Swami Vivekananda, Life + Legend
Swami Vivekananda is a celebrated youth icon and role model in India and my personal favorite spiritual guru. Gu means ignorance and Ru means dispeller. A spiritual guru is someone who dispels ignorance of all kinds.
Birth + Early Childhood
Swami Vivekananda was born on January 12, 1863. His original name was Narendranath Datta. He was influenced by the progressive attitude of his father, Vishwanath Datta, who was an attorney in Calcutta’s (now Kolkata) high court and the religious temperament of his mother, Bhubaneswari Devi. Narendranath was interested in spiritually from a young age and used to meditate in front of Hindu deities.
The Importance Of A Guru
In November of 1881, while preparing to become a lawyer after obtaining a BA degree in Fine Arts, his life took an entirely different turn. He met Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, who would later become his guru, and the source of his inspiration.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was one of the most prominent religious figures of India during the nineteenth century. He was a mystic and a yogi who translated complex spiritual concepts into lucid and easily intelligible ideas.
There’s an interesting story behind the meeting between Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Vivekananda’s father’s sudden death in 1884 contributed to his increasingly frequent visits to Dakshineshwar, the location of Ramakrishna’s ashram in Kolkata, for solace.
One day Vivekananda requested Ramakrishna to pray to the goddess Kali for their family’s financial welfare. Ramakrishna suggested he go to the temple himself and pray. Following Ramakrishna’s suggestion, he went to the temple thrice, but failed to pray for any kind of worldly necessities and ultimately prayed for true knowledge and devotion from the goddess. Vivekananda gradually grew ready to renounce everything for the sake of realizing God, and accepted Ramakrishna as his guru. Ramakrishna during his last days asked Narendra to take care of the monastic disciples. And it was in the early hours on the 16th of August, 1886 that he took his last breath.
Swami Vivekananda And The Ramakrishna Mission
Vivekananda established the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897 to carry out the visions of his guru Ramakrishna. He dedicated the establishment in service of the society. The core idea behind the mission was educating people regarding the importance of religion and for to uplift the poor.
Swami Vivekananda was an excellent orator. He attended the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1893. He started his speech with a simple note, “Sisters and brothers of America”. With this single line, he impressed seven thousand attendees from all over the world. They gave him a standing ovation.
After his attendance at the religious summit in Chicago, he visited many other countries including Japan and England. He later founded the Vedanta Society in Chicago. He was awarded the chair of Eastern Philosophy both at Harvard University as well as Columbia University. He attracted many followers.
Swami Vivekananda died 10 minutes past 9 PM on July 4, 1902 while he was meditating. His disciples consider it a Mahasamadhi or attainment of enlightenment.
A philanthropist, monk and a teacher, Swami Vivekananda was a treasure of talent who shined in the 19thcentury. He paved the path for modern thought and transformed the society in almost every dimension.
It’s difficult to mention this great personality and life in so few words.
“We reap what we sow. We are the makers of our own fate. The wind is blowing; those vessels whose sails are unfurled catch it, and go forward on their way, but those which have their sails furled do not catch the wind. Is that the fault of the wind?……. We make our own destiny.” – Swami Vivekananda
1 Pratap, Alka. “Swami Vivekananda: When East Met West.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 18 Mar. 2015, m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6477496.
2 “Ten Life Lessons by Swami Vivekananda on His Birth Anniversary.” Google, Google, www.google.com/amp/indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/feelings/ten-life-lessons-by-swami-vivekananda-on-his-birth-anniversary/lite/.
3 “Swami Vivekananda: The Eternal Youth Icon.” Read and Digest, 5 Dec. 2013, readanddigest.com/swami-vivekananda-biography/.