Life and Works of Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda was a great organizer and orator. He was born as Narendranath Datta on 12th Jan, 1863. He was a disciple of Ramakrishna.
His heart bled for the poor in this country and abroad. He is credited for successfully carrying the message of Vedanta to foreign lands. He can be looked upon as an intellectual giant who built a bridge between the East and the West, as also between reason and faith. But behind all these, there was that fundamental basic inspiration, his spiritual realization.
At the World Religion Conference, Swami Vivekananda greeted the world with the words, “ My Brothers and Sisters” and conquered the world audience speechless.
Early life: Swami Vivekananda was known as Narendranath in his early life. Swami Vivekananda derived all the inspiration for his work from a strong touch with the spiritual depths of his own being. It is this aspect of his personality that gives nourishment to all that he said and all that he did.
As a disciple of Shri Ramakrishna: When he came to Shri Ramakrishna as a young boy, Shri Ramakrishna remarked that he had the eyes of a Yogi and told the other disciples that Vivekananda, or Naren as he was then called, was a spiritual personality of a high order. Shri Ramakrishna found that his eyes were indrawn, half his mind was looking to something within and only the other half was aware of the outside world. This, said Shri Ramakrishna, was the characteristic feature of the eyes of great Yogis.
Man of highest spiritual realization: Naren had this characteristic of inwardness which constantly drew him close to the spirit within. Sitting at the feet of Shri Ramakrishna he developed this trait and became a man of the highest spiritual realization.
Shri Ramakrishna guided him towards his real purpose for life: Vivekananda wanted to enjoy spiritual bliss, but Shri Ramakrishna told him that he was meant for a different purpose and that he was not to be like an ordinary saint enjoying spiritual beatitudes for himself. He was a person who was meant to be a source of inspiration to millions of people in India and abroad. With this touch of his master, Swami Vivekananda burst upon the world not as a passive saint, but as a dynamic world mover.
Vigorous personality: The edifice of his character was built on the rock foundation of spirituality which found expression in a vigorous personality of scintillating intellect and measureless heart. One cannot help emphasizing this point because Swami Vivekananda was a many-sided personality and can appear to us in various hues. His greatness had something eternal about- it unlike the passing greatness familiar in the world of achievements. The flow of time affects such greatness in a strange way; it augments it instead of diminishing and destroying it. Rooted in the Vedas and drawing nourishment there from, the personality and work of such men and women carry something compelling in it and possess an enduring character.
Spritual realization: It is significant that though he had dived deep in the ocean of spiritual realization, he did not give the same message, or rather the message in the same form, to India as he gave to the West. He varied his message to suit the needs of the people; but all these variations were expressions of one central theme – spirituality.
Message: In the Indian context he saw that the path to spirituality lay through material and social amelioration. To this end he drew out of Vedanta a social philosophy and outlook, at once dynamic and practical. To India which sorely needed it, he gave the message of a man-making religion and a nation-making faith and resolve.
Love and compassion: While Swami Vivekananda felt proud at the glory of old India, he was deeply afflicted to see her in the depths of degradation and misfortune. The sufferings of his countrymen, their age-old starvation, ignorance and social disabilities, moved him deeply. Confronted with this situation, his abundant spirituality and dynamic philosophy flowed into a stream of compassion and love, into a national message of renunciation and service; Vedanta once again became dynamic and practical. It is this that makes Vivekananda not merely a great Rishi, but also a patriot and epoch-maker.
Social awareness: From him proceeded a wave of national awareness and patriotism, issuing in a great struggle to improve the lot of the common man. Whatever we have achieved by way of political independence, by way of social awareness, and national solidarity, has come from that orientation of the ancient message of India’s spirituality given by Swami Vivekananda.
Search of soul and peace: Going to foreign countries, in America and England, he was confronted with a different situation. There were people who were lacking in nothing by way of social or material amenities; but they were lacking in something fundamental which had turned their very material advancements into ash in the mouth. Outer wealth and glory had been achieved at the cost of inner richness and peace. The modern man was in search of a soul and peace, a search in which his science and wisdom just failed him.
Spritual Teacher: Swami Vivekananda stood before the Western world as an authentic voice of the spirit in man and the spirit in the universe. To them he went as the teacher of Vedanta, of the inward contemplative life, the preacher of active tolerance and fellowship, the teacher of universal love.
Representative of the Rishis of India: There in the West, he stood forth as the representative of the Rishis of India and imparted their ancient message in keeping with the spiritual needs of the modern West. That is why Vivekananda is respected in the Western world as a spiritual teacher and world thinker of a rare caliber.
Upliftment from poverty and ignorance: To the average youth of our country he makes an irresistible appeal as one who taught patriotism and national service in ever-memorable words, as one who worked and asked others to work for uplifting the vast millions in this country who are sunk in ignorance and poverty. To the nation at large he shines as the emblem of purity, spirituality, love, and energy through whose inspiration it hopes to build its body and mind.
Vedantic realization: These are the various aspects of his personality directly derived from the superman strength of realized Vedanta. The strength of the Vedantic realization accounts for the many aspects of his character and message. He brings down the Vedanta to fertilize the fields of common life so that life may be raised to uncommon heights and made capable to taste Vedanta at its purest source. Through him once more Vedanta spoke in accents of human happiness and welfare.
Don’t preach religion to a hungry man: He keenly felt the truth that the purer delights of spiritual life can be experienced only after man has been able to meet the demands of life’s immediate and pressing needs. ‘Religion is not for empty bellies.’ he said, and he found India full of empty bellies and naked bodies; he considered it a mockery to preach religion to a hungry man. Hence he became a teacher of love: of love of God flowing into service of man, of faith flowing into works, and both forging character which is manliness and manliness which is spirituality.
Relevance in present world: His message has great practical utility today; the political and social policy of India has to bear the impress of that spirituality which Swami Vivekananda gave to the nation out of the fullness of his realization.
The nation wanted a teacher who would guide its thoughts so as to humanize its religion and spiritualize its social purposes and activities; and the nation got Swami Vivekananda at the right time.
He made Indian philosophy concern itself with the problems of the common men. But he has also warned us that all our politics and policies, our social developments and economic improvements, in short, all our deepest cravings for betterment, must be subordinated to the one fundamental national theme of spirituality. In this emphasis upon the fundamental theme of Indian life, Swami Vivekananda stands as a unique figure among the great leaders who have influenced this country in recent times.
Importance: He placed before us his great message of nation-building based on spirituality. He wanted that all improvements to be effected in this country should be effected not at the cost of the national asset which is spirituality, but as flowing from it and leading up to it.
He interpreted Indian history to demonstrate that progress in social and other lines is the fruit of the strengthening of the nation’s spirituality, whatever other lessons the histories of other nations may teach.
He gave the warning because he found a tendency around him to relegate religion to second place, or even to treat it as an enemy of social progress, and concentrate on material improvement and social progress so as to lead India on absolutely secular lines. This kind of tendency, useful within limits, might yet create mischief in our country and rob the nation of its spiritual stamina.
It was therefore necessary that the warning should be issued and the nation got it in time through the powerful and authentic voice of Swami Vivekananda. He warned us that if India gives up spirituality and her age-old way of life she would perish. It is this spiritual asset which has made India a continuing concern unlike other civilizations which have passed away.
Taking the lessons of world history he told us that if India given up spirituality and takes to any other ideal of life she would be an extinct culture in three generations. Ancient Greece and Rome and some of the European states which had flourished for a time are nowhere to be seen in the world today. Even some of the nations of the contemporary world, though lacking in nothing by way of material advancement and worldly power, are finding their foundations shaken and are struggling to discover spiritual values to stabilize themselves.
Conclusion: Swami Vivekananda has helped the Hindu religion to become a of a major world religion. The thinking people of America and England gave a spontaneous response to the message of Swami Vivekananda because he had sensed this inner tension of the modern mind and had conveyed in his message the needed spiritual pabulum. The appeal of Vedanta to the modern mind has been steadily deepening and widening since then. It inspires him with a rational faith and a realizable hope and restores to him in a purer form that zest in life which his cynicism had shattered.