Vivekananda - Duty to the Masses

Swami Vivekananda's letter to His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore (23 June 1894).

Vivekananda in San Francisco
"Every nation, every man, and every woman must work out their own salvation"

Shri Narayana bless you and yours. Through your Highness' kind help it has been possible for me to come to this country. Since then, I have become well known here, and the hospitable people of this country have supplied all my wants. It is a wonderful country and this is a wonderful nation in many respects ...

Nowhere on earth have women so many priveleges as in America. They are slowly taking everything into their hands; and, strange to say, the number of cultured women is much greater than that of cultured men ... they require more spiritual civilization, and we, more material.

The one thing that is at the root of all evils in India is the condition of the poor. The poor in the West are devils; compared to them ours are angels, and it is therefore so much easier to raise our poor. The only service to be done for our lower classes is to give them education to develop their lost individuality. That is the great task between our people and princes. Up to now, nothing has been done in that direction. Priest-power and foreign conquest have trodden them down for centuries, and at last, the poor of India have forgotten that they are human beings. They are to be given ideas; their eyes are to be opened to what is going on in the world around them; and then they will work out their own salvation.

Every nation, every man, and every woman must work out their own salvation. Give them ideas - that is the only help they require, and then the rest must follow as the effect. Ours is to put the chemicals together, the crystallization comes in the law of nature. Our duty is to put ideas into their heads, they will do the rest. That is what is to be done in India. I could not accomplish it in India, and that was the reason of my coming to this country.

The great difficulty in the way of educating the poor is this. Supposing even your highness opens a free school in every village, still it would do no good, for the poverty in India is such, that the poor boys would rather go to help their fathers in the fields, or otherwise try to make a living, than come to the school. If the poor boy cannot come to education, education must go to him. There are thousands of single-minded, self-sacrificing Sanyasins in our country, going from village to village, teaching religion. If some of them can be organized as teachers of secular things also, they will go from place to place, from door to door, not only preaching, but teaching also.

Suppose two of these men go to a village in the evening with a camera, a globe, some maps, etc. By telling stories about different nations, they can give the poor a hundred times more information through the ear than they can get in a lifetime through books. This requires an organization, which again means money. Men enough there are in India to work out this plan, but alas! they have no money. lt is very difficult to set a wheel in motion; but when once set, it goes on with increasing velocity. After seeking help in my own country & failing to get any sympathy from the rich, I came over to this country through your Highness' aid.

The Americans do not care a bit whether the poor of India die or live. And why should they, when our own people never think of anything but their own selfish ends? My noble Prince, this life is short, the vanities of the world are transient, but they alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive. One such high, noble-minded and royal son of India as your Highness can do much more towards raising India on her feet again and thus leave a name to posterity which shall be worshipped. That the Lord may make your noble heart feel intensely for the suffering millions of India, sunk in ignorance, is the prayer of -- Vivekananda.

Source: Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda

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