Youth is the spring of life, the symbol of vigor, dynamism, enthusiasm. It has tremendous potential. It depends on how the potential is utilized. If channelised properly, it can work wonders. If not, it can play havoc!
River Tapi near Surat often used to flood, destroying human life and property. The water had devastating effects. However, the authorities looked into the matter, thought it over and then built the Ukai Dam. Today hundreds of thousands of acres of land benefit through irrigation besides the electricity obtained from the hydro-electric power. The river has been tamed and its benefits reach millions. The youth too, have a colossal amount of energy. If it is properly channelised for constructive work, a great deal of good can follow. As Pramukh Swami Maharaj says, "If a boat is in the sea, there is no problem. But if the 'sea' is in the boat, there is nothing but problems." Likewise, if youth power is properly oriented it is fine. If not only problems are created.
To make the life of youth more purposeful, goal-oriented, there is the need for religion. It can inspire within them new vigor, new direction and new vision. When Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Laureate and famous Bengali poet was a child he was not aware that he had poor eyesight. One day, while playing with his pals in school, a friend dropped his spectacles. Picking them up, Tagore tried them on. To his utter surprise, everything he saw became much clearer and well-focussed. The spectacles provided the right eye correction and gave him new sight, free from any blurs. He welcomed the change with mixed feelings. On the one hand he was elated for he could see so clearly for the first time in his life, and on the other hand, the fact that he had been deprived of the beautiful vision all those years made him curse himself for the great loss. He wished he had acquired spectacles much earlier. Tagore narrates this incident from his life and explains that the spectacles represent faith in God. So long as one has not acquired the spectacles, one's myopic state persists, presenting a blurred vision in life. But once the spectacles of faith are put on, one can behold an altogether different world - a world as it really is - full of beauty, full of variety bubbling with inspiration and awe. Then we shall attain the vision to realise that all creation is an outstretched finger pointing towards God.
It is generally held that the youth are not religious. But this is not so. In fact, the youth are religious provided religion is youthful, that is, religion bereft of blind faith, superstitions, malpractices and fanatic dogmas, religion that brings people together and promotes the meeting of hearts. The youth hear that religion is a "way of life." But in reality, he finds that people seem to be religious only within the four walls of the Mandir or places of worship. Elsewhere, they do not hesitate to transgress any and even all the moral and spiritual values on which religion is based. The young cannot reconcile such double standards. It bites them to the bone.
During the Spanish conquest of Mexico under Hernando Cortez in the early 1500s, a resistance leader named Hatney was captured after a fierce battle and sentenced to be burned alive. After tying him to the stake, his captors urged him to accept their religion, so that at his death his soul might be given an entrance into heaven. He asked his tormentors if they expected to go to this place. On being told that they did, he cried out, "Then I will not accept to go to a place where I would find men so cruel!"
The majority of youth want to understand religion from a 'rational' viewpoint. The reason chiefly being his education, which sharpens his scrutiny and logical understanding of things. One cannot hammer religious beliefs into them. Hence there is the need to provide old wine in a new bottle; the age old traditions and teachings should be put to him in a palatable form.
A believer and a skeptic were once walking on a quiet lane.
The skeptic said, "Look at the trouble and misery in the world after thousands of years of religion. Of what good has religion been?"
His companion remained tight`-lipped, because he couldn't think of an answer. However, on walking further, he noticed a child, filthy with grime, playing in the gutter.
He said, "We've had soap for a long time yet look how dirty that child is. Of what value is soap!"
The skeptic protested, "But soap can't do any good unless it is used?" "Exactly!" replied the believer. "Religion is of not much good if not honestly practiced."
Life is full of crises, trials and tribulations. It is religion that can pull one through them. An ordinary car would get stuck in muddy terrain but a car with a four-wheel-drive will pull through. Similarly, one's faith in the all-powerful God relieves one of all tensions and stresses that follow from one's ego-propelled endeavors. The youth needs God all the more in view of the fact that they suffer from despair, dejection and hopelessness. Religion provides the new drive, the new hope in life. It tells us that where the desert ends, green grass grows. It gives the hope that day follows the night. Religion links one to God. And peace floods the soul when God rules the heart. This is its greatest benefit.
Peace is something everyone aspires for, but, peace cannot be bought in the market place. The root of peace and bliss is God. Faith in God is the only answer to our quest for peace. A person can do without food for several weeks, he may even do without water for a while but he cannot do without air for even a few minutes.
Religion is the very breath of life. It sustains. It was faith in God that sustained the youth Gandhi during his anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, that provided strength to the youthful Shankaracharya during his debates and that spurred Swami Vivekanand to hold aloft the spiritual torch of India in the West.
So, reinforced with a religious faith, attended by honest and sincere practice of moral and spiritual values, the tremendous potential of youth can move mountains. During World War II, General Douglas MacArthur helped the Filipinos recapture their country, Philippines, in 1942. Grateful for his assistance when all had seemed lost, the government in Manila later directed its armies to begin a tradition of calling out MacArthur's name at every parade roll call. Each company designated one officer who would respond by answering 'present in spirit.' That symbolic gesture helped to ensure that the dedication and courage of the general would live on in the hearts of the soldiers long after MacArthur was gone. If Philippine soldiers can gain great encouragement by remembering MacArthur, how much more can the youth be heartened by remembering God, who guides, strengthens and enlightens us!