Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Sketches


Home | Rel-Dictionary | Sketches


Back to Sketches

Swaamee Vivekaanand
1863-1902 AD = 39 yrs
Websites for his very detailed information

Vivekaanand's original name was Narendranaath Dattaa - an outstanding Hindu from Bangaal. He spent 6 years in contemplation in the Himaalaya. In 1882, he met Raamkrishn Paramhans and became his disciple. In due course of time he was given the name of Swaamee Vivekaanand. He was intensely devoted to his motherland and traveled extensively all over India to learn about India.

He studied the philosophy of Shankaraachaarya and was so impressed with it that he declared himself a believer in A-Dwaitvaad (non-Dualism). He later named one of his institutions "A-Dwait Aashram"; but it is hard to believe, after reading his writings, that his concept of A-Dwaitism was the same as that of Shankar. He preached young people to go in the world, get married, raise children, earn wealth etc. According to him it was not possible to understand A-Dwait without conquering material success. In fact his writings are closer to the teachings of Geetaa than to those of Shankar.

Vivekaanand in Foreign Lands
He was not only a great thinker, he was a great speaker also. He was a perfect marketer of his wares. He took a good name, chose an impressive uniform and turban and went all over Europe and America to deliver his mission statement. He was a good looking young man with a glow on his face, so that people in foreign countries found him to be a Divine figure from the East.

In 1893, at the age of 30, he addressed the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, USA. His contents and delivery were so charming that he was undoubtedly considered the greatest figure among all the participants. At that time India was suffering from inferiority complex, so whoever was given respect in foreign countries, only he was given respect in India too. Raveendra Naath Thaakur and Swaamee Vivekaanand are the classic examples of this phenomenon.

He was the founder of Raamkrishn Mission too.
[Aangiras, p 341-342]

Some Events of Vivekaanand's Life
(1) Vivekaanand Jee's father had died early. His family was broke and had nothing much to live upon. Vivekaanand Jee was with Raamkrishn at that time. He told his problem to Raamkrishn and requested him to plead Maa (Kaalee) to help his family. Raamkrishn told him to go to her himself and tell his request to her himself. After a short thought, Vivekaanand Jee went to Maa and prayed her. When Maa asked him to ask for something, he asked for her Bhakti. Maa gave her Bhakti to him and disappeared. Vivekaanand came from there. Guru Jee asked him - "What did you ask for, and what did Maa say?" Vivekaanand Jee told him everything and said - "I don't know what happened to me? You go and ask some help for my family." Raamkrishn said - "You go again and ask from her." So Vvekaanand jee went gain but asked her the same thing again. Maa gave him her Bhakti and Vivekaanand came back again. He again told everything to his Guru . Guru Jee said - "Now you leave everything on Maa. She will take care of them, you need not to worry about." And Vivekaanand Jee got assured.

(2) When Swaamee Vivekaanand went to USA, a lady asked him to marry her. When Swaamee Jee asked the lady about what made her ask him such question, the lady replied that she was fascinated by his intellect and she wanted a child of such an intellect. So she asked Swaamee Jee whether he could marry her and give a child to her like him. Vivekaanand Jee told that lady that since she was attracted only by his intellect, there is no problem. he said - "My dear lady, I understand your desire. Marrying and bringing a child into this world and then understanding whether that child is intelligent or not takes a very long time, moreover it is not guaranteed too. Instead, to fulfill your desire immediately, I can suggest a guaranteed way. Take me as your child. You are my mother from now and from now on your desire of having a child of my intellect is fulfilled."
The lady was speechless.

His father's name was Vishwanaath Dattaa. He was a lawyer in Calcattaa High Court. His mother Bhuvaneshwari Devi was a pious lady and had practiced austerities and prayed to Veereshwar Shiv of Vaaraanasee to give her a son. She reportedly had a dream in which Shiv rose from his meditation and said that he would be born as her son.

In 1884 he passed the BA. He is said to have studied the writings of David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Baruch Spinoza, Georg WF Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, and Charles Darwin. He became fascinated with the Evolutionism of Herbert Spencer, and translated Spencer's book on Education into Bangaalee language. He lived only for 39 years, but he had read so much. Not satisfied with his knowledge of Philosophy, he wondered if God and religion could be made a part of one's growing experiences and deeply internalized.

Introduction to Raamkrishn - His first introduction to Raamkrishn occurred in a literature class in General Assembly's Institution, when he heard Principal Reverend W Hastie lecturing on William Wordsworth's poem "The Excursion" and the poet's nature-mysticism. In the course of explaining the word "trance" in the poem, Hastie told his students that if they wanted to know the real meaning of it, they should go to Raamkrishn of Dakshineshwar. This prompted some of his students, including Narendranath to visit Raamkrishn.

Although first he was not impressed with Raamkrishn, but he could not stay far from him either. He visited him on regular basis. It was in his nature to test everything before he could accept it. So he tested Raamkrishn too, who never asked him to abandon his reason, and faced all of his arguments and examinations with patience - "Try to see the truth from all angles" was his reply." During the course of five years of his training under Raamkrishn, Narendra was transformed from a restless, puzzled, impatient youth to a mature man who was ready to renounce everything for the sake of God-realization. In time, Narendra accepted Raamkrishn as his Guru, and when he accepted, his acceptance was whole-hearted and with complete surrendering as disciple.

During his last days, Raamkrishn had throat cancer and Narendra and other disciples took care of him. He was in Cossipore then. Vivekaanand reportedly experienced Nirvikalp Samaadhi there. Vivekaanand was taught that service to men was the most effective worship of God. In 1888, at the age of 25, he chose the life of a wandering monk, with no fixed abode. His sole possessions were one Kamandal, one staff and two books - Bhagvad Geetaa and Imitation of Christ. He roamed the whole India for five years. Living mainly on Bhikshaa or alms, Narendranaath traveled mostly on foot and railway tickets bought by his admirers whom he met during the travels. Sharatchand Gupta was his first disciple. In Jayapur he studied Paanini's Ashtaadhyaayee from a Sanskrit scholar.

His Lecture in Chicago
The "Parliament of Religions" opened on 11 September 1893 at the Art Institute of Chicago. On this day Vivekaanand gave his first brief address. He represented India and Hinduism. Though initially nervous, he bowed to Saraswatee, the goddess of learning and began his speech with, "Sisters and brothers of America!". To these words he got a standing ovation from a crowd of seven thousand, which lasted for two minutes.

He quoted in this speech two illustrative passages, from the Bhagvad Geetaa - "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." After this he lectured in other places of America, England, Germany. Many westerners were impressed with his ideas and became his followers.

Once Swaamee Vivekaanand went to Oxford to pay homage to Professor Max Muller, whom he looked upon as a sage and a “Vedantist of Vedaantists and kindness itself.” On Vivekaanand’s departure, the Professor, who had seen seventy winters, accompanied the Swaamee to the railway station, justifying his coming by saying, “It is not every day that one meets a disciple of Ramakrishn Paramahans.”

Once again he visited England and America, but this time with Sister Niveditaa because of his ill health. He founded A-Dwait societies at several places. On the day of his death, he taught Shukla-Yajur-Ved to some of his pupils in the morning at Beloor Math. He had a walk with Swaamee Premaanand, a brother-disciple, and gave him instructions concerning the future of the Raamkrishn Math. Vivekanand expired at 9.10 PM on July 4, 1902 while he was meditating.

Vivekaanand Rock
Vivekaanand Rock or Vivekaanand Memorial is located in Kanyaa Kumaaree. It is a sacred place where Swaamee Vivekaanand observed penance. It is about a hundred meters (160 yards) from the shore and a regular ferry service exists between the mainland jetty and the rock. The tickets are Rs 20 for a ride. The Rock has two Mandap (halls); one belonging to Swaamee Vivekaanand and the other belonging to a Holy Foot. The Holy Foot is a foot shaped carving found on the rock and is believed to be the footprint of Goddess Kumaaree who stood on this rock on one leg and performed the Tapasyaa (penance). Below the statue was mentioned the year of death of Vivekaanand and the “probable” dates when he attained Samaadhi on the rock. Here you can see both sunrise and sunset and it is one of the main tourist attractions. Golden hues of the horizon are very impressive with a silhouette of the Rock Memorial.

Works of Vivekaanand
1. Karma Yoga (1896)
2. Raja Yoga (1896)
3. Vedanata Philosophy: an address before the Graduate Philosophical Society (published in 1896)


Home | Rel-Dictionary | Sketches


Back to Sketches

Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 01/19/13