Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Vivekananda and the Allegory of Pluralism in a Globalizing World and Me

 Sisters and Brothers of America, a greeting that I have held close to me ever since I was young. I always wondered: how is it that in this nation, land of diversity, can we all be inter-related? What was the meaning of a spiritual united pluralism? How can the United States function if we are all sovereign but equal? Yet we do. This nation has inspired our fathers and mothers to take on a diaspora to an unknown land. But not just our kin, but our global family’s sovereign lineages as well. Miraculously we coexist even though we have differences.  Sisters and Brothers of America. Words that have inspired generations.

Today, these words inspired me to write this blog as I, an essay contest participant, prepare to attend HASC's event at the White House on July 29th and then at Georgetown University on July 30th and 31st.

When Swami Vivekananda gave his address in Chicago on September 27, 1893 the entire audience roared. Never before in the global melting pot had one acknowledged the importance of religious pluralism before. But this curiosity of the global neighbor has not ceased since that year. Ever since then, the American community and diversity has expanded and so has its interest. But in the process, cross-cultural communication may fail. Fascism has been on a rise just as globalization has been. Faith has become a defensive abode. So where must we go? I found these answers in the inspiring words of Swami Vivekananda. His message of plurality and coexistence had been his message and spent his life spreading this knowledge. In a world in which one’s beliefs have become defensive by nature, we can finally breathe.

In the Swami’s speech Why We Disagree, he gives the allegory that each man and his respected religion is comprised in his finite world. But we must break these barriers. Vivekananda calls upon the United States as his aid: “I am a Hindu and I think that the whole world is my well. The Christian believes that the whole world is his well. The Mohameddan believes the whole world is his well. I have to thank America for the great attempt you are making to break down barriers of this little world of ours, and hope that in the future the Lord will help you accomplish your purpose”. Vivekananda inspires me to apply Hindu beliefs of coexistence, peace, curiosity, and understanding into the twenty first century.

Often our generation has become apathetic to the words of the divine because they are steeped in ancient traditions seen as archaic. Vivekananda has bridged the primeval to the modern. We have the ability to address our generation. To halt the defensive nature of our faith and be open to pluralism, acceptance, and spirituality. Now we can address our brothers and sisters of America on the issues of diversity and coexistence. As a youth, I have faith in my words and my actions thanks to the teaching of Swami Vivekananda. It was, after all, his inspiring words Arise, Awake and Stop not till the Goal is Reached! Those words reverberating in me, motivate me to strive every day for this goal. A goal that is beyond me or my community or this generation. This is the goal is sahishnuta, acceptance, so that we can address each other as our own. And as one.

Priyanka Srinivasa is a rising sophomore at American University who is double majoring in International Relations and Anthropology. She is fascinated by the common threads that weave our diverse global culture together. If she could major in life she would. But alas, 4 years does not enable the time for this. She tries nonetheless. Priyanka's passions lie in post-colonial issues, women's empowerment, and environmental awareness. All three are very tightly knit. She realized this while working on her ethnography in Chiapas and India. She is often frustrated with the nature of foreign relations and how government organizations are not thoroughly conscious of cultural discrepancies of micro-cultures around the world. Priyanka is a proud Hindu and enjoys seva through social justice.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo! For keeping the message of Vivekanada alive and for choosing his essay in these fractious times - to spread peace and understanding.

    All the best - make us proud!