“The natural tendency of Vivekananda’s mind, like that of his Master, Ramakrishna, was to soar above the world and forget itself in contemplation of the Absolute. But another part of his personality bled at the sight of human suffering in East and West alike.”
– Swami Nikhilananda
Swami Vivekananda, one of the greatest saints in India’s recent history, was born Narendranath Dutt, on 12 January 1863 in Kolkata (Calcutta), to an aristocratic family.
As a young boy, Vivekananda was very logical, intense and intellectual. He was of an extremely skeptical disposition, with a mind full of questions. The story of his meeting Sri Ramakrishna Parmahansa the mystic saint who would become his guru, is well known.
When Vivekananda Met Ramakrishna
As a young man, Narendra was overcome with a longing to find God. He wandered around Calcutta asking several religious people if they had come “face to face with God”, but none of their answers satisfied him. One of the people he met, Debendranath Tagore (the leader of Brahmo Samaj) remarked when he saw him “My boy, you have the yogi‘s eyes”. But Tagore was also unable to answer the boy’s question.
Narendra’s early spiritual life was influenced by the ideals of the Brahmo Samaj. He opposed idol worship, polytheism and even rejected Advaita Vedanta. However, his thirst for the experience of God was not satiated with the philosophies of the Brahmo Samaj and he kept searching for someone whose answers would truly satisfy him. Eventually he was pointed to the saint Ramakrishna.
On encountering Ramakrishna, Vivekananda’s skeptical mind could not understand Ramakrishna’s ecstatic devotion to goddess Kali. He viewed Ramakrishna’s ecstasies and visions as mere imagination and hallucinations. He placed many questions and arguments before Ramakrishna, who patiently prodded him to: “try to see the truth from all angles”.
An exasperated Vivekananda asked Ramakrishna,
“You are talking God, God all the time. Where is the proof? Show me the proof!”
Ramakrishna was a simple uneducated man. He was a mystic, not a scholar. He simply said,
“I am the proof. I am the proof that God exists.”
Vivekananda was taken aback. He was expecting some great intellectual explanations. But Ramakrishna said, “I am the proof God exists.” What he meant was “The way I am is the proof”. Vivekananda did not know what to say. Ramakrishna then placed his foot on Vivekananda’s chest and Vivekananda went into a certain period of samadhi. He suddenly lost all his logic and found tears flowing down his face. He was never the same again.
Vivekananda’s Mission & Vision
From his guru Ramakrishna, Vivekananda learnt that all living beings were an embodiment of the Divine; therefore, service to God could be rendered by serving mankind. After Ramakrishna’s death, Vivekananda toured the Indian subcontinent extensively and acquired first-hand knowledge of the conditions prevailing in British India. Moved by the poverty and deprivation he found all around in British India, he dedicated his life to the material and spiritual upliftment of the people. He worked hard to wake up the spirit of nationhood and remind people of the glorious heritage of India. He established the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897 to promote the message of peace in the world and harmony among all religions.
Swami Vivekananda was one of the first Indian yogis to carry India’s spiritual message to the West. His powerful speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 sent spiritual shockwaves across the world and gained him a following of admirers in the West. His constant effort was to open people’s minds and hearts and engender a feeling of unity and brotherhood. He challenged the many misconceptions people held about God and religion, igniting a spiritual revolution that continues to burn in the hearts and minds of people today.
Swami Vivekananda left his body in July 1902, aged 39.
If you like what you read on LWP and would like to make a contribution, then read more & donate.ॐ To join LWP on Facebook see: facebook.com/livingwiseproject