Saturday, 1 February 2014

Swami Vivekananda.

There is to be found in every religion the manifestation of the struggle toward freedom. It is the groundwork of all morality, of unselfishness, which means getting rid of the idea that human beings are the same as this little body.Swami Vivekananda


Swami Vivekananda was born in Calcutta on 12th January 1863 and was given the name of Narendranath Datta. His mother Bhuvaneswari Devi was deeply religious and raised her children according to ancient spiritual traditions of India. Brought up and educated in19th century Calcutta, Narendra was introduced to western way of thought early in life.He was taught that one should not accept anything without evidence. At the age of fifteen he experience spiritual ecstasy. On his journey to Raipur in a bullock cart, Narendra caught sight of a large bee hive in the cleft of a giant cliff. Suddenly his mind was filled with awe and reverence for the divine providence and he lost his outer consciousness. As a child, Narendra had many visions of great mahatmas. In his intense desire to realize the truth, young Narendra practised meditation. He studied different religious and philosophical systems of the East and the West. He met different religious leaders, but in vain. He even joined Brahmo Samaj, a socio-religious organization and asked its leader the same question that he asked everyone � �Have you seen God?� No one had a straightforward answer to his simple question. His quest for truth continued.

With Sri Ramakrishna
At the threshold of youth Narendra had to pass through a period of spiritual crisis when he was assailed by doubts about the existence of God. It was at that time he first heard about Sri Ramakrishna from one of his English professors at college. One day in November 1881, Narendra went to meet Sri Ramakrishna who was staying at the Kali Temple in Dakshineshwar. He straightaway 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.

" The Master (Sri Ramakrishna) marked out Vivekananda as the heroic soul destined to take the world between his two hands and change it."
Ramakrishna instantly recognized the spiritual potential of Vivekananda and lavished attention on Vivekananda, who at first did not always understand this. In the beginning the reasoning mind of Vivekananda was skeptical of this God intoxicated Saint, and Vivekananda would frequently question and debate his teachings. However, the spiritual magnetism of Sri Ramakrishna soon melted Vivekananda�s heart and he began to experience the real spirituality that Ramakrishna exuded. Thus Vivekananda's mental opposition faded away to be replaced by an intense surrender to the Divine Mother and a burning longing for realization.
For a short but intense period of about 5 years, Vivekananda learnt directly from his Master Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna was able to awaken the dormant spiritual consciousness in his beloved disciple and Vivekananda soon began to experience profound states of consciousness and Samadhi. Yet, after experiencing the bliss of samadhi, Vivekananda asked his Master for the boon to continually experience the ecstasy of Nirvana. However, his Guru, replied: �I thought you had been born for something greater, my boy!�
Two or three days before Ramakrishna�s passing away, he called Narendra to his side and looked steadily at his and went into samadhi. Narendra also felt a subtle force like an electric shock entering his body. He too lost his outward consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he found Ramakrishna shedding tears and told him, �Today, giving you my all, I have become a beggar. With this power you are to do much work of the good of the world before you return�
After the passing of Ramakrishna, the other disciples looked to Vivekananda for leadership and he helped form the first monastic order of Ramakrishna. Under his constant guidance he urged his fellow brother disciples to renounce the world and seek communion with God.
However for Vivekananda, personal liberation was not enough. His heart ached for the downtrodden masses of India who suffered poverty and many hardships. Vivekananda felt that the highest ideal was to serve God through serving humanity. Thus Vivekananda would later add social work as an important element of the Ramakrishna order.
"Do you think these sannyasi children of Sri Ramakrishna are born to simply to sit under trees lighting dhuni-fires? Whenever any of them will take up some work, people will be astonished to see their energy. Learn from them how to work. "
- Swami Vivekananda
Thus after spending a few years in meditation Vivekananda began travelling throughout India, visiting many of the holy sites. After travelling through India and coming into contact with many influential figures, it was suggested that Vivekananda would make an ideal candidate to represent Hinduism at the World Parliament of Religions which was shortly to be held in Chicago, USA. Before leaving Vivekananda went to receive the blessings of Sarada Devi, the wife of Sri Ramakrishna. After receiving her encouragement and blessings he made the momentous journey to America dressed in his ochre robe and maintaining the vows of a Sanyasin.

Awareness of Life�s Mission
After establishing the new monastic order, Vivekananda heard the inner call for a greater mission in his life. While most of the followers of Sri Ramakrishna thought of him in relation to their own personal lives, Vivekananda thought of the Master in relation to India and the rest of the world. As the prophet of the present age, what was Sri Ramakrishna�s message to the modern world and to India in particular? This question and the awareness of his own inherent powers urged Swamiji to go out alone into the wide world. So in the middle of 1890, after receiving the blessings of Sri Sarada Devi, the divine consort of Sri Ramakrishna, known to the world as Holy Mother, who was then staying in Kolkata, Swamiji left Baranagar Math and embarked on a long journey of exploration and discovery of India.

As a wandering monk
    In 1888 Vivekananda left the monastery to live as a penniless wandering monk. He first went to Varanasi. On his journey he met many scholars and holy people. On his way to Haridwar, he met Sharat Chandra Gupta whom he accepted as his disciple. He told him,�I have a great mission to fulfill. My guru asked me to dedicate my life to the regeneration of my motherland. Spirituality has fallen to a low ebb and starvation stalks the land. India must become dynamic again and earn the respect of the world through her spiritual power.�Vivekananda travelled almost all of India, mostly on foot, visiting places of history and pilgrimage. Seeing the poor and deplorable conditions of the masses, he was moved to tears. He observed that religion was not the crying need of India and recalled SriRamakrishna Paramahamsa�s pithy saying, �Religion is not for an empty stomach�. He boldly told the maharajas whom he met in his travels that prosperity of India depended on uplifting the masses by introducing good education, modern science and industry. While travelling in western and southern India, Vivekananda heard about parliament of religions that was to be held in Chicago in 1893. in December 1892, at Kanyakumari,sitting on the last bit of Indian rock in the Indian ocean, he received his call to go to the West. His disciples in Madras began to raise money for his travel. Maharaja of Khetri offered to provide him with the ticket for America.

Vivekananda at the Parliament of World Religions

At the opening ceremony Vivekananda was one of the last speakers to speak. The previous speakers had talked about the merits of their own religion but Vivekananda appealed to the whole audience with his vision of oneness and equality before God.
His opening words began with:
Brother and Sisters of America.� � Spontaneously the audience rose to its feet to applaud, appreciating the visionary sentiments Vivekananda offered. He continued. "It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us...."
Swami Vivekananda was chosen to represent Hinduism. However Swami Vivekananda did not try in any way to prove the superiority of his religion. Instead Vivekananda spoke with great sincerity about the harmony of world religions and the common spirituality of humanity. It was this universal message of oneness which captivated the audience.
�As different streams, having their sources in different places, all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.�
Vivekananda proved to be an eloquent exponent of Vedanta and the ideals of all religions. In addition people felt in this handsome and striking Monk a calm detachment, a luminous personality and radiant spirituality. Unexpectedly Vivekananda proved to be the star of the World Parliament of Religions
The New York Herald said of Vivekananda.

�He is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation.�

The Boston Evening Post said.
�If he (Vivekananda) merely crosses the platform he is applauded; and this marked approval of thousands he accepts in a childlike spirit of gratification without a trace of conceit��

Throughout the conference Vivekananda was undoubtedly the star, the organizers would save Vivekananda to the end to make sure the audience would stay to listen.

The conference propelled Vivekananda into the public eye and for many months he travelled across America giving talks on the ancient tradition of Vedanta and his hope of fusing the spirituality of the East with the materialism of the West.
Swami Vivekananda.jpg

In America Vivekananda also began training some close students so they could propagate the teachings of Vedanta. He was able to start small centres in both the US and Great Britain. Vivekananda admitted he entered Britain with deep misgivings since his heart rebelled at the effects of the British Empire on his beloved Motherland. However he was delighted to find some individuals who were sincerely attracted to the teachings of Vedanta. One notable example was Miss Margaret Noble (later named Nivedita), originally from Ireland, Nivedita was to became a devoted disciple who would dedicate her life to the Indian people)

After several years in the West, Vivekananda returned to India where he was met with a rapturous reception. In particular, his brother monks who were full of pride with Vivekananda who had returned with glowing praise. Despite falling health Vivekananda threw himself into a whirlpool of activity reorganizing the monasteries and exhorting his fellow Indians to return to the truth of the Vedantic principles. But also Vivekananda sought to imbibe in the Indian consciousness a renewed dynamism to improve their material life. As Vivekananda often said, it was no use teaching religion to those with empty stomachs. Swami Vivekanada had a great love for India.

"I loved my motherland dearly before I went to America and England. After my return, every particle of dust of this land seems sacred to me"

As well as teaching the benefits of selfless service and encouraging greater dynamism, he also never lost sight of the ultimate goal in life, which was to become one with God.

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and everything shall be added unto you." This is the one great duty, this is renunciation. Live for an ideal, and leave no place in the mind for anything else. Let us put forth all our energies to acquire that which never fails--our spiritual perfection. "

- Swami Vivekananda

Vivekananda passed away at the young age of 39 but he achieved a remarkable amount in this short time on earth. He combined the ancient spiritual traditions of India with the dynamism of the West. Many Indian politicians would later offer their gratitude to the impact and ideals of Vivekananda. To many Vivekananda is regarded as the patron saint of modern India.

- Jawaharlal Nehru wrote:

"His whole life and teaching inspired my generation."

- Mahatma Gandhi on Vivekananda:

"after having gone through [his works], the love that I had for my country became a thousand fold."


Main Events related to Swami Vivekananda

January 12
Birth in Kolkata

Enters Presidency College

Transfers to General Assembly Institution
First meeting with Sri Ramakrishna

Association with Sri Ramakrishna

Passes B. A. Examination

Father passes away

Sri Ramakrishna�s last illness
August 16
Sri Ramakrishna passes away

Establishes Baranagar Math

December 24
Informal vow of sannyasa at Antpur
Formal vows of sannyasa at Baranagar Monastery

Travels all over India as itinerant monk
December 24
At Kanyakumari, South India
February 13
First public lecture, Secunderabad, South India

May 31
Sails for America from Mumbai

July 25
Lands at Vancouver, Canada

July 30
Arrives in Chicago

Meets Professor John Ft. Wright of Harvard University

September 11
First address at Parliament of Religions, Chicago

September 27
Final address at Parliament of Religions

November 20
Begins mid-western lecture tour
April 14
Begins lectures and classes on East Coast

May 16
Speaks at Harvard University

At Green Acre Religious Conference

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