Inspiring Indians - Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda was one of the most influential spiritual leader and thinker of all time, whose teachings continue to influence millions of people across the world.  

Early life

Born Narendranath Dutta on 12 January 1863, during the Makra Sankranti festival in Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Vishwanath Dutta, a lawyer of Calcutta High Court and Bhuvaneshwari Devi. His thinking and personality were influenced by his parents. His father had a rational mind and his mother advocated a religious temperament. Narendranath had varied interests in philosophy, religion, history, the social sciences, arts, literature, and science. His passion for reading included the Vedas, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas.

He was also well versed in classical music.While in college, questions arose in his young mind about God and the presence of God. Prayers and devotional songs did not satisfy his zeal to reach or realise God. It was during this time that he got to know about Ramakrishna Paramahamsa of Dakshineswar and went to him with his questions.

Teaching and Philosophy 

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa told a curious Narendranath not to abandon reason and be skeptical - to question things and people until a satisfying answer is found. After Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's death in 1886, Narendranath and a core group of disciples became monks and lead simple lives. Narendranath travelled the length and breadth of India for five years, visiting important centers of learning, acquainting himself with the diverse religious traditions and different patterns of social life. He developed sympathy for the suffering and poverty of the masses and resolved to uplift the nation. 

Rise to Fame 

He shot to worldwide fame in 1893 when he addressed the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago. Before he departed for USA from Bombay (now Mumbai), he assumed the name Vivekananda - a name suggested by the Maharaja of Khetri (a region now part of Rajasthan state). At the Parliament, he represented India. His talk received a standing ovation. All his speeches at the Parliament had one common theme-Universality-and stressed religious tolerance.

On 1 May 1897 at Calcutta, Vivekananda founded the 'Ramakrishna Math'-the forum to promote the "Ramakrishna Mission"-the organ for social service. Swami Vivekananda believed that the essence of Hinduism was best expressed in the Vedanta philosophy, based on the interpretation of Adi Shankaracharya. 

His association with the Tata Group

Vivekananda shared a lot of views with Jamshedji Tata and one of these discussions led to the creation of the Indian Institute of Science, one of India's finest institutions. He also shared views with Max Müller, the famous German Indologist while scientist Nikola Tesla was one of those influenced by the teachings of the Swami Vivekananda.

His Birth Centenary

In 1963, on the occasion of Birth Centenary of Swami Vivekananda, a huge Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari was constructed. The Government of India declared that 12th January, birthday of Swami Vivekananda as National Youth Day every year from 1985 onwards.


Final Years

Swami Vivekananda died on 4 July, 1902 while he was meditating at the Belur Math near Calcutta, headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Although he lived only up to the age of 39, he achieved immense fame and following in a short span of time. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore said of the great monk "If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative." 

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