SWAMI VIVEKANANDA Bengali: ( listen ), Shāmi Bibekānondo; 12
January 1863 – 4 July 1902), born NARENDRANATH DATTA (Bengali: ),
was an Indian
Hindu monk , a chief disciple of the 19th-century Indian
Ramakrishna . He was a key figure in the introduction of the
Indian philosophies of
Yoga to the Western world and is
credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing
Hinduism to the
status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. He was
a major force in the revival of
Hinduism in India, and contributed to
the concept of nationalism in colonial
Ramakrishna Math and the
Ramakrishna Mission . He is perhaps best
known for his speech which began, "Sisters and brothers of America
...," in which he introduced
Hinduism at the Parliament of the
World\'s Religions in
Chicago in 1893.
Born into an aristocratic Bengali family of
Calcutta , Vivekananda
was inclined towards spirituality. He was influenced by his
Ramakrishna Deva, from whom he learnt that all living beings were an
embodiment of the divine self; therefore, service to God could be
rendered by service to mankind. After Ramakrishna's death, Vivekananda
Indian subcontinent extensively and acquired first-hand
knowledge of the conditions prevailing in British
India . He later
travelled to the United States, representing
India at the 1893
Parliament of the World Religions.
Vivekananda conducted hundreds of
public and private lectures and classes, disseminating tenets of Hindu
philosophy in the United States, England and Europe. In India,
Vivekananda is regarded as a patriotic saint and his birthday is
celebrated there as National Youth Day .
* 1 Early life (1863–88)
* 1.1 Birth and childhood
* 2 Education
* 2.1 Spiritual apprenticeship - influence of
* 2.2 With
* 2.3 Founding of first
Ramakrishna Math at
* 2.4 Monastic vows
* 3 Travels in
* 4 First visit to the West (1893–97)
* 4.1 Parliament of the World\'s Religions
* 4.2 Lecture tours in the UK and US
* 5 Back in
* 6 Second visit to the West and final years (1899–1902)
* 7 Death
* 8 Teachings and philosophy
* 9 Influence and legacy
* 10 Works
* 10.1 Lectures
* 10.2 Literary works
* 10.3 Publications
* 11 See also
* 12 Notes
* 13 References
* 14 Sources
* 14.1 Printed sources
* 14.2 Web-sources
* 15 Further reading
* 16 External links
EARLY LIFE (1863–88)
BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD
(left) Bhubaneswari Devi (1841–1911); "I am indebted to
my mother for the efflorescence of my knowledge." – Vivekananda
(right) 3, Gourmohan Mukherjee Street, birthplace of Vivekananda, now
converted into a museum and cultural centre
Vivekananda was born Narendranath Datta (shortened to Narendra or
Naren) at his ancestral home at 3 Gourmohan Mukherjee Street in
Calcutta, the capital of British India, on 12 January 1863 during the
Makar Sankranti festival. He belonged to a traditional Bengali
Kayastha family and was one of nine siblings. His father, Vishwanath
Datta, was an attorney at the
Calcutta High Court . Durgacharan
Datta, Narendra's grandfather was a
Sanskrit and Persian scholar who
left his family and became a monk at age twenty-five. His mother,
Bhubaneswari Devi, was a devout housewife. The progressive, rational
attitude of Narendra's father and the religious temperament of his
mother helped shape his thinking and personality.
Narendranath was interested spiritually from a young age and used to
meditate before the images of deities such as
Hanuman . He was fascinated by wandering ascetics and
monks. Naren was naughty and restless as a child, and his parents
often had difficulty controlling him. His mother said, "I prayed to
Shiva for a son and he has sent me one of his ghosts".
In 1871, at the age of eight, Narendranath enrolled at Ishwar Chandra
Vidyasagar 's Metropolitan Institution , where he went to school until
his family moved to
Raipur in 1877. In 1879, after his family's
return to Calcutta, he was the only student to receive first-division
marks in the Presidency College entrance examination. He was an avid
reader in a wide range of subjects, including philosophy, religion,
history, social science, art and literature. He was also interested
Hindu scriptures, including the
Vedas , the
Upanishads , the
Bhagavad Gita , the
Ramayana , the
Mahabharata and the
Narendra was trained in
Indian classical music
Indian classical music , and regularly
participated in physical exercise, sports and organised activities.
Narendra studied Western logic, Western philosophy and European
history at the General Assembly\'s Institution (now known as the
Scottish Church College). In 1881 he passed the Fine Arts
examination, and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884.
Narendra studied the works of
David Hume ,
Immanuel Kant , Johann
Gottlieb Fichte ,
Baruch Spinoza ,
Georg W. F. Hegel , Arthur
Auguste Comte ,
John Stuart Mill and
Charles Darwin .
He became fascinated with the evolutionism of
Herbert Spencer and
corresponded with him, translating Spencer's book Education (1861)
into Bengali. While studying Western philosophers, he also learned
Sanskrit scriptures and Bengali literature.
William Hastie (principal
of General Assembly's Institution) wrote, "Narendra is really a
genius. I have travelled far and wide but I have never come across a
lad of his talents and possibilities, even in German universities,
among philosophical students' Some accounts have called Narendra a
shrutidhara (a person with a prodigious memory).
SPIRITUAL APPRENTICESHIP - INFLUENCE OF BRAHMO SAMAJ
Swami Vivekananda and meditation
In 1880 Narendra joined
Keshab Chandra Sen
Keshab Chandra Sen 's
Nava Vidhan , which was
established by Sen after meeting
Ramakrishna and reconverting from
Christianity to Hinduism. Narendra became a member of a Freemasonry
lodge "at some point before 1884" and of the
Sadharan Brahmo Samaj in
his twenties, a breakaway faction of the
Brahmo Samaj led by Keshab
Chandra Sen and
Debendranath Tagore . From 1881 to 1884 he was
also active in Sen's
Band of Hope , which tried to discourage youths
from smoking and drinking.
It was in this cultic milieu that Narendra became acquainted with
Western esotericism . His initial beliefs were shaped by Brahmo
concepts, which included belief in a formless God and the deprecation
of idolatry , and a "streamlined, rationalized, monotheistic
theology strongly coloured by a selective and modernistic reading of
the Upanisads and of the Vedanta."
Rammohan Roy , the founder of the
Brahmo Samaj who was strongly influenced by unitarianism , strived
toward an universalistic interpretation of Hinduism. His ideas were
"altered considerably" by
Debendranath Tagore , who had a romantic
approach to the development of these new doctrines, and questioned
Hindu beliefs like reincarnation and karma, and rejected the
authority of the Vedas. Tagore also brought this "neo-Hinduism"
closer in line with western esotericism , a development which was
furthered by Keshubchandra Sen. Sen was influenced by
transcendentalism , an American philosophical-religious movement
strongly connected with unitarianism, which emphasised personal
religious experience over mere reasoning and theology. Sen strived to
"an accessible, non-renunciatory, everyman type of spirituality",
introducing "lay systems of spiritual practice" which can be regarded
as prototypes of the kind of Yoga-exercises which Vivekananda
popularised in the west.
The same search for direct intuition and understanding can be seen
with Vivekananda. Not satisfied with his knowledge of philosophy,
Narendra came to "the question which marked the real beginning of his
intellectual quest for God." He asked several prominent Calcutta
residents if they had come "face to face with God", but none of their
answers satisfied him. At this time, Narendra met Debendranath
Tagore (the leader of Brahmo Samaj) and asked if he had seen God.
Instead of answering his question, Tagore said "My boy, you have the
Yogi 's eyes." According to Banhatti, it was
Ramakrishna who really
answered Narendra's question, by saying "Yes, I see Him as I see you,
only in an infinitely intenser sense." Nevertheless,
more influenced by the Brahmo Samaj's and its new ideas, than by
Ramakrishna. It was Sen's influence who brought
into contact with western esotericism, and it was also via Sen that he
Main article: Relationship between
Ramakrishna and Swami
See also: Swami Vivekananda\'s prayer to
In 1881 Narendra first met Ramakrishna, who became his spiritual
focus after his own father had died in 1884.
Narendra's first introduction to
Ramakrishna occurred in a literature
class at General Assembly's Institution when he heard Professor
William Hastie lecturing on
William Wordsworth 's poem, The Excursion
. While explaining the word "trance" in the poem, Hastie suggested
that his students visit
Dakshineswar to understand the
true meaning of trance. This prompted some of his students (including
Narendra) to visit Ramakrishna.
Ramakrishna , guru of
They probably first met personally in November 1881, though Narendra
did not consider this their first meeting, and neither man mentioned
this meeting later. At this time Narendra was preparing for his
upcoming F. A. examination, when
Ram Chandra Datta accompanied him to
Surendra Nath Mitra 's, house where
Ramakrishna was invited to deliver
a lecture. According to Paranjape, at this meeting
young Narendra to sing. Impressed by his singing talent, he asked
Narendra to come to Dakshineshwar.
In late 1881 or early 1882, Narendra went to
Dakshineswar with two
friends and met Ramakrishna. This meeting proved to be a turning
point in his life. Although he did not initially accept Ramakrishna
as his teacher and rebelled against his ideas, he was attracted by his
personality and began to frequently visit him at Dakshineswar. He
initially saw Ramakrishna's ecstasies and visions as "mere figments of
imagination" and "hallucinations". As a member of Brahmo Samaj, he
opposed idol worship, polytheism and Ramakrishna's worship of
He even rejected the Advaita
Vedanta of "identity with the absolute"
as blasphemy and madness, and often ridiculed the idea. Narendra
tested Ramakrishna, who faced his arguments patiently: "Try to see the
truth from all angles", he replied.
Narendra's father's sudden death in 1884 left the family bankrupt;
creditors began demanding the repayment of loans, and relatives
threatened to evict the family from their ancestral home. Narendra,
once a son of a well-to-do family, became one of the poorest students
in his college. He unsuccessfully tried to find work and questioned
God's existence, but found solace in
Ramakrishna and his visits to
One day Narendra requested
Ramakrishna to pray to goddess
their family's financial welfare.
Ramakrishna suggested him to go to
the temple himself and pray. Following Ramakrishna's suggestion, he
went to the temple thrice, but failed to pray for any kind of worldly
necessities and ultimately prayed for true knowledge and devotion from
the goddess. Narendra gradually grew ready to renounce everything
for the sake of realising God, and accepted
Ramakrishna as his
Ramakrishna developed throat cancer , and was transferred to
Calcutta and (later) to a garden house in
Cossipore . Narendra and
Ramakrishna's other disciples took care of him during his last days,
and Narendra's spiritual education continued. At Cossipore, he
Nirvikalpa samadhi . Narendra and several other disciples
received ochre robes from Ramakrishna, forming his first monastic
order. He was taught that service to men was the most effective
worship of God.
Ramakrishna asked him to care for the other monastic
disciples, and in turn asked them to see Narendra as their leader.
Ramakrishna died in the early-morning hours of 16 August 1886 in
FOUNDING OF FIRST RAMAKRISHNA MATH AT BARANAGAR
After Ramakrishna's death, his devotees and admirers stopped
supporting his disciples. Unpaid rent accumulated, and Narendra and
the other disciples had to find a new place to live. Many returned
home, adopting a
Grihastha (family-oriented) way of life. Narendra
decided to convert a dilapidated house at
Baranagar into a new math
(monastery) for the remaining disciples. Rent for the
was low, raised by "holy begging" (mādhukarī). The math became the
first building of the
Ramakrishna Math : the monastery of the monastic
order of Ramakrishna. Narendra and other disciples used to spend many
hours in practising meditation and religious austerities every day.
Narendra later reminisced about the early days of the monastery:
We underwent a lot of religious practice at the
Baranagar Math. We
used to get up at 3:00 am and become absorbed in japa and meditation.
What a strong spirit of detachment we had in those days! We had no
thought even as to whether the world existed or not.
In 1887, Narendra compiled a Bengali song anthology named Sangeet
Kalpataru with Vaishnav Charan Basak. Narendra collected and arranged
most of the songs of this compilation, but could not finish the work
of the book for unfavourable circumstances.
In December 1886, the mother of Baburam invited Narendra and his
other brother monks to
Antpur village. Narendra and the other aspiring
monks accepted the invitation and went to
Antpur to spend few days. In
Antpur, in the Christmas Eve of 1886, Narendra and eight other
disciples took formal monastic vows. They decided to live their lives
as their master lived. Narendranath took the name "Swami
TRAVELS IN INDIA (1888–93)
Main article: Swami Vivekananda\'s travels in
In 1888, Narendra left the monastery as a Parivrâjaka— the Hindu
religious life of a wandering monk, "without fixed abode, without
ties, independent and strangers wherever they go". His sole
possessions were a kamandalu (water pot), staff and his two favourite
Bhagavad Gita and
The Imitation of Christ . Narendra
travelled extensively in
India for five years, visiting centres of
learning and acquainting himself with diverse religious traditions and
social patterns. He developed sympathy for the suffering and poverty
of the people, and resolved to uplift the nation. Living primarily
on bhiksha (alms), Narendra travelled on foot and by railway (with
tickets bought by admirers). During his travels he met, and stayed
with Indians from all religions and walks of life: scholars, dewans ,
rajas , Hindus, Muslims, Christians, paraiyars (low-caste workers) and
government officials. Narendra left Bombay for
Chicago on 31 May 1893
with the name "Vivekananda", as suggested by Ajit Singh of Khetri,
which means "the bliss of discerning wisdom".
FIRST VISIT TO THE WEST (1893–97)
Vivekananda started his journey to the West on 31 May 1893 and
visited several cities in Japan (including
Kobe , Yokohama
Kyoto and Tokyo), China and Canada en route to the United
Chicago on 30 July 1893, where the "Parliament of
Religions " took place in September 1893. The Congress was an
initiative of the Swedenborgian layman, and judge of the Illinois
Charles C. Bonney , to gather all the religions of
the world, and show "the substantial unity of many religions in the
good deeds of the religious life." It was one of the more than 200
adjunct gatherings and congresses of the Chicago's World's Fair, and
was "an avant-garde intellectual manifestation of cultic milieus,
East and West," with the
Brahmo Samaj and the Theosophical Society
being invited as being representative of Hinduism.
Vivekananda wanted to join, but was disappointed to learn that no one
without credentials from a bona fide organisation would be accepted as
Vivekananda contacted Professor
John Henry Wright of
Harvard University , who invited him to speak at Harvard. Vivekananda
wrote of the professor, "He urged upon me the necessity of going to
the Parliament of Religions, which he thought would give an
introduction to the nation".
Vivekananda submitted an application,
"introducing himself as a monk 'of the oldest order of sannyāsis ...
founded by Sankara,'" supported by the
Brahmo Samaj representative
Protapchandra Mozoombar, who was also a member of the Parliament's
selection committee, "classifying the Swami as a representative of the
Hindu monastic order."
PARLIAMENT OF THE WORLD\'S RELIGIONS
Main article: Swami
Vivekananda at the Parliament of the World\'s
Religions (1893) (left)
Vivekananda on the platform at the
Parliament of Religions, September 1893; left to right: Virchand
Gandhi , Dharmapala , Vivekananda
Vivekananda with the East Indian group, in the photo:
(from left to right) Narasimha Chaira, Lakeshnie Narain, Vivekananda,
H. Dharmapala, and
Parliament of the World's Religions
Parliament of the World's Religions opened on 11 September 1893
at the Art Institute of
Chicago as part of the World\'s Columbian
Exposition . On this day,
Vivekananda gave a brief speech
Hinduism . He was initially nervous, bowed to
Hindu goddess of learning) and began his speech with
"Sisters and brothers of America!". At these words, Vivekananda
received a two-minute standing ovation from the crowd of seven
thousand. According to Sailendra
Nath Dhar, when silence was restored
he began his address, greeting the youngest of the nations on behalf
of "the most ancient order of monks in the world, the Vedic order of
sannyasins, a religion which has taught the world both tolerance, of
and universal acceptance".
Vivekananda quoted two illustrative
passages from the "
Shiva mahimna stotram ": "As the 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!" and "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach
him; all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to Me."
According to Sailendra
Nath Dhar, "t was only a short speech, but it
voiced the spirit of the Parliament."
John Henry Barrows
John Henry Barrows said, "India, the Mother of
religions was represented by Swami Vivekananda, the Orange-monk who
exercised the most wonderful influence over his auditors".
Vivekananda attracted widespread attention in the press, which called
him the "cyclonic monk from India". The New York Critique wrote, "He
is an orator by divine right, and his strong, intelligent face in its
picturesque setting of yellow and orange was hardly less interesting
than those earnest words, and the rich, rhythmical utterance he gave
New York Herald noted, "
Vivekananda 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".
American newspapers reported
Vivekananda as "the greatest figure in
the parliament of religions" and "the most popular and influential man
in the parliament". The Boston Evening Transcript reported that
Vivekananda was "a great favourite at the parliament... if he merely
crosses the platform, he is applauded". He spoke several more times
"at receptions, the scientific section, and private homes" on topics
related to Hinduism,
Buddhism and harmony among religions until the
parliament ended on 27 September 1893. Vivekananda's speeches at the
Parliament had the common theme of universality, emphasising religious
tolerance. He soon became known as a "handsome oriental" and made a
huge impression as an orator.
LECTURE TOURS IN THE UK AND US
"I do not come", said
Swamiji on one occasion in America, "to
convert you to a new belief. I want you to keep your own belief; I
want to make the
Methodist a better Methodist; the
better Presbyterian; the Unitarian a better Unitarian. I want to teach
you to live the truth, to reveal the light within your own soul."
After the Parliament of Religions, he toured many parts of the US as
a guest. His popularity opened up new views for expanding on "life and
religion to thousands". During a question-answer session at Brooklyn
Ethical Society, he remarked, "I have a message to the West as Buddha
had a message to the East."
Vivekananda spent nearly two years lecturing in the eastern and
central United States, primarily in Chicago, Detroit, Boston, and New
York. He founded the
Vedanta Society of New York in 1894. By spring
1895 his busy, tiring schedule had affected his health. He ended his
lecture tours and began giving free, private classes in
yoga . Beginning in June 1895,
Vivekananda gave private lectures to a
dozen of his disciples at Thousand Island Park in New York for two
During his first visit to the West he travelled to the UK twice, in
1895 and 1896, lecturing successfully there. In November 1895 he met
Margaret Elizabeth Noble an Irish woman who would become Sister
Nivedita . During his second visit to the UK in May 1896 Vivekananda
Max Müller , a noted
Oxford University who wrote
Ramakrishna's first biography in the West. From the UK, Vivekananda
visited other European countries. In Germany he met
Paul Deussen ,
Vivekananda was offered academic positions in two
American universities (one the chair in
Eastern Philosophy at Harvard
University and a similar position at
Columbia University ); he
declined both, since his duties would conflict with his commitment as
a monk. Left:
Vivekananda in Greenacre , Maine (August
Vivekananda at Mead sisters' house, South Pasadena in
His success led to a change in mission, namely the establishment of
Vedanta centres in the West.
Vivekananda adapted traditional Hindu
ideas and religiosity to suit the needs and understandings of his
western audiences, who were especially attracted by and familiar with
western esoteric traditions and movements like
New thought . An important element in his adaptation of Hindu
religiosity was the introduction of his "four yogas" model, which
Raja yoga , his interpretation of Patanjali's
Yoga sutras ,
which offered a practical means to realise the divine force within
which is central to modern western esotericism. In 1896 his book Raja
Yoga was published, which became an instant success and was highly
influential in the western understanding of Yoga.
Vivekananda attracted followers and admirers in the US and Europe,
Josephine MacLeod ,
William James ,
Josiah Royce , Robert G.
Nikola Tesla ,
Lord Kelvin ,
Harriet Monroe , Ella Wheeler
Sarah Bernhardt ,
Emma Calvé and Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand
von Helmholtz . He initiated several followers : Marie Louise (a
French woman) became Swami
Abhayananda , and Leon Landsberg became
Swami Kripananda , so that they could continue the work of the
mission of the
Vedanta Society. This society still is filled with
foreign nationals and is also located in
Los Angeles . During his
stay in America,
Vivekananda was given land in the mountains to the
San Jose, California
San Jose, California to establish a retreat for Vedanta
students. He called it "Peace retreat", or, Shanti Asrama. The
largest American centre is the
Vedanta Society of Southern California
Hollywood , (one of the twelve main centres). There is also a
Vedanta Press in
Hollywood which publishes books about
English translations of
Hindu scriptures and texts. Christina
Detroit was also initiated by
Vivekananda with a mantra
and she became
Sister Christine , and they established a close
From the West,
Vivekananda revived his work in India. He regularly
corresponded with his followers and brother monks, offering advice
and financial support. His letters from this period reflect his
campaign of social service, and were strongly worded. He wrote to
Akhandananda , "Go from door to door amongst the poor and lower
classes of the town of Khetri and teach them religion. Also, let them
have oral lessons on geography and such other subjects. No good will
come of sitting idle and having princely dishes, and saying
"Ramakrishna, O Lord!"—unless you can do some good to the poor".
Vivekananda founded the periodical Brahmavadin to teach the
Vedanta. Later, Vivekananda's translation of the first six chapters
The Imitation of Christ was published in Brahmavadin in 1889.
Vivekananda left for
India on 16 December 1896 from England with his
disciples Captain and Mrs. Sevier and J.J. Goodwin. On the way they
visited France and Italy, and set sail for
Naples on 30
December 1896. He was later followed to
India by Sister Nivedita, who
devoted the rest of her life to the education of Indian women and
BACK IN INDIA (1897–99)
The ship from Europe arrived in
British Ceylon (now Sri
Lanka ) on 15 January 1897, and
Vivekananda received a warm welcome.
Colombo he gave his first public speech in the East, India, the
Holy Land. From there on, his journey to
Calcutta was triumphant.
Vivekananda travelled from
Madras , delivering lectures. Common people
and rajas gave him an enthusiastic reception. During his train
travels, people often sat on the rails to force the train to stop so
they could hear him. From Madras, he continued his journey to
Almora . While in the West,
Vivekananda spoke about
India's great spiritual heritage; in India, he repeatedly addressed
social issues: uplifting the people, eliminating the caste system,
promoting science and industrialisation, addressing widespread poverty
and ending colonial rule. These lectures, published as Lectures from
Almora , demonstrate his nationalistic fervour and
spiritual ideology. (left)
Vivekananda at Chennai 1897
(right) Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati (a branch of the
founded on 19 March 1899) later published many of Vivekananda's work
and now publishes
Prabuddha Bharata .
On 1 May 1897 in Calcutta,
Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna
Mission for social service. Its ideals are based on Karma Yoga, and
its governing body consists of the trustees of the
(which conducts religious work). Both
Ramakrishna Math and
Ramakrishna Mission have their headquarters at
Belur Math .
Vivekananda founded two other monasteries: one in Mayavati in the
Himalayas (near Almora), the
Advaita Ashrama and another in Madras.
Two journals were founded:
Prabuddha Bharata in English and Udbhodan
in Bengali. That year, famine -relief work was begun by Swami
Akhandananda in the
Vivekananda earlier inspired
Jamshedji Tata to set up a research and
educational institution when they travelled together from
Chicago on Vivekananda's first visit to the West in 1893. Tata now
asked him to head his Research Institute of Science ; Vivekananda
declined the offer, citing a conflict with his "spiritual interests".
He visited Punjab, attempting to mediate an ideological conflict
Arya Samaj (a reformist
Hindu movement) and sanatan (orthodox
Hindus). After brief visits to Lahore, Delhi and Khetri, Vivekananda
Calcutta in January 1898. He consolidated the work of the
math and trained disciples for several months.
Khandana Bhava–Bandhana ", a prayer song dedicated to Ramakrishna,
SECOND VISIT TO THE WEST AND FINAL YEARS (1899–1902)
Swami Vivekananda in California
Swami Vivekananda in California (left)
Belur Math on 19 June 1899
Vivekananda (photo taken in Bushnell Studio, San Francisco,
Despite declining health,
Vivekananda left for the West for a second
time in June 1899 accompanied by
Sister Nivedita and Swami
Turiyananda. Following a brief stay in England, he went to the United
States. During this visit,
in San Francisco and New York and founded a shanti ashrama (peace
retreat) in California. He then went to Paris for the Congress of
Religions in 1900. His lectures in Paris concerned the worship of the
lingam and the authenticity of the
Bhagavad Gita .
Brittany , Vienna,
Istanbul , Athens and
Egypt . The French
Jules Bois was his host for most of this period, until he
Calcutta on 9 December 1900.
After a brief visit to the
Advaita Ashrama in Mayavati Vivekananda
settled at Belur Math, where he continued co-ordinating the works of
Ramakrishna Mission, the math and the work in England and the US He
had many visitors, including royalty and politicians. Although
Vivekananda was unable to attend the Congress of Religions in 1901 in
Japan due to deteriorating health, he made pilgrimages to
Varanasi . Declining health (including asthma , diabetes and chronic
insomnia ) restricted his activity.
On 4 July 1902 (the day of his death)
Vivekananda awoke early, went
to the chapel at
Belur Math and meditated for three hours. He taught
Sanskrit grammar and the philosophy of yoga to
pupils, later discussing with colleagues a planned Vedic college in
Ramakrishna Math. At 7:00 p.m.
Vivekananda went to his room,
asking not to be disturbed; he died at 9:10 p.m. while meditating .
According to his disciples,
Vivekananda attained mahasamādhi ; the
rupture of a blood vessel in his brain was reported as a possible
cause of death. His disciples believed that the rupture was due to
his brahmarandhra (an opening in the crown of his head) being pierced
when he attained mahasamādhi.
Vivekananda fulfilled his prophecy that
he would not live forty years. He was cremated on a sandalwood
funeral pyre on the bank of the
Ganga in Belur, opposite where
Ramakrishna was cremated sixteen years earlier.
TEACHINGS AND PHILOSOPHY
Teachings and philosophy of Swami Vivekananda
Part of a series on
Achintya Bheda Abheda
* Shaiva : Pratyabhijña
TEACHERS (Acharyas )
* Akṣapāda Gotama
ACHINTYA BHEDA ABHEDA
* Kamalakanta Bhattacharya
* Kanada ,
SHASTRAS AND SUTRAS
* Dharma Shastra
* Artha Śastra
* Other Indian philosophies
Part of a series on
Schools CLASSICAL ADVAITA VEDANTA
Concepts CLASSICAL ADVAITA VEDANTA
Tat Tvam Asi
Tat Tvam Asi
* Three Bodies
* Cause and effect
* Sravana, manana, nididhyasana
* "Unfoldment of the middle"
Texts ADVAITA VEDANTA
* Attributed to Shankara
Advaita Bodha Deepika
Advaita Bodha Deepika
* Vedantasara of Sadananda
Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta
* Works by
Teachers CLASSICAL ADVAITA VEDANTA
Jagadguru of Sringeri Sharada Peetham
MODERN ADVAITA VEDANTA
* Swami Chinmayananda
* Swami Dayananda
* Advaita teachers
* Swami Vivekananda
H. W. L. Poonja
* Andrew Cohen
* Robert Adams
* Sramanic movement
Monasteries and Orders CLASSICAL ADVAITA VEDANTA
Shri Gaudapadacharya Math
Sringeri Sharada Peetham
Sringeri Sharada Peetham
* Govardhana Pīṭhaṃ
* Dvāraka Pīṭhaṃ
* Jyotirmaṭha Pīṭhaṃ
MODERN ADVAITA VEDANTA
Divine Life Society
Arsha Vidya Gurukulam
* Daniel H. H. Ingalls
Richard De Smet
Vivekananda propagated that the essence of
Hinduism was best
Adi Shankara 's Advaita
Nevertheless, following Ramakrishna, and in contrast to Advaita
Vivekananda believed that the Absolute is both immanent and
transcendent. According to Anil Sooklal, Vivekananda's neo-Advaita
Dvaita or dualism and Advaita or non-dualism".
Vivekananda summarised the
Vedanta as follows, giving it a modern and
Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this
Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this
either by work, or worship, or mental discipline, or philosophy—by
one, or more, or all of these—and be free. This is the whole of
religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or
forms, are but secondary details.
Nationalism was a prominent theme in Vivekananda's thought. He
believed that a country's future depends on its people, and his
teachings focused on human development. He wanted "to set in motion a
machinery which will bring noblest ideas to the doorstep of even the
poorest and the meanest".
Vivekananda linked morality with control of the mind, seeing truth,
purity and unselfishness as traits which strengthened it. He advised
his followers to be holy, unselfish and to have śraddhā (faith).
Vivekananda supported brahmacharya (celibacy), believing it the
source of his physical and mental stamina and eloquence. He
emphasised that success was an outcome of focused thought and action;
in his lectures on
Yoga he said, "Take up one idea. Make that one
idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let
the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that
idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to
success, that is the way great spiritual giants are produced".
INFLUENCE AND LEGACY
Main article: Influence and legacy of Swami
Vivekananda was one of the main representatives of
Neo-Vedanta , a
modern interpretation of selected aspects of
Hinduism in line with
western esoteric traditions , especially
Transcendentalism , New
Theosophy . His reinterpretation was, and is, very
successful, creating a new understanding and appreciation of Hinduism
within and outside India, and was the principal reason for the
enthusiastic reception of yoga, transcendental meditation and other
forms of Indian spiritual self-improvement in the West. Agehananda
Bharati explained, "...modern Hindus derive their knowledge of
Hinduism from Vivekananda, directly or indirectly". Vivekananda
espoused the idea that all sects within
Hinduism (and all religions)
are different paths to the same goal. However, this view has been
criticised as an oversimplification of Hinduism. (left)
Vivekananda statue near the Gateway of
India , Mumbai
(right) at Shri
Ramakrishna Vidyashala, Mysore,
In the background of emerging nationalism in British-ruled India,
Vivekananda crystallised the nationalistic ideal. In the words of
Charles Freer Andrews , "The Swami's intrepid
patriotism gave a new colour to the national movement throughout
India. More than any other single individual of that period
Vivekananda had made his contribution to the new awakening of India".
Vivekananda drew attention to the extent of poverty in the country,
and maintained that addressing such poverty was a prerequisite for
national awakening. His nationalistic ideas influenced many Indian
thinkers and leaders.
Sri Aurobindo regarded
Vivekananda as the one
Mahatma Gandhi counted him among the
Hindu reformers "who have maintained this
Hindu religion in a
state of splendor by cutting down the dead wood of tradition".
Vivekananda Circle, Mysore
The first governor-general of independent India, Chakravarti
Rajagopalachari , said "
Vivekananda saved Hinduism, saved India".
Subhas Chandra Bose
Subhas Chandra Bose , a proponent of armed struggle for
Indian independence ,
Vivekananda was "the maker of modern India";
for Gandhi, Vivekananda's influence increased Gandhi's "love for his
country a thousandfold".
Vivekananda influenced India's independence
movement; his writings inspired independence activists such as Netaji
Subhas Chandra Bose
Subhas Chandra Bose ,
Aurobindo Ghose ,
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bagha
Jatin and intellectuals such as
Aldous Huxley , Christopher Isherwood
Romain Rolland . Many years after Vivekananda's death Rabindranath
Tagore told French
Nobel laureate Romain Rolland, "If you want to
know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and
nothing negative". Rolland wrote, "His words are great music, phrases
in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Händel
choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are
through the pages of books, at thirty years' distance, without
receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what
shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words
they issued from the lips of the hero!"
Jamshedji Tata was inspired by
Vivekananda to establish the Indian
Institute of Science , one of India's best-known research
Vivekananda communicated with orientalist Max
Müller , and scientist
Nikola Tesla was one of those influenced by
his Vedic teachings. While National Youth Day in
India is observed on
his birthday, 12 January, the day he delivered his masterful speech at
the Parliament of Religions, 11 September 1893 is "World Brotherhood
Day". In September 2010, India's Finance Ministry highlighted the
relevance of Vivekananda's teachings and values to the modern economic
environment. The then Union Finance Minister
Pranab Mukherjee , the
India before the current President Ram
approved in principle the Swami
Vivekananda Values Education Project
at a cost of ₹1 billion (US$16 million), with objectives including
involving youth with competitions, essays, discussions and study
circles and publishing Vivekananda's works in a number of languages.
In 2011, the West Bengal Police Training College was renamed the Swami
Vivekananda State Police Academy, West Bengal. The state technical
Chhattisgarh has been named the
Vivekananda Technical University. In 2012, the
Raipur airport was
Vivekananda Airport .
The 150th birth anniversary of Swami
Vivekananda was celebrated in
India and abroad. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in India
officially observed 2013 as the occasion in a declaration. Year-long
events and programs were organised by branches of the
Ramakrishna Mission , the central and state governments in
India, educational institutions and youth groups. Bengali film
director Tutu (Utpal) Sinha made a film, The Light: Swami Vivekananda
as a tribute for his 150th birth anniversary.
Main article: Bibliography of Swami
Lectures from Colombo to Almora front cover 1897 edition
Vedanta Philosophy An address before the Graduate
Philosophical Society 1901 cover page
Vivekananda was a powerful orator and writer in English and
Bengali, he was not a thorough scholar, and most of his published
works were compiled from lectures given around the world which were
"mainly delivered impromptu and with little preparation". His main
Yoga , consists of talks he delivered in New York.
According to Banhatti, " singer, a painter, a wonderful master of
language and a poet,
Vivekananda was a complete artist", composing
many songs and poems, including his favourite, "
Kali the Mother ".
Vivekananda blended humour with his teachings, and his language was
lucid. His Bengali writings testify to his belief that words (spoken
or written) should clarify ideas, rather than demonstrating the
speaker (or writer's) knowledge.
Bartaman Bharat meaning "Present Day India" is an erudite Bengali
language essay written by him, which was first published in the March
1899 issue of Udbodhan, the only Bengali language magazine of
Ramakrishna Math and
Ramakrishna Mission. The essay was reprinted as a
book in 1905 and later compiled into the fourth volume of The Complete
Works of Swami Vivekananda. In this essay his refrain to the readers
was to honour and treat every Indian as a brother irrespective of
whether he was born poor or in lower caste.
Published in his lifetime
Sangeet Kalpataru (1887, with Vaishnav Charan Basak)
Yoga (1896 )
Vedanta Philosophy: An address before the Graduate Philosophical
Lectures from Colombo to Almora (1897)
Bartaman Bharat (in Bengali) (March 1899), Udbodhan
* My Master (1901), The Baker and Taylor Company, New York
* Vedânta philosophy: lectures on Jnâna
Yoga (1902) Vedânta
Society, New York
Here a list of selected books by
Vivekananda that were published
after his death (1902)
* Addresses on
The East and the West (1909)
Inspired Talks (1909)
Bhakti Sutras – translation
Bhakti or Supreme Devotion
* Practical Vedanta
* Speeches and writings of Swami Vivekananda; a comprehensive
* Complete Works: a collection of his writings, lectures and
discourses in a set of nine volumes
* List of
Hindu gurus and saints
* ^ The exact date of the meeting is unknown. Vivekananda
Nath Dhar studied the
Calendar of 1881—1882 and found in that year, examination started on
28 November and ended on 2 December
* ^ A brother monk of Narendranath
* ^ On learning that
Vivekananda lacked credentials to speak at the
Chicago Parliament, Wright said "To ask for your credentials is like
asking the sun to state its right to shine in the heavens".
* ^ McRae quotes " sectarian biography of Vivekananda," namely
Nath Dhar A Comprehensive Biography of Swami Vivekananda,
Part One, (Madras, India:
Vivekananda Prakashan Kendra, 1975), p. 461,
which "describes his speech on the opening day".
* ^ Brother monks or brother disciples means other disciples of
Ramakrishna who lived monastic lives.
* ^ According to Michael Taft,
Ramakrishna reconciled the dualism
of form and formless, regarding the Supreme Being to be both Personal
and Impersonal, active and inactive. Ramakrishna: "When I think of
the Supreme Being as inactive - neither creating nor preserving nor
destroying - I call Him
Brahman or Purusha, the Impersonal God. When I
think of Him as active - creating, preserving and destroying - I call
Him Sakti or Maya or Prakriti, the Personal God. But the distinction
between them does not mean a difference. The Personal and Impersonal
are the same thing, like milk and its whiteness, the diamond and its
lustre, the snake and its wriggling motion. It is impossible to
conceive of the one without the other. The Divine Mother and Brahman
* ^ Sooklalmquoytes Chatterjee: "Sankara's
Vedanta is known as
Advaita or non-dualism , pure and simple. Hence it is sometimes
referred to as Kevala-Advaita or unqualified monism. It may also be
called abstract monism in so far as Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, is,
according to it, devoid of all qualities and distinctions, nirguna and
Neo-Vedanta is also Advaitic inasmuch as it holds that
Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, is one without a second,
ekamevadvitiyam. But as distinguished from the traditional Advaita of
Sankara, it is a synthetic
Vedanta which reconciles
Dvaita or dualism
and Advaita or non-dualism and also other theories of reality. In this
sense it may also be called concrete monism in so far as it holds that
Brahman is both qualified, saguna, and qualityless, nirguna
(Chatterjee, 1963 : 260)."
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