How Swami Vivekanand Shaped the World Culture and Ethos

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. 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…”

Swami Vivekananda, known in his pre-monastic life as Narendra Nath Datta, was born in an affluent family in Kolkata on 12 January 1863. His father, Vishwanath Datta, was a successful attorney with interests in a wide range of subjects, and his mother, Bhuvaneshwari Devi, was endowed with deep devotion, strong character and other qualities. A precocious boy, Narendra excelled in music, gymnastics and studies. By the time he graduated from Calcutta University, he had acquired a vast knowledge of different subjects, especially Western philosophy and history. Born with a yogic temperament, he used to practise meditation even from his boyhood, and was a and was associated with Brahmo Movement for some time.

Vivekananda’s contributions to world culture 
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:

1. New Understanding of 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 religion is as scientific as 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.

2. New View of Man: Vivekananda’s 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.

3. New Principle of Morality and Ethics: 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. The current theories of ethics 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 neighbours because we are all one in the Supreme Spirit known as Paramatman or Brahman.

4. 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.
On the other hand, Swamiji’s interpretation of ancient Hindu scriptures, philosophy, institutions, etc prepared the mind of Indians to accept and apply in practical life two best elements of Western culture, namely science and technology and humanism. Swamiji has taught Indians how to master Western science and technology and at the same time develop spiritually. Swamiji has also taught Indians how to adapt Western humanism (especially the ideas of individual freedom, social equality and justice and respect for women) to Indian ethos.

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Banayan Tree, Cosmology and Spirituality

                           “Cosmic Tree of Life”

Apart from the Hometree of the Na’vi, James Cameron’s Avatar used this exact Dravidian Banyan Tree of Ancestors as the “Tree of Voices” and “Tree of Souls” both sacred sites, where one can hear ancestors’ voices and connect with ancestors’ souls and access the cultural memories of the entire Pandora

Vedic Hymns of Bhagwat Geeta:

                                             sri-bhagavan uvaca
                                  urdhva-mulam adhah-sakham
                                     asvattham prahur avyayam
                                       chandamsi yasya parnani
                                       yas tam veda sa veda-vit

śrī bhagavān uvācathe Supreme Personality of Godhead said; ūrdhva-mūlamwith roots above; adhaḥdownwards; śākhambranches; aśvatthambanyan tree; prāhuḥsaid; avyayameternal; chandāṁsiVedic hymns; yasyaof which; parṇānithe leaves; yaḥanyone; tamthat; vedaknows; saḥhe;veda-vitthe knower of the Vedas.

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Tree of Immortality

The Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) is mysterious looking with widespread, aerial roots that give the appearance of numerous trunks when they reach the ground. It grows up to 100 feet tall and can cover many acres of land in its native regions of India and Asia.

Facts:

  • Indian banyan (Ficus benghalensis), which is the national tree of the Republic of India.
  • There is a differece between Peepal tree and Banyan Tree.

In ancient times, among many communities and among the four classical civilizations: Chinese, Egyptian, Indian and Mesopotamian, tree worship is first recorded in the Harappan civilization or otherwise called the Indus valley or Indian civilization, which could possibly be a Dravidian orProto-Dravidian culture.

Trees are sacred in India, and often associated with God and Goddess. The Indian name of the Banyan tree is Vat Vriksha.

Why this tree called Banyan?

When the British came to India, they noticed that members of the trading or Bania community used to gather under a large shady fig tree, which they named the Banyan, from Bania. Technically, Ficus benghalensis, the Banyan belongs to the Fig family. There are various types of fig trees all over the world, some of these are sacred. The most popular one is the Ficus religiosa or the Pipal which became especially popular in Buddhist times because it was under this tree that Gautama Siddhartha of the Sakya clan attained enlightenment. It was the leaves of a fig tree that Adam and Eve used to cover their nakedness in Eden after they were tempted to eat the Forbidden Fruit by Satan.

Spirituality:

banyan-tree water reflection
Water reflection of Banyan Treee

The meaning of upside down tree can be found in the reflection of the Banyan tree in water. The refeclection symbolize the Brahma to be the root of this material tree, and from the root, according to Sankhya philosophy, come prakrti, purusa, then the three gunas, then the five gross elements (panca-maha-bhuta), then the ten senses (dasendriya), mind, etc. In this way they divide up the whole material world into twenty-four elements. If Brahma is the center of all manifestations, then this material world is a manifestation of the center by 180 degrees, and the other 180 degrees constitute the spiritual world. 

banyan tree reflection
Banyan Tree reflection of life

Even today, in South India, where Dravidian culture is largely observed, where much is not destroyed by insanely brutal conquerors and much somehow survived the test of time, tree worship plays an important role in everyday life. Tree worship, mainly a fig species like banyan or Pipalsacred fig – tree, is an integral part of ancestral worship (Not to be confused with veneration of dead, where all the dead ancestors’ spirits are included. Whereas, in Dravidian ancestral worship, only the rightful ancestors’ spirits are considered.). In these mighty trees dwell in the spirits of ancestors, it is said. At the time of worship a liquor, mainly arrack, is offered along with other sacrifices.

Married Women and Banyan Tree:    

banyan tree worshipping
Banyan tree worshiping by married women in India

In the tale of Satyavan and Savitri.  Satyavan lost his life beneath the branches of a banyan. Savitri courageously entered into a debate with Yama (the God of Death), and won his life back. In memory of this couple, in the month of Jyestha during May and June, the tree is celebrated. Married women visit a banyan and pray for the long life of their husbands.

Banyan Tree and Bhagwat-Geeta: Banyan tree at Jyotisar in Kurukshetra is believed to beplace where Lord Sri Krishna spoke Bhagavad-Gita 5000 years back to Arjuna. There is a board placed on the tree in which is written “The immortal banyan tree witness of the celestial song Bhagavad-Gita”. In fact this place is named as the “Gitopadesh sthal – place where the Bhagavad-Gita was spoken”.

Trimurti:

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Symbol of Trimurti(Three Idols -Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva)

The Vat Vrisksh , Bargad or Banyan tree is one of the most venerated trees in India. It has the ability to survive and grow for centuries and is often compared to the shelter given by God to his devotees In Hindu mythology, the tree is called Kalpavriksha, the tree that provides fulfilment of wishes and other material gains. It symbolizes Trimurti – Lord Vishnu is believed to be the bark, Lord Brahma the roots, and Lord Shiva the branches.

The Banyan tree also symbolizes Trimurti – Lord Vishnu is believed to be the bark, Lord Brahma the roots, and Lord Shiva the branches. That is the reason, banyan tree is worshiped by those who are childless and this tree should never be cut. The tree can grow into a giant tree covering several hectares. The Great Banyan in the Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah, is considered to be the largest tree in the world. Lord Dakshinamurthy, who is worshiped as the “ultimate guru”, is usually depicted beneath a banyan tree. He symbolizes Lord Shiva and is seen as the the destroyer of ignorance and embodiment of knowledge.

Buddhism:

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Lord Buddha  meditating under Banyan tree

This tree is also sacred to the Buddhists. After attaining enlightenment, Lord Buddha is believed to have sat under a Banyan tree for seven days, absorbed in his new-found realization.  Buddha is believed to have achieved enlightenment in Bodhgaya in India while meditating under a banyan tree. The worship of the tree is also represented in a Buddhist sculpture with its long hanging roots dropping gold pieces in vessels placed below.

Health Benefits of Banyan Tree According to Ayurveda: 

  •  The bark and leaf buds of the tree are useful in arresting secretion or bleeding.
  • The fruit exercises a soothing effect on the skin and mucous membranes, alleviates swelling and pain, and serves as a mild purgative. It is also nutritious.
  •  The leaf buds of Banyan are beneficial in the treatment of chronic diarrhoea and dysentery. The buds should be soaked in water’ overnight and taken as infusion in the treatment of these diseases. The latex is also useful in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery.
  • A few drops of the latex of the banyan tree mixed in milk and taken daily helps cure bleeding piles. With this treatment, the diet of the patient should contain liberal quantities of green vegetables especially fenugreek and manattakkali or black nightshade leaves.
  •  Tender roots of Banyan are considered beneficial in the treatment of female sterility. These roots should be dried in the shade and finely powdered. This powder should be mixed 5 times its weight with milk and taken at night for three consecutive nights after menstruation cycle every month till the conception takes place. No other food should be taken with this.
  •  A regular douching of the genital tract with a decoction of the bark of the Banyan tree and the fig tree is helpful in leucorrhoea. A tablespoon each of the powders of the bark of the two trees should be boiled in a litre of water till it is reduced to about half. Douching with the lukewarm decoction will keep the tissues of vaginal tract healthy.
  •  Cleaning the teeth with the aerial roots of the Banyan is beneficial in preventing teeth and gum disorders. As one chews the stick and brushes, the astringent secretion from the root-stick cleanses and strengthens the teeth and gums.
  • The latex is commonly used locally for rheumatism, pain and lumbago.
  •  A hot poultice of the leaves can be applied with beneficial results to abscesses to promote suppuration and to hasten their breaking. The milky juice from the fresh green leaves is useful in destroying warts. The latex is commonly used locally for sores, ulcers and bruises.
  •  An infusion of the bark is a specific medicine for diabetes. The tender ends of the aerial roots can be taken to stop vomiting.

*(Note: Please check with Some Ayurveda Doctor before any treatment from Banyan tree)