Swami Vivekananda: The Eternal Youth Icon

Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, and live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success; that is way great spiritual giants are produced.” These golden words of inspiration and motivation were said by Swami Vivekananda, founder of Ramakrishna Mission. A philanthropist, a monk, a teacher, Swami Vivekananda was a treasure of talent who shined in the 19th century. He paved the path for modern thoughts and transformed the society in almost every dimension. How did he find the way to such thoughts? Who inspired him to work for society? How did he influence the people? These and several other questions and interesting aspects of life and times of this milestone man have been disclosed in this article.

Swami Vivekananda Biography

Swami Vivekananda

Born in Calcutta on January 12, 1863 to Vishwanath Datta and Bhuvaneshwari Devi, Swamiji was named Narendranath Datta.



As a child Narendranath Datta excelled in every field he ventured into. His personality and thinking were influenced by his parents. He not only found a great interest in music and gymnastics but also showed interest in philosophy, religion, history, the social sciences, arts, literature, and other subjects. Narendranath also showed a great interest in Hindu scriptures like Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas and started practicing yoga from a very young age.


College Life

In 1879 after his family moved to Calcutta, he studied in Presidency College and subsequently in General Assembly Institution. While pursuing his course, he studied western logic, western philosophy and history of European nations. He found his interest in the writings and read David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Baruch Spinoza, Georg W. F. Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, and Charles Darwin. He translated the book of “Evolutionism” into Bengali.


Dr. William Hastie, principal of the General Assembly’s Institution, wrote, “Narendra is really a genius. I have travelled far and wide but I have never come across a lad of his talents and possibilities, even in German universities, among philosophical students.”


Narendranath always had a doubt. He asked many people whether they have seen God, or whether anyone had come “face to face with god. His thinking was beyond the range.


Pre & Post Ramakrishna Interaction

Ramakrishna Paramhansa: guru of Vivekananda

It was when Hastie was teaching about a word “trance”, from the poem The Excursion, written by William Wordsworth. He told students, if you want to know what “trance” is, then you have to go to see Ramakrishna Paramhansa of Dakshineshwar. Narendra and some of his friends went to visit Ramakrishna. In the very first interaction Narendra posed a question to Ramakrishna. ‘Do you believe in God, Sir?’ ‘Yes’, he replied. ‘Can you prove it, Sir?‘ ‘Yes‘. ‘How?’ ‘Because I see Him just as I see you here, only in a much intenser sense.’  Narendra was impressed with the answer. He left that place for that day. Though he did not become immediate follower of Ramakrishna, he frequently visited Ramakrishna. Later on as a member of Brahmo Samaj, Narendra revolted against the worship of idols, and polytheism. During the course of five years, Narendra gained knowledge and he completely surrendered himself as a disciple of Ramakrishna. In 1885, Ramakrishna was diagnosed with cancer and was shifted to cossipore. Later Narendra and other followers of Ramakrishna received ochre monastic robes from Ramakrishna.


Ramakrishna during his last days asked Narendra to take care of the monastic disciples. And it was in early hours of 16th August 1886 he breathe his last. According to his disciples, it was considered “mahasamadhi”.  Under the leadership of Narendra, they formed a new monastic brotherhood, and in 1887 they took the formal vows of sannyasa, thereby assuming new names. Narendra now became Swami Vivekananda.


Ramakrishna Math and Exploration of India as a Wandering Monk
Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda at Belguam, October 1892

After the mahasamadhi of Shri Ramakrishna, many of his disciples were into householder positions. With the few left over disciples, Vivekananda formed a fellowship in the old house at baramathi, near the Ganges. This was funded by the household disciples. This was Ramakrishna math’s first building. They often spent their time meditating and doing japa’s. After the establishment of math, Vivekananda started his mission. He became a wanderer, being a stranger everywhere. His only possessions were kamadalu (water pot). He carried two books of hist interest with him, always- Bhagvath Gita and The Imitation of Christ. He grew sympathy for the suffering and needy. The food what they ate was only through bhiksha or alms. He traveled on foot everywhere. It was in 1888 he started his tour to North India, from Varanasi.


After Varanasi he visited Ayodhya, Lucknow, Hathras, Agra, Vrindavan, and Rishikesh. In 1890 he visited places like  Nainital, Almora, Srinagar and Dehradun in the Himalayas and Rishikesh and Haridwar. He travelled to Mount Abu where he met Raja Ajit Singh of Khetri, who subsequently became his ardent follower. Later he traveled to western India and Southern India too. It was in 1892 December when Vivekananda came to Kanyakumari on foot during the Christmas Eve. There swami meditated on “The Last Bit of Indian rock”, which is today’s famous, “Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial”. Vivekananda had the “vision of One India”.


Swamiji understood that there are many people who really don’t understand the importance of religion. The root cause behind this lack of understandability of people is because of illiteracy. So Swamiji thought of educating people and in order to carry out his ideas, and to provide education to the needy and for the upliftment of poor, he thought, there should be organization with dedicated people. For the same reason “Ramakrishna mission” was founded in 1897.


World tours
Swami Vivekananda at Parliament of Religions

Swami Vivekananda at Parliament of Religions

Swamiji was an excellent orator He attended the “parliament of world religion” held in Chicago in 1893. He started his speech with a simple note, “Sisters and brothers of America”. For this single line, the impressed seven thousand attendees from all over the world have given him a standing ovation. His speech emphasized on the religion unity and many such important religious issues.  Several parts of his speech have been directly quoted in many literature works. From the very same speech, he quotes “As the different streams having there 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.” With this line, Swami Vivekananda says that irrespective of the path that a man chooses to live his life, the end would lead to a common destination to all.


He also openly extended his hands towards cooperation and said that “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.”


Swami Vivekananda’s speech at world parliament of religions

The popular Chicago speech by Swamiji was stupendous in every word and flow that came with it and would continue to inspire people even in the future.


Swami Vivekananda believed a country’s future depends on its people; his divine teachings focussed on this area. Mentioned below is the full text from his popular Chicago Speech


11th September, 1893

Sisters and Brothers of America


It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. l thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; and I thank you in the name of the millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects. My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration.I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to the southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings:


As the different streams having there 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.


The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world, of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.


Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.


Some of the appreciations Swamiji got

Dr. Barrows, the president of the Parliament said, “India, the Mother of religions was represented by Swami Vivekananda, the Orange-monk who exercised the most wonderful influence over his auditors.”


His speech was impressive. The press could no longer wait to catch his image. News papers quoted him “Cyclonic Monk from India”.

The New York Herald wrote, “Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation.”


The American newspapers reported Swami Vivekananda asthe greatest figure in the parliament of religions” and “the most popular and influential man in the parliament“.


After his attendance to the religious summit in Chicago he visited many other countries, Japan, England. He later found Vedanta society in Chicago. He was awarded the chair of Eastern Philosophy both in Harvard University as well as Columbia University. He attracted many followers. By this time there were many organizations which started working on the same principle. The followers started good job. Some of swamiji western followers were:  William James, Josiah Royce, C. C. Everett, Dean of the Harvard School of Divinity, Robert G. Ingersoll, Nikola Tesla, Lord Kelvin, and Professor Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz, American poets Harriet Monroe and Ella Wheeler Wilcox; Dr. Lewis G. Janes, president of Brooklyn Ethical Association; Sara C. Bull, wife of Ole Bull, the Norwegian violinist; Sarah Bernhardt, the French actress and Madame Emma Calvé, the French opera singer.


Some popular quotes from Swami Vivekananda

1.    You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.

2.    Man comes from God in the beginning, in the middle he becomes man, and in the end he goes back to God.

3.    ‘Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship or psychic control or philosophy – by one or more or all of these and be free’.

4.    Despondency is not religion, whatever else it may be. By being pleasant always and smiling, it takes you nearer to God, nearer than any prayer.

5.    “Comfort” is no test of truth; on the contrary, truth is often far from being “comfortable.”

6.    Above all, beware of compromises. Hold on to your own principles in weal or woe and never adjust them to others’ “fads” through the greed of getting supporters. Your Atman is the support of the universe—whose support do you stand in need of?


Last days

Swamiji had severe health problems because of his busy schedule touring different nations, spreading a word on Vedanta. He was suffering from Asthma & diabetes. The final days of swamiji were unpredictable by a common man. But few days before his demise, swamiji was seen studying the almanac. He repeatedly remarked that he would not live more than fourty years. Three days before his death he identified a spot for his cremation. On the day of his death, he woke up early in the morning and went to chapel, and meditated there for about three hours.


Swami Vivekananda died 10 minutes past 9 PM on 4th july 1902 while he was meditating. His disciples consider it a “Mahasamadhi”. It was recorded that the disciples found a little blood in his nostrils. Doctors remarked that it might have happened because of rupture of blood vessels in brain, though the actual reason behind his death is not known. But According to his disciples, it was called Brahmarandhra which means, the aperture in the crown of the head — must have been pierced when he attained Mahasamadhi. He was such a great personality, fulfilled his on prophecy of not living more than forty years. His body was cremated on the banks of Ganga. On the other bank of the river, was the place where Shri Ramakrishna was cremated 16 years ago.

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