Introduction and Early Life
The great Vivekananda , whose speeches are widely worshipped as the Charters of Hinduism, is embodied in the heart of every Indian, reverend by the whole world and followed by millions was born in Shimla Pally, Calcutta. He was born on twelfth of January in 1863, on the pious day of Makar Sakranti. Born in a Kayastha family, he was named Narendra Nath Dutta.
Who, perhaps, could have guessed that an ordinary boy born in a working family, whose father practices as an esteemed lawyer in the High Court of Calcutta, would one day grow to be one of greatest sages in world history. Vivekananda was a highly intelligent, sharp, gifted and curious personality from the very day of existence creation. He was a person beyond superstitions and considered logic as superior. His life changed at the age of nineteen years when he happened to meet his Guru, the Ramakrishna Parmhansa.
It was not the case that he turned a monk for the want of money, career or something like that. His father being an attorney, he could have led a life of leisure even without much labor. As it is said that the nature of man emerges out in one way or other, so was the case with Swami, he could not resist his spirituality come out even if he might have wanted to do so. When his teacher, Parmahansa, asked him to go home after the teachings were over, he went to his home but could not keep up himself there for long.
Vivekananda learnt one significant thing from Parmahansa that ‘Jiva is Shiva’ (Ranjan and Singh 2012). It meant that man is not a separate entity from the divine but is divine himself. This saying impacted his life a lot, its significance can be considered from the occurrence that Vivekananda chose public service and mass awakening before his own salvation. Vivekananda, later on, founded the renowned society the Ramakrishna Matha as an offering to his late Guru. This society works with the motive of ‘Atmano Mokshatham Jagat Hitaay Cha’, signifying the motive of self salvation with the salvation of whole world.
He was a staunch supporter of the concept of Mukti. According to him, man can turn out to be divine only by realizing the divine.
He was a person who would feel himself swollen with pride in calling himself a Hindu. In the era of Vivekananda, Hindu religion had become very scrawny. As Hindus were spread only in a minor part of the world map, it was inevitable to have some cracks for the cause of self interests of different communities constituting it; in addition to this factor, Islamic aggressions and forceful conversions also shattered the walls of this well built fort. Hindu scriptures and books of knowledge had also faced the test of time, so some irrational things were put in either deliberately or for lack of knowledge, in them. This caused a feeling of somewhat disbelief and dishonor towards the religion. Vivekananda did this great job extraordinarily and made the masses conscious about the greatness of their culture, tradition and religion. It can be believed that he made the inhabitants of this land awake.
He was a man who knew only humanity and truth.
Life with Guru
As aptly said, Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu Gurur Devo Maheshwara. Teacher is Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva meaning that teacher is absolute supreme for a scholar.
So was the case with Swami Vivekananda. It won’t be a hyperbole to say that he was lucky for he got such a great teacher, the Parmahansa.
Vivekananda happened to meet Ramakrishna Parmahansa at the age of 19. He was known for his singing skills, and he would sing in a pious and marvelous way. Although he was familiar with only two or three Bengali songs but luckily once Parmahansa happened to see him singing. Parmahansa was a godly personality and he realized the inner lying greatness of Swami with his x-ray eyes in a whirlwind. That was the first time when, two of a kind legend, met at the outset.
Then after some days Vivekananda happened to visit the abode of Parmahansa. He with his some relatives, who worshipped and honored Parmahansa akin to the god, visited there. The meeting was rather formal, Vivekananda was asked to sing. Following the song, Parmahansa carried him to room and closed the door of room. Almost immediately after closing the entrance, Parmahansa burst into tears as if he had meet up some affectionate relative after long. He told him that he was the materialization of god himself. Vivekananda was highly perplexed at this unusual behavior of a very renowned saint. He thought that he was some kind of a mad aged chap. So it can be sad that first impression of their direct summit was not good at all. Parmahansa fed him with sweets forcibly, after the fest was over they came out. At the moment they came out, Parmahansa’s behavior was wholly altered. There is a long story behind this odd behavior of Parmahansa. (Pandaya 1916)
It is said that, there was a reason behind that peculiar behavior of Parmahansa. Once Parmahansa sat in dhayan he entered the state of Samadhi. In this state of Samadhi he was travelling as a light wave, he passed this ordinary world then he travelled through the abode of gods, he then even passed the abode of gods and entered in transcendence. This was the first time he reached so high in Samadhi, subsequent to entering in transcendence he turned as a child, then he saw seven sages meditating there. Then he went to one of them and requested him to come to earth. To his surprise he came out of Samadhi and accepted his proposal. This sage was none other than that sage and Parmahansa recognized him, and purified him.
Even a single incident can revolutionize the life of a person. Vivekananda, till he met Parmahansa, had not progressed in the spiritual world. Once he asked his guru,
‘Sir, have you seen the God?’
‘Yes, I have seen him like I am seeing you now but more intensely.
‘One can see God, but who wants to see him? One sheds a potful of tears for wife and children and for money. Does anyone so weep for God? Unless that intense yearning is there, how can one see God?’ He added.
This answer touched the strings of his heart. His life got revolutionized and the love for God, intense. The logic of Vivekananda and the knowledge of Vivekananda got intermingled and produced the results which changed the world. A disciple like Vivekananda could not have let the knowledge Passover without absorbing; Vivekananda did no mistake and did the works which still enlighten the name of Parmahansa. Vivekananda later on learnt many vital techniques of Bhakti and Yoga from Parmahansa.
Swami Vivekananda, after finishing his learning with Parmahansa, went to west. There he studied at different colleges. After much of his studies, he decided to represent Hinduism in the ‘parliament of religions’. This was the event of his life, which threw a bright light on his till then veiled, but precious knowledge.
Parliament of Religions
When Vivekananda started his speech, it was of the ‘religious ideas of Hindus’ but when he finished ‘Hinduism was created’ (Ranjan and Singh 2012) . He defined the principles, traditions and knowledge lying in the Hinduism so ornately, that many prominent Christian missionaries, who were strongly arguing for spreading Christianity in Asia, changed their mindset. He interpreted the fine principles of Hinduism magnificently.
‘To the Hindu, man is not travelling from error to truth but from lower truth to higher truth’
‘Only true religion is one which leads us to him, who is constant basis of ever changing world, that one soul, of which all souls are but derived manifestations’
‘Vedanta philosophy, of which latest discoveries of science seems like echoes.’
‘Service of man is no inferior to worship of God’.
‘Art, science and religion are but three different ways of expressing the single truth’
Karma yoga is the one among the three types of yoga prevalent in yoga tradition. The other two are Bhakti yoga and Karma yoga. Swami Vivekananda gave a special emphasis on this type. Swami defined it in following way.
The word Karma is derived from Sanskrit word Kri, meaning to do. All action is Karma. Technically, Karma includes all effects subsequent to action, and effects of past actions. The goal of mankind is not pleasure but knowledge. Pleasure and happiness come to end but real knowledge stays with the owner forever. It is a foolish thing to say that knowledge comes from outside, all type of knowledge emerges from the mind of man himself. Man only discovers or unveils that knowledge. Newton discovered the law of gravitation, this knowledge did not entered his mind from some outer source rather it emerged from his mind by the catalyst of natural activities.
In a rather simple outline, every mental and physical blow that is given to the soul, by which, as it were, fire is struck from it, and by which own power of knowledge is discovered, is Karma. No can get anything unless he, by his efforts in this birth or previous, have earned. This is the eternal law. Will of the man is key factor in his success, and this will is determined by the magnitude of his Karma. Man of great wills have and had dominated the world we know.
‘We are responsible for what we are; and whatever we wish over selves to be, we have the power to make over selves.’
As the Newton’s third law says, for every action there is a equal and opposite reaction. So is the case with the eternal rule of world, man is bound to bear the consequences of his karma in one way or other. Not only does he bears the effects of his karma but also he affects other person through his acts. If there are different musical instruments tuned alike in a room, all of you may have noticed when one is struck, the others have the tendency to vibrate, in a way, to give you the same note. Similarly, all minds in the universe get affected from vibrations of other minds, whether they be negative or positive. These vibrations need not end after a period; they may vibrate infinitely, and may affect generations after centuries. So company with good people (satasang) has superior consequences and vice versa.
There is no action which does not bear good and evil fruits at the same time. While one is praying to god, his internal acts might be killing hundreds of microbes. So how can a person avoid any kind of fruit of his acts? This can be done by the exercise of non attachment. ‘Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff from taking various forms’ (n.d.164) meaning that not your organs but you must control your acts.
‘Control of mind-stuff can be achieved by non attachment’ The mind-stuff is aimless so must be controlled by practicing non attachment.
‘The highest ideal is internal and entire self-abnegation, where there is no ‘I’ but all is ‘Thou’; and whether he is conscious or unconscious of it, Karma-Yoga leads man to that end’
The idea of self-abnegation must not be made a excuse for the evil acts of a person. This idea does not mean that you’ve got the freedom to do every wrong thing, it rather means ‘first kill your self and then take the whole world as yourself’. By following this ideal, you will bear neither the wrong nor the good fruit our work. This is the only way of attaining the ultimate goal of this world, the salvation.
Probably, no person has born or will born, who can encompass the biography of Swami Vivekananda in a couple of thousand words; yet something is better than nothing.
In his short lifespan of 39 years (January 12, 1863- July 4,1902), he did the work which aggregates of lifespan of millions would not do. A very significant inspiration can be taken that however short time you may get either in your life or in work, you can carry out it perfectly.
Vivekananda was a ‘one in a billion’ type of personality. He appeared in the world and disappeared from it like a lightning stoke, but lit fire in haystack like minds of millions, which is still radiating and will keep radiating.