Swami Vivekananda achieved acclaim for his being the most well known and influential spiritual leader of Narendranath, a Hindu religion of India. He was born in Kolkota (then known as Calcutta) in 1863 and died a premature death in 1902 at just 39 years of age. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Vivekananda was especially acclaimed for his poignant philosophies and his positive messages to the young members of Indian society. He also approached many social issues, handling them in line with Hindu teachings and Vedanta philosophies, about which he lectured extensively.
Vivekananda was known as a child enthusiastic in sports like wrestling and fencing. He also excelled academically and in the musical field. After school, he attended college and studied western philosophy, western logic, philosophy and the history of Europe. These subjects encouraged him to explore religion and faith more deeply, seeking a supreme God to worship and know. He tried various denominations, but was not satisfied with what he learnt. It was only when he discovered Sri Ramakrishna that he felt he had found a stable, real solution to his questions about God. This mentor exposed ideas and beliefs that had never been explained to Vivekananda before. When Ramakrishna died of throat cancer in 1886, Vivekananda and other disciples of this great teacher committed themselves to a life of monkhood. They gave up their earthly, physical pleasures and moved into an old house, eating alms and relying on wealthier disciples to sustain them.
Vivekananda established the Ramakrishna Mission, which is one of the biggest monastic orders in Hindu India. This organisation was designed to provide education with the focus on spiritual and moral matters.
In the late 1890’s, Vivekananda travelled to the United States of America and addressed the Parliament of Religions with the famous introduction, “Sisters and brothers of America”. These words became the identifying mark of this great speaker and philosopher, earning him global acclaim. His appearance in America is also believed to have sparked the interest in the Hindu system of beliefs in nations other than India.
Shortly after this famous address, Vivekananda set up Vedantic centres in New York City and London. He began lecturing to university students in the United States and the United Kingdom, engendering in them a curiosity and interest in the Hindu religion and the ideals it set forth. He continued to travel, teach and expose the intricacies of Hinduism until 1897, when he returned to his homeland, India. It was only five years later that he died.
Some famous quotes of Swami Vivekananda:
“We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act.”
“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.”
“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.”
“You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.”
“The first sign of your becoming religious is that you are becoming cheerful”.