Swami Vivekananda is one of most admired spiritual leaders of India. The world knows him as an inspiring Hindu monk, his motherland regards him as the patriot saint of modern India, and Hindus consider him as a source of spiritual power, mental energy, strength-giving and open-mindedness.
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Vivekananda was born on January 12, 1863, in a middle-class Bengali family of Calcutta. Narendranath Dutt, as he was called before sainthood, grew up to be a youth of great charm and intelligence. In a pre-independent India hidebound by communal disharmony and sectarianism, this blithe spirit soared above the rest to become the manifestation of freedom - the 'summum bonum' of human life.
Learnings and Travels:
An avid scholar of Western and Hindu philosophy and ever thirsty for the mystery of Creation and the law of Nature, Vivekananda found his guru in Sri Ramkrishna Paramhamsa
. He toured across India to know his country and people, and found his spiritual alma mater at the Kanyakumari
rock in Cape Comorin at the southern most tip of the Indian peninsula. The Vivekananda memorial is now a landmark for tourists and pilgrims, and a tribute to him by his country men.
Journey to America:
Swami Vivekananda rose to worldwide fame in 1893, when he visited America to attend the first Parliament of World Religions in Chicago. The uninvited young monk addressed this august assembly and electrified the audience. His speech made him world famous overnight: "Sisters and Brothers of America, 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 millions and millions of Hindu people …" (Read transcript of speech
Vivekananda's life and teachings are of inestimable value to the West for an understanding of the mind of Asia, says Swami Nikhilananda of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center
, New York. On the occasion of America's Bicentennial Celebration in 1976, the National Portrait Gallery
in Washington D.C., mounted a large portrait of Swami Vivekananda as part of its exhibition 'Abroad in America: Visitors to the New Nation', which paid tribute to the great personalities who visited America from abroad and made a deep impression on the American mind.
In Praise of the Swami:
William James 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…without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks…must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero!''
An Immortal Soul:
An inspiring spiritual and social leader, Vivekananda has left an indelible mark in history with his teachings, which are studied everywhere in India and abroad. The immortal soul passed away on the 4th of July, 1902 at the young age of 39.
A Chronology of Important Events in Vivekananda's Life:
Jan 12, 1863 Born Narendranath Dutta in Kolkata, India
1880 Passed the Calcutta University Entrance Examination in first division
Aug 16, 1886 Death of Shri Ramkrishna Paramhamsa
May 31, 1893 Swami Vivekananda sails for America
1893 Attends Parliament of Religions
Feb 20, 1897 Returns to Kolkata
1897 Founds the Ramkrishna Mission
Dec 9, 1898 Inaugurates the first monastery at Belur
June 1899 Sails for the second time to the West
1901 Ramkrishna Mission receives legal status
July 4, 1902 Vivekananda passes away in meditation at Belur monastery
at the age of 39
Lectures at the World Parliament of Religions, 1893, Chicago:
Sept 11 Welcome Speech at World Conference (Transcript)
Sept 15 Why We Disagree
Sept 19 Paper on Hinduism
Sept 20 Religion Not the Crying Need of India
Sept 26 Buddhism the Fulfilment of Hinduism
Sept 27 Address at the Final Session (Transcript)