"To go from mortal to buddha, you have to put an end to karma, nurture your awareness, and accept what life brings". — Bodhidharma






PRABUDDHA BHARATAAwakening India | Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam  






       Awakening India

          His Excellency Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

     I am delighted to participate in the inauguration of the Cultural Centre built in and around Swami Vivekananda's Ancestral House. I congratulate the Ramakrishna Mission for having conceived of and implemented this project. I understand that the ancestral house of Swamiji has been restored without disturbing the original structure. My pranams to the swamijis here and greetings to the organizers, members of the Ramakrishna Mission, educationists, disciples of Vivekananda, state and central government functionaries and distinguished guests on this historic occasion.


     Vision of Vivekananda


     Friends, when I am in this beautiful environment, the ancestral house of Swamiji, let me recall an event that took place in a ship that was sailing from Japan to Canada in 1893. Two great human beings were travelling in it. They introduced themselves to each other. They were Swamiji and Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata. Swamiji asked Tata where he was going and what was his mission. Tata said, 'Swamiji, I am going with a mission to bring steel industry to our country.' Friends, that was in 1893, when India was ruled by the British. Swamiji said, 'It is indeed a beautiful mission. My best wishes. However, I would like to give you a small caution. Whatever amount you spend to get steel, simultaneously you should learn the metallurgical science of making steel also. I would prefer you to start an institute, a laboratory to do advanced research on the subject.' What a prophetic statement! Many things happened after that. Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata could not get the technology for manufacturing steel from the UK. However, he could get the know-how of manufacturing steel from the US and established the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) at Jamshedpur. A big planning followed. It had two parts: the first part was to start a steel manufacturing plant at Jamshedpur. Simultaneously, he donated one sixth of his property for establishing an institute for material research in Bangalore.

     I visited Jamshedpur some time back and saw the fruits of Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata's labour: four million tons of steel a year being produced by TISCO. Due to his foresight, India is today self-reliant in steel technology. We also see that the seeding for the research laboratory has now been transformed into a great learning centre: the Indian Institute of Science. This incident demonstrates the vision of the great personality Swamiji. His vision was to have a strong and developed India. He clearly foresaw the role of science, technology and industry. It is Swamiji who made Jagdis Chandra Bose get a patent for his invention. His call for the awakening of India was not merely in the spiritual field, but for its all-round economic and social progress.


     Strong Bonds among Religions


     Friends, when I was a professor at the Anna University in Tamil Nadu, I had invitations from many institutions in Rajkot. One invitation was from the Bishop of Rajkot, the Reverend Father Gregory Karotemprel, CMI, who asked me to inaugurate the Christ College. On the same day, I addressed a gathering of nearly one lakh students at a function to give the 'Vision of Life' organized by Swami Dharmabandhu. Later, I was to go to Porbandar to participate in the students' meet organized by the Ramakrishna Mission centre there. I was also enriched by my visit to Alfred School, Rajkot, where Mahatma Gandhi had his early education. I would like to share with you two incidents that occurred in the above environment on the same day.

     Before the inauguration of Christ College, I was invited to the bishop's house in Rajkot. When I entered his house I felt as if I was entering a holy place. There was a unique prayer hall, where all religions were represented, respecting each religious sentiment. When the reverend father was explaining to me the significance of his creation of the unique prayer hall, there was a call from the nearby Swaminarayan temple requesting me to visit their temple. When I told this to the reverend father, he said he would also accompany me. When we entered the temple and reached where the image of Lord Krishna was enshrined with splendour, it was a unique experience. It was noon, when the temple is normally closed, but it was specifically kept open for us on that day. We were all received with the offering of tilak on our forehead. It was a great sight with the reverend father, Abdul Kalam and Sri Y S Rajan having the shining tilak on their foreheads. This incident demonstrated the strength of connectivity of several religions in our country leading to a unique spiritual experience. Cumulative actions following that event led to the Surat Spiritual Declaration in October 2003, in which the Ramakrishna Mission also played a great role.


     The Power of Prayer


     The next was a beautiful event. The swamiji of Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot, requested me that I must visit his centre for a few minutes on my way to the airport. When I reached there, I found a spiritual discourse in progress on Ramakrishna's teachings and Swamiji's mission of life. The discourse was followed by a prayer call. Spiritual singing engulfed the hall with rhythmic musical notes. I joined the prayer along with hundreds of devotees. The spiritual environment and the intensity of prayer put me onto a different plane. To the surprise of my friends and the swamiji accompanying me, the prayer took me to a different plane, and that day I found that time became indeterminate. This can be the effect of an integrated spiritual environment. Now when I am in Swami Vivekananda Heritage Building, my mind is experiencing a spiritual feeling similar to the one I experienced in Rajkot.

     Digital Library Initiatives in India


     I understand that this centre has planned a textbook library as a part of its activities. I would like to discuss the digital library initiative in India, which can be useful for the textbook library and the research centre of this campus.

     There is a mission called 'Digital Library Initiative' to create a portal for digital libraries in India, piloted by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Carnegie Mellon University, USA, as partners for fostering creativity and free access to all human knowledge. As a first step, this digital library will create in India a free-to-read searchable collection of one million books by 2005. So far we have digitized 80,000 books in India, out of which 45,000 books are available online in nine regional languages. The textbook library authorities of this Cultural Centre can seek the help of Prof N. Balakrishnan, IISc, for digitization of their books and other related access software through the Digital Library Initiative. The storage capacity is doubling every year. Today one can get 300 GB disks, of a few grams of weight, for around $100. This disk can hold more than 30,000 books. In ten years' time, a disk of the same size will hold 30 million books, larger than the largest library in the world-a library on your palm. The digital library of this Cultural Centre can be integrated with the Visva-Bharati University and other universities in Kolkata, which will facilitate researchers to study Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature, comparative religion and Indian culture.


     PURA (Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas)


     I also understand that the Cultural Centre is planning a rural and slum development centre for rendering service to poor people in villages and slums. I thought of sharing with you the concept of PURA, which may be useful for rendering advice and support to rural masses.

     PURA will minimize the migration of people from rural to urban areas. Our plan is to make the rural environment so attractive that there can be a reverse flow from urban to rural areas. This will certainly help in reducing the major congestion taking place in a small number of big cities, leading to inadequate infrastructure, pollution, crime, diseases and poor quality of life in these cities.


     Rural Prosperity through Connectivity


     In our country nearly 700 million people are living in 600,000 villages. Connectivity of village complexes providing economic opportunities to all segments of people is an urgent need in order to bridge the rural-urban divide, generate employment and enhance rural prosperity. The essential needs of the villages today are water, power, roads, sanitation, health care, education and employment generation.

     The integrated methods that will bring prosperity to rural India are as follows: (1) Physical connectivity of village clusters through quality roads and transport; (2) Electronic connectivity through telecommunication with high-bandwidth fibre-optic cables reaching rural areas from urban cities and through Internet kiosks; (3) Knowledge connectivity through education, vocational training for farmers, artisans and craftsmen, and entrepreneurship programmes-thereby leading to (4) Economic connectivity by enhancing the prosperity of village clusters in the rural areas by starting enterprises with the help of banks and micro-credits, and marketing products. The Cultural Centre can make use of this concept and adopt a few village clusters near Kolkata and facilitate creation of PURAs in partnership with NGOs, philanthropists and banks for enriching the lives of the rural masses. That will be a fitting tribute to the memory of Swamiji.




     Dear friends, I am reminded of Swamiji's exhortation to our people: 'Teach yourself, teach everyone his real nature. Call upon the sleeping soul and see how it awakes. Power will come, glory will come, goodness will come, purity will come, and everything that is excellent will come, when this sleeping soul is roused to self-conscious activity.' Swamiji's call for evolution of self-conscious activity is indeed the evolution of righteousness in the heart. When there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in character. When there is beauty in character, there is harmony at home. When there is harmony at home, there is order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world. Hence let us work for the evolution of the enlightened citizen, which is the mission of Swamiji. Such enlightened citizens should have a strong body and indomitable spirit as advocated by Swamiji in order to 'Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.' The goal is a prosperous India with peace in itself and giving it to the whole world. Let this complex be an important focal point for radiating such thoughts and actions! It gives me a great pleasure to inaugurate the Cultural Centre. I am sure that the people who visit this place will draw immense inspiration from here. I have a desire that the inspiration and happiness of visiting this place should also be felt and enjoyed by those who are not fortunate enough to visit this place. I suggest that the Ramakrishna Mission and those who maintain this heritage complex should create a digital archive and a high-resolution, virtual walk-through and make it available to the whole world, for Swamiji is one of the most cherished leaders who belong to the whole world.




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