Swami Vivekananda America's First Guru
Toppick Media Editor Nov 22, 2019 257 Views 0 Comments
“Religion is not in books, nor in theories, nor in dogmas, nor in talking, not even in reasoning. It is being and becoming.”
Swami Vivekananda was the foremost disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and a world spokesperson for Vedanta Society- The first Vedanta Society, the Vedanta Society of New York, was founded by Swami Vivekananda in November 1894.. His lectures, writings, letters, and poems are published as The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. He felt it was best to teach universal principles rather than personalities, so we find little mention of Ramakrishna in the Complete Works.
Swami Vivekananda represented Hinduism at the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 where he was an instant success. Subsequently he was invited to speak all over America and Europe. He was a man with a great spiritual presence and tremendous intellect
“I have gone through Swami Vivekananda’s works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country became a thousand-fold.His writings need no introduction from anybody. They make their own irresistible appeal.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Swami Vivekananda was a Hindu monk and one of the most celebrated spiritual leaders of India. He was more than just a spiritual mind; he was a prolific thinker, great orator and passionate patriot. He carried on the free-thinking philosophy of his guru, Ramakrishna Paramhansa forward into a new paradigm. He worked tirelessly towards betterment of the society, in servitude of the poor and needy, dedicating his all for his country. He was responsible for the revival of Hindu spiritualism and established Hinduism as a revered religion on world stage. His message of universal brotherhood and self-awakening remains relevant, especially in the current backdrop of widespread political turmoil around the world. The young monk and his teachings have been an inspiration to many, and his words have become goals of self-improvement, especially for the youth of the country.
For this very reason, his birthday, January 12, is celebrated as the National Youth Day in India.
Birth, Early Life and Education
Born Narendranath Dutta, into an affluent Bengali family in Calcutta, Vivekananda was one of the eight children of Vishwanath Dutta and Bhuvaneshwari Devi. He was born on January 12, 1863, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. Father Vishwanath was a successful attorney with considerable influence in society. Narendranath’s mother Bhuvaneshwari was a woman endowed with a strong, God-fearing mind who had a great impact on her son.
As a young boy, Narendranath displayed sharp intellect. His mischievous nature belied his interest in music, both instrumental as well as vocal. He excelled in his studies as well, first at the Metropolitan institution, and later at the Presidency College in Calcutta. By the time he graduated from college, he had acquired a vast knowledge of different subjects. He was active in sports, gymnastics, wrestling and bodybuilding. He was an avid reader and read up on almost everything under the sun. He perused the Hindu scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads on one hand, while on the other hand he studied western philosophy, history and spirituality by David Hume, Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Herbert Spencer.
On 4 July 1902 (the day of his death), Vivekananda awoke early, went to the monastery at Belur Math and meditated for three hours. He taught Shukla-Yajur-Veda, Sanskrit grammar and the philosophy of yoga to pupils,later discussing with colleagues a planned Vedic college in the Ramakrishna Math. At 7:00 p.m. Vivekananda went to his room, asking not to be disturbed, he died at 9:20 p.m. while meditating.According to his disciples, Vivekananda attained mahasamādhi; the rupture of a blood vessel in his brain was reported as a possible cause of death. His disciples believed that the rupture was due to his brahmarandhra (an opening in the crown of his head) being pierced when he attained mahasamādhi. Vivekananda fulfilled his prophecy that he would not live forty years. He was cremated on a sandalwood funeral pyre on the bank of the Ganga in Belur, opposite where Ramakrishna was cremated sixteen years earlier.
Excerpt from Swami Vivekananda’s speech Chicago speech - Parliament of the World's Religions - 1893
It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.
My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the Earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: "As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”
The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me." Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.
Swami Vivekananda once spoke of himself as a "condensed India." His life and teachings are of inestimable value to the West for an understanding of the mind of Asia. William James, the Harvard philosopher, called the Swami the "paragon of Vedantists." Max Muller and Paul Deussen, the famous Orientalists of the nineteenth century, held him in genuine respect and affection. "His words," writes Romain Rolland, "are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are through the pages of books, at thirty years' distance, without receiving a thrill