Home > Keynote Address by President, ICCR-Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe



Keynote Address by President, ICCR-Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe

(14 August 2018)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s a matter of great pleasure to be here in Beijing when the well-established cultural centre of ICCR here is now taking a new avatar and presenting itself with a new identity as Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre. On the one hand, this Hindu Monk in saffron robes, was an epitome of spirituality, traditions and heritage, on the other hand he was also an equally articulate ambassador of rationality and modernity. Swami Vivekananda rightly represented all that goes with the identity of India. In that sense, he becomes the symbol of the idea of India and hence naming this cultural centre after him is an appropriate step towards enhancing an enlightened understanding of India, Indian society and India’s worldview today.

2. There are at least three important characteristics of the greatness of Swami Vivekananda. Firstly, although essentially a spiritual leader, he abhorred irrelevant rituals and obsolete practises. Secondly, he emphatically and repeatedly urged the established sections of the society to come forward and serve the cause of helping the less fortunate, the underprivileged, marginalised and the vulnerable sections of the society. In that sense, the core of his philosophical approach was essentially humanitarian. He very successfully repackaged the message of a number of Saints and spiritual leaders of different sects in India while stressing the need for basic human sensitivity towards the deprived and dispossessed. Thirdly, through his very powerful message more than hundred years before, he tried to restore a robust sense of purpose in the lives of fellow countrymen while trying also to instill a sense of urgency.

3. However, internationally the most important contribution of Swami ji was awakening the world to the basic ingredient of the idea of India, which is World is a family or VasudhaivaKutumbakam. “Brothers and Sisters,” the two powerful terms that he used while referring the audience sitting before him at the World Congress of Religions in Chicago exactly 125 years before, had an electrifying impact. In just two simple terms he not only established a great connect with each one and everyone in the audience, but also conveyed the message of Spiritual Democracy that goes with the idea of India. India has always stood for a not just a receptive and accommodative approach towards all belief systems but also been a votary of deeply respecting every other faith as equally legitimate and recognized. It was not for no reason that a monk who represented India and Hinduism started his speech with brothers and sisters. These powerful words manifested India’s approach of rejecting monopolistic and hegemonist approach. Right at the entry point of the upper house of Indian Parliament, there is an inscription in Sanskrit which says ekam sat, viprahbahudavadanti. It means that the God is one but learned persons refer to it in many ways.

4. ICCR’s Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre will work towards creating an enlightened understanding about the idea of India through multiple activities, programmes and projects.

5. The focus obviously will be on ensuring that the general perception about India and Indians evolves along the lines of the array of our civilisational values. These values include —

a. our spiritual democracy,

b. the diversity of our lifestyles underscoring the essential oneness of our people

c. Gandhian philosophy of Antyodaya, making the most deprived as the most deserved for fruits of development,

d. the element of harmony of Human life with Mother Nature as inherent to our worldview and above all

e. the centrality of our philosophy of ‘World as Family’ making everybody a part of global fraternity

6. In order to reach up to this goal, what is needed is the articulation of the idea of India and the values inherent to it in two major ways. Firstly, through our engagement with global academic fraternity, and secondly through showcasing different facets of our rich cultural life and its manifestation through arts— including fine arts, performing arts and folk arts— music, literature, theatre, cinema, fashion, culinary and craftsmanship.

7. Global community is amazed by the success of democracy in India. But the enlightened understanding demands that linkage between our spiritual democracy and political democracy is brought to the fore more effectively while underscoring governmental efforts for achieving social and economic democracy as well.

8. Our diversity is our strength. But it becomes a strength simply because the inherent unity of the people of India is manifested in diverse lifestyles. These manifestations include our culinary traditions, our regional variants of dances, music, theatre, and films, our folk arts, our crafts and artisans, our costumes and fashions and also our literature.

9. Our Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre may at times face some shortage of resources due to budget constraints. But the fund of goodwill that India enjoys in every part of the globe including China is limitless. People in every nook and corner of the world are curious about India. We have to further translate this curiosity into an enlightened goodwill and later to convert this goodwill into a deeper understanding about India. This is required because India is increasingly being seen as a part of solutions to the problems global community is facing.