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Swami Vivekananda born Narendranath Datta was an Indian Hindu monk, a chief disciple of Although Vivekananda was a powerful orator and writer in English and Bengali, he was not a thorough scholar, .. Nikhilananda, Swami ( ), Vivekananda: A Biography (PDF), New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center. nany readers an interest for studying the life of Sri crisis in Indian national life there has been born a saint or a ProPhet inPortant Position in an English firn. Swami Vivekananda was born in an upper-middle class. Kayastha family in .. The young 'reformers' who had got the English model of education and were.
His father was a successful attorney. He used to practice meditation even from his boyhood, and was associated with Brahmo Movement for some time. At the threshold of youth Narendra had to pass through a period of spiritual crisis when he was assailed by doubts about the existence of God. Narendra became a frequent visitor to Dakshineshwar and under the guidance of the Sri Ramakrishna, he made rapid strides on the spiritual path.
After a few years two events took place which caused Narendra considerable distress, sudden death of his father in and Sri Ramakrishna in In the middle of , Vivekananda left Baranagar Math and embarked on a long journey to explore and discover India. After this, he returned to USA, and then back to England, and also other European countries, spreading the seeds of Vedanta farther and deeper. In early , Swami Vivekananda returned to India where a rousing reception awaited him wherever he went.
The hard work in USA and England and the nonstop lecturing took a toll on his health. After recuperating for a few months, he set to work in earnest again at the Ramakrishna Math in Belur. Two years later, Swami Vivekananda set upon his second phaseof travels in the West.
Again, he alternated between USA and England, though this time he was not starting afresh, but building on the foundation set up in his last visit, and carried on by his numerous Western disciples. In late , he returned to India, again worn out by his ceaseless work. Once during a lesson the teacher suddenly asked Naren and his friends, who were talking amongst themselves, to repeat what he had been saying.
All were silent; but Naren, having the power to double his mind, was able to listen to the lesson, while he amused the boys. He answered correctly all the questions put to him.
Teachers would often find it difficult to tackle such a student. A Story is told of him showing how dauntless in spirit and impatient of superstition he was: Narendra Nath was in the habit of climbing a tree in the compound of one of his friends, not only to gather flowers, but to get rid of his superfluous energy by swinging to and fro, head downward, and then somersaulting to the ground.
These antics annoyed the old, half-blind grandfather of the house, and he thought to stop them by telling Naren that the tree was haunted by an evil spirit that broke the necks of those who climbed the tree.
Naren listened politely; but when the old man was out of sight, he again began to climb the tree. His friend who had taken the words of the old man seriously remonstrated. With every family in the locality, of high or low caste, rich or poor, he established some sort of relationship. If any of the boys whom he knew suffered any bereavement, he was the first to offer consolation.
His ready wit and pranks kept everybody amused, sometimes, indeed, making even the grave-minded elders burst out into peals of laughter. Naren disliked monotony. He organized an amateur theatrical company and presented plays in the worship-hall of his home. Then he started a gymnasium in the courtyard of the house, where his friends used to take regular physical exercises. It went on for some time till one of his cousins broke his arm.
Then it was stopped. Thereupon Naren joined the gymnasium of a neighbour with his friends and began to take lessons in fencing, lathiplay, wrestling, rowing, and other sports. Once he carried off the first prize in general athletic competition. When tired of these, he showed magic lantern pictures in his home. At this time he conceived the idea of learning to cook, and he induced his playmates to subscribe according to their means towards the project, he himself, however, bearing the greater part of the expenses.
He was the chief cook, and the others were his assistants. Though the boy was full of wild pranks, he had no evil associate. His instinct kept him away from the dubious ways of the world. Truthfulness was the backbone of his life. Occupied during the day in games and various amusements, he was beginning to mediate during the night and soon was blessed with some wonderful vision.
He had a preference for intellectual pursuits, and he began to read books and newspapers, and to attend public lectures regularly. He was able to repeat the substance of these to his friends with such original criticism that they were astonished, and he developed an argumentative power which none could compete.
In the year , while Naren was a student of the eighth class, his father went to Raipur in Madhya Pradesh.
Naren also was taken there. There was no school in Raipur. This gave Naren the time and opportunity to become very intimate with his father—a great privilege, for his father had a noble and cultured mind. Vishwanath Datta attracted the intellect of his son. He would hold long conversations with him on topics that demanded depth, precision, and soundness of thought. He gave the boy free intellectual rein, believing that education is a stimulus to thought and not a superimposition of ideas.
Many noted scholars visited Vishwanath. Naren would listen to their discussions, and he occasionally joined in them.
In these days he demanded intellectual recognition from everyone. So ambitious was he in this respect that if his mental powers were not given recognition, he would feel indignant and made no secret about it.
Vishwanath Datta returned to Calcutta with his family in There was some difficulty about getting Naren to school, for he had been absent for two years. But his teachers loved him and remembering his ability made an exception in his case.
At this time Naren made great progress in acquiring knowledge. Even while in the Entrance class he had mastered a great many standard works of English and Bengali literature and had read many books of history. He keenly studied standard works on Indian history. I could get the meaning by just reading the first and the last line of a paragraph.
As this power developed, I found it unnecessary to read even the paragraphs. I could follow by reading only the first and last lines on a page. In college, he attracted the attention of both Indian and British professors, who were astounded by his brilliant intellect.
A Short Life of Swami Vivekanand
Principal W. He is bound to make his mark in life. During the first two years of his college life he acquired a thorough grasp of all the masterpieces of Western logic, and in his third and fourth year classes he set himself to mastering Western philosophy as well as ancient and modern history of the different nations of Europe.
With all his seriousness there was another side to Naren. He had a great love for pleasure and gave himself up to it whole-heartedly. He was the soul of social circles, a brilliant conversationalist, a sweet singer, and the leader in all innocent fun. No party was complete without him. He was as keen for adventure as ever and detested any sort of weakness.
By far the most important trait in his character was purity. The opportunities for questionable adventures were many; but the influence of his mother made itself felt here, for she had made purity a criterion of loyalty to herself and family.
He had a monastic instinct underneath the surface of the frivolous life he seemed to live. When his father began to urge him to marry, with the tempting prospect of opportunities for a good career, Naren rebelled. And strange to say, every time the subject of marriage came up, some unforeseen difficulty would arise, and the matter would be abandoned.
Swami Vivekananda - A Biography by Swami Nikhilananda
Gradually his doubts and questionings took the form of an intellectual tempest which raged furiously and made him restless. He had faith and devotion, but he wanted reason to support them. At times he would think reason was the surest guide in life and reason could lead one to the realization of the ultimate Reality. But it was patent that a pale, bloodless reason could not satisfy human emotions, nor could it save one in the hour of trials and temptations. The study of John Stuart Mill, Hume, and Herbert Spencer raised a tumult of thoughts in him till his harassing doubts turned into a settled philosophical scepticism.
But even in this, his innate religious nature gave him no rest. He longed for the Unknown, hungered for the realization of the Reality. At this time the influence of the renowned Brahmo leader, Keshab Chandra Sen, over the young Bengali intellectuals was strong.
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Narendra Nath also was captivated by the lectures and writings of Keshab Chandra Sen. He began to interest himself in the Brahmo movement and actually became a member of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. It offered a monotheistic religion which repudiated all these. On the social side, it stood for reforms in the way of breaking up of the caste system and the caste consciousness, the recognition of the equality of man, the education and emancipation of women, and so on.
It is not surprising that this movement captured the imagination of young Bengal.
Naren came to regard the Samaj as an ideal institution in which might be solved all problems of life, individual and national.
He chafed under the rigidity of caste and had no sympathy with polytheism and image worship. He espoused the cause with all earnestness and became imbued with the same ideas as the Brahmo leaders. For a time the intellectual atmosphere of the Brahmo Samaj satisfied him; he felt uplifted during the prayer and devotional songs.
Gradually it began to dawn on him that, if God was to be realized, he was no nearer the goal than before he joined it. What were philosophies and Vedas but attempts to describe the Indescribable? They were useless if they did not bring one to the feet of the Lord! In his longing to know the Truth he turned to Maharshi Devendra Nath Tagore, the Brahmo leader, who was regarded by many as one of the best of spiritual teachers.
Mad in his spiritual longing, Narendra Nath went to the leaders of other religious sects, but not one of them could satisfy him. While Narendra Nath was thus suffering— his faith in Hinduism being undermined, and himself prey to the conflict of his own thoughts — there lived, four miles to the north of Calcutta, one whom people knew as Sri Ramakrishna and whose life was one long-drawn spiritual ecstasy—a bliss of the highest kind. The life of Sri Ramakrishna was just the antithesis of that of Narendra Nath.
Sri Ramakrishna came of a poor, orthodox Brahmin family of a village in the district of Hooghly, where a ray of Western civilization had not reached.
He had scarcely any secular learning and became a priest in the temple of Goddess Kali at Dakshineswar. Soon by his sincerity and intense Sadhana spiritual endeavour he realized a living presence in the image of Kali, who was now more than an earthly mother to him.
Afterwards he per- formed spiritual practices as advocated by almost all schools of Hindu thought, and his life covered, as it were, the whole gamut of Hinduism. Not content with this he practised other religions also and came to the direct conclusion that all religions pointed to the same goal.
Afterwards he lived a life more in tune with God than with the external world. One day Principal Hastie, while holding a class on Wordsworth, found it difficult to explain the ecstasy of the poet to his students.
Then he said that for visual proof of such an experience one might go to Dakshineswar to see Ramakrishna, whom he had witnessed as enjoying that blessed state. Narendra Nath also once met Sri Ramakrishna at the house of a devotee in Calcutta, where Narendra Nath was invited to sing.
Now, in his mental crisis, Narendra Nath suddenly remem- bered Sri Ramakrishna and decided to go to Dakshineswar to find out if Sri Ramakrishna had the direct experience of God. Narendra Nath went to Dakshineswar with some friends. Wrapped in his own thought, careless about his body and dress, and unmindful of the external world, Naren entered the room of Sri Ramakrishna. His eyes bespoke an introspective mind, as if some part of it were always concentrated upon something within. Sri Ramakrishna was surprised to find such a spiritual soul coming from the material atmosphere of Calcutta, as he said afterwards.
Narendra Nath sang two Bengali songs at the request of Sri Ramakrishna. There was so much feeling and devotion in these songs that Sri Ramakrishna fell into Samadhi. When Narendra Nath did so, Sri Ramakrishna began to shed tears of joy like one meeting a long-lost dear one.
Then amidst sobs and with great tenderness Sri Ramakrishna began to tell how he was waiting for him for a long time, for his ears were well-nigh burnt in listening to the profane words of worldly people and he wanted the companionship of one who could appreciate his innermost experience.
Narendra Nath was also told that he had a great spiritual mission to fulfil. Narendra Nath was bewildered and thought Sri Ramakrishna must be a madman in talking that way. Before Sri Ramakrishna returned to his room, Narendra Nath promised that he would come again. In great amazement Narendra Nath came back to his friends.
He now began to watch Sri Ramakrishna, and to his great surprise there was no strangeness in his behaviour. From his words and ecstatic states it transpired he was a genuine man of God.
One can see and talk to Him as I am doing with you. But who cares to do so? But how to reconcile this with the strange conduct he had witnessed just now? Narendra Nath was in a great conflict. With utter confusion he returned to Calcutta. He could not decide whether Sri Ramakrishna was a monomaniac or not.
But he could not deny that he was a great saint. He was at a loss to account for the strange feeling of blessedness that he experienced in the presence of Sri Ramakrishna. In spite of himself, Narendra Nath was drawn to Sri Ramakrishna.
In about a month Narendra Nath once again set out for Dakshineswar, this time to encounter a stranger experience. Sri Ramakrishna received him very affectionately and called him to sit on the bed by his side. Then as Sri Ramakrishna in an ecstatic mood touched Narendra Nath, the latter became unconscious of the external world.
With my eyes open I saw the walls and everything in the room whirl rapidly and vanish into naught, and the whole universe together with my individuality was about to merge in an all-encompassing mysterious Void! I was terribly frightened and thought I was facing death Unable to control myself, I cried out,? What is this that you are doing to me? He laughed aloud at this and stroking my breast said,?Not content with this he practised other religions also and came to the direct conclusion that all religions pointed to the same goal.
What were philosophies and Vedas but attempts to describe the Indescribable? Namespaces Article Talk. There is also a Vedanta Press in Hollywood which publishes books about Vedanta and English translations of Hindu scriptures and texts.
Vishwanath Datta returned to Calcutta with his family in Bhaktavatsalam M.