"We are gathered here today to pay our homage and tribute to the memory of one of India's greatest sons. A teacher, a great philosopher, a great religious scholar, a patriot, a nationalist and an internationalist - Swami Vivekananda was all these; he was also a citizen of the world," he said at the closing ceremony of the commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda here today.
"I sincerely believe that the best tribute to Swamiji would be to recognise the relevance of his teachings and his thoughts for the 21st century, for today's India, for tomorrow's India," he added.
He further highlighted three central messages of Swamiji's teachings, and said that he has personally been inspired by his syncretic views.
"First, that all the great religions of the world seek peace on Earth and goodwill among all human beings. Second, that India's true liberation would come when every Indian feels liberated from the scourge of poverty, ignorance and disease," he said.
"Third, that India, this great motherland of ours, has much to learn from the world around us and, equally, much to teach the world and that a two-way flow of knowledge between India and the world can only be to our benefit and the benefit of all humanity," he added.
Singh also said that this syncretic and pluralistic view of religion is one of the greatest contributions of Hinduism, and of the civilisations that took root in this country.
"The idea that the whole world is one family has inspired millions of people all over the world. But I also believe it is an idea that defines India and the Indian view of the world," he added.
He also recalled Swami Vivekananda's historic address to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, but asserted that there is no use celebrating Swamiji's life, paying our respects to his ideas and teachings, if people do not imbibe the values that he so passionately advocated.
"Swami Vivekananda expressed the hope at the World Parliament of Religions that 'the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal," Singh said.
"His truly great message for us, which is of great relevance to our country and our sub-continent, was that true religion and true religiosity cannot be the basis of hatred and division, but of mutual respect and tolerance for the faiths and beliefs of all," he added.
He also said that Swami Vivekananda's second important contribution to modern India was to stir the minds of fellow Indians, and inspire them to seek freedom and a life of dignity.
"Arise! Awake! And stop not till the goal is reached!" - was at once a call to spiritual as well as political liberation. While promoting the idea of the oneness of all religions, Swamiji promoted with equal zeal the idea of the equality of all human beings. Therefore, he rejected colonialism and alien rule as an affront to human dignity," he added.
Singh said that Swamiji was particularly inspired by the patriotism and the pursuit of modernity by the people of Japan, and said that the combination of national pride, pride in their cultural inheritance, and true commitment to learning from the world of modern science and technology made a deep impact on him.
"Reflecting on his visits to China and Japan, Swamiji once said 'With all my love for India, and with all my patriotism and veneration for the ancients, I cannot but think that we have to learn many things from other nations. We must be always ready to sit at the feet of all for, mark you, everyone can teach us great lessons. At the same time, we must not forget that we have also to teach a great lesson to the world," Singh said.
UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi described the life of Swami Vivekananda as a life of magnificent achievements. She said several great Indian leaders drew inspiration from Swami Vivekananda in nation building. She also said he believed in gender equality and lived to illuminate the life of others.
Defence Minister AK Antony, Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch, and several other dignitaries were present during the function.
--ANI (Posted on 12-01-2014)