Swami Vivekananda was born on January
12th 1963 as Narendranath Dutta (pre-monastic name) in Shimla Pally,
Kolkata, West Bengal, India, as the son of Viswanath Dutta and Bhuvaneswari
Devi. Considered one of the most famous and influential spiritual leaders of
the Hindu religion, Narendranath (or Naren, as he was called by his close
ones) was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who later founded
Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. An icon to the young India, Swami
Vivekananda is known as the greatest philosopher and spiritual leader of
20th century for his fearless courage, his positive exhortations to the
youth, his broad outlook to social problems, and countless lectures and
discourses on Vedanta philosophy.
Early Life of Vivekananda
Vivekananda practiced meditation from a very early age. While at school, he
was good at studies, as well as games of various kinds - wrestling, fencing,
etc. He also studied instrumental and vocal music.
In 1879, Narendranath entered the Presidency College, Kolkata (then
Calcutta) for higher studies. After one year, he joined the Scottish Church
College, Calcutta and studied philosophy. During the course, he studied
western logic, western philosophy and history of European nations.
There started to arise questions about God and the presence of God in young
Narendra's mind. This made him associate with the Brahmo Samaj, an important
religious movement of the time, led by Keshab Chandra Sen. But the Samaj's
congregational prayers and devotional songs could not satisfy Narendra's
zeal to realise God. He would ask leaders of Brahma Samaj whether they have
seen God. He never got a satisfying answer. It was during this time that he
came to know about Sri Ramakrishna of Dakshineswar from Professor Hastie of
Scottish Church College, Kolkata.
Narendra met Ramakrishna for the first time in November 1881. He asked
Ramakrishna the same old question, whether he had seen God. The
instantaneous answer from Ramakrishna was, "Yes, I have seen God, just
as I see you here, only in a more clear sense." Narendra was astounded
and puzzled. He could feel the man's words were honest and uttered from
depths of experience. He started visiting Ramakrishna frequently.
During the course of five years of his training under Ramakrishna, Narendra
was transformed from a restless, puzzled, impatient youth to a mature man
who was ready to renounce everything for the sake of God-realization. Soon,
Ramakrishna's end came in the form of throat cancer in August 1886. After
this Narendra and a core group of Ramakrishna's disciples took vows to
become monks and renounce everything, and started living in a supposedly
haunted house in Baraganore. They took alms to satisfy their hunger and
their other needs were taken care of by Ramakrishna's richer householder
His Great Achievements :
Ramkrishna Mission :
the Brain Child of Vivekananda
This institution is now one of the largest monastic orders of Hindu
society in India. The mission emphasises on rendering welfare services
undertaken with a spiritual outlook. It is an institution which provides
spiritual & moral lessens as well as modern education to the future
generations of India. The Mission carries on missionary and
philanthropic work in conjunction with householders (Grihastha)
First Indian to Address the World
The word that moved most of the listeners in America was "Sisters
and brothers of America", the famous words, which came out of Swami
Vivekananda's mouth while addressing the people of America in the
Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Swami Vivekananda earned wild
applause for beginning his address with the famous words, at the 1893
World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Illinois and is perhaps best
remembered as the man who "stole the show" there.
Vivekananda's arrival in the USA has been identified by many to mark
the beginning of western interest in Hinduism as a vital religious and
philosophical tradition that might actually have something important to
teach the West. Within a few years of the Parliament, he had started
Vedantic centres in New York City, New York and London, lectured at
major universities and generally kindled western interest in Hinduism.
After four years of constant touring, lecturing and retreats in the
West, he came back to India in the year 1897.
After a short life of 39 years, Swami Vivekananda passed away in
Mahasamadhi on July 4, 1902 at Belur Math near Kolkata.