Jamshedji Tata and Swami Vivekananda
More than a century back, Swami Vivekananda inspired Jamshedji Tata to establish centres for higher education and research, especially in the fundamental sciences. What is striking is that Jamshedji Tata offered the first directorship of such an institute to Swami Vivekananda. We quote below Jamshedji Tata’s letter to Swami Vivekananda:
“I very much recall at this moment your views on the growth of ascetic spirit in India, and the duty, not of destroying, but diverting it into useful channels. I recall these ideas in connection with my scheme of Research Institute of Science for India, which you have doubtless heard or read. It seems to me that no better use can be made of the ascetic spirit than the establishment of monasteries or residential halls for men dominated by this spirit where they should live with ordinary decency and devote their lives to the cultivation of sciences – natural and humanistic. I am of opinion that if such a crusade in favour of an asceticism of this kind were undertaken by a competent leader, it would greatly help asceticism, science, and the good name of our common country; and I know not who would make a more fitting general of such a campaign than Vivekananda.”
Although Swami Vivekananda’s response is not recorded, the Prabuddha Bharata, a monthly journal started by Swami Vivekananda as the official organ of Ramakrishna Mission, expressed its warm appreciation of the scheme in its editorial column of April 1899, during Swami Vivekananda’s lifetime, in the following words:
“We are not aware if any project at once so opportune and so far-reaching in its beneficent effects was ever mooted in India, ast that of the Post-graduate Research University of Mr. Tata. The scheme grasps the vital point of weakness in our national well-being with a clearness of vision and tightness of grip, the masterliness of which is only equalled by the munificence of the gift with which it is ushered to the public. …Mr. Tata’s scheme paves the path of placing into the hands of Indians this knowledge of Nature — the preserver and the destroyer,… — that by having the knowledge, they might have power over her and be successful in the struggle for existence. …We repeat: No idea more potent for good to the whole nation has seen the light of day in Modern India. Let the whole nation therefore, forgetful of class or sect interests, join in making it a success. “
Two of India’s premier institutions dedicated to fundamental science research, namely, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and Indian Institute of Science, bear testimony to this inspiration, both in terms of the excellence of the academic programme, as well as in terms of the quality of research.
The time is now ripe for the Ramakrishna Mission, which has matured in its service activities over the past century, to directly step into the field of higher education and research, to contribute to actualizing Swami Vivekananda’s vision.