Swami Vivekananda was one of India’s leading social reformers of the modern era and was a champion of humanitarism and service to God through service to others. Vivekananda forged the unity of East and West — all within the brief period of ten years.
|12 January, 1863||Vivekananda born in Calcutta, India|
|By 1869||Knew stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata by heart|
|1880||Passed the Entrance Examination of the Calcutta University – stood in the first division|
|16 August, 1886||Sri Ramkrishna died|
|31 May 1893||Swami Vivekananda sailed for America|
|1893||Attends Parliament of Religions|
|20 February 1897||Swamiji returned to Calcutta, India|
|1897||Founded the Ramkrishna Mission|
|9 December 1898||First monastery at Belur Math inaugurated|
|June 1899||Vivekananda sailed for second visit to the Western world|
|1901||Ramkrishna Mission receives legal status|
|4 July 1902||Vivekananda sat for meditation at Belur Math, and passed away at the age of 39 years|
Profile of Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)
Swami Vivekananda became one of India’s leading social reformers of the modern era and was a champion of humanitarianism and service to God through service to others.
He is revered both in the East and West as a rejuvenator of mankind through the eternal truths of Hinduism. He spoke widely on Hinduism and its true meaning as written in the vedas and founded the Ramkrishna Mission, one of India’s leading charitable institutions.
Swami Vivekananda was born on 12th January 1863 in Calcutta to Bhuvaneshwari and Vishwanath Datta. Bhuvaneshwari had many daughters and longed for a son. And it is said that a son was born after long worship of Lord Shiva. Bhuvaneshwari believed that her son was gift from Vireshwar Shiva and so named him Bireshwar. As the name was too long, everyone began calling Biley.
As a child, Biley was strong-willed but restless. But his mother knew to control him. She would pour a few pots of water on his head saying all the while, “Shiva, Shiva, Shiva!”. This would immediately quieten him and he would start meditating. Biley was always fascinated by the sanyasis (monks) in their saffron dress. He would give anything to them which was handy. He would love to play with his friends “king and court” where he would always become king. Sometimes they would play the game of meditation. Whenever he used to do this, he used to forget everything and would only think of God.
Biley was a sharp boy and before he was six, he knew all the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharta by heart. Biley used to remember everything that he heard once. This was because he used to give complete concentration to it. Biley always told the truth and always wanted to test the truth of what he was told. In times of danger, Biley always kept a cool head and did his duty.
Influence of Ramkrishna
When Biley grew up, he was given the name of Narendranath Datta. By adolescence, he had stopped meditating mindlessly in front of images as he could not accept religion on blind faith. He began asking many questions such as “who is God?”, “Where is God”. He would go to all the religious people he met and ask them just one question – “Have you seen God?” But no one would reply him.
Soon he met Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa (1836-1886) who was a scholar of the Vedas, Upanishads, Sufism, the Bible, Sikhism and Buddhism. In him, Narendra found the spiritual teacher he was searching for and so he became his disciple. One night, Narendranath went into deep meditation and had a spiritual experience which filled him with bliss. Ramkrishna stressed “not mercy, but service” and encouraged Narendranath to change his name to Vivekananda. It was on August 16, 1886 Sri Ramkrishna left his body. After the death of Ramkrishna, Vivekananda committed himself to serving humanity for the rest of his life.
Vivekananda’s Journey to West and East
Swami Vivekananda at Chicago
Vivekananda journeyed throughout India and was appalled by the suffering he saw. India was not a free country then. Most people did not have enough to eat. He also realized that much of the flavour of true Hinduism as taught by the Vedas had been lost and thus he spearheaded a Hindu renaissance, particularly among educated Indians.
A Parliament of Religions was to be held in America, in Chicago. Leaders of all the different religions of the world were going to speak. Swami Vivekananda decided to go there to tell people abroad about the ancient religion of India and learn things from them which they knew. In 1893, Vivekananda spoke at the “Parliament of World Religions” in Chicago, explaining the true meaning of Hinduism. His speech was well received and remains a landmark in Indian oratory history. Vivekananda’s speeches were powerful and touched people’s hearts.
Vivekananda Return To India
From Chicago, Swami Vivekananda sailed to England. Both in America and London, many became his disciples. One of them (well-known in India) was Miss Margaret noble who later got the name Sister Nivedita. She came to India and started school for girls and dedicated herself completely to serve India and her people.
Vivekananda landed in Ceylon in the middle of January 1897. From there, his journey to Calcutta was a triumphant progress. Swami Vivekananda set up the Ramkrishna Mission whose main objectives were to promote the study of Vedanta, spread education and maintain institutions of public service.
Spread of the Ramkrishna Mission
The first monastery of the Mission was established at Belur Math (Calcutta) in 1899. In 1901 the Mission attained legal status. Its aim of serving without barriers of caste or creed, earned the Mission many dedicated followers. Vivekananda exhorted his followers to spread the Vedanta, teach service and the mission lent much needed aid to those affected by floods and epidemics in Bengal and Bihar. By 1899, another branch of the Mission was opened at Murshidabad, Almora.
Vivekananda believed in the need to preserve Hindu heritage and culture as taught by the Vedas. He opposed the caste system and believed that equality should prevail in India. He said, “India is immortal if she persists in her search for God”. And God, to Vivekananda, could be reached only through service.
Vivekananda Passes Away
Photo 6 )
In June 1899, Vivekananda sailed for a second time to the Western world. This time he went via Europe and England. By the time he returned to India, Vivekananda was a sick man. On July 4, 1902, Swami Vivekananda sat down to meditate in his room at Belur Math. And when some of monks went to see him he had already passed away. Vivekananda died in 1902 at the age of 39 years.
As a man of enlightenment, he knew that the truth is never contained in arrangements of sentences. It is within the speaker himself. Vivekananda was incapable of self-contradiction.
The Ramkrishna Mission which Vivekananda started continued to grow even after his death. It began centres of education, technical institutes, hospitals, homes for the old, infirm and destitute and sent aid to victims of disasters and refugees. Today, the Ramkrishna Mission has over 138 permanent centres in India and 33 centres abroad. It has continued its dedication to serving humanity, a principle that guided the life of its founder, Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Vivekananda Teachings
It is true that the message of Swami Vivekananda has influenced, inspired and transformed hundreds of lives. Below are few quotations of Vivekananda.
Atman or The Self
Bhakti or the Love of God
Brahman or the Supreme Reality
Vivekanada’s Speeches at Parliament of Religion
Sept 11: Introduction Paper at World Conference (Welcome Speech)
Sept 15: Why We Disagree
Sept 19: Paper on Hinduism
Sept 20: Religion not the Crying Need of India
Sept 26: Buddhism: The Fulfilment of Hinduism
Sept 27: Address At the Final Session
And what is His nature?
Books on and from Swami Vivekananda
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