Swami Vivekananda Biography
Swami Vivekananda was born on 12th January 1863 in Calcutta into a traditional Bengali family. Originally named Narendra Nath Datta, his mother had a dream in which Lord Shiva said that he would be born as her son and accepting the child as God Shiva’s blessing, she named him Vireswara. He learnt rational thinking from his father and his mother taught him religious temperament. He was well versed with Indian classical music-both vocal and instrumental.
As a child he often questioned the basis of superstitions and refused to follow the discrimination based on caste or any other belief without rational explanation. After some years of home education, he joined the Metropolitan Institute of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in 1871 but moved to Raipur with his family 1877. He returned to Calcutta after two years. In 1881, Vivekanand passes the fine arts exam and in 1884, he acquired a Bachelor of Arts degree.
He became the member of a Freemason’s lodge and of a breakaway faction from the Brahmo Samaj and thus shaped his initial beliefs. His first introduction to his guru, saint Ramakrishna occurred in a literature class in General Assembly Institution. Some of the students, including Narendra visited the saint to know the meaning of the word ‘trance’ from one of William Wordsworth poetry.
His meeting with the teacher in 1881 changed his life completely. During a course of five years of his training under Ramakrishna, he accepted him as his guru and surrendered himself as his disciple. After the death of this great guru, Vivekanand with the monastic disciples and financially supported by the householder disciples formed a fellowship at a half ruined house in Baranagar and this became the first building of Ramakrishna math.
In 1888, he left the monastery and became a wandering monk. He began his journey from Varanasi where he met Bhudev Mukhopadhyay who became a source of advice for the Swami. In 1890, he continued his journey to the west with fellow monk Swami Akhandananda. In 1891, he travelled alone to Delhi and visited the historical sites. After spending two and a half months here and learning about the sutras of Panini, he proceeded towards Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
Continuing his travels towards Western India, he studied about Islamic and Jain culture in Ahmadabad. Later he visited Bangalore and from there he ended his travel of South India. Assuming the name Vivekanand, suggested by the Maharaja of Khetri, Swami left for Chicago. On his way, he visited Japan in 1893. The progress made by Japan reminded him of his backward country and he urged his countrymen to come out of their narrow minds.
His journey to America took him through Canada and China and he reached Chicago in 1893. The Parliament of the Worlds Religion opened on 11th September 1893 and Swami in his first brief address represented India and Hinduism. He spent two whole years lecturing in various parts of eastern and central US.
Delivering private lectures to his disciples and founding the ‘Vedanta Society’ of Newyork was the happiest time of his life. He returned to India after spending a short time in Srilanka. In 1897, he founded the Ramakrishna Mission, an organ for social service whose ideals are based on Karma Yoga. As a wanderer, he ignored his health and continuous work and travel seriously deteriorated his health conditions.
He was suffering from asthma, diabetes and other ailments. He died on 4th July 1902 abandoning the materialistic world and depriving his disciples from his shade. But he continues to rule the heart of every Indian.