IMPERIENCE           DRKCV.ORG           SSS           


What is new

Wisdom Classification: Swami Vivekananda


♦ It is Raja Yoga alone that can successfully lead a man up to the highest level of approach

- Swami Vivekananda (SS 134)

♦ "Religion is not in books, nor in theories, nor in dogmas, nor in talking, not even in reasoning. It is being and becoming."

♦ "I do not believe in a God or religion which cannot wipe the widow's tears or bring a piece of bread to the orphan's mouth."

♦ "Infinite power and existence and blessedness are ours, and we have not to acquire them; they are our own, and we have only to manifest them."

♦ "He who has no faith in himself can never have faith in God."

♦ "Be an atheist if you want, but do not believe in anything unquestioningly."

♦ "The living God is within you."

♦ "He alone is worshiping God who serves all beings."

♦ To study the origin of the Vedanta movement in America is to study Swami Vivekananda and his travels across the US. We like to put the spotlight on him since his message about self-effort, strength, and freedom of the soul is especially favored by the Western mind. But who was he? What was the magic in his message that made him so popular in America and his homeland of India? We shall only attempt a brief sketch here.

♦ Swami Vivekananda or Narendra as he was called then, was born on January 12, 1863. Bright and full of energy, his mother found him extremely restless and hard to control. "I prayed to God for a son, but he sent me one of his demons," she would sometimes say in frustration. But he was not a bad boy. He had an early fascination for the wandering monks that are so common in India and would practice meditation for fun.

As he grew older, Narendra excelled at his studies and amazed his teachers. At college he mastered Western philosophy and logic and seriously questioned the orthodox beliefs of Hinduism. Reason, he felt, was the surest guide in life. Yet reason didn't satisfy the yearnings of his soul. About this time, he met a holy man by the name of Sri Ramakrishna. The holy man was in many ways from quite a different background than Narendra, yet Narendra was drawn to him. On the one hand, Ramakrishna seemed to be a madman and a monomaniac, yet, the holy man radiated a holy atmosphere unlike anything he had experienced elsewhere. The more Narendra saw him, the more he saw an extraordinary holiness and a most uncommon sanity.

As their relationship grew, Narendra was fired by the ideals of renunciation, the concept that the only important thing in life was to realize God. After Ramakrishna died, Narendra took the vows of a monk and became Swami Vivekananda. For two years he wandered throughout India growing spiritually and experiencing many hardships. He saw the great poverty of India and pondered deeply the role of religion and the suffering of the masses. He impressed great kings with his wisdom, yet learned wisdom during his moments of pride from the lowly of society.

His wanderings helped to develop an understanding of the real meaning of religion. As he said to two of his brother disciples that he happened to see at a train station,

"I have traveled all over India. But alas, it was agony to me, my brothers, to see with my own eyes the terrible poverty and misery of the masses, and I could not restrain my tears. It is now my firm conviction that it is futile to preach religion amongst them without first trying to remove their poverty and their suffering. It is for this reason - to find more means for the salvation of the poor in India - that I am now going to America.

We should understand that at this time in India, such talk was almost heresy. Society said a monk should busy himself with meditation and other spiritual practices, not doing social service.

True to his word, Vivekananda traveled to America to speak at a conference in Chicago that he had heard about called The World's Parliament of Religions. When he arrived, he discovered that not only had he come too early, but that he lacked proper papers to be a delegate. The authorities wouldn't recognize him.

But Providence has its ways. He came to meet Professor J.H. Wright, of the Greek Department at Harvard University. They talked for hours. The professor was so impressed that he insisted that his new friend should be the representative of Hinduism at the Parliament. On hearing that the Swami lacked proper credentials, he replied, "To ask you, Swami, for your credentials, is like asking the sun to state its right to shine." The professor wrote a letter to a friend in charge of selecting the delegates saying, "Here is a man who is more learned than all our learned professors put together."

On September 11, 1893, Swami Vivekananda attended the Parliament as a delegate to speak. Nervous at first, he passed on his chance to speak. Finally, he spoke, in words that became famous throughout the world:

"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. I 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 I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance I am proud to belong to a religion which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations on earth…"