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EARLY LIFE (18631888)

Swami Vivekananda was born in Calcutta on 12 January 1863 during the Makara Sankranti festival in a traditional Kayastha family. His given name was Narendra Nath Datta. Narendra's grandfather Durga Charan Datta renounced the world at the age of twenty five.His father Vishwanath Datta (the only son of Durga Charan) was an attorney of Calcutta High Court. Narendra's mother Bhuvaneswari Devi was a deeply religious woman.

During his childhood, he had a great fascination for wandering ascetics and monks. The house of 3, Gour Mohan Mukherjee street, Calcutta, where Vivekananda was born, now it is maintained by the Ramakrishna Mission. Narendra had varied interests and a wide range of scholarship in philosophy, religion, history, the social sciences, arts, literature, and other subjects. He evinced much interest in the Hindu scriptures like the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas.

College and Brahmo Samaj


In 1879 after his family moved back to Calcutta, he passed the entrance examination from Presidency College, Calcutta, entering it for a brief period and subsequently shifting to General Assembly's Institution, (currently known as Scottish Church College). During the course, he studied western logic, western philosophy and history of European nations. In 1881 he passed the Fine Arts examination and in 1884 he passed the Bachelor of Arts.

Ramakrishna, guru of Vivekananda. Narendra's meeting with Ramakrishna in November 1881 proved to be a turning point in his life. Though Narendra did not accept Ramakrishna as his guru initially and revolted against his ideas, he was attracted by his personality and visited him frequently. In 1885 Ramakrishna suffered from throat cancer and he was shifted to Calcutta and later to Cossipore. Vivekananda and other Ramakrishna's disciples took care of him during his final days. Vivekananda's spiritual education under Ramakrishna continued there.

As a wandering monk in India (18881893)


Later, in 1888, Vivekananda left the monastery as a Parivrjakathe 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 booksBhagavad Gita and The Imitation of Christ. He developed a sympathy for the suffering and poverty of the masses and resolved to uplift the nation.

The Himalayas
In July 1890, accompanied by fellow monk Swami Akhandananda (also a disciple of Ramakrishna), he continued his journey as a wandering monk and returned to the Math only after his visit to the West. They stayed at Meerut for a few days where they passed their time in meditation, prayer and study of scriptures. At the end of January 1891, the Swami left his fellows and journeyed to Delhi alone.

Visit to Japan (1893)


On his way to Chicago, Vivekananda visited Japan in 1893. He first reached the port city of Nagasaki, and then boarded a steamer to Kobe. From here to took the land route to Yokohama, visiting along the way, the three big cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. He called the Japanese "one of the cleanest people on earth", and was impressed not only by neatness of their streets and dwellings but also by their movements, attitudes and gestures, all of which he found to be "picturesque".

Death
His tours, hectic lecturing engagements, private discussions and correspondence had taken their toll on his health. He was suffering from asthma, diabetes, chronic insomnia and other physical ailments. He had remarked to several persons that he would not live to be forty. On the day of his death he woke up very early in the morning, then he went to chapel and meditated for three hours, sang a song on Kali and then he whispered- "If there were another Vivekananda, then he would have understood what this Vivekananda has done!"

Vivekananda died at ten minutes past nine p.m. on 4 July 1902 while he was meditating. According to his disciples, this was Mahasamadhi. The funeral pyre of Swami Vivekananda was built and the body was consigned to the flames kindled with sandalwood on the bank of Ganga in Belur. On the other bank of the river, Ramakrishna had been cremated sixteen years before.

Teachings and philosophy


Swami Vivekananda believed a country's future depends on its people, so he mainly stressed on man, "man-making is my mission", that's how he described his teaching. He wanted to set in motion a machinery which will bring noblest ideas to the doorstep of even the poorest and the meanest. He summarised the Vedanta's teachings as follows , Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal.

Influence
Swami Vivekananda remains the most influential figure in modern Hinduism. He revitalised the religion within and outside India. Vivekananda was the principal reason behind the enthusiastic reception of yoga, transcendental meditation and other forms of Indian spiritual self-improvement in the West. (Swami Vivekananda statue near Gateway of India)

Works
Manuscript of "Blessings to Nivedita" a poem written by Swami Vivekananda in his own handwriting.

Vivekananda left a body of philosophical works. Vivekananda observed that human could be classified into four basic typesthose who were in constant activity, those who were driven by their inner urge to achieve something in life, or the lover; those who tended to analyse the working of their minds, or the mystic; and those who weighed everything with reason, or the philosopher.

Books by Swami Vivekananda


Karma Yoga(1896)
Raja Yoga (1896 [1899 edition]) Vedanta Philosophy : An address

before the graduate philosophical society (First published 1896) Lectures from Colombo to Almora (1897) Vedanta philosophy: lectures on Jnana Yoga (1902)

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