Updated: Jun 6
160 years ago, on the eve of Makar Sankranti, India awoke to a new dawn. The yellow and orange gradients of daybreak seemingly spoke of divine intuition. A baby boy had been born into an aristocratic Bengali Kayastha family in Gourmohan Mukherjee Street in Calcutta. The rejuvenation and amelioration of the nation prescribed in his destiny like the Japanese red strings of fate. It would take the boy 30 years and a life in undated with spiritual awakening, junctures of revelation and unadulterated knowledge before he stands at the 'Permanent Memorial Art Palace' in Chicago, asserting the iconic words "Sisters and brothers of America.."
Born as the sixth child of renowned attorney and philanthropist Vishwanath Datta and Bhuvaneswari Devi, a pious and venerable homemaker, Narendra Nath Datta (Swami Vivekananda's birthname), was known to have a playful demeanour and fits of restlessness in his childhood days. At the mere age of 8, he'd enrolled in Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar's Metropolitan Institution (Present day 'Vidyasagar College) and went on to become an alumnus of the Presidency College in Calcutta as well. He was an all-rounder student and a jack-of-all-trades; excelling not just academically, but also in co-curricular activities such as sports, gymnastics, Indian classical music and wrestling to name a few. He was also known to be a bibliophile who read up extensively about anything that even remotely sparked his interest. He was indiscriminate in his literary inclinations, perusing everything from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, the Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures to the works of David Hume, Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Herbert Spencer. In fact, rather than dismissing Western philosophy, he sought to convalesce it with traditional Eastern schools of thought. Not to mention his inherent yogic temperament and frequent indulgence in meditation.
Gauri Mohan J's Message to India's Youth Youth is an asset none can snatch away from you. How you choose to spend your days can have an everlasting impact on your psyche, the ripples of which can be felt way into your adulthood. Which isn't to say that it's a period of your life that should be defined by stringency. On the contrary, it's one where you have the liberty of being the most free. Where you have less responsibilities being entrusted upon you. Where you can bloom on your own accord without factoring in any other obligations apart from the ones that you have for yourself. But the trajectory of your youth is susceptible to peer pressure. One might inadvertently compare themselves to others, failing to realise that we all walk different paths and that we all follow varying paces. It shouldn't matter whether someone is "ahead" of you. Your life shouldn't emulate another's schedule. It might seem as though everyone else around you are well put together. But know that anxiety about the future, fear of making the wrong choices and struggling to find one's own identity are intrinsic to a young adult life. Sometimes it might be through treading those paths that one attains the clarity he so desperately seeks. So lift your heads up and make these days your own.
However, tracing the trajectory of Swami Vivekananda's voyage into spirituality would be rendered incomplete without mentioning his guru, renowned saint and ascetic, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. During his college days, Vivekananda had become acquainted with Scottish theologian and clergyman William Hastie, who had one day, in a discussion pertaining to the William Wordsworth poem' Excursion' compared the way the poet felt caught in a trance While trying to comprehend the sublime beauty of the all-encompassing nature, to his own recollections of the trance Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa was enthralled by. Ignited by the words of his Professor, Swami Vivekananda set out for Dakshineshwar to meet the man himself. And as they say, enlightened beings recognise other enlightened souls. And thus, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa identified in young Narendranath, a lustre similar to his own. He regarded him as the perfect emissary for dispatching his message to the world-that God is the eternal truth and everything else was nothing but pleasant or irk some deceptions. Ramakrishna, therefore, has been widely credited for shaping the inimitable personality of Swami Vivekananda and for indoctrinating in him the desire to serve humanity.
Following his death in 1886, Swami Vivekananda conjoined with the sannyasin disciples of Ramakrishna Paramhansa and went on to establish the Ramakrishna Math in Baranagar- An administrative legal organization of the Ramakrishna Order (a monastic lineage founded by Sri Ramakrishna). A parallel organization called the Ramakrishna Mission (alias the Vedanta Mission ) was also subsequently set up at Belur Math on the banks of river Ganga in West Bengal on May 1st,1897 with the motto,"At manomokshartham jagathitayacha"(for the liberation of the self and the welfare of the world) derived from a sloka of the Rigveda. Today, the Ramakrishna Mission reignsasan established and successful Non-profit Organization (NGO)known for its humanitarian and philanthropic endeavours. Hence, it can be unequivocally said that Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa's influence on Swami Vivekananda's life and teachings is rather irrefutable.
Vivekananda's command over language and his exquisite articulation were a testament to Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa's prognosis that the former would open global dialogue on the importance of eastern philosophy and ways of living. The soundness of his Writings and speeches had the ability to resurrect and revitalize even the most weak, Dejected and demoralised. He spoke with a true leader's diction and a poet's creativity and perceptiveness.
Take this excerpt from a speech he'd delivered at the World's Parliament of Religions," If there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time; which will be infinite like the God it will preach, and whose sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and of Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahminic or Buddhistic, Christian or, Mohammedan, but the total of all these, and still have infinite space for development; which in its catholicity will embrace in its infinite arms, and find a place for, every human being, from the lowest grovelling savage not far removed from the brute, to the highest man towering by the virtues of his head and heart almost above humanity, making society stand in a we of him and doubt his human nature. It will be are ligion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognise divinity in every man and woman, and whose whole scope, whose whole force, will be created in aiding humanity to realise its own true, divine nature."
For the listener to been tranced by Swami Vivekananda's exposition and latch on to his Every word, wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary. It is via the means of these oratory Skills that Swami Vivekanand are vamped the West's image of India from a nation that's poverty-stricken and impoverished to al and that is home to spiritual giants. Where spiritual nourishment is just as essential to a happy and healthy life as bodily nourishment.
According to Swami Vivekananda, there exists a treasure trove of spiritual laws which govern the being, a kin to how the law of gravity functions regardless if people are aware of it or outright disregard it. Here, human consciousness is propositioned as a mental ocean, the depths of which man has yet to explore. He asks us to live in this world like a lotus leaf-it grows surrounded by water but is never moistened by it. Similarly, one ought to yield the heart of God and dedicate his hands to work.
And though small in number, Vivekananda has also authored a handful of books such as Meditation and its Methods', 'Raja Yoga',' Karma Yoga' etc. In the latter, Vivekananda elaborates on the concept of 'Karma' or duty from the Bhagavad Gita, where one achieves moksha i.e. liberation by doing rightful work that is devoid of the expectation of fruitful results. But what might be deemed Swami Vivekananda's most trailblazing contribution would be his notion that science and religion are not divergent from each other but rather, are supplementary in nature. As a matter of fact, it is the synergy of the two forces which makes for a holistic life.
Vivekananda also represented the newfound spirit of the youth of the country. Ergo, National Youth Day is observed on 12th January of every year in India, in Commemoration of his contribution to fostering the enthusiasm and fervour of his age cohort.