Swami Vivekanand

Narendranathji's thinking and personality were influenced by his parents—the father by his rational mind and the mother by her religious temperament. From his mother he learnt the power of self-control. His father, Vishwanath Datta, was a successful attorney with interests in a wide range of subjects, and his mother, Bhuvaneshwari Devi, was gifted with deep devotion, strong character and other qualities. As a  bright student from the beginning, Narendra excelled in music, gymnastics and studies.  He took admission in Presidency  College, Kolkata and completed his graduation. During his graduation he gained knowledge in different  subjects especially Western philosophy and history. He had keen interest in meditation from his childhood days.

 Sri Ramakrishna-as his Master

In his college days Narendra often thought about the existence of God. Meantime he heard about Shri Ramakrishna from one of his English professors. One day in November 1881, Narendra went to meet Sri Ramakrishna who was staying at the Kali Temple in Dakshineshwar.  He immediately asked the Master a question which he had put to several others but had received no satisfactory answer: “Sir, have you seen God?”  Without a moment’s hesitation, Sri Ramakrishna replied: “Yes, I have.  I see Him as clearly as I see you, only in a much intense sense.”

Apart from removing doubts from the mind of Narendra, Sri Ramakrishna won him over through his pure, unselfish love.  Thus began a guru-disciple relationship which is quite unique in the history of spiritual masters.  Narendra now became a frequent visitor to Dakshineshwar and, under the guidance of the Master, made rapid strides on the spiritual path.  At Dakshineshwar, Narendra also met several young men who were devoted to Sri Ramakrishna, and they all became close friends.

Difficult Situations

There were many difficult  situations in life of Vivekanandji.   One was the sudden death of his father in 1884.  This left the family penniless, and Narendra had to bear the burden of supporting his mother, brothers and sisters.  The second event was the illness of Sri Ramakrishna which was diagnosed to be cancer of the throat.  In September 1885 Sri Ramakrishna was moved to a house at Shyampukur, and a few months later to a rented villa at Cossipore.  In these two places the young disciples nursed the Master with devoted care.  In spite of poverty at home and inability to find a job for himself, Narendra joined the group as its leader.

Beginnings of a Monastic Brotherhood

Sri Ramakrishna inspired his disciples with the spirit of renunciation and brotherly love for one another.  One day he distributed yellow robes among them and sent them out to beg food.  In this way he himself laid the foundation for a new monastic order.  He gave specific instructions to Narendra about the formation of the new monastic Order.

On 16 August 1886 Sri Ramakrishna gave up his mortal body.

After the Master’s passing, fifteen of his young disciples) began to live together in a dilapidated building at Baranagar in North Kolkata.  Under the leadership of Narendra, they formed a new monastic brotherhood, and in 1887 they took the formal oaths of sannyasa, thereby assuming new names.  Narendra now became Swami Vivekananda.

After attaining the monastic life Vivekanand thought the idea to spread the massage of Shri Ramakrishna in all over India and rest of the world. For completing his mission he started his journey alone.

During his journey all over India, Swami Vivekananda was deeply moved to see the terrible poverty and backwardness of the masses.  He was the first religious leader in India to understand and openly declare that the real cause of India’s downfall was the neglect of the masses.  The immediate need was to provide food and other bare necessities of life to the hungry millions.  For this they should be taught improved methods of agriculture, village industries, etc.  It was in this context that Vivekananda grasped the bottom of the problem of poverty in India For this they needed a life-giving, inspiring message.

According to Swami Vivekanand the problem can be removed by giving education and knowledge to masses. For this he needed an efficient organization to spread the massage of education. So few years later Swamiji found “RamaKrishna Mission”.

Parliament of Religions

In 1893 Swami Vivekananda heard about the World’s Parliament of Religions to be held in Chicago.  His friends and admirers in India wanted him to attend the Parliament.  He too felt that the Parliament would provide the right forum to present his Master’s message to the world, and so he decided to go to America. Another reason which encouraged Swamiji to go to America was to seek financial help for his project of uplifting the masses.

Swamiji, however, wanted to have an assurance regarding his mission.  Both of these he got while he sat in deep meditation on the rock-island at Kanyakumari.  With the funds partly collected by his Chennai disciples and partly provided by the Raja of Khetri, Swami Vivekananda left for America from Mumbai on 31 May 1893.

His speeches at the World’s Parliament of Religions held in September 1893 made him famous as an ‘orator by divine right’ and as a ‘Messenger of Indian wisdom to the Western world’.  After the Parliament, Swamiji spent nearly three and a half years spreading Vedanta as lived and taught by Sri Ramakrishna, mostly in the eastern parts of USA and also in London.

Return to India

After  returned to India in January 1897.  In response to the enthusiastic welcome that he received everywhere, he delivered a series of lectures in different parts of India. His main address was on

Arouse the religious consciousness of the people and create in them pride in their cultural heritage

to bring about unification of Hinduism by pointing out the common bases of its sects

 to focus the attention of educated people on the plight of the downtrodden masses, and to expound his plan for their uplift by the application of the principles of Practical Vedanta.

Ramakrishna Mission

On I may 1897 Swami Vivekananda found an organization known as Ramakrishna Mission, in which monks and lay people would jointly undertake circulation of Practical Vedanta, and various forms of social service, such as running hospitals, schools, colleges, hostels, rural development centres etc, and conducting massive relief and rehabilitation work for victims of earthquakes, cyclones and other calamities, in different parts of India and other countries.

Belur Math

In early 1898 Swami Vivekananda acquired a big plot of land on the western bank of the Ganga at a place called Belur to have a permanent home for the monastery and monastic Order originally started at Baranagar, and got it registered as Ramakrishna Math after a couple of years.  Here Swamiji established a new, universal pattern of monastic life which adapts ancient monastic ideals to the conditions of modern life, which gives equal importance to personal illumination and social service, and which is open to all men without any distinction of religion, race or caste.


His main disciples were Margaret Noble (later known as Sister Nivedita), Captain and Mrs Sevier, Josephine McLeod and Sara Ole Bull. Sister Nivedita dedicated her life to educating girls in Kolkata.  Swamiji had many Indian disciples also, some of whom joined Ramakrishna Math and became sannyasins.

Last Days

In June 1899 he went to the West on a second visit.  This time he spent most of his time in the West coast of USA.  After delivering many lectures there, he returned to Belur Math in December 1900.  The rest of his life was spent in India, inspiring and guiding people, both monastic and lay.  Continuous work, especially giving lectures and inspiring people deteriorated Swamiji’s health and took Mahasamadhi in the night of 4 July 1902.  Before his Mahasamadhi he had written to a Western follower: “It may be that I shall find it good to get outside my body, to cast it off like a worn out garment.  But I shall not cease to work.  I shall inspire men everywhere until the whole world shall know that it is one with God.”


Posted By : Vinod Jindal on Jan 11, 2011


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