India must build on its essence

India will be raised, not with the power of the flesh, but with the power of the spirit; not with the flag of destruction, but with the flag of peace and love.

– Swami Vivekananda
CW: Vol.4, Writings: Prose, Reply to the Madras Address


For several hundred years, the Western world has dominated humankind’s destiny. A period of great opportunity and great progress. Every century has seen yet one more development, one more milestone reached in human “progress”.

After this period, what do we see? People who live in relative comfort with numerous objects of enjoyment and large institutions, who straddle the planet with their numerous and multifarious activities.

But we also see people living in the several parts of the world, friendless and full of fear and tragedy. Centuries of life currents completely disrupted by new confusing ideas; old ideals broken without new ones installed.

Equally important, we find beneath the relative material comfort, men and women full of anxiety, fear and worry.

This is the world that two thousand years of human ‘progress’ has created. And in this world India must find its place, its role.

What is India now? A confused giant, slowly awakening from the slumber of centuries. A country that has re-discovered material comfort, a large middleclass that is awakening to new aspirations, a country that is trying to assert itself on the global stage.

To this India, Swami Vivekananda has a message.

If you must rise, rise quickly, work swiftly, become effective, and learn to make your ideas stick. And to do so, work along the lines of least resistance.

But do not try and learn the tricks of another race. Do not seek to imitate the ways of those who have lived differently from you, and understand the world differently from you. Instead be yourself, be yourself.

And who is this India? This India, this inner India, is a land of tremendous faith, tremendous belief, tremendous feelings. This inner India respects most of all, the ultimate end of life – the evolution of human beings to God.

This India has always sought for itself peace instead of war, satisfaction instead of greed, gentleness instead of pride and anger. This India is within each one of us.

To this India, lying dormant within all of us, each of us, Swami Vivekananda directs his attention. He says, show yourself to the world and become the locus of all activity.

Expand this ancient civilizational consciousness, heighten those feelings and love for higher ideals, become firm in your ‘sense of self’, and show to the world a face that is quintessentially India.

This India, of devotion, knowledge, great ideals – five thousand years of patience, centuries of relentless pursuit of a life beyond senses; this India too must manifest to the world.  


For this is the line of least resistance and quickest action. The path of suffusing modern aspirations with ancient ideals – leading to a unique civilization – with material growth externally, and deep spiritual and cultural roots within.  


Through this line of action, not only India, but the whole world will be raised, not with the power of the flesh, but with power of the spirit; not with the flag of distrust, but with the flag of peace and love.



Author: Srinivas Venkatram is the founder of Illumine – an “ideas in action” Lab that focuses on translating Swami Vivekananda’s ideas into new social, institutional and educational models. Illumine’s projects and interventions have reached more than 2 million users/ beneficiaries in society.  

On this channel, Srinivas offers an interpretation of Vivekananda’s ideas, through the lens of Citizenship and Nation-building. For more, visit the Reflections on The Lion’s Roar.

He can be reached on

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