When the entire world was encapsulated with physical pleasures and materialistic race of leading a luxurious life, they needed someone to guide them to know real meaning of leading life. Hindu spirituality deals with body, mind and soul while other religions preach only about surfacial knowledge of peace, love and inter-relationships of humans, it only revolves around body and its pleasures. Swami Vivekanand introduced world with the concept of oneness, soul and sole reason of taking birth as humans. The new concept thrilled the people across the globe and they got to know true realms of life through meditation and spiritual science of Hinduism.
Swami Vivekananda’s contributions in shaping the world culture is acknowledged by scholars of several countries.
Making an objective assessment of Swami Vivekananda’s contributions to world culture, the eminent British historian A L Basham stated that “in centuries to come, he will be remembered as one of the main moulders of the modern world…”
Some of the main contributions that Swamiji made to the modern world are mentioned below:
New Understanding of Dharma (Religion)
One of the most significant contributions of Swami Vivekananda to the modern world is his interpretation of religion as a universal experience of transcendent Reality, common to all humanity. Swamiji met the challenge of modern science by showing that Hinduism is as scientific as the science itself; religion is the ‘science of consciousness’. As such, religion and science are not contradictory to each other but are complementary.
This universal conception frees religion from the hold of superstitions, dogmatism, priestcraft and intolerance, and makes religion the highest and noblest pursuit – the pursuit of supreme Freedom, supreme Knowledge, supreme Happiness.
New View of Being a Man
Vivekananda’s Hindu concept of ‘potential divinity of the soul’ gives a new, ennobling concept of man. The present age is the age of humanism which holds that man should be the chief concern and centre of all activities and thinking. Through science and technology man has attained great prosperity and power, and modern methods of communication and travel have converted human society into a ‘global village’. But the degradation of man has also been going on apace, as witnessed by the enormous increase in broken homes, immorality, violence, crime, etc. in modern society. Vivekananda’s concept of potential divinity of the soul prevents this degradation, divinizes human relationships, and makes life meaningful and worth living. Swamiji has laid the foundation for ‘spiritual humanism’, which is manifesting itself through several neo-humanistic movements and the current interest in meditation, Zen etc all over the world.
New Principle of Morality and Ethics of Hinduism
The prevalent morality, in both individual life and social life, is mostly based on fear – fear of the police, fear of public ridicule, fear of God’s punishment, fear of Karma, and so on. It also showed that the concept was not based on principles laid by one single prophet or preacher but summarized by God himself to reveal his omnipotency and omnipresence. The current theories of ethics practiced by non-Hindus also do not explain why a person should be moral and be good to others. Vivekananda has given a new theory of ethics and new principle of morality based on the intrinsic purity and oneness of the Atman. We should be pure because purity is our real nature, our true divine Self or Atman. Similarly, we should love and serve our neighbors because we are all one in the Supreme Spirit known as Paramatma or Brahma.
Bridge between the East and the West
Another great contribution of Swami Vivekananda was to build a bridge between Indian culture and Western culture. He did it by interpreting Hindu scriptures and philosophy and the Hindu way of life and institutions to the Western people in an idiom which they could understand. He made the Western people realize that they had to learn much from Indian spirituality for their own well-being. He showed that, in spite of her poverty and backwardness, India had a great contribution to make to world culture. In this way he was instrumental in ending India’s cultural isolation from the rest of the world. He was India’s first great cultural ambassador to the West in modern era.
On the other hand, Swamiji’s interpretation of ancient Hindu scriptures, philosophy, institutions, etc prepared the mind of Indians to accept and apply material things to spread and share spirituality. Extending benefits of modern science for the benefits of mankind. We are still continuing to do even today, likewise, we are using smartphones or computing devices to read spirituality or down spiritual books. The openness to embrace technology for the spiritual benefits of Indians was hardwork and vision of Swami Vivekanand.