Responsibility of Students of Vedanta
Swami Ashokananda

Do the stu­dents of Vedan­ta real­ize that they have great respon­si­bil­i­ty on their shoul­ders? None can deny that human­i­ty is just now pass­ing through a peri­od of great storm and stress, when every ide­al is being remod­eled, old ideas are being chal­lenged and accus­tomed ways of doing things are being ques­tioned. Eco­nom­i­cal­ly, polit­i­cal­ly, cul­tur­al­ly, spir­i­tu­al­ly, in every respect, the human mind and affairs are under­go­ing great changes. We are find­ing that every aspect of life has to be con­ceived in terms of the entire human­i­ty. Take the eco­nom­ic prob­lem itself. It is being increas­ing­ly real­ized that if the peo­ple of the world are to escape depres­sion and unem­ploy­ment, the eco­nom­ic sys­tem of each nation has to be adjust­ed in ref­er­ence to the needs of the oth­er nations. In fact, there has to be one inter­re­lat­ed eco­nom­ic sys­tem through­out the world. We can no longer remain self-con­tained and self-suf­fi­cient. Every nation has to learn from and teach the oth­er nations, and there is no doubt that the inter­min­gling of cul­tures that is going on so rapid­ly at the present time will even­tu­al­ly lead to a uni­ver­sal cul­ture in which the whole of human­i­ty will par­tic­i­pate. Reli­gion, too, is aim­ing at that uni­ver­sal­i­ty. The future is sure­ly going to reveal a uni­ver­sal reli­gion of which the dif­fer­ent creeds will be parts. This uni­ver­sal­i­ty is going to be the keynote of future mankind. And man’s hon­est efforts at the present time should be to actu­al­ize this much-desired future as ear­ly as pos­si­ble. For on this depends the peace and pros­per­i­ty and the spir­i­tu­al wel­fare of mankind.

But prej­u­dice dies hard. We are too timid. We are loath to give up our men­tal nar­row­ness. When the ris­ing sun is call­ing us into the open to bathe in its gold­en rays, we are still mop­ing in the dark cor­ners of our hov­els. This is the tragedy. We are afraid of the new things that are hap­pen­ing and are going to hap­pen. But, of course, we have to change and remod­el our­selves after the future ideals. And here­in lies the great respon­si­bil­i­ty of the Vedan­ta stu­dents. Vedan­ta stands above all for uni­ver­sal­i­ty, one­ness, syn­the­sis, har­mo­ny, and infi­nite affir­ma­tion. Vedan­ta is a phi­los­o­phy and reli­gion of infi­nite hope. It promis­es infi­nite glo­ry to mankind. It invites men to march for­ward from one achieve­ment to anoth­er, till the very high­est is attained. It stands for the uni­ty of mankind. All true stu­dents of Vedan­ta have to feel and real­ize this fact. They have, above all, to be all-inclu­sive and har­mo­nious. By their life they have to prove to the timid world the beau­ty of the new ideals towards which human­i­ty is reach­ing. … They have to demon­strate to oth­ers that these new ideals are infi­nite­ly more help­ful than the old­er creedal and sec­tar­i­an ideals. Do they feel that they are the fore­run­ners of the new age? Those who feel so, will sure­ly prove a valu­able asset to human­i­ty None may know of them, they may be looked upon as ordi­nary; yet the high poten­cy of their thought and life will bring about rev­o­lu­tion­ary changes n the men­tal plane of human­i­ty and will even­tu­al­ly set forces in motion which will great­ly alter also the out­er life.

The chal­lenge of Vedan­ta is tremen­dous. The weak may shrink from it, but those who have any strength in them will take it up and rise to the required heights. It is of these that Jesus said they were the salt of the earth. Let the best (and every­one has got the best in him or her) in us come out, let the Divine in us shine forth! Let the light in us be a bea­con to the blun­der­ing world!

Swa­mi Ashokanan­da, 1931