Monday, 3 April 2017



Swami Vivekanand
His Birth and Greatness Foretold (1863-1902)
Narendranath Dutta (Swami Vivekananda) was born in an upper middle-class Kayastha (high caste Hindu) family on 12 January 1863, in his paternal home at 3, Gour Mohan Mukherjee Lane, Calcutta. Narendranath was the sixth child and the second and eldest living son of his parents, Vishwanath Dutta and Bhuvaneswari Devi. Afterwards Narendranath had two more sisters and two brother-Mahendranath and Bhupendranath. All the three brothers remained unmarried.
Narendranath's father was an Attorney at the Calcutta High Court, earning nearly a thousand rupees per month. The family atmosphere was a blend of modernism and orthodoxy, represented respectively by his father and mother. Vishwanath had a liberal outlook but perhaps no deep faith in any religion. Bhuvaneshwari had devout deep faith in traditional Hinduism. She was well versed in Bengali and knew some English. She believed that she got Narendranath through the grace of Vireshwara Shiva of Varanasi. Narendranath in his later life openly admitted her influence in the development of his character.
Narendranath did not have any traditional Indian education in a Pathshala or School. Passing the Entrance examination from the Metropolitan Institution in 1879, Narendranath was admitted into the Presidency College and after one year into the General Assemblies Institution (now Scottish Church College), from where he passed the F. A. and B. A. examinations in 1881 and 1884 respectively. After graduation he started studying Law in the Metropolitan Institution (now Vidyasagar College), completed the course in 1886, but did not appear in the final examination.
In student-life the main stream of Narendranath's energy was diverted through the channel of searching for God, the Absolute Truth. He used to practise continence and concentration of mind as prescribed for an intellectual grasp of the problem like the Western philosophers. This quest of Truth brought him in contact with Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, Keshab Chandra Sen, Shivnath Shastri and others of the Brahmo Samaj, of which Narendranath was a member for a period, and with Brajendra Nath Sen . He also corresponded with Herbert Spencer.
But nothing and none could satisfy him and he eagerly searched for a man who had 'seen' God and could guide him to do so. After a period of fruitless search at last in 1882, he found Sri Ramakrishna to be the man. He began to visit Ramakrishna at Dakshineshwar but was cautious enough not to accept the validity of his statements without sifting them thoroughly through the sieve of his rational mind beset with all modern doubts of the age. And finally being satisfied he surrendered to him and realised under his guidance the Absolute Truth in 1886.
Narendranath had to pass through the stormiest days of his life, both internal and external, caused by the sudden death of his father in 1884, reducing the family overnight from luxury to penury. Before passing away on 16 August 1886, Sri Ramakrishna entrusted the responsibility of carrying out his work to Narendranath, saying, You will do great things in this world; you will bring spiritual consciousness to men and assuage the misery of the humble and the poor. At that time the world was being assailed by the atheistic ideas getting fresh impetus from scientific discoveries and the rational outlook of the intellectuals.
Narendranath started his work by assembling his brother-disciples, a band of young men, in a rented house, later on known as Baranagore Math, where they took formal Sannyasa and new names. Narendranath assumed the name Vivekananda: I assumed. He said, as it is customary with all Sannyasins-on my renunciation of the world; it signifies literally the bliss of discrimination. Narendranath toured Northern India up to Hardwar thrice in 1888, 1889 and 1890 from Baranagore Math, meeting Pawhari Baba during the second tour. On his third tour he did not come back to Baranagore and travelled alone through Central and Southern India and reached the Temple of Kanyakumari in the last week of December 1892. During this period he met Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the Maharajas of Alwar, Khetri, Mysore and Ramnad, came in close contact with the masses of India and thus acquired intimate experience of the degraded social, economic and spiritual condition of the nation; all the while he tried in vain to find out a way to uplift the nation.
At last sitting on the last rock of India(now known as Vivekananda-Shila), he hit upon a plan-he visualised that religion is the blood of the nation's body, the impurities of this blood are responsible for all our present maladies; the nation can rise again if this blood is purified, and the first step in this direction it to make it conscious of the greatness of its age-old religion and civilisation. This idea inspired him to join the Parliament of Religions to be held in Chicago the following September and to preach there the universal ideas of Vedanta.
His disciples, Alasinga Perumal and others of Madras and the Raja of Khetri, collected the money necessary for the voyage, and on 31 May 1893 Vivekananda now left with little money faced the danger of death due to cold and starvation. A man of destiny, he overcame all obstacles and at last was accepted as a delegate to the Parliament on the recommendation of Professor J. H. Wright of Harvard University and the motherly help of Mrs. G. W. Hale of Chicago.
On 11 September 1893, the opening day of the Parliament of Religions, a short speech beginning with 'Sisters and brothers of America' made Vivekananda the most popular speaker there and a world-figure. He spoke at least 11 times on different occasions in the Parliament. These speeches impressed deeply the modern Western mind as to what true religion is, and along with it the greatness of Hindu civilisation and Hindu religion. This appreciation of the West aroused the Indian nation, as expected by Vivekananda, and made it conscious of its own greatness, removing completely the inferiority complex which the pioneering movements of the century initiated by Raja Rammohun Roy, Dayananda Saraswati, Annie Besant and others could not do.
After the Parliament of Religions was over on 27 September, Vivekananda in a hurricane tour lectured in different cities of the United States, fearlessly preaching his ideas and ignoring false propagandas directed against him. Then in February 1895, he settled in New York, opened a centre there for regular classes and also paid attention to the building of spiritual lives of his Western disciples, initiating some of them in Brahmacharya and Sannyasa also.
From America Vivekananda went to England via Paris in 1895 and came back towards the end of the year. From this time his lectures were taken down by his disciple and stenographer Mr. J. J. Goodwin. Vivekananda went to London again in 1896. This time he toured the Continent. During these two visits to Europe Vivekananda became acquainted with Professor Max Muller, Paul Deussen, A. Sturdy, Miss Margaret Noble and Mr. And Mrs. Sevier. The last three became his disciples and sacrificed their lives for serving him through serving India.
Vivekananda left India for the second time on 20 June 1899, and reached New York via London. Establishing a few centres on the Pacific Coast he sailed from New York on 26 July 1900 for Paris where he was invited to attend the Congress of the History of Religions. There he met Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose. From there he came back via Cairo to Belur Math on 9 December 1900. Towards the end of 1901, he met the Reverend Oda and Okakura who came to Belur Math to invite him to Japan.
Vivekananda left his mortal body on 4 July 1902, at Belur Math in his own room.
The 'Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda' (in 8 volumes) contains all his works (including poems and letters) and speeches in original English, and also original Bengali, Sanskrit and French speeches translated into English. He delivered a few lectures in Hindi but they are not available. His work in book-form were first published in 1896-Karma-Yoga' from New York, 'Raja-Yoga' from England and 'Bhakti-Yoga' from Madras.
It is rightly stated by Dr. R. C. Majumdar and R. G. Pradhan that, The nascent nationalism of India received a great momentum from the life and activities of Swami Vivekananda ,who might well be called the father of modern Indian Nationalism; he largely created it and and also embodied in his own life its highest and noblest elements. He dealt with all the main problems of modern India and pointed out their solutions in his 'Lectures from Colombo to Almora'.In 1897 he said,"Let the country be your only God for the coming fifty years.
He was not a politician but his ideas and patriotism inspired many to serve the country, combining spirituality with intense activity in their own lives; we may recall the names of the heroes of the revolutionary movements, Mahatmaji and Netaji, whose contributions are on the top in making India politically free in just fifty years after Swamiji gave his first clarion call. He said, "I am a Socialist not because I think it is a perfect system, but because half-a-loaf is better than no bread. He said, the turn has come for the labour to come soon in power all over the world, and also located the starting point of this event: The great upheaval which is to bring about a new epoch will come from Russia or China. He warned the rich and the educated class to uplift the masses economically and culturally. He said, Teach them history, geography, science, literature and along with it profound truths of religion. Otherwise, when the masses will wake up by a puff of their mouth you will be entirely blown away.
He wanted the spread of education to the masses both men and women, but not at the cost of Indian ideals. He laid stress on technical education, and also on learning Sanskrit, in which, he said, lies the integrity of India. Regarding customs he wanted the combination of all healthy customs of the East and the West. He wanted the caste-system to be based on qualities ; he said ,"the modern system (based on heredity) is a barrier to Indian progress." He never supported the custom of untouchability. He felt the need of a school of Indian historians to strike out an independent path of historical research for ourselves with scientific accuracy, and also of the revival of Indian art.
Swami Vivekananda based all his ideas on universality and taught us to do so. Every idea has to become broad till it covers the whole world. He said more than once that he was not for India alone, but for the whole world. He loved India so much because India alone has the potentiality to bring about a synthesis of the East and the West- spirituality and material progress -and inspire other nations to do so. If India fails to do this, he said, then in the whole world will reign the duality of lust and luxury as the male and female deities, with money as its priest; fraud, force and competition its ceremonies; and the human soul its sacrifice.
His idea on religion also was universal:"Each man is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity by controlling nature, external and internal. That is the whole of religion. He said, every one can and should manifest this divinity already in him by doing 'work as worship' and 'serving man as God' in every field of his life. The manifestation of this divinity should be the purpose of our education and society.
To realise this truth is essential also for feeling our unity with others and for growing universal love in our mind. Comparing the Truth of Oneness realised by Seers with modern scientific truths, and showing it not to be contrary to them (particularly in his works Raja-Yoga' and 'Jnana-Yoga'), he also satisfied the modern intelligentsia. Regarding the theory of Revolution, he said that the theory of Involution also should be accepted.
In a word it may be said that his life beacons the upward path of human civilisation.

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