A country is great by the character of its people, not by their number. Are the people honest? Are they intelligent, hard-working, and dutiful Are they prepared to sacrifice self-interest for the sake of others? Can they unite when the country’s freedom is threatened? Are they bold in face of dangers, personal and collective? Are they prepared to give freedom to others as they want freedom for themselves? Indeed, there are many ways of testing a nation’s character If it passes the test it is great.
India’s pride is the great saints and sages she has produced. She may or may not have produced great military leaders, great scientists, artists, litterateurs, and statesmen. If she produced them, people hardly remember them. They, however, remember those who taught them that no material wealth is greater than moral virtues. No price is too high for moral perfection. You command respect when you have that perfection. Even if you are not perfect yet but are determined to be perfect, you command love and respect from others. You may have money, political power, even scholarship but if you neglect developing your moral life you are worthless in the eye of society.
This has been the tradition in India for centuries. Foreign travellers bear this out in unequivocal terms. It is the honesty of the people that they praise most. They also praise their hospitality, high idealism, humility, and wisdom. In other countries, crime and poverty go together. India is one country where this has been more an exception than a rule. Even if people starved they would not steal. As recently as the forties when famine was raging in Bengal, and which eventually took a toll of about three million lives, there was not a single instance in which starving people looted or robbed. This is not cowardice, this is loyalty to the high ideal of honesty they have long cultivated. Curiously enough, the same people faced British bullets in response to Gandhiji’s ‘Quit India’ call.
But what has happened since India attained independence? The national psyche seems to have changed completely. Right has become wrong, wrong has become right. If a ticket less traveller is detected, he does not feel ashamed; he is a hero in the eyes of his fellow-travellers who will unitedly oppose any penalty being realized from him. An over drunk man gets knocked down by a motor car for no fault on the part of the driver. The man may or may not be seriously injured but the driver is dragged out of the car and killed on the spot. The car may also be burnt. Or, take the case of a train that is running late. This may be due to circumstances beyond human control; yet the railway staff, including those not even remotely connected with that particular train, may be harassed, rail stations may be ransacked, and rail property damaged. Mob violence has now become a way of life in India. The same may be said about political murders. A young man, belonging to a rival party, is killed and the incident is glossed over as being a sequel to group rivalry among antisocials. Unfortunately, the police, perhaps under pressure from influential quarters, tries to hush up the matter by giving the same explanation.
But look at the teaching community, guardians of our morals. There are teachers who instead of teaching spend most of their time in the classroom gossiping, if not also propagating their political views among the students of impressionable years. Most teachers are committed to one kind of political ideology or another. They are more concerned about strengthening their ideological base in the institutions in which they work rather than about teaching. This kind of anarchy prevails not merely at the university level but even at the school level.
Even bureaucracy is not exempt from such vices. The police have always been known to be corrupt but they are more corrupt today than they ever were. There is corruption not only among the rank and file but also at the higher levels. But what about those who run the country—the political leaders? There are black sheep even among them.
It is possible to cite more examples to show how people are becoming more and more prone to immorality. Why is this happening? Many will say that it is a global phenomenon. Assuming that it is, why should such a thing happen in India, a country so well-known for its high moral standards? Some blame it on Western films, some on the system of education, population explosion, lack of parental control, politicization of life itself, and so on. There are other facile ways of explaining the situation. But what are we going to do to arrest further erosion of the nation’s moral values?
Every thoughtful person will agree that well- calculated steps must be taken to improve the quality of the country’s human material. All possible measures are being taken to make the country prosperous. While this is welcome, efforts must also be made to make the people morally sound and strong. No society can survive with affluence only, it must also have a strong moral base. Only good can remove evil just as only light can remove darkness. To combat evil forces good forces have to be mobilized. ‘Deluge the country with spiritual thoughts’ Swami Vivekananda had once said. This is what needs to be done to save society from moral decay. A beginning in this direction has been made by creating at this Institute a youth forum designated as The Vivekananda Study Circle. The name is apt because Swami Vivekananda is the symbol of India’s past, present and future. As Tagore remarked, the best way to know India is to know Swami Vivekananda. He traces the roots of India’s culture and also the sources of its sustenance through the centuries. The Study Circle is for young college and university teachers and students who meet twice a month to discuss the country’s problems and their possible solutions by combining modem technology with India’s cherished values. There is now a growing demand that the Study Circle extend its activities outside the institute. This is why for some time past it has been holding youth conferences far and near always at the call of local youth organizations. These conferences have created tremendous enthusiasm as evidenced by the fact that they are largely attended and the greater part of the expenditure, if not the whole of it, that this involves is borne by the local youth. Happily these conferences do not end with mere debates and discussion almost always they are followed by programmers of concrete service to the needy.
As part of this activity of the Vivekananda Study Circle, Literature is published from time to time in the form of booklets in which lofty thoughts culled from different sources irrespective of country and community are presented. The present booklet is one such.
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