Indian Thinkers: Vivekananda and Tagore

Swami Vivekananda

Talked about practical Vedanta, which has the following components:


Vedanta is universal in the sense that its truths apply to the whole of humanity in general. It is the same current that flows through every human being. And that is spirit. Vedanta is universal in the sense that it is rooted in the idea of the oneness of all and the unbroken continuity of existence.


Vedanta depends upon no persons or incarnations. Its eternal principles depend upon its own. Vedanta alone is based on principles, whereas all other religions are based on the lives of their founders, like Islam (Muhamed)


Vedanta is in complete agreement with the methods and results of modern science. Its conclusions are pre-eminently rational, being deduced from widespread religious experience, For ex., the grand Vedantic idea of the spiritual oneness of the whole universe. According to science, all things universe is waves. Vedanta has discovered that there is but one soul in the universe and that all beings are only Configurations of that one Reality) From this oneness, the solidarity of the universe can be deduced.

Vivekananda believed in this oneness of humanity.

Vivekananda says that Vedanta’s spiritual oneness serves as a firm ground for all ethical teaching. “Love your neighbours yourself’; one loves another because one sees one’s self in the other The application of Vedantic truth to political and social life results in the spiritualism of democracy, socialism, liberty, equality and fraternity.


Optimism (Hopefulness) is the life breath of Vedanta. It teaches unshakable optimism. It alone makes men strong and self-reliant. It insists upon the inherent divinity of the human soul under all circumstances.

Rabindranath Tagore

He was born into a wealthy Brahmin family. After a brief stay in England (1878) to attempt to study law, he returned to India and instead pursued a career as a writer, playwright, songwriter, poet, philosopher and educator. 

In 1901 Tagore founded an experimental school in rural West Bengal at  Shanti Niketan (“Abode of Peace”), where he sought to blend the best in the Indian and Western traditions. He settled permanently at the school, which became Visva Bharati University in 1921. He was awarded Nobel Prize in 1913 in literature for Gitanjali.  Tagore was awarded a knighthood in 1915, but he repudiated it in 1919 as a protest against the Amritsar (Jallianwala Bagh) Massacre.

Views on Freedom

  • Enlightenment of the soul through self-realization: Freedom will provide an opportunity to attain enlightenment of the soul. It is only because by pursuing a goal in an atmosphere of freedom, one will get the scope to realize oneself. That self-realization will enlighten the soul and illumine it.
  • Political freedom accompanied by spiritual freedom: Tagore envisaged that political freedom is not freedom unless it is accompanied by spiritual freedom. Spiritual freedom is the guiding force behind political freedom. It will show the right path for an individual in realizing his political goal. The same is also applicable in the case of a nation too.
  • Comprehensive social and cultural growth: Tagore viewed that freedom would lead to ‘comprehensive social and cultural growth. For that growth, he never accepted the idea of either the Moderates or Extremists. To him, the Moderates failed in revealing the real worth of Indian culture while the Extremists put emphasis on techniques of action being unmindful of Indian social customs and traditions. Thus, both ways were rejected by Tagore for social and cultural growth.
  • Self-government: To pursue freedom, Tagore needed self-government for India. Through that, the country will attain enlightenment. It will lead the country on the path of progress. Self-government is the medicine to cure all political ailments. He, therefore, pleaded for the freedom of India; China and Siam.
  • Freedom of individual and freedom of nation: Tagore wanted freedom of the individual and freedom of a nation. Without one, the other is incomplete. This will provide an opportunity for individuals to see one within themselves and within the world. This will help an individual also to project himself during May. That will be the lasting impact of freedom on mankind. Tagore not only wanted political freedom, but he wanted the freedom of ‘an individual too. Freedom, to him, is to illumine the soul and an individual to make him feel that he was a component part of the great creation of God where freedom pervades.

Education-philosophy of Tagore

  • Tagore’s ideas for creating a system of education aimed at promoting international cooperation and creating global citizens. Tagore envisioned an education that was deeply rooted in one’s immediate surroundings but connected to the cultures of the wider world, predicated upon pleasurable learning and individualised to the personality of the child. He felt that the curriculum should revolve organically around nature, with flexible schedules to allow for shifts in weather, and with special attention to natural phenomena and seasonal festivities.
  • The aims reflected in the institution founded by Tagore:
  • Self-realisation: Spiritual is the essence of humanism. Manifestation of personality depends upon the self-realisation and spiritual knowledge of the individual.
  • Intellectual Development: It means the development of imagination, creative free-thinking, constant curiosity, and alertness of the mind. Freedom of the child to adopt his own way of learning, which would lead to all-around development.
  • Physical development: Sound and healthy physique through yoga, games, and sports as an integral part of education.
  • Love for Humanity: Education for international understanding and universal brotherhood. Education should teach people to realise oneness.
  • Freedom: Education is a man-making process, it explores the innate power that exists within man, it is not an imposition, but a liberal process that provides the utmost freedom for development.
  • Co-relation of objects: A peaceful world is only possible when a correlation between man and nature will be established.
  • Mother tongue as medium of instruction: Language is the true vehicle of expression.
  • Moral and spiritual development: It is more important than bookish knowledge for an integral development of human personality, by encouraging selfless acts, co-operation, sharing and fellow feeling among students.
  • Social Development: ‘Brahma’ the supreme soul manifests through men and all creatures. He is the source of all life. Brotherhood should be cultivated from the beginning of life.

Spiritual Humanism of Tagore

  • The basic tenets of ‘spiritual humanism’ encourage the spiritual experience of oneness with the universe and love for all humanity. It does not believe in detachment from worldly pleasure, asceticism and deliverance rather it preaches to embrace the aesthetic beauty of the world and to admire all worldly creatures. 
  • Tagore’s idea of spiritual humanism is as follows:
  • Importance of man: In pursuing spiritual humanism, Tagore put emphasis on man. Man is an end in itself. God is simply a symbol of human perfection. It is the consciousness within a man that makes him perfect.
  • No place for selfish individualism: In the case of Tagore’s spiritual humanism, there is a place for narrow and selfish individualism. The perfection that an individual attains is not his personal possession. It is also aimed at the benefit of society. So, selfish individualism is sacrificed at the altar of broader spiritual humanism.
  • Perfection of man through the development of personality: Tagore envisaged that the perfection of man is attained through the development of personality. The perfection attained by man should be applicable to the entire society but not to the individual alone.
  • Rejection of hedonism and utilitarianism: In pursuing spiritual humanism, Tagore never put emphasis on hedonism and utilitarianism which seek to attain happiness as much as one can within a short span of me because the human being has to quit the world for good within a particular period.
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