Swami Vivekananda’s vision went beyond propagating Hinduism to the West. He was keen that India, though religious, also understands the use of Science and Technology. He was concerned that Indians were steeped in ignorance and superstition and this came in the way of both physical and spiritual progress. He constantly urged his devotees not to accept anything without taking it through the test of experimentation. Vivekananda advocated testing thoroughly before making the decision of accepting or denying something. He said, “It is not the sign of a candid and scientific mind to throw overboard anything without proper investigation. Surface scientists, unable to explain various extraordinary mental phenomena, strive to ignore their very existence”.
Very few also know of his contribution in setting up the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. It was in 1893 that Swami Vivekananda met Sir Jamshedji Tata for the first time. They were traveling together in a ship that sailed from Yokohama to Vancouver. Swamiji was traveling to the US on his ‘life’s mission’ of taking Hinduism to the World. Sir Jamshedji Tata was the doyen of Indian Industry and was visiting the United States in search of equipment and technology needed for his steel plant. Both these extraordinary Indians loved their country and were very concerned about the welfare of their countrymen. Both started talking and Swamiji remarked “How wonderful it would be if we could combine the scientific and technological achievements of the West with the asceticism and humanism of India!” He asked Jamshedji to consider creating an institution that would build the scientific and technological human-resource pool for the country. Though they never met after that journey, these words struck a chord in Jamshedji’s heart. Five years later, Jamshedji’s response came in a letter to Vivekananda in which he mentioned that he was starting such an institution in Bangalore and wanted to know if Swamiji could take on the responsibility of heading it. Swamiji courteously turned down this offer but encouraged him on. Swamiji passed away in July 1902. Jamshedji did not live long either. He died in 1904, unaware that his vision would be realized just five years later. The Indian Institute of Science, a gift from the Tatas, was born in 1909 and is today the pride of the Nation.
Swami Vivekananda always maintained that India needed a scientific temperament for it to develop. He used to goad his disciples to carry a ‘magic lantern’ (projector of those days) and go from village to village teaching science to our rural brethren. He was a visionary who understood that problems of India would need the background of science for them to be solved.