valiant monk who proclaimed in
"Brothers and sisters, the long night is at last drawing to a close. Miseries and sorrows are disappearing. Ours is a sacred country. She is gradually waking up, thanks to the fresh breeze all around. Her might no one can overcome."
"Are you prepared for all sacrifices for the sake of our motherland? If you are, then you can rid the land of poverty and ignorance. Do you know that millions of our countrymen are starving and miserable? Do you feel for them? Do you so much as shed a tear for them?"
"Have you the courage to face any hurdles, however formidable? Have you the determination to pursue your goal, even if those near and dear to you oppose you? You can be free men only if you have confidence in yourselves. You should develop a strong physique. You should shape your mind through study and mediation. Only then will victory be yours."
"I loved my motherland
dearly before I went to
Do you know who carried
this message to every nook and corner in the whole continent of
Spirited but Mischievous
He came to be known as
Swami Vivekanda only when he became a sannyasi or monk. His parents called him Narendra. His father was Vishwantha
Datta and his mother Bhuvaneshwari
Devi. Narendra was born on
12th January 1863 in
When Narendra stepped into boyhood, his naughtiness grew. He was a natural leader of the children in the neighborhood. His companions bowed to his decision always. Once a landlord threatened the children saying, "There is a demon in the tree and he swallows children." Narendra was not impressed by this threat. He settled down on a branch. The other boys took to their heels. Narendra waited for several hours, but the demon did not appear. So, he declared that the landlord's story was a spoof. Narendra loved to tease his sisters. Meditation, too, was a sport to him. But as he meditated he became oblivious of the whole world. Not even a lizard or a snake moving near him could disturb his concentration.
Even as a child Narendra had great respect for sannyasis or ascetics. He would give away anything to anybody if asked for. On his birthday, he would wear new clothes, wouldn't he? If a beggar asked for alms he would give away the new clothes. From that day, his mother would lock him up in a room whenever a beggar passed by the house. But every beggar knew Narendra's nature very well. So beggars would stand near the window of Narendra's room. He would throw to them anything he had. The spirit of sacrifice and renunciation was already blossoming in him.
In her leisure time his mother would tell him the story of the Ramayana. He could not sleep unless she told him a story. Then he would be all ears, forgetting his study and play. He had great reverence for Lord Hanuman. Once he sat before the idol of Lord Shiva, with his body all smeared with ash. His perplexed mother asked him, "Naren, what's all this?" He smiled and said, "Mother, I'm Lord Shiva." The mother feared that her son would become a sannyasi, like his grandfather.
Narendra's father was a lawyer. So every day his house used to be crowded with his clients belonging to different castes. The house was like an inn; the clients had breakfast and lunch there. It was the custom to provide the guests with hukkas (long pipes) o smoke after food. There was a different pipe for clients of each caste. Narendra wondered what would happen if he smoked the pipe mean for people of a different caste. Finally he experimented nothing untoward happened. He concluded that caste had no meaning.
The maxim "The child is father of the man" was entirely true of the compassionate boy, Narendra. Once there was a display of physical exercises in a localgymnasium. Accidentally an iron bar fell on a sailor among the spectators. He fell down unconscious. The people who had gathered there ran away lest the police should question them. Narendra, with the help of two friends of his, gave the wounded sailor first aid. Then he took him to a doctor. He even raised some money for the wounded man. On another occasion Narendra pulled out one of his friends who had been caught under the wheel of a coach drawn by horses. Likewise he helped a little boy who was a total stranger. The boy was lying on a road with high fever. He took him home. Narendra never knew what fear was.
It was not that Narendra excelled only in sports; he was quick and alert in his studies as well. After a single reading he could remember any lesson. His memory was amazing. Concentration was the key to his success in studies.
Whenever Vishwanath Datta found time he would give his son advice. "You need fear no one so long as you keep to the path of truth and Dharma (Virtue). One should not be browbeaten. One should guard one's self-respect. Love of one's religion should not mean hatred of others religions. Patriotism is essential for man's welfare. Foreign enemies may invade a country, but they cannot take away people's ancient and potent culture." He loved to listen to his son's sweet voice. Narendra's face would become radiant when he sang devotional songs.
His mother was dear to Narendra as his own life, and to him she was a veritable goddess. In his eyes, there was no one as ready to make sacrifices as the mother. She must have the highest place not only in the home but also in society. He had great respect for his father too. But this did not come in the way of his freedom and independent thinking. He gave expression to what he felt even about his father. "Hospitality is certainly a great virtue. But is it right to feed the lazy? Is it right to provide them with cigarette and pipe to smoke?" This he would often question his father. But his father would say, "You do not understand their misery, my boy. When they much tobacco, they at least for a while forget the bitterness of their life."
By 1880, Narendra passed his Matriculation and Entrance Examination. He joined a college. Day by day, his thirst for knowledge increased. He would borrow from the library books not related to the prescribed courses and read them, and so satisfy his thirst. HE was particularly fascinated by the secrets of God's creation. Apart from history and science, he was well read in Western philosophy. As he advanced in his studies, his thinking faculty developed.Doubts anduncertainties overtook him. He gave up blind beliefs but could not realize the Truth.
He placed his doubts before eminent scholars and sought their guidance. These scholars excelled in debate. But their logic did not convince Narendra. Their line of thinking was stale. It did not convince him, for none of them had direct experience of God.
In Search Of the Guru
Sri Ramakrishna was a priest
Sri Ramakrishna's behavior puzzled Narendra. He thought the elderly man was mad. "Will you come again? Promise me you will", pleaded Ramakrishna. Eager to escape from him, Narendra said, "Yes".
After the Bhagavan finished his discourse Narendra asked him,"Have you seen God?" "Of course I have. I have seen him just as I'm looking at you. I have even talked to him. I can show him to you. But who is yearning to see God?" replied Ramakrishna. Narendra said to himself, "Till today no one had told me he had seen God. This m an looks mentally deranged; possibly he is even mad. However, it is not proper to judge without investigating."
A month passed. Narendra went alone to Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna was resting on a cot in his room. He was pleased to seen Narendra; him sits on his cot. He went into a trance and put his leg on Narendra's lap. Narendra forgot the outer world. He felt that he was dissolving. He shouted, "What's this you are doing to me? My parents are still alive. I should go back to them." Smilingly Sri Ramakrishna said, "Enough for today," and drew back his lap. Narendra became normal once again.
The Attraction and The Test
As days passed, each was attracted towards the other. Neither could bear to be parted from the other. It did not take a long time for Sri Ramakrishna to realize the greatness of Narendra. Moreover, he was guided by the will of Goddess Kali. But young Narendra 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 Rama krishna, 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 was Ramakrishna's favorite disciple. But he would not accept as gospel truth all that Narendra said. Narendra was highly critical of people who worshipped idols. He rejected the theory of "Advaita" (monism). He had no faith in mystic experiences. Advaitic assertions such as "I am Brahman", "I am Shiva" did not impress Narendra.But Sri Ramakrishna would always bring him back to the right path by saying, "There are many roads to reach a destination. No one has the right to say that the path the other man takes is not the right one. It is improper to pass judgement on anything that one does not understand."
One day Sri Ramakrishna took Narendra to a secluded place. He said, "I have attained some powers after a long period of meditation. They will give whatever a man wants. I have given up all desire, and so I have no use for these powers. Shall I bestow these powers on you?" "But will they help me to realize the Self?" - asked Narendra. "No," said Sri Ramakrishna. "Then I do not want them. More than anything, I want to realize God." Narendra's reply filled Ramakrishna with joy. The Master had tested Narendra, and Narendra had passed the test.
Gradually Narendra turned towards renunciation, giving up all worldly desires. The parents came to know of this. He was then studying for his BA degree examination. They planned to bring him back to worldly life through marriage. Sri Ramakrishna became unhappy on hearing this. HE advised Narendra that if bound by family ties, he would not be able to serve mankind. At times, Narendra would lose faith in Ramakrishna would first touch him with his hands. Then Narendra would lose contact with the world around. When he regained consciousness he would surrender to his Guru's teaching. Thus the Guru gradually gifted all his powers to the disciple.
In 1884, Narendra passed the BA degree examination. A friend of his hosted a party. As Narendra was singing at the party, the news of his father's death came like a bolt from the blue.
Poverty hit the family immediately after the father's death. The moneylenders began to harass the family. Some of them even went to a court of law. Narendra wandered far and wide looking for a job. His clothes were tattered and torn; and it was difficult even to get one meal a day. Many a day he fasted so that his mother and his brothers and sisters might have something to eat. HE would tell them that he had eaten with a friend. Sometimes he would faint with hunger and fall down in the street. But in spite of such overwhelming misfortune he never lost faith in God. Sri Ramakrishna would console him saying, "You are here to serve mankind and do mother Kali's work. You should be brave."
One day he said to himself: "God gives whatever my Guru seeks. So it is best to seek my Guru's help." He went straight to his Guru and said, "On my behalf kindly pray before the Goddess to rid me of this poverty. She will give you whatever you wish for, won't she?" The Guru said, "My child, you have no faith in Her, why then will she listen to my prayer? You approach Her yourself. Then she will fulfil you need." So in the dead of night Narendra stood before the idol of Goddess Kali. He lost himself in deep meditation. He begged the Goddess, "O Mother, bestow on me the spirit of renunciation. Let me see you, that is all I beg of you." When he came out, the Guru asked, "Did you submit your prayer to Her? And what did She say?" Narendra said in dismay, "O! Forgot about it completely." "Then go back and ask Her," said the Guru. Again he forgot to speak about his poverty in his prayer to the Goddess. Again the Guru sent him. Back came Narendra and the same thing happened. The Guru's joy knew no bounds. "My child, you should not crave for only food and clothes. They are not the ultimate goals of man. Have faith in God. He will look after the welfare of your family," said the Guru.
took up the profession of teaching. For some time he taught in the
Once, while Narendra was in meditation he shouted, "Where is my body?" Others had to touch his body and convince him of its existence. When Sri Ramakrishna heard this episode, he was happy that at last his desire to find a worthy disciple had been fulfilled.
The Guru Is No More
The disciples nursed the Guru to the best of their ability. But the thought that the Guru would not recover from the illness agonized them. His end was drawing near. On the last day he called Narendra to his bedside and touched him. He invested Narendra with all his spiritual powers. He said, "Naren, now you are all-powerful. All these are my children. It is your duty to take care of them." These words filled Narendra's heart with grief. He went out of the room weeping like a child.
After the passing away of
Sri Rama krishna,
the young disciples went to live in a rented house in Baranagar.
Although old, the house was far away from the noise and bustle of the city; and
it was on the banks of the river
As a sannyasi,
one cannot be tied to a particular place. Even the Mutt is a kind of a prison.
Attachment to a particular place is also wrong. It was the great good fortune
He traveled on foot or by
any vehicle whose driver was hospitable.
some Muslims became his disciples. While Swamiji used
to eat in their houses, he became acquainted with Maharaja Mangal
Singh. Initially the Prince had no faith in the Swami. There was a heated
debate between the two. "Swamiji, I have no
faith in idol worship," said the Maharaja. The Swamiji
replied, "An idol is only a symbol. It is not something to sneer at. Every
devotee has his own way of realizing God. It depends on the individual's
devotion." The Prince was not satisfied with Swamiji's
explanation. There was a portrait of the Maharaja on the wall. The Swamiji asked the Diwan (chief
minister) by his side, "Whose picture is that?" "The
Maharaja's," replied the Diwan. Vivekananda
said, "Spit on it." The Diwan was taken
aback. "Why are you unhappy?" asked the Swamiji.
The Diwan thought this man was certainly mad. Swamiji explained: "After all, the photograph is just
a shadow of your Maharaja. It is devoid of flesh and blood." "But
then it reminds us of the Maharaja, does it not?" said the Diwan. Wisdom then dawned on the Maharaja. He apologized to
the Swamiji. Later the Swamiji
While Swamiji was travelling by train, in Rajasthan an interesting incident took place. He was resting in a second class compartment. Two Englishmen were profusely hurling abuses at him. They were under the impression that the Swamiji did not know English. When the train reached the station. Swamiji asked an official, in English, for a glass of water. The Englishmen were surprised; they asked Swamiji why he was silent though he could understand them. Swamiji snapped back, "This is not the first time I have met fools." The Englishmen were enraged, but Swamiji's formidable physique silenced them.
During his travel, Swamiji could travel by train only if somebody bought him his ticket. Otherwise, he had to travel on foot. He had to starve most of the time for he had no money. Once it happened that a merchant travelling with him was helping himself to varieties of eatables. Swamiji was hungry and tired. But he did not beg for food. The merchant spoke to him tauntingly and said, "You are an idler. You wear the saffron clothes only because you do not want to work. Who will ever feed you? Who cares if you die?" Just then, a sweetmeat seller offered Swamiji some eatables and said, "I saw you in my dream this morning. The Lord Sri Rama himself introduced you to me." The haughty merchant was put to shame when he saw all this.
Swamiji next visited Ramanad.
Bhaskara Setupati was the
ruler of Ramanad at that time. He discussed with Swamiji the problems that the country was facing. The
prince treated him with great respect. "You should attend the Conference
of World Religions in
It was in
After he returned to
On Foreign Soil
Swamiji reached the city of
Swamiji went back to
The conference state on 11th September 1893. Thousands of delegates belonging to deferent countries of the world had gathered at the conference. Vivekananda was the youngest of them all. When it was his turn to speak, his throat went dry. Besides, he did not have, like the other delegates, a prepared speech. He requested the President to let him be the last speaker, His turn did come as the last speaker, He prayed fervently to Sri Ramakrishna and Mother Sharadadevi, and stood up to speak.
When he began his address in his pleasing voice with the words "Brothers and Sisters of America," there was a thunderous applause; it lasted for a full three minutes. When it subsided at last he continued his short speech. He said that people born in different religions finally reach the same God, as river born in different places finally reaches the sea. He emphatically declared that no religion is superior and none is inferior. The delegates, every one of them, praised his speech. Newspapers carried his photographs and his speech. In later days people flocked chiefly to listen to his speech. He became the darling of the crowds. Whenever he rose to speak there was deafening applause.
Even as the conference was
in session, many institutions and associations extended invitations to Swami
Vivekananda. Rich people begged Vivekanda to honor
them with a visit.Within a short time he became world
famous. 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
"He speaks without a scrap of paper in his hand. We see in him some of the qualities of Jesus himself. A strange attire, a radiant personality, a rare elegance, the skill to epitomize Hinduism superbly-with these gifts he has won the hearts of our people. He is mesmeric. He is unsurpassed in conversation. His mastery of English is exceptional. A man like him appears only once in age. We are fortunate that we can see him and hear him, "- thus the newspapers went into raptures.
Till then Americans had the
impression that Indians were superstitious and ignorant. Thanks to Swamiji's persistent efforts,
Wherever Swamiji went, people flocked to listen to him and waited
patiently. After the speech they would invite him to their houses and treat him
as an honored guest. They would entertain him lavishly. At such times, Swamiji was constantly and painfully reminded of the
poverty and squalor of
Meanwhile, he received pressinginvitations from
Swami Vivekananda returned
By the time he arrived in
Thereafter, wherever Swamiji went, he disseminated the message of his master. To
those who came to him for guidance he taught the importance of spiritual
development. To his fellow monks he explained the importance of dedicated
service. He repeatedly told them that it was mere selfishness to look for
personal salvation. He used to say, "I do not want salvation, as long as
there is a single sorrow-stricken man in
The body is no more, but
the voice is deathless. Swamiji's health was
constantly eroded owing to tireless work. He visited many hill resorts in the
In spite of the entreaties of his disciples he would not rest. He became more inward looking. The body grew weak, but the mind and the soul remained alert and active.
On 4th July 1902 he performed his daily routine. He taught his disciples as usual. He rested for a while after food; after some time he had a shock. He spent a pleasant time talking to his followers and even cracking jokes. That night at nine 'o' clock he looked tired and his hands were trembling. He cried and sat up. He breathed a deep sigh and went to sleep. Within a short while he attained eternal bliss. His disciples and fellow-teachers felt orphaned and cried like children.
Although Swamiji is no longer with us, his words live. His message has continued to inspire millions of his countrymen. His voice can comfort the suffering and sanctify their lives.
Listen again: "You
rejoice that you belong to the race of the great sages. But until those who
belong to the upper classes help to uplift the downtrodden, and until
This was authored by D.Javare Gowea