Editor, Advaita Ashrama, Ramakrishana Math & Ramakrishna Mission
I was remembering Swami Vivekananda’s first famous speech in Chicago, which I consider to be a turning point in the history of modern India. Even that historical speech was given in less than three minutes and here we have been given seven minutes to deliberate on this wonderful subject. I believe that this confluence is of utmost importance as spirituality is the strength of India. Spirituality is not only our strength but it defines us.
Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to go to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu to attend a youth conference. About 1000 young boys and girls were staying in our Ashram for three days and they were introduced to many wonderful ideas about spirituality and nationalism. I asked this question to the students, “How do we describe India?” A very smart girl stood up and said, “India means unity in diversity.” It was a wonderful answer.
Yet, this answer raises another question. We know of the
mesmerizing diversity that characterises India. It is explicit but what is it that unifies us into a nation? Yes, India is described to be the land of unity in diversity. But do we know what unifies us into a nation? This is a very important question. One of the answers may be our Constitution. It is one of the pillars of our nationhood.
But even before the dawn of this republic in 1950, this great Indian subcontinent existed as one unit and with one identity. India is one of the oldest existing civilisations. So what is that one thing which went into unifying these people? The whole story of India is actually squeezed into one single word and that is ‘Bharat’. You know what is the meaning of Bharat?
Usually we think the word is derived from the great king Bharat. But that is not the case. In Sanskrit, the term Bharat itself is eloquent and tells us the entire story of our origin. The word ‘Bharat’ has two parts – one is ‘Bha’ and the other is ‘rata’. In Sanskrit, rata means to be engrossed. Bharat means a land where people have been traditionally engaged and engrossed in Bha. And what is Bha? Bha in Sanskrit refers to bhasaman or bhaswar.
Bhasman is that which is radiant and in the entire creation, the only thing which is truly radiant is the light of consciousness. So Bharat refers to that region where people are engrossed in discovering the light of consciousness. This is the spiritual basis for India’s nationhood.