How Swami Vivekananda became the ‘messenger of Indian wisdom’ to West

  • Category
    History
  • Published
    21st Jan, 2020

Context

January 12 is the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, the famous Hindu spiritual leader and intellectual from the late 19th century.

About

  • An important religious reformer in India, Swami Vivekananda is known to have introduced the Hindu philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the West.
  • Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had called Vivekananda the “maker of modern India.”
  • In his honour, the government of India in 1984 declared his birthday as National Youth Day.
  • The aim of the celebrations is to spread the message of strength, fearlessness, sacrifice, character-building and excellence among youth.
  • Swami Vivekananda propounded the importance of Education in building a nation. He believed that education was the primary means to empowering people. He specially emphasized on education being relevant to the common masses.
  • Ramakrishna Mission is an organization established by Swami Vivekananda which works in the area of value based education, culture, health, women's empowerment, youth and tribal welfare and relief and rehabilitation.

Swami Vivekananda early life

  • Vivekananda was born in Kolkata on January 12, 1863, as Narendra Nath Datta.
  • From an early age, he nurtured an interest in Western philosophy, history, and theology, and went on to meet the religious leader Ramakrishna Paramhansa, who later became his Guru. He remained devoted to Ramakrishna until the latter’s death in 1886.
  • In 1893, he took the name ‘Vivekananda’ after Maharaja Ajit Singh of the Khetri State requested him to do so, changing from ‘Sachidananda’ that he used before.
  • After Ramakrishna’s death, Vivekananda toured across India, and set after educating the masses about ways to improve their economic condition as well as imparting spiritual knowledge.

The Chicago address

  • Vivekananda is especially remembered around the world for his speech at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.
  • The speech covered topics including universal acceptance, tolerance and religion.
  • He began delivering lectures at various places in the US and UK, and became popular as the ‘messenger of Indian wisdom to the Western world’.

Vivekananda’s legacy

  • Through his speeches and lectures, Vivekananda worked to disseminate his religious thought. He preached ‘neo-Vedanta’, an interpretation of Hinduism through a Western lens, and believed in combining spirituality with material progress.
  • ‘Raja Yoga’, ‘Jnana Yoga’, ‘Karma Yoga’ are some of the books he wrote.
  • Before his death in 1902, Vivekananda wrote to a Western follower: “It may be that I shall find it good to get outside my body, to cast it off like a worn out garment. But I shall not cease to work. I shall inspire men everywhere until the whole world shall know that it is one with God.”

10 Inspirational Quotes by the Legendary and World Renowned Monk Swami Vivekananda

  • All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.
  • We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.
  • 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.
  • All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.
  • If money help a man to do good to others, it is of some value; but if not, it is simply a mass of evil, and the sooner it is got rid of, the better.
  • You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.
  • The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him - that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.
  • Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true.
  • As different streams having different sources all mingle their waters in the sea, so different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to God.
  • When an idea exclusively occupies the mind, it is transformed into an actual physical or mental state.
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