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Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda

My faith is in the younger generation, the modern generation, out of them will come my workers. They will work out the whole problem.
Swami Vivekananda
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The Idea behind the Organiztion

  •  'No Nation is great or good, because Parliament enacts this or that, but because its men are great and good.'
  •  'Men, men, these are wanted; everything else will be ready.' 'So make men first.'
  • 'When there will be such men (real men ), how long will it take to drive away famines etc. from the land?'
  • 'We must have life-building, man-making, character-making, assimilation of ideas.'
  • 'The first great thing to accomplish is to establish a character.'
  • 'Therefore, first make character  –  that is the highest duty to perform.'
  • 'Let the lotus of your character be full-blown, and the results will follow.'
  • 'It is best to work among the youth in whom lies our hope.'
  • 'Be and make. Let this be our motto.'
  • 'The whole secret lies in organization, accumulation of power, co-ordination of wills.' 'Push on with the organization.'

        From these and similar ideas of Swami Vivekananda, the Mahamandal was born.

Man is the basic thing and man-making is the basic work.  All social service – by the State or voluntary organizations – is rendered through the agency of man.  If these men do not have right understanding, attitude, motivation, and selflessness, no service will deliver the goods properly. Therefore, cultivating these qualities is a basic work. These qualities belong really in the character of man. And character-building is another name for man-making.

An individual may, of course, attempt at man-making with himself or others. But, to make a serious attempt everywhere and not to leave it as casual endeavors of a few, an organized effort that will cover all parts of the country is essential.  And that is the idea behind the Mahamandal.  Having discussed what is necessary Swami Vivekananda came to the essential point when he said, ‘So make men first.’ ‘When you have men who are ready to sacrifice their everything for the country, sincere to the backbone – when such men arise, India will become great in every respect.  Then only will India awake, when hundreds of large-hearted men and women, giving up all desires of enjoying the luxuries of life, will long and exert themselves to their utmost, for the wellbeing of the millions of their countrymen who are gradually sinking lower and lower in the vortex of destitution and ignorance.’ 

So he exhorted, ‘Work among those young men who can devote their heart and soul to this one duty – the duty of of raising the masses of India... it depends wholly on the young people of India.’

It is good to collect funds and materials and distribute them to the needy people or to set up some project for the economic benefit of the people.  But it is better and more important to build up the character of young men, who will unselfishly do every thing for the wellbeing of the people.

Such people should be there in all vocations of life, in society and homes.  That is most crucial and forms the guarantee for assured and sustained social wellbeing.  The making of such men is, thus, the most essential social service.

This is being attempted through the Mahamandal.  And, to be sure, the attempt is yielding results.

Through small and simple items of social service with the right perspective view we can learn how to take the position of the giver without barter, at the same time gaining faith in ourselves.  In this attempt the Akhil Bharat Vivekananda Yuva Mahamandal inspires all its friends.  It does not have a big manifesto.  It is growing in a small way, gradually captivating the minds of young men specially in villages, in building themselves into strong fortresses, where petty selfishness cannot make any inroad, where service is not overshadowed by self.  Swamiji himself said, ‘I never make plans.  Plans grow and work themselves.  I only say, “Awake, awake”.’ The Akhil Bharat Vivekanand Yuva Mahamandal asks all young men to hearken to that call of Swami Vivekananda to awake and to rise to the occasion when India, our ever glorious motherland, seems to pass through a critical stage, when we do not believe anything or anybody, not even ourselves. If the Akhil Bharat Vivekananda Yuva Mahamandal has any role to play, it is this recovery of faith of the young men of the country in themselves.  The main work of the Mahamandal is on the minds of the young people to help them form a life – view, find an aim of life, and to provide a practical method of self-development and character building, so that they may become conscientious citizens aware of and competent to do their duty to society and to achieve greater fulfilment of their individual lives.  All work of the Mahamandal is directed to this purpose.

The aim of the Mahamandal is, thus, building a better society by building life and character of individuals – man-making and character-building, to use the famous phrase of Swami Vivekananda.  This means balanced development of his head and heart and hand – head to think, heart to feel, and hand to work.  This aim when pursued by individuals with collective endeavour widely is bound to have its effect on society – an effect emerging as gradual improvement of the tone of society.  This cannot be a five year or ten year or twenty-five year plan.  As generation after generation comes, this plan of action has to continue; at no point of time we can exclaim, “Finis, our job is over, we have achieved our goal, and here is your perfect society!’ This is unrealistic.  Those who take up this work as a mission of life must be prepared for a life long struggle and hand over the struggle to be continued by those who join later.

The condition of our people and their lot are well known.  The state machinery, democracy, and a lot of theories are there to tackle all these.  Taking everything into consideration, it is felt that something remains to be done which is not in the list of business of anybody.  The Mahamandal has chosen to take that up.  It is the attempt to make men of ourselves.  Because all attempts to remove our sufferings and make ourselves happy, to make a great nation, a country of which we can be proud, are found to be failing due to this one failure.

Scanned to the core it will be seen that this is more spiritual than physical.  Because this wants to treat the core of man and not merely his outer shell.  The Mahamandal is not just a religious organization. It does not force its members to visit temples, churches, or mosques, nor does it encourage holding of common religious functions.  For, it is an organization for the youths, all of whom may not be interested in usual religious modes, but may be interested in becoming worthy citizens capable of devoting their whole lives for the welfare of their fellow men and the good of the motherland. This is indeed good spirituality. Through that they will be acquiring fuller manhood. Instead the Mahamandal tells its friends, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, ‘The secret of religion lies not in theories but in practice.  To be good and to do good – that is the whole of religion.’ ‘In one word, the ideal of Vedanta is to know man as he really is’.  What does anybody find if he knows man as he really is?   He finds that, again in the words of Swami Vivekananda, ‘Man is an infinite circle whose circumference is nowhere, but the center is located in one spot.’  The center is he himself, but his circumference encircles all around him and elsewhere. That is how he grows, widens his sphere, and becomes big and a true man. This is indeed a journey towards Godhood.  Godliness is not a thing to be achieved direct from brutish existence of selfishness jealousy, greed, indiscipline, egoism, etc.  Manliness, in which these may be overcome, is the first step. And we are now for the first step and that may be a limitation for us.  Thus the Mahamandal does not preach all the possible ways of life fulfillment, but offers work as a means suited to most young people, who need not be discriminated on the grounds of religion, caste, or creed.  The ability to give one's best to a cause is a spiritual capacity.  The cause is the good of the country and its teeming millions.  And the capacity for the work may be acquired only through works which are not done for selfish ends.  Social service is advocated by the Mahamandal only as a means and not as an end. 

The Mahamandal does not have large funds, nor manpower.   It is not worried over it so long as the ideal is clear before it and there are at least some young men who realize what is to be done for the real good of the country.  A large number of sincere, honest, hard working, patriotic, unselfish, docile, sacrificing, spirited, and courageous young men are everywhere in the country, who are eager to dedicate themselves for the regeneration of the country and they may be united and enthused.

The Mahamandal is not a society of the selected few.  It is for all young men who love their country and its men and themselves too and want to have a full vigorous life of action, glory, and fulfillment in the glory and fulfillment of the national life.  It is for the young people as they are and where they are. They are neither to leave their home, nor studies, nor normal vocations, but to give only their surplus energy, time and, if possible, money for the real work and assiduously build their character (integrated character of a good citizen) through selfless work and studies devoted to the purpose.

In order to change the present conditions in the country it may be necessary to change the government, the form of democracy, or the constitution, as often suggested by some ordinary and extraordinary people. But only purer and more perfect and selfless men may undertake the job.  Where are they? And how are we going to have them? This is the work left out by all those who speak for democratic or revolutionary changes.  The Mahamandal desires to take up this left out job and does not like to apply its mind for those bigger changes, which cannot come unless the first job is taken care of.  This may be a limitation which it humbly admits. And that is why the Mahamandal has nothing to do with politics, which minds the cart and not the horse.

The real need must be understood, the methods of meeting the needs must be known, and they must be applied properly to see results following.  If we want a great change in India for the better, this is the way.  Character qualities should be imbibed, ideas should be assimilated.  This is true education.  The essential work is thus basically educational in the true sense of the term.  This will naturally take time.  Nothing great can be achieved overnight or without sustained labour.  ‘When you deal with roots and foundations, all real progress must be slow’, says Swami Vivekananda.  Some may question,  Can all men be improved?  If not, the alternative is status quo. Will that solve any of the problems? If the attempts are continued, some at least will improve and the number will multiply and things are bound to change.  Swami Vivekananda points out, ' And if we read the history of nations between the lines, we shall always find that the rise of a nation comes with an increase in the number of such men; and the fall begins when the pursuit after the Infinite, however vain Utilitarians may call it, has ceased.’  Rightly he concluded, 'We have, therefore, to wait till the people are educated, till they understand their needs and are ready and able to solve the problems.' ' The training by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful is called education', said Swami Vivekananda. This education cannot be imparted by setting up schools and colleges under boards or universities. There are innumerable institutions established and lots are coming into existence.  'But the idea of the sacrifice for the common weal is not yet developed in our nation', observed Vivekananda. The ideal is to be burned into the hearts of the young generation.  This education is to be brought to the door of every young man of our country. This is the real work of the Mahamandal. 

Some may ask, as we often hear, ‘Your aim is noble, the plan is laudable, but how do you go about doing your job?’  In answer it may be said, the methods of man making and character building, as enunciated by our seers of the past, as brought home to us by Swami Vivekananda, and as echoed verbatim by modern psychology, are thoroughly scientific.  To put it very briefly, the method is to embed in the subconscious mind ideas of character qualities, first by hearing, then by contemplating, afterwards making these impresses indelible by guarding, guiding, and willing and repeatedly performing such actions which reflect such ideas, through discrimination and control of the mind, always lubricating the process with controlled and guided feeling (emotion) – the part played by the heart. It will be seen clearly from the above that this is a harmonious combination of discrimination (Jnana-yoga), psychic control (Raja-yoga), emotion (Bhakti-yoga), and contemplated action for character development (Karma-yoga).

The whole activity of the Mahamandal is so planned that this process operates on every individual who joins.  Study circle, mental concentration, prayer, and social work take care of the four strands of the synthetic process respectively. Social service not being the object of the Mahamandal, but a way of character-building, its quantum is not the criterion to assess Mahamandal’s work. The attitude to such work and its inter-relation with study and acquiring of discriminating power, rousing and guiding feelings, and the capacity to control the mind are what count.

The Mahamandal offers to young people an environment where they can cultivate their character according to this plan. Mahamandal centers are places in towns and villages (there are now about two hundred fifty centers in different states) – any room or shed or the shade of a tree or a playground, where the youths meet.  They take exercise to keep the body strong and healthy; study and discuss to sharpen their intellect and gather knowledge through the study of the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda of an oceanic heart, and by actually emulating his exhortations on serving humanity they make efforts to expand their hearts.  How practical this is none will believe unless one has gone through the process and has been astonished to mark his own heart expanding.  Similar but simpler exercises for children are also provided at Vivek Vahini, the children's wing of the Mahamandal.  To utlize outward seva for puja or rather worship of the inner divinity of man, to manifest it in every movement of life, the centers often run charitable dispensaries, coaching classes, adult education centers, schools for children, students’ homes, feeding schemes, libraries, etc.; undertake village work and relief to victims of natural calamities, help farmers, poor students, and other people in need, and the like.  They often donate blood for indigent patients.  They do all that would strengthen their brawn, sharpen their brain, and broaden their heart.  To help them understand the whole scheme, details of the methods of self-improvement and character-building, and the underlying principles, youth training camps are often held at various levels from local to all-India. Specific methods are suggested and interested young men are guided and advised to keep record of their progress. Follow-up studies point to very encouraging results of improvement of character-qualities of individuals. Group activity, living together, and mixing with youths from different parts of the country give them toleration, cooperative spirit, sense of identity with all and of national integrity.  Everything together make them better citizens – dutiful, patriotic, unselfish, sacrificing – with a humanistic disposition, spirit of service, and broader outlook. 

The young must realize the necessity of making themselves fit to serve the nation properly and in the process prevent problems and evils from arising in the society.  It should naturally be the serious business of others to help the young make themselves properly.  This is exactly the field of work the Mahamandal has chosen.  Thus, the most urgent work is the proper training of the youths.  The training should be so planned that it will develop the youths in all directions.  A total man out of every youth should be the aim.  Institutional educational system in vogue does not provide this essential element of total education that each citizen needs to have.  Thus, the work of the Mahamandal in a way is to supplement the education system as a whole.  Social service being involved in the process, the society in areas where Mahamandal units function is also served by the units.  And the service that is rendered to those who join the Mahamandal is perhaps social work par excellence, as this only can bring about a real change in society.  Thus the Mahamandal is a slow movement, a movement for life-building, a movement, which, if joined by a good section of the youths of the country, will certainly change the society for the better in the long run.  This hope has constantly grown during the last forty two years supported by the evidence of the success of the process as observed and has now become a conviction with those who work for this movement.  The Mahamandal will be satisfied, if it could successfully do the thankless job of making men of character and supplying them to all fields – not to gain control over them or to gain power through politics, but as without this the ultimate problem of the society cannot be solved.

This is the meaning of Swami Vivekananada’s saying, ‘And, therefore, make men first.’ We have not so far properly heeded his suggestion.  But in this suggestion lies the seed of a revolutionary change.  Without trying to avoid this leader of modern India,  by sticking the label of ‘The Hindu Monk’ on his person, lest our selfish dreams of pandering to lust for power and possessions vanish, let us work upon this plan and spread this man-making movement throughout the length and breadth of the country.

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