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Swami Vivekanand
Swami Vivekananda, born Narendra Nath Datta, was an Indian Hindu monk .
1. Biography
Swami Vivekananda was one of the most influential spiritual leaders of Vedanta philosophy. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa and was the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Swami Vivekananda was the living embodiment of sacrifice and dedicated his life to the country and yearned for the progress of the poor, the helpless and the downtrodden. He showed a beacon of light to a nation that had lost faith in its ability under British rule and inspired self confidence among Indians that they are second to none. His ringing words and masterful oratory galvanized the slumbering nation. Swami Vivekananda real name was Narendranath Dutta. He was born on January12, 1863 in Calcutta. His fathers name was Vishwanath Dutta and his mothers name Bhuvaneswari Devi. Narendranath acquired the name of Swami Vivekananda when he became a monk. As a child Narendra was very lively and naughty. He was good in studies as well as in games. He studied instrumental and vocal music and also practiced meditation from a very early age. Even when Narendra was young he questioned the validity of superstitious customs and discrimination based on caste and religion. As a child Narendra had great respect for sanyasis (ascetics). He would give away anything to anybody if asked for. Whenever a beggar asked for alms, he would give him anything he had. Thus from childhood Narendra had the spirit of sacrifice and renunciation. In 1879, Narendra passed matriculation and entered Presidency College, Calcutta. After one year, he joined the Scottish Church College, Calcutta and studied philosophy. He studied western logic, western philosophy and history of European nations. As he advanced in his studies, his thinking faculty developed. Doubts regarding existence of God started to arise in Narendras mind. This made him associate with the Brahmo Samaj, an important religious movement of the time, led by Keshab Chandra Sen. But the Samajs congregational prayers and devotional songs could not satisfy Narendras zeal to realise God.

During this time Narendra came to know of Sri Ramakrishna Pramahans of Dakshineswar. Sri Ramakrishna was a priest in the temple of Goddess Kali. He was not a scholar. But he was a great devotee. It was being said of him that he had realized God. Once, Narendra went to Dakshineswar to with his friends see him. He asked Ramakrishna, whether he had seen God. The instantaneous answer from Ramakrishna was, Yes, I have seen God, just as I see you here, only in a more clear sense. Narendra was astounded and puzzled. He could feel the mans words were honest and uttered from depths of experience. He started visiting Ramakrishna frequently. It was in Narendras nature to test something thoroughly before he could accept it. He would not accept Ramakrishna as his guru without a test. Ramakrishna used to say that, in order to realize God, one should give up the desire for money and women. One day Narendra hid a rupee under his pillow. Sri Ramakrishna, who had gone out, came into the room and stretched himself on the cot. At once he jumped up as if bitten by a scorpion. When he shook the mattress, the rupee coin fell down. Later he came to know that it was the doing of Narendra. Narendra accepted Sri Ramakrishna as his guru and took training under him for five years in the Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy of non dualism. Sri Ramakrishna passed away in 1886 and nominated Narendra as his successor. After his death Narendra and a core group of Ramakrishnas disciples took vows to become monks and renounce everything, and started living in a supposedly haunted house in Baranagore. In 1890, Narendra set out on a long journey. He covered the length and breadth of the country. He visited Varanasi, Ayodhya, Agra, Vrindavan, Alwar etc. Narendra acquired the name of Swami Vivekananda during the journey. It is said that he was given the name Vivekananda by Maharaja of Khetri for his discrimination of things, good and bad. During his journey, Vivekananda stayed at kings palaces, as well as at the huts of the poor. He came in close contact with the cultures of different regions of India and various classes of people in India. Vivekananda observed the imbalance in society and tyranny in the name of caste. He realised the need for a national rejuvenation if India was to survive at all.

Swami Vivekananda reached Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent on December24, 1892. He swam across the sea and started meditating on a lone rock. He meditated for three days and said later that he meditated about the past, present and future of India. The rock is presently popular as Vivekananda memorial and is a major tourist destination. In 1893, Swami Vivekananda went to America to attend the Conference of World Religions in Chicago. He earned wild applause for beginning his address with the famous words, Sisters and brothers of America. Swamiji mesmerized everyone in America with his masterful oratory. Wherever he went, he dwelt at length on the greatness of Indian Culture. He spoke with spontaneous ease on every topic, be it History, Sociology, Philosophy or Literature. He deplored the malicious propaganda that had been unleashed by the Christian missionaries in India. Swami Vivekananda also went to England. Many people became his disciples. Most famous among them was Margaret Nivedita. She came to India and settled here. Swami Vivekananda returned to India in 1897 after four years of touring in the West. He started disseminating the message of spiritual development among Indians. He realized that social service was possible only through the concerted efforts on an organized mission. To achieve this objective, Swami Vivekananda started Sri Ramakrishna Mission in 1897 and formulated its ideology and goal. During the next two years he bought a site at Belur on the banks of the Ganga, constructed the buildings and established the Ramakrishna Math. He once again toured the West from January 1899 to December 1900. Swami Vivekananda died on July4, 1902 at Belur Math near Calcutta.

2. Early Days
Swami Vivekananda, or Narendranath Datta, or simply Narendra or Naren as was known during his pre monastic days, was born to Vishwanath Datta and Bhuvaneshwari Devi on Monday, 12th January 1863, at Calcutta.Naughty and restless though Narendranath was by nature, and given to much fun and frolic, he was greatly attracted towards spiritual life even in childhood. The stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which his mother told him left on him an indelible impression. Play delighted Narendranath, and one of his pastimes as a child was to worship and meditate on the image of Rama, Sita or Shiva. Every night, before he fell asleep, there appeared to him between his eyes a wonderful spot of light of changing hues. That light would gradually expand until it burst and bathed his whole being in a white radiance. He had full faith in Hindu mythology. Once he went to hear an exposition of the Ramayana in the course of which he heard the pundit describe the great devotion of Hanuman. At the end of the exposition, he approached the pundit and said he would like to know the whereabouts of Hanuman. The pundit said that he might be in some plantain grove. So Narendranath waited at a plantain grove till late at night expecting to meet Hanuman, and his people could find him only after a great search.

Even in his early boyhood, Narendranath demanded intellectually convincing arguments for every proposition. He often used to swing on the branches of a champaka tree in a neighbours compound. This irritated the owner, an old man, and he warned Narendranath and his companions that the tree was haunted by a bad ghost who would some day break their necks. This frightened the other boys ; but Narendranath argued that if the old man were right, their necks would have been broken long ago. And he continued to swing on the branches of the tree as before.

Narendranath was gifted with a multiplicity of talents and he cultivated them all. His leonine beauty was matched by his courage ; he had the build of an athlete, a delightful voice, and a brilliant intellect. His interests ranged from fencing, wrestling, rowing, games, physical exercise, cooking and organising dramas to instrumental and vocal music, love of philosophic discussion, and criticism. In all these he was an undisputed leader. These and other traits in his character soon attracted the notice of his teachers and fellow students. The principal of his college, Professor Hastie, once remarked: Narendra is a real genius. I have travelled far and wide, but have not yet come across a lad of his talents and possibilities even among the philosophical students in the German universities. He is bound to make his mark in life.

3. In College
At college Narendranath began to interest himself more seriously in studies. Apart from the usual college curriculum, he avidly studies western logic, the abstruse philosophy of Herbert Spencer, the systems of Kant and Schopenhauer, the mystical and analytical speculation of the Aristotelian school, the positivist philosophy of Comte, and John Stuart Mills Three Essays on Religion. He also mastered the ancient and modern history of Europe and the English poets like Shelley and Wordsworth. He even took a course in physiology with a view to understanding the functioning of the nervous system, the brain, and the spinal cord. But this contact with western thought, which lays particular emphasis on the supremacy of reason, brought about a severe conflict in Narendranath. His inborn tendency towards spirituality and his respect for the ancient traditions and beliefs of his religion which he had imbibed from his mother, on the one side, and his argumentative nature coupled with his sharp intellect which hated superstition and questioned simple faith on the other, were now at war with each other. Under a deep spiritual urge, he was then found observing hard ascetic practices, staying in his grandmothers house, away from his parents and other relatives, following a strict vegetarian diet, sleeping on the bare ground or on an ordinary quilt, in accordance with the strict rules of brahmacharya. From youth, two visions of life had presented themselves before him. In one, he found himself among the great ones of the earth, possessing riches, power, honour, and glory, and he felt himself capable of renouncing all worldly things, dressed in simple loin cloth, living on alms, sleeping under a tree, and then he felt that he had the capacity to live thus like the Rishis of ancient India. It was, however, the second vision that prevailed in the end, and he used to sleep with the conviction that by renunciation alone could man attain the highest bliss.

In his eagerness for spiritual illumination he went to Devendranath Tagore, the leader of the Brahmo Samaj, and asked him: Sir, have you seen God? The old man was embarrassed by the question, and replied, My boy, you have to eyes of a Yogi. You should practice meditation. The youth was disappointed, but he received no better answer from the leaders of other religious sects whom he approached with the same question. At this critical juncture he remembered the words of his professor, William Hastie, who, while speaking of trances in the course of his lectures, had said, Such an experience is the result of purity of mind and concentration on some particular object, and is rare indeed, particularly in these days. I have seen only one person who has experienced that blessed state of mind, and he is Ramakrishna Paramahamsa of Dakshineswar. You can understand if you go there and see for yourself. ... now in his trouble, the young seeker decided to have yet one more try to solve his problem. Approaching him (Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar), Narendranath asked him the question which he had asked others often before: Sir, have you seen God? Yes, answered Sri Ramakrishna, I see Him just as I see you here, only I see Him in a much intenser sense. God can be realised; one can see and talk to Him as I am doing with you. But who cares to do so? People shed torrents of tears for their wife and children for wealth and property, but who does so for the sake of God? If one weeps sincerely for Him. He surely manifests Himself. This startling reply impressed Narendranath at once. For the first time he had found a man who could say that he had seen God, and recognised that religion was a reality to be felt. As he listened, he could not but believe that Sri Ramakrishna spoke from the depths of his own realisations

4. Next few years
The second time Narendranath went to Dakshineswar, a month later. Sri Ramakrishna was alone, sitting on his bedstead. As soon as he saw Narendranath, he received him cordially and asked him to sit near himself on the bed. In a moment, overcome with emotion, the Master drew closer to him. Muttering something to him, and with eyes fixed on the young aspirant, he touched him with his right his foot. The magic touch produced a strange experience in Narendranath. With his eyes open, he saw the walls and everything in the room, nay, the whole universe and himself within it, whirling and vanishing into an all encompassing void. He was frightened as he thought he might be on the verge of death; and cried out: What are you doing to me? I have my parents at home. Sri Ramakrishna laughed aloud at this, and stroking Narendranath chest said: All right, let us leave it there for the present. Everything will come in time. Surprisingly, as soon as he uttered these words, Narendranath became his old self again. Sri Ramakrishna, too, was quite normal in his behaviour towards him after the incident, and treated him kindly and with great affection. Drawn by this kindness and, even more, by the need to fathom the mystery, Narendranath went to Dakshineswar for a third time, probably a week later. He was determined not to allow the previous experience to repeat itself, and was fully on his guard. But with all his critical faculties alert, he fared no better. Sri Ramakrishna took him to the adjacent garden belonging to Jadunath Mallik. After a stroll, they sat down in the parlour. Soon, Sri Ramakrishna fell into a spiritual trance and touched Narendranath. Despite his precautions Narendranath was totally over whelmed adn he lost all outward consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he found Sri Ramakrishna stroking his chest.

Referring to his incident, Sri Ramakrishna said later on: I put several questions to him while he was in that state. I asked him about his antecedents, and where he lived, his mission in this world and the duration of his mortal life. He gave fitting answers after diving deep into himself. The answers only confirmed what I had seen and inferred about him, These things shall remain a secret, but I came to know that he was a sage who had attained perfection, a past master in meditation, and the day he know his real nature, he will give up the body by an act of will, through Yoga.Of all the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, Narendranath alone doubted the Master and critised any of his teachings that appeared irrational. Firmly poised as he was in the knowledge of the highest truth, Sri Ramakrishna, however, did not upset the intellectual outbursts of Narendranath. He rose equal to the occasion. He never asked Narendranath to abandon his reason. On the other hand, he enjoyed his criticisms, and even encouraged them. He told him: Test me as the money changers test their coins. You must not accept me until you have tested me thoroughly. Narendranath was bitterly against the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta which Sri Ramakrishna was eager to explain to him. The Advaita idea of the identity of the individual soul and the Supreme Self appeared to him as bizarre and blasphemous. Sri Ramakrishna tried his best to bring home to the disciple the truth of Advaita by reason and argument, but without success. One day after a trying discussion, he found Narendranath speaking about the doctrine disparagingly to a friend and in a light vein. Sri Ramakrishna, in a semi conscious mood, approached him and just touched him, and immediately a wonderful change came over Narendranath. He was filled with the consciousness that everything around him was God. The impression persisted even when he reached home, at the end of the day. He did not relish his food. He ate too much or too little, to the consternation of his mother. He felt that the food, the materials, the server and he himself were all God. In the street, he did not feel like moving out of way of the swiftly, moving cabs, thinking they were God Himself. In the public park, he struck his head against the railing to see if they were real. This feeling lasted for many days. Henceforth he could not deny the truth of Advaita.In 1884, Vishwanath Datta (Narendranaths father) suddenly passed away, plunging the whole family into grief and poverty. He was the only earning member of the family, and being of a prodigal nature, he spent lavishly and left the family in debt.

Everywhere the door was slammed in his (Vivekanandas) face. Friends turned into enemies in an instant. Creditors began knocking at the door. Temptations came. Two rich women made proposals to him to end his poverty, and he turned them down with scorn. Often he went without food so that others at home might have a better share. He was face to face with realities and the world appeared to him to be the creation of a devil. Nevertheless, the prot

5. The Baranagore days
After the death of the Master. One of the lay disciples of Shri Ramakrishna offered to contribute towards the maintenance of a monastery where the young disciples of the Master could stay and continue their spiritual and devotional exercises, and where the householder disciples might now and then go for peace and solace. Accordingly, an old dilapidated house was rented at the Baranagore, and two of the monastic disciples went to live there. Narendranath who was busy conducting a law suit pending at the court, used to spend the night at the monastery. He exhorted the others to join the brotherhood.Lest this devotion should become dammed up within the narrow limits of a creed or cult, the leader forced them to study the thought of the world outside. He himself instructed them in western and eastern philosophy, comparative religion, theology, history, sociology, literature, art, and science. He read out to them the great books of human thought, explained to them the evolution of the universal mind, discussed with them the problems of religion and philosophy, and led them indefatigably towards the wide horizons of the boundless truth which surpassed all limits of schools and races, and embraced and unified all particulars truths. In the light of the teachings of Shri Ramakrishna, he reconciled the apparent contradictions between the various systems.


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