Q. — What is the Vedantic idea of civilisation?
A. — You are philosophers, and you do not think that a bag of gold makes the difference between man and man. What is the value of all these machines and sciences? They have only one result: they spread knowledge. You have not solved the problem of want, but only made it keener. Machines do not solve the poverty question; they simply make men struggle the more. Competition gets keener. What value has nature in itself? Why do you go and build a monument to a man who sends electricity through a wire? Does not nature do that millions of times over? Is not everything already existing in nature? What is the value of your getting it? It is already there. The only value is that it makes this development.
This universe is simply a gymnasium in which the soul is taking exercise; and after these exercises we become gods. So the value of everything is to be decided by how far it is a manifestation of God. Civilisation is the manifestation of that divinity in man. Do you realise that India is the only country that never went outside of itself to conquer? The great emperor Asoka insisted that none of his descendants should go to conquer. If people want to send us teachers, let them help, but not injure. Why should all these people come to conquer the Hindus?
Did they do any injury to any nation? What little good they could do, they did for the world. They taught it science, philosophy, religion, and civilised the savage hordes of the earth. And this is the return — only murder and tyranny, and calling them heathen rascals. (V, 308)
Truly has it been said that the lives of great men are not lived in vain. In the life and message of Swami Vivekananda – which reflect that extraordinary power and light that Sri Ramakrishna manifested in His life – we find that motivation and direction by which today our youth energy can be channelised and used for national reconstruction. To achieve this it is necessary to inculcate in them a wholesome vision of life in which work assumes a new significance delinked from personal gains, rewards and recognitions. If we could combine these two, in whatever small measure it may be, there would start a silent revolution transforming all the vital energies in our national life which are being drained today through unproductive channels, into one harmonising and integrating force for rebuilding our nation.