16 July 2019 09:47 PM

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S.N.SAHU | 20 MAY, 2019

PM’s Highly Advertised Meditation Contravenes the Ideals of Swami Vivekananda

Publicity driven meditation based on an event management strategy


Prime Minister Modi’s picture released by his media posse in a Himalayan cave with eyes closed and sitting in a meditative posture on a luxurious mattress with his back leaning on a pillow, is a classic example of publicity driven meditation based on an event management strategy. It is completely contrary to the ethos of meditation for the purpose of gaining higher consciousness, which is integral to yoga and aims at achieving one-pointedness of mind beyond the glare of publicity and advertisement.

In fact one cartoon showed a humorous picture of Modi in meditative posture with a camera being used by him to take a selfie. The caption below reads, Media + Attention = Moditation.

When he is in this mode PM Modi sometimes claims to have been inspired by the writings and vision of the late Narendranath Datta, known as Swami Vivekananda. In the context of Modi’s publicised meditation pictured in a well-appointed Himalayan cave hotel, let us examine the vision of the revered Swamiji.

The avoidance of publicity remained a distinguishing feature of Swami Vivekananda’s life even as he got extraordinary and wide media attention for his soul stirring and impactful speeches in the USA. When some Indian newspapers covered his lectures delivered in the World Parliament of Religions in 1893, he wrote to a Bengali disciple on December 28, “It is very strange that news of my Chicago lectures has appeared in the Indian papers; for whatever I do, I try my best to avoid publicity”.

This aversion to publicity was evident again from a letter Vivekananda wrote from the USA to his Tamil disciple Alasinga Perimal: “I think I have had enough of newspaper blazoning, and humbugging of a public life. I do not care the least for it.”

Yet again in another letter to Alasinga in September 1893 Swamiji expressed his aversion for media attention by writing, “This nonsense of public life and newspaper blazoning has disgusted me thoroughly. I long to go back to Himalayan quiet.” He maintained the same stand in several other letters written from the USA.

Clearly, Vivekananda was extremely uncomfortable with the incessant media attention he got for his brilliant speeches, and was therefore keen to go back to the Himalayas in search of quiet and tranquility. He was in search for communion with his inner self beyond the glare of publicity.

If PM Modi had some any understanding of Swami Vivekananda's philosophy he would have at least avoided media attention for his meditation in a cave. By sitting in a meditative posture in a Himalayan cave lodging and inviting the media to capture it and transmit it to the wide world, Modi is negating the idea of meditation as expounded by Swami Vivekananda in his numerous lectures and writings.

Another observation of Swamiji’s is worth mentioning here. He disapproved of the publicity he received in the USA and India and said that after his return to India thousands would follow him. To which he said that instead of following a person, people should follow an ideal.

Vivekananda’s repeated affirmation that he desired a life of scholarship and meditation in Himalayan quiet, and not publicity, brought out his detachment from the worldly life. Such highly publicised media attention centred on so-called meditation in a so-called cave by Prime Minister Modi trivialises meditation, which is a very profound idea associated with a state of mind informed by a broad outlook, compassion and empathy.

It is relevant to note that Swami Vivekananda said that the ideals of love, compassion and fellow feeling flow from a state of consciousness generated by meditation, and its next stage, samadhi. People imbued with these values would remain in meditative mode, shunning attention from worldly life and of course the media in all its forms.

With his costumes and his pose Prime Minister Modi is negating this core ideal of meditation, and is blithely trampling upon the vision of Swami Vivekananda by whose name he ostensibly swears.

S.N.Sahu served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India the late K.R.Narayanan and had a tenure as Director in the Prime Minister's Office and Joint Secretary in the Rajya Sabha Secretariat.

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