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My best wishes to all of you on the occasion of birth anniversary of Vivekanand and National Youth Day. Today, having seen this incredible sight of Belagavi, this grand view, everyone here appears to have become imbibed with the spirit of Vivekanand. An all religion conference has also been organised here today. My best wishes to you for that also.

The kind of enthusiasm I can see, has fused everyone’s mind and consciousness into one. Today, a world record is being created here with the invocation of consciences of thousands of people.

All this has become possible due to the blessings of reverend Siddhaling Maharaj ji, Yallaling Prabhu Ji and Siddh Rameshwar Mahaswami Ji. The energy of their blessings reflects on your faces. I also feel that energy and blessing. Brothers and sisters, it has always been a pleasant experience for me to visit Belagavi. One can see a grand image of Ek Bharat – Shreshtha Bharat here.

One seldom comes across five different languages being spoken in a small place like this in any other part of the country. I salute all of you and also the land of Belagavi. It is the land of Queen Chenamma of Kittur, it is the land of great warrior Sangoli Rayanna who took on the British. Swami Vivekanand Ji had stayed in Belagavi for ten days. He also stayed in the famous Mysore palace. From Mysore he went to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. He got a new inspiration in Kanyakumari and it was that inspiration that propelled him to Chicago and he won the affection of entire world there.

This year marks the completion of 125 years of Swami Vivekanand’s Chicago address. I had specially gone to Chicago on the completion of 100 years of that speech. So many years passed since he delivered that speech, every time we look for solution of some of our problems we still feel that ‘oh! Swami Vivekanand Ji had said this thing, how correct he was! We don’t have to remember Vivekanand Ji, he is always present in our thoughts.

Vivekanand Ji had given a very powerful mantra on what an Indian should be. That mantra was the mantra of - country first. Every single line of that mantra is full of power and inspiration. He had said: ‘O India, you ought not forget that your life is not for personal pleasure. O brave, please say with pride that I’m an Indian and every Indian is my brother. You say it aloud with pride: Every Indian is my brother and India is my life, India’s land is my heaven and India’s welfare is my welfare.’ Vivekanand was like that. Vivekanand was fused with the spirit of India, he was completely one with the country. He considered India’s happiness and sorrow as his own. He fought with every evil. He demolished the wicked propaganda that projected India abroad as a country of snake charmers and jugglers. He enhanced India’s reputation in the world. He had the courage to move forward in sync with the knowledge, science, language, social reform and a progressive world.

He had the spirit of a fighter who fought against the social evils plaguing the society like untouchability, discrimination and hypocrisy. This feeling made him the warrior ascetic. Swami Vivekanand had raised his voice against the caste based discrimination during his visit from Colombo to Almora. He said bluntly : ‘There might not be anybody as great as you are in terms of knowledge and philosophy, but there will not be anyone so mean in terms of behavior. Your behaviour of this kind is extremely condemnable.’ Nobody perhaps can muster the courage even today to say those things with as much frankness as he had said this around 100-125 years ago.

Friends, we will have to change this atmosphere, this mentality. If we were to follow Vivekanand then we would have to get rid ourselves of caste based prejudice and discrimination, we will have to end that. In the past decades your own monastery has worked to eradicate every kind of caste based discrimination due to the inspiration from Siddhaling Maharaj Ji. You have been providing necessary assistance to the weak and marginalised sections of the society hardly bothering about the victim’s caste. People associated with your monastery have been giving relief during floods visiting from village to village. When free medicines are distributed to the poor, when free medical camps are organised and food and clothes are distributed do we bother about caste? No.

With great difficulty and because of the efforts made by the people over the decades the country is moving towards being free from the shackles of casteism. However, some anti-social elements have set their evil eyes on the heart of millions and millions people like you. These people have again been conspiring to divide the society in the name of caste. However, today’s young generation has been responding to these people. India’s youth cannot be tricked by a handful of people. Such youth who have vowed to end the casteism, evil social practices and superstition from the country are like Vivekanand. They are the symbol of India’s new, brave, courageous and development oriented face.

Every such youth who has been pro-actively discharging his duty in nation building, who has been working for realising the solemn pledge for making a New India is a Vivekanand. Every person who has been dedicated to service of the nation in some agricultural field, in some factory or some school or some college or in some corner of your lane or your locality is a Vivekanand.

The one who has been taking forward the Clean India Mission, who has been providing digital literacy to people by visiting village to village is a Vivekanand. The one who has been working for the oppressed, for the persecuted, exploited and excluded person is a Vivekanand. The person who has been using his energy, ideas and innovations for the welfare of society is Vivekanand.

Friends, last year a programme – Smart India Hackathon was organised. In this programme more than 40,000 youth have come forward to provide digital solutions to nearly 600 problems of the country. For me all these people are like Vivekanands. Millions and millions of ordinary people, the makers of a New India by carrying the smell of India’s soil inside them are our Vivekanands of modern times. I bow down to them, I bow down to every Vivekanand present in this programme, I bow down to every Vivekanand of our country.

Brothers and sisters, in our country, which has a thousands of years old history, which has witnessed changes with the passage of times – changes in the individuals, changes in the society. However, some evils also crept up in the society with the passage of time.

This is the uniqueness of our society that whenever this kind of social evils crept in then the work of reforming the society was started by a member of the society itself. This kind of great social reformers always put the public service at the centre of their activities. They not only educated the society through their consciousness, speeches and deeds but they also gave priority to service to the people. They explained these things to the common man in his own simple language.

It was sort of a people’s movement and the expansion of which could be seen over a period of hundreds of years. This movement was strengthened in the south by the ideas of saints like Madhvacharya, Nimbarkacharya, Vallabhacharya, Ramanujacharya; and in the west by the ideas of Meerabai, Eknath, Tukaram, Ramdas, Narsi Mehta; and in the north by the ideas of Ramanand, Kabirdas, Goswami Tulsidas, Surdas, Guru Nanakdev, Sant Raidas; and in the east by the ideas of Chaitnya Mahaprabhu and Shankar Dev. It’s also a unique strength of our country that these were never equated with religious movements. The balance between the three – knowledge, devotion and karma – has always been accepted in our country. In terms of knowledge these saints always searched the answer for this fundamental question ‘who I am in the end’.

Devotion was another name for dedication and deeds were completely based on to the duty to serve. It was the influence of several such saints that the country was able to move forward while facing a lot of difficulties. During that period, in every part of the country, in every region and in every direction, our saints tried to revive a social awakening by coming out of temples and monasteries. We can say with pride that India has such a great tradition, there have been such great saints and preachers who have used their penance and knowledge for nation building.

In this series there have been countless great souls like Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Jyotiba Phule, Mahatma Gandhi, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Baba Amte, Pandurang Shashtri Athwale, Vinoba Bhave. These people made the service focal point of their activities and also carried out social reforms. Whatever solemn pledges were made by them for the society had been accomplished by them.

Friends, your monastery has also followed this tradtion of renunciation and service. Your monastery is also known as the monastery of unattached ascetics; unattached means free from any kind of temporal involvements. When more than 360 of your monasteries spread over different states follow the path of donating the food grain, when they feed the poor and hungry people then it is certainly the best service to the mother earth, the best service to humanity.

This is a good example of that ‘the god likes service to mankind’. Service has been the history of our country and to have a feeling to serve. It has been our tradition to make arrangements for providing food and shelter to the poor people. These arrangements were made by common people with the blessings of our hermits and ascetics. Even today this tradition is being kept alive in several villages and cites and it has been flourishing.

Brothers and sisters, India has always spread the message of humanity, democracy, good governance and non-violence in the entire world. India had not only adopted the democratic values but also included them in her administrative system centuries before the top countries and great thinkers of the world started looking at democracy as a new approach.

Lord Basaveswara had given the concept of democracy and equality to the world in the 12th century. He had developed a system called ‘Anubhav Mandap’ where people of all kinds, poor, oppressed, persecuted and excluded people could have aired their views. Everyone was equal there. I was also fortunate that I got the opportunity to publicly dedicate the statue of Lord Basaveswara in Britain when I visited the country in 2015.

I still remember that at that time then Prime Minister of Britain had mentioned the Magna Carta. But, in a way, long before the Magna Carta, Lord Basweswara had introduced us to the first parliament.

Lord Basaweswara had said: ‘When there is no exchange of ideas, when there is no debate with logic even Anubhav Goshthi does not remain relevant, and where this kind of things take place God also does not reside there.’ He had described this exchange of ideas and deliberation as powerful and as essential as God himself. Women were allowed to speak openly in the Anubhav Mandap.

Women from every section of society used to express their ideas. Some of them were like that who were not even expected to come in the midst of the so called civilized society of that time but even that kind of women used to come to Anubhav Mandap and express their ideas. It was a very significant attempt for women empowerment in that era. I had publicly dedicated the translation of Lord Basaveswara’s teachings in 23 languages just last year.

I’m hopeful that those will have been helpful in conveying the message of Lord Basaveswara to the masses. I also salute the former Vice President of India Shri B.D. Jatti and also remember his contribution to the Basava Committee on this occasion. I would like to specially mention Shri Arvind Jatti.

Friends, I have been told that reverend Siddha Rameshwar Mahaswami Ji had resolved to once again start the Anubhav Mandap. He wanted to establish it in the Monastery here. It’s a matter of great pleasure that his dream is being realised under the leadership of Shri Murugha Rajendra Mahaswami. The message of equality will be spread in the country trough this Anubhav Mandap. I convey my best wishes to all of you for this event while wishing happiness for everyone by following the mantra of ‘Sarva Jan Sukhino Bhavantu’ (may everyone attain happiness).

Friends, when our country will celebrate 75 years of independence in 2022 then whether we will celebrate that occasion with our internal vices? No. All of us have pledged to make a New India. Your contribution will make this journey from resolution to realisation more easier. Whether you people can make a solemn pledge in the field of providing education to the daughters, or in the field of skill development of youth or in the field of cleanliness or in the field of spreading digital literacy or for promoting solar energy?

I am aware that you people have already been working in such areas. However, whether a pledge can be made by setting a target? For example can you make a solemn pledge that support will be provided for making two or five thousand villages open defecation free in the next two years? Can a pledge be made that in the next two years there will be LED bulbs in every household of the five thousand villages identified by you people?

Friends, the government has been working in all these sectors. However, you people have an important role in creating awareness and in inspiring people. I am confident that when you people will step forward then the power of millions of Vivekanands will help in realising your resolutions.

At present, ten thousand Vivekanands have gathered in Belagavi, then the lakhs of them will gather. Our social system will be further strengthened when your work will succeed and the dream of Ek Bharat and Shreshtha Bharat and when the dream of a strong India that Swami Vivekanand had seen will be accomplished.

I conclude my speech with these words. Once again I salute all the saints present on the dais. Once again I convey my best wishes to all of you on the occasion of National Youth Day and also for All Religion Conference.

Thank you very much.

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