s Dream
Global Co-operation and peaceful co-existence
through International Trade
2 February 2014
Ramakrishna Mission, Khar, Mumbai
• The subject “Fostering Global Peace- Swami Vivekananda’s dream” chosen for deliberations to celebrate Swamiji’s 150th Birthday is indeed apt and approporiate.
• If one studies and looks at Swamiji’s life attentively, the one thing which strikes us is Swamiji’s global outlook which transcended religions, nationalism and sectarianism.
• Swami Jitatamanandaji in his biography of Swamiji captures this “international / global / universal” aspect of Swamiji very succinctly when he calls Swamiji the “Prophet of Internationalism”. Chapter 10 of this biography is titled “Prophet of Internationalism – Harmony of Nations and Harmony of Religions”
• The concern for Internationalism and a universal / global outlook is seen in Swamiji’s speeches and writings. A few excerpts will give a clear idea of this “
Extract from a letter to his disciples written in 1894 (Reference : Swami Vivekananda – Prophet and Pathfinder by Swami Jitatmananda)
“Everything must be sacrificed, if necessary, for that one sentiment, Universality. Whether I live or die, whether I go back to India or not, remember this specially, that universality – perfect acceptance, not tolerance only – we preach and perform”
Again consider this extract from a speech given in 1897 (Reference : Swami Vivekananda – Prophet and Pathfinder by Swami Jitatmananda)
“It is becoming every day clearer and clearer that the solution of any problem can never be attained on racial, or national or narrow grounds. Every idea has to become broad till it covers the whole of this world, every aspiration must go on increasing till it has engulfed the whole of humanity, nay the whole life within its scope.
……. Problems can no more be solved on national grounds only. They can be only be solved when looked at in the broader light of international grounds. International Organisations, International Combinations, International Laws are the cry of the day. That shows the solidarity”
Swamiji’s message of globalisation / internationalism / Universality was rooted in the Philosophy of Vedanta which stress the presence of the single, indivisible “universal spirit” in all of us irrespective of nationality, religion, caste or creed.
Ramakrishna Mission Centres spread out in all parts of the world are carrying forward Swami’s message of fostering global peace, harmony and understanding.
On a practical plane, Indian spiritual literature emphasises the “Chatur Vidha Purusharthas” – The four aims of a noble life. These are “Dharma’ (Right Conduct), “Artha” (Economic Prosperity), “Kama” (Fulfilment of Desires) and “Moksha” (Spiritual Liberation). Thus in the Indian spiritual framework, Wealth / Economic Prosperity is an integral part of spirituality and not something which conflicts with spirituality. As Chanakya mentions in his Chanakya Sutras “ Dharmasya Moolam Artham” – Root of Doing right is wealth”.
International Trade has a significant contribution to make towards the generation of wealth and consequently alleviating poverty and lifting the standard of living of millions across the globe.
The link between Trade and Political Conflict is well established by history. The trade wars of the 1930s in which countries engaged in competitive devaluations of their currencies and raised trade barriers worsened the great depression and this is now seen to be an important factor leading to the World War II. Likewise, it was trade disputes which lead to the “opium wars” between European Powers and China.
Likewise, in this era when there is a tendency to divide on the basis of nationalistic, religious and sectarian grounds, trade has the potential to serve as a strong binding force in the promotion of mutual self interest and well being.
The WTO Brochure lists out the following ten benefits of an international trading system :
a. The system helps promote peace
b. Disputes are handled constructively
c. Rules make life easier for all
d. Freer trade cuts the costs of living
e. It provides more choice of products and qualities
f. Trade raises incomes
g. Trade stimulates economic growth
h. The basic principles make life more efficient
i. Governments are shielded from lobbying
j. The system encourages good government
To quote from the WTO Brochure
“Peace is partly an outcome of the two most fundamental principles of the trading system which are (1) Helping trade to flow smoothly and (2) providing countries with a constructive and fair outcome of the international co-operation that the system creates and reinforces
Crudely put, sales people are usually reluctant to fight their customers. In other words, if trade flows smoothly and both sides enjoy a healthy commercial relation, political conflict is less likely. What is more, smoothly flowing trade also helps people all over the world become better off. People who are more prosperous and contented are less likely to fight”
Interaction between Jamshedji Tata and Swami Vivekananda
In 1893, in a boat that sailed from Yokohama to Vancouver, two great Indians, one, a monk and the other, an industrialist met for the first time. The monk was Swami Vivekananda, who was to take and interpret to the West, more effectively than anyone else, the religious and philosophical tradition of India. The industrialist was Jamshedji Tata, the father of Indian industry. As they got talking, Vivekananda explained his mission of preaching in the US, the universality of all religions. Jamshedji said he was in search of equipment and technology that would build the steel industry and make India a strong industrial nation. Vivekananda blessed Jamshedji, and remarked “How wonderful it would be if we could combine the scientific and technological achievements of the West with the asceticism and humanism of India!” They never met after that journey. But these words struck a chord in Jamshedji’s heart. Five years later, Jamshedji’s response came in a letter to Vivekananda.
The letter is reproduced below:
Esplanade House, Bombay.
23rd Nov. 1898
Dear Swami Vivekananda,
I trust, you remember me as a fellow- traveller on your voyage from Japan to Chicago
I trust, you remember me as a fellow- traveller on your voyage from Japan to Chicago. I very much recall at this moment your views on the growth of the ascetic spirit in India, and the duty, not of destroying, but of diverting it into useful channels.
I recall these ideas in connection with my scheme of Research Institute of Science for India, of which you have doubtless heard or read. It seems to me that no better use can be made of the ascetic spirit than the establishment of monasteries or residential halls for men dominated by this spirit, where they should live with ordinary decency and devote their lives to the cultivation of sciences –natural and humanistic. I am of opinion that ,if such a crusade in favour of an asceticism of this kind were undertaken by a competent leader, it would greatly help asceticism, science, and the good name of our common country; and I know not who would make a more fitting general of such a campaign than Vivekananda. Do you think you would care to apply yourself to the mission of galvanizing into life our ancient traditions in this respect? Perhaps, you
Perhaps, you had better begin with a fiery pamphlet rousing our people in this matter. I would cheerfully defray all the expenses of publication.”
With kind regards, I am, dear Swami
Vivekananda was busy starting the Ramakrishna Mission and could not accept the offer but he promptly sent his disciple Sister Nivedita who met Jamshedji and his advisor, Mr Padsa. A detailed plan formulated by them was promptly suppressed by the Viceroy, Lord Curzon. However Tatas persevered and continued to work on their plans.