Swami Vivekananda

Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Images and Physiognomic Interpretation

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Swami Vivekananda—Indian Yogi, Guru and Religious Philosopher, Vedantist

January 12, 1863, Calcutta, India, 6:33 AM, or 6:45 AM, LMT. (Source: recorded According to LMR, Modern Astrology, November, 1908, data from F.C. Dutt in Calcutta who quotes B.R; Penfield Collection  gives 6:45 AM as “recorded.”)

(Ascendant, Capricorn with the Sun exactly conjunct the Ascendant and Venus rising in Capricorn; Moon and Saturn in Libra conjuncted with Jupiter also in Libra; Mercury in Aquarius; Mars and Neptune in Aries; Uranus in Gemini; Pluto in Taurus)

Swami Vivekananda was a great soul. Born as a transfigured initiate of the third degree, his short life was one of great service and renunciation. There is good reason to believe that for much of his life he functioned as one who was taking or had taking the fourth initiation—the Renunciation Initiation.

His approach was more mental than that of Yogananda. He utilized much of the fifth ray in his thought, supported by Mercury, the planet of thought, in fifth ray Aquarius, by active Mars in the sometimes mental sign Aries, and by fifth ray Venus, rising in Capricorn conjunct the illuminating Sun. His feats of mind were prodigious. He is said to have chained himself to a desk for purposes of study (so that he would not sleep); he is said to have memorized ten volumes of an encyclopedia—all this accomplished through continence (Saturn conjunct the Moon in Libra). Here we see a combination of the first ray (will) and the second ray (love of study)

Venus, however, also served an artistic function, as he as a fine singer (Venus) bursting into spontaneous song—recounting the beauties of the holy, spiritual life.

Great power flowed through Vivekananda. He seemed to possess all the rays. His will was irresistible—even his body could not resist it, which is, perhaps, why he died so young, at the age of thirty-nine. His love was all-encompassing, and his mind penetrating and great in scope. He possessed as well artistry, and not only a love of beauty but the ability to produce it through song and poetry (hence the fourth ray). As well, he had great devotion to his Teacher, Ramakrishna. Vivekananda could write equally well on Raja Yoga, Bhakti, Yoga, Gnani Yoga or Karma Yoga. He was accomplished in each of these areas. Perhaps the only ray which is less in evidence is the seventh ray of order and method. He lived so spontaneously and so intensely—perhaps the second ray would have regulated the expenditure of energy and sustained his life.

Later in his life, he developed an intense love of Shiva, the God of Destruction, found upon the first ray. After his visit to the Shiva Ice Cave, life was never the same. It seemed that he was having realizations and energy experiences which belonged to the fourth initiation. The position of Pluto at the base of the chart (fourth house) and conjunct the IC tells us of the importance of the kundalini power in his life.

His Libran planets placed in the ninth house, made him a great ambassador to the West where he represented the Indian approach to spirituality before entranced multitudes. An example of this was his overwhelming popularity at the World Congress of Religions during the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.

Was his principal ray the first or the second? Ultimately, the luminous, saving second ray would have to take precedence, but he was tremendously reinforced by the first ray. With great power, he was seized by the Bodhisattva vow—proclaiming that no matter how many lives it might take, he would return to incarnation again and again to relieve human suffering.

Vivekananda’s spiritual power was so great because he embodied the great disciplines of which he so convincingly wrote and spoke. He was the genuine article—the high initiate in incarnation. His life was altogether more influential than could be suspected from the few mortal years he lived.


All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.

All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.

By the study of different RELIGIONS we find that in essence they are one.
(Jupiter in 9th house)

External nature is only internal nature writ large.

GOD is the ever-active providence, by whose power systems after systems are being evolved out of chaos, made to run for a time and again destroyed.

GOD is to be worshipped as the one beloved, dearer than everything in this and next life.

If faith in ourselves had been more extensively taught and practiced, I am sure a very large portion of the evils and miseries that we have would have vanished.

If you think about disaster, you will get it. Brood about death and you hasten your demise. Think positively and masterfully, with confidence and faith, and life becomes more secure, more fraught with action, richer in achievement and experience.

In one word, this ideal is that you are divine.

Our duty is to encourage every one in his struggle to live up to his own highest idea, and strive at the same time to make the ideal as near as possible to the Truth.

That man has reached immortality who is disturbed by nothing material.
(Capricorn Sun conjunct Ascendant)

The greatest religion is to be true to your own nature. Have faith in yourselves!

The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him - that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.

The more we come out and do good to others, the more our hearts will be purified, and God will be in them.

The Vedanta recognizes no sin it only recognizes error. And the greatest error, says the Vedanta is to say that you are weak, that you are a sinner, a miserable creature, and that you have no power and you cannot do this and that.
(Neptune in Aries in 2nd house opposition Saturn & Moon)

The will is not free - it is a phenomenon bound by cause and effect - but there is something behind the will which is free.

The world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong.
(Mars in Aries opposition Jupiter. Capricorn Sun conjunct Ascendant)

Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true.

We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.

When an idea exclusively occupies the mind, it is transformed into an actual physical or mental state.

Where can we go to find God if we cannot see Him in our own hearts and in every living being.

You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.

"Education is the manifestation of what is already within man"

Religion is a question of being and becoming, not of believing.

Real freedom is not merely doing what you like, but also NOT doing what you like.

We must always bear in mind that we are not going to be free, but are free already. Every idea that we are bound is a delusion.

"This is the gist of all worship: to be pure and to do good to others. He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Shiva. And if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary. He who has served and helped one poor man seeing Shiva in him, without thinking of his caste or creed or race or anything, with him Shiva is more pleased than with the man who sees Him only in temples"
(North Node in Sagittarius in 11th house)

“The mind generally takes up various objects, runs into all sorts of things. That is the lower state. There is a higher state of the mind, when it takes up one object and excludes all others.”

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, 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.”

“We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act.”
(Saturn conjunct Moon)

“Never think there is anything impossible for the soul. It is the greatest heresy to think so. If there is sin, this is the only sin - to say that you are weak, or others are weak.”

“You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.”

“The goal of mankind is knowledge ... Now this knowledge is inherent in man. No knowledge comes from outside: it is all inside. What we say a man 'knows', should, in strict psychological language, be what he 'discovers' or 'unveils'; what man 'learns' is really what he discovers by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge.”

“Where can we go to find God if we cannot see Him in our own hearts and in every living being.”

“The first sign of your becoming religious is that you are becoming cheerful”

“GOD of truth, be Thou alone my guide…”

“You know, I may have to be born again, you see, I have fallen in love with mankind.”

“Our duty is to encourage every one in his struggle to live up to his own highest idea, and strive at the same time to make the ideal as near as possible to the Truth.”

“MY nature is love Him. And therefore I love. I do not pray for any-thing. I do not ask for anything. Let Him place me wherever He likes. I must love Him for love’s sake. I can not trade in love.”

“To devote your life to the good of all and to the happiness of all is religion. Whatever you do for your own sake is not religion”

“Condemn none: if you can stretch out a helping hand, do so. If you cannot, fold your hands, bless your brothers, and let them go their own way.”

“It is our own mental attitude which makes the world what it is for us. Our thought make things beautiful, our thoughts make things ugly. The whole world is in our own minds. Learn to see things in the proper light.”


Swami Vivekananda in Chicago, 1893
On the photo, Swamiji has written in Bengali, and in English:"One infinite pure and holy-- beyond thought beyond qualities I bow down to thee" - Swami Vivekananda
Born 12 January 1863
Calcutta, West Bengal, India
Died 4 July 1902
Belur Math near Calcutta Shami Bibekanondo) (January 12, 1863 - July 4, 1902), whose pre-monastic name was Narendranath Dutta ND Nôrendronath Dotto), was one of the most famous and influential spiritual leaders of the philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga and a major figure in the history of Hinduism and India. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission.

While he is widely credited with having uplifted his own nation, simultaneously he introduced Yoga and Vedanta to America and England with his popular lectures and private discourses on Vedanta philosophy. Vivekananda was the first known Hindu Swami to come to the West, where he introduced Eastern thought at the World's Parliament of Religions, in connection with the World's Fair in Chicago, in 1893. It was there that he was catapulted to fame by his by wide audiences in Chicago and then later elsewhere in America.

Birth and early life
Narendranath Dutta was born in Shimla Pally, Kolkata, West Bengal, India on January 12, 1863 as the son of Viswanath Dutta and Bhuvaneswari Devi. Even as he was young, he showed a precocious mind and keen memory. He practiced meditation from a very early age. While at school, he was good at studies, as well as games of various kinds. He organized an amateur theatrical company and a gymnasium and took lessons in fencing, wrestling, rowing and other sports. He also studied instrumental and vocal music. He was a leader among his group of friends. Even when he was young, he questioned the validity of superstitious customs and discrimination based on caste and religion.

In 1879, Narendra entered the Presidency College, Calcutta for higher studies. After one year, he joined the Scottish Church College, Calcutta and studied philosophy. During the course, he studied western logic, western philosophy and history of European nations.

Questions started to arise in young Narendra's mind about God and the presence of God. This made him associate with the Brahmo Samaj, an important religious movement of the time, led by Keshub Chunder Sen. But the Samaj's congregational prayers and devotional songs could not satisfy Narendra's zeal to realize God. He would ask leaders of Brahma Samaj whether they have seen God. He never got a satisfying answer. It was during this time that Professor Hastie of Scottish Church College told him about Sri Ramakrishna of Dakshineswar.

With Ramakrishna
Narendra met Ramakrishna for the first time in November 1881. He asked Ramakrishna the same old question, whether he had seen God. The instantaneous answer from Ramakrishna was, "Yes, I see God, just as I see you here, only in a much intenser sense." Narendra was astounded and puzzled. He could feel the man's words were honest and uttered from depths of experience. He started visiting Ramakrishna frequently.he first did not believe that such a plain man could've seen god but gradually he started having faith in what Ramkrishna said.

Though Narendra could not accept Ramakrishna and his visions, he could not neglect him. It had always been in Narendra's nature to test something thoroughly before he could accept it. He tested Ramakrishna to the maximum, but the master was patient, forgiving, humorous, and full of love. He never asked Narendra to abandon reason, and he faced all of Narendra's arguments and examinations with infinite patience. In time, Narendra accepted Ramakrishna, and when he accepted, his acceptance was whole-hearted. While Ramakrishna predominantly taught duality and Bhakti to his other disciples, he taught Narendra the Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy of non-dualism.

During the course of five years of his training under Ramakrishna, Narendra was transformed from a restless, puzzled, impatient youth to a mature man who was ready to renounce everything for the sake of God-realization. Soon, Ramakrishna's end came in the form of throat cancer in August 1886. After this Narendra and a core group of Ramakrishna's disciples took vows to become monks and renounce everything, and started living in a supposedly haunted house in Baranagore. They took alms to satisfy their hunger and their other needs were taken care of by Ramakrishna's richer householder disciples.

Wanderings in India
Pencil drawing of VivekanandaSoon, the young monk of Baranagore wanted to live the life of a wandering monk with rags and a begging bowl and no other possessions. On July 1890, Vivekananda set out for a long journey, without knowing where the journey would take him. The journey that followed took him to the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent. During these days, Vivekananda assumed various names like Vividishananda (in Sanskrit, Vividisha means "the desire to know" and Ananda means "bliss"), Satchidananda, etc., It is said that he was given the name Vivekananda by Maharaja of Khetri for his discernment of things, good and bad.

During these wandering days, Vivekananda stayed on king's palaces, as well as the huts of the poor. He came in close contact with the culture of different regions of India and various classes of people in India. Vivekananda observed the imbalance in society and tyranny in the name of caste. He realised the need for a national rejuvenation if India was to survive at all. He reached Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent on 24 December 1892. There, he swam across the sea and started meditating on a lone rock. He thus meditated for three days and said later that he meditated about the past, present and future of India. The rock went on to become the Vivekananda memorial at Kanyakumari.

Ticket to Vivekananda Memorial, Kanyakumari, 1981Vivekananda went to Madras and spoke about his plans for India and Hinduism to the young men of Madras. They were impressed by the monk and urged him to go to the United States and represent Hinduism in the World Parliament of Religions. The Raja of Ramnad, who was originally invited for the conference, promoted Vivekananda as the right person to represent the views of Hinduism in the Parliament. Thus, helped by his friends at Chennai, Bhaskara Sethupathi, Raja of Ramnad and Maharajas of Mysore and Khetri, Vivekananda set out on his journey to the USA.

In the West
in London, 1896Vivekananda was received well at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, where he delivered a series of lectures. He also earned wild applause for beginning his address with the famous words, "Sisters and brothers of America." Vivekananda's arrival in the USA has been identified by many to mark the beginning of western interest in Hinduism not as merely an exotic eastern oddity, but as a vital religious and philosophical tradition that might actually have something important to teach the West.

Vivekananda successfully introduced yoga and Vedanta to the West and lectured around America introducing the topics (1894-6). He taught hundreds of students privately in free classes held in his own room beginning in New York in 1895. Later, he started Vedantic centers in New York City and London, lectured at major universities and generally kindled western interest in Hinduism. His success was not without controversy, much of it from Christian missionaries of whom he was fiercely critical. After four years of constant touring, lecturing and retreats in the West, he came back to India in the year 1897.

Back in India
Admirers and devotees of Vivekananda gave him an enthusiastic reception on his return to India. In India, he delivered a series of lectures, and this set of lectures known as "Lectures from Colombo to Almora" is considered to have uplifted the morale of the then downtrodden Indian society. He founded one of the world's largest charitable relief missions, the Ramakrishna Mission and reorganized the ancient Swami order by founding one of the most significant and largest monastic orders in India, the Ramakrishna Math.

However, he had to bear great criticism from other orthodox Hindus for having traveled in the West. In his day there was hardly a Hindu in America and he received criticism for crossing the ocean, at that time a cause for "outcasting." Vivekananda scoffed at these critiques from the orthodox saying "I cannot be outcast - As a monk, I am beyond caste." His contemporaries also questioned his motives, wondering whether the fame and glory of his Hindu evangelism compromised his original monastic vows. His enthusiasm for America and Britain, and his spiritual devotion to his motherland, caused significant tension in his last years.

He once again toured the west from January 1899 to December 1900. He inculcated a spirit of respect and good will for exchanges between the East and the West. He had American disciples whom he brought to India and initiated as Swamis and brought Indian Swamis to America where they and their successors have been ever since.

On July 4, 1902 at Belur Math near Calcutta, he taught Vedanta philosophy to some pupils in the morning. He had a walk with Swami Premananda, a brother-disciple and gave him instructions concerning the future of the Ramakrishna Math. The same day, Vivekananda left his mortal body at the young age of 39.[2]

Principles and Philosophy

Vivekananda was a renowned thinker in his own right. One of his most important contributions was to demonstrate how Advaitin thinking is not merely philosophically far-reaching, but how it also has social, even political, consequences. One important lesson he claimed to receive from Ramakrishna was that "Jiva is Shiva " (each individual is divinity itself). This became his Mantra, and he coined the concept of daridra narayana seva - the service of God in and through (poor) human beings. If there truly is the unity of Brahman underlying all phenomena, then on what basis do we regard ourselves as better or worse, or even as better-off or worse-off, than others? - This was the question he posed to himself. Ultimately, he concluded that these distinctions fade into nothingness in the light of the oneness that the devotee experiences in Moksha. What arises then is compassion for those "individuals" who remain unaware of this oneness and a determination to help them.

Swami Vivekananda belonged to that branch of Vedanta that held that no one can be truly free until all of us are. Even the desire for personal salvation has to be given up, and only tireless work for the salvation of others is the true mark of the enlightened person. He founded the Sri Ramakrishna Math and Mission on the principle of Atmano Mokshartham Jagad-hitaya cha) (for one's own salvation and for the welfare of the World).

However, Vivekananda also pleaded for a strict separation between religion and government ("church and state"). Although social customs had been formed in the past with religious sanction, it was not now the business of religion to interfere with matters such as marriage, inheritance and so on. The ideal society would be a mixture of Brahmin knowledge, Kshatriya culture, Vaisya efficiency and the egalitarian Shudra ethos. Domination by any one led to different sorts of lopsided societies. Vivekananda did not feel that religion, nor, any force for that matter, should be used forcefully to bring about an ideal society, since this was something that would evolve naturally by individualistic change when the conditions were right.

Vivekananda made a strict demarcation between the two classes of Hindu scriptures : the Sruti and the Smritis. The Sruti, by which is meant the Vedas, consist of eternally and universally valid spiritual truths. The Smritis on the other hand, are the dos and donts of religions, applicable to society and subject to revision from time to time. Vivekananda felt that existing Hindu smritis had to be revised for modern times. But the Srutis of course are eternal - they may only be re-interpreted.

Vivekanda advised his followers to be holy, unselfish and have shraddha (faith). He encouraged the practise of Brahmacharya (Celibacy). In one of the conversations with his childhood friend Sri Priya Nath Sinha he attributes his physical and mental strengths, eloquence to the practice of Brahmacharya.

Vivekananda didn't advocate the emerging area of parapsychology, astrology (one instance can be found in his speech Man the Maker of his Destiny, Complete-Works, Volume 8, Notes of Class Talks and Lectures) saying that this form of curiosity doesn't help in spiritual progress but actually hinders it.

Every one of the 20th century Indian leaders of note have acknowledged his influence, from Gandhi to Subash Bose. The first governor general of independent India, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, once observed that "Vivekananda saved Hinduism." According to Subhas Chandra Bose, Vivekananda "is the maker of modern India" and for Mohandas Gandhi, Vivekananda's influence increased his "love for his country a thousand fold." Gandhi, who also strived for a lot of reform in Hinduism himself, said: Swami Vivekananda's writings need no introduction from anybody. They make their own irresistible appeal. Many years after his death, Rabindranath Tagore (a prominent member of the Brahmo Samaj) had said: If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative. National Youth Day in India is by way of commemorating him held on his birthday, January 12.

Swami Vivekananda is widely considered to have inspired India's freedom struggle movement. His writings inspired a whole generation of freedom fighters including Aurobindo Ghose and Bagha Jatin. Vivekananda was the brother of the extremist revolutionary, Shri Bhupendranath Dutta. Subhash Chandra Bose one of the most prominent figures in Indian independence movement said,

I cannot write about Vivekananda without going into raptures. Few indeed could comprehend or fathom him even among those who had the privilege of becoming intimate with him. His personality was rich, profound and complex... Reckless in his sacrifice, unceasing in his activity, boundless in his love, profound and versatile in his wisdom, exuberant in his emotions, merciless in his attacks but yet simple as a child, he was a rare personality in this world of ours[1]

Aurobindo Ghosh considered Vivekananda as his spiritual mentor. While in Alipore Jail, Sri Aurobindo used to be visited by Swami Vivekananda in his meditation and be guided by him in yoga.

Vivekananda was a soul of puissance if ever there was one, a very lion among men, but the definitive work he has left behind is quite incommensurate with our impression of his creative might and energy. We perceive his influence still working gigantically, we know not well how, we know not well where, in something that is not yet formed, something leonine, grand, intuitive, upheaving that has entered the soul of India and we say, "Behold, Vivekananda still lives in the soul of his Mother and in the souls of her children. --Sri Aurobindo--1915 in Vedic Magazine.

Vivekananda inspired Jamshedji Tata[2] to set up Indian Institute of Science, one of India's finest Institutions. Abroad, he had some interactions with Max Mueller. Nikola Tesla was one of those influenced by the Vedic philosophy teachings of the Swami Vivekananda.

Vivekananda left a body of philosophical works (see Vivekananda's complete works) which Vedic scholar Frank Parlato has called, "the greatest comprehensive work in philosophy ever published." His books (compiled from lectures given around the world) on the four Yogas (Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga) are very influential and still seen as fundamental texts for anyone interested in the Hindu practice of Yoga. His letters are of great literary and spiritual value. He was also a very good singer and a poet. He had composed many songs including his favorite Kali the Mother. He used humor for his teachings and was also an excellent cook. His language is very free flowing. His own Bengali writings stand testimony to the fact that he believed that words - spoken or written should be for making things easier to understand rather than show off the speaker or writer's knowledge.

Swami Vivekananda Biography

He came to be known as Swami Vivekananda only when he became a sannyasi or monk. His parents called him Narendra. His father was Vishwanatha Datta and his mother Bhuvaneshwari Devi. Narendra was born on 12th January 1863 in Calcutta. As a child he was very lively and naughty. When Narendra stepped into boyhood, his naughtiness grew. He was a natural leader of the children in the neighbourhood. His companions bowed to his decision always. Once a landlord threatened the children saying, "There is a demon in the tree and he swallows children." Narendra was not impressed by this threat. He settled down on a branch. The other boys took to their heels. Narendra waited for several hours, but the demon did not appear. So, he declared that the landlord's story was a spoof. Narendra loved to tease his sisters. Meditation, too, was a sport to him. But as he meditated he became oblivious of the whole world. Not even a lizard or a snake moving near him could disturb his concentration.

Even as a child Narendra had great respect for sannyasis or ascetics. He would give away anything to anybody if asked for. On his birthday, he would wear new clothes, wouldn't he? If a beggar asked for aims he would give away the new clothes. From that day, his mother would lock him up in a room whenever a beggar passed by the house. But every beggar knew Narendra's nature very well. So beggars would stand near the window of Narendra's room. He would throw to them anything he had. The spirit of sacrifice and renunciation was already blossoming in him. In her leisure time his mother would tell him the story of the Ramayana. He could not sleep unless she told him a story. Then he would be all ears, forgetting his study and play. He had great reverence for Lord Hanuman. Once he sat before the idol of Lord Shiva, with his body all smeared with ash. His perplexed mother asked him, "Naren, what's all this?" He smiled and said, "Mother, I'm the Lord Shiva." The mother feared that her son would become a sannyasi, like his grandfather.

Narendra's father was a lawyer. So every day his house used to be crowded with his clients belonging to different castes. The house was like an inn; the clients had breakfast and lunch there. It was the custom to provide the guests with hukkas (long pipes) to smoke after food. There was a different pipe for clients of each caste. Narendra wondered what would happen if he smoked the pipe meant for people of a different caste. Finally he experimented. Nothing untoward happened. He concluded that caste had no meaning.

The maxim "The child is father of the man" was entirely true of the compassionate boy, Narendra. Once there was a display of physical exercises in a local gymnasium. Accidentally an iron bar fell on a sailor among the spectators. He fell down unconscious. The people who had gathered there ran away lest the police should question them. Narendra, with the help of two friends of his, gave the wounded sailor first aid. Then he took him to a doctor. He even raised some money for the wounded man. On another occasion Narendra pulled out one of his friends who had been caught .under the wheel of a coach drawn by horses. Likewise he helped a little boy who was a total stranger. The boy was lying on a road with high fever. He took him home. Narendra never knew what fear was.

It was not that Narendra excelled only in sports; he was quick and alert in his studies as well. After a single reading he could remember any lesson. His memory was amazing. Concentration was the key to his success in studies. The Parents

Whenever Vishwanatha Datta found time he would give his son advice. "You need fear no one so long as you keep to the path of truth and Dharma (Virtue). One should not be browbeaten. One should guard one's self-respect. Love of one's religion should not mean hatred of other religions. Patriotism is essential for man's welfare. Foreign enemies may invade a country, but they cannot take away a people's ancient and potent culture." He loved to listen to his son's sweet voice. Narendra's face would become radiant when he sang devotional songs.

His mother was dear to Narendra as his own life, and to him she was a veritable goddess. In his eyes, there was no one as ready to make sacrifices as the mother. She must have the highest place not only in the home but also in society. He had great respect for his father too. But this did not come in the way of his freedom and independent thinking. He gave expression to what he felt even about his father. "Hospitality is certainly a great virtue. But is it right to feed the lazy? Is it right to provide them with cigarette and pipe to smoke?" Thus he would often question his father. But his father would say, "You do not understand their misery, my boy. When they munch tobacco, they at least for a while forget the bitterness of their life."

By 1880, Narendra passed his Matriculation and Entrance Examination. He joined a college. Day by day, his thirst for knowledge increased. He would borrow from the library books not related to the prescribed courses and read them, and so satisfy his thirst. He was particularly fascinated by the secrets of God's. creation. Apart from history and science, he was well read in Western philosophy. As he advanced in his studies, his thinking faculty developed. Doubts and uncertainties overtook him. He gave up blind beliefs but could not realize the Truth. He placed his doubts before eminent scholars and sought their guidance. These scholars excelled in debate. But their logic did not convince Narendra. Their line of thinking was stale. It did not convince him, for none of them had direct experience of God.

Sri Ramakrishna was a priest in the temple of Goddess Kali. He was not a scholar. But he was a great devotee. It was being said of him that he had realized God. Scholars who went to him became his disciples. Once, Narendra went with his friends to Dakshineswar to see him. Sri Ramakrishna sat surrounded by his disciples; he was immersed in discussions about God. Narendra sat in a corner with his friends. All at once Sri Ramakrishna's eyes turned to him. Sri Ramakrishna's mind was in a turmoil. He was thrilled. Indistinct thoughts upset his mind. Memories of an earlier meeting seemed to stir in him. For some time he sat still as if in a trance. Narendra's attractive figure and shining eyes filled him with wonder. "Can you sing?" he asked Narendra. Narendra sang a couple of Bangali songs in a melodious voice. As he listened to the music, the Bhagavan went into a trance. After some time he took Narendra into a room. He patted Narendra on the back and said, "MY child, why are you so late? I have grown weary, waiting for you all these days. I wanted to share my experiences with the right person. You are not an ordinary man. You are Lord Vishnu in human form. Do you know how much I have been craving for you?" And he broke down. Sri Ramakrishna's behaviour puzzled Narendra. He thought the elderly man was mad. "Will you come again? Promise me you will", pleaded Ramakrishna. Eager to escape from him, Narendra said, "Yes." After the Bhagavan finished his discourse Narendra asked him, "Have you seen God ?" "Of course I have. I have seen him just as I' m looking at you. I have even talked to him. I can show him to you. But who is yearning to see God?" replied Ramakrishna. Narendra said to himself, "Till today no one had told me he had seen God. This man looks mentally deranged; possibly he is even mad. However, it is not proper to judge without investigating."

A month passed. Narendra went alone to Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna was resting on a cot in his room. He was pleased to see Narendra; he made him sit on his cot. He went into a trance and put his leg on Narendra's lap. Narendra forgot the outer world. He felt that he was dissolving. He shouted, 'What's this you are doing to me? My parents are still alive. I should go back to them." Smilingly Sri Ramakrishna said, "Enough for today,' and drew back his lap. Narendra became normal once again.

As days passed, each was attracted towards the other. Neither could bear to be parted from the other. It did not take a long time for Sri Ramakrishna to realize the greatness of Narendra. Moreover, he was guided by the will of Goddess Kali. But young Narendra would not accept Ramakrishna as his guru without a test. Ramakrishna used to say that, in order to realize God, one should give up the desire for money and women. One day Narendra hid a rupee under his pillow. Sri Ramakrishna, who had gone out, came into the room and stretched himself on the cot. At once he jumped up as if bitten by a scorpion. When he shook the mattress, the rupee coin fell down. Later he came to know that it was the doing of Narendra.

Narendra was Ramakrishna's favourite disciple. But he would not accept as gospel truth all that Narendra said. Narendra was highly critical of people who worshipped idols. He rejected the theory of "Advaita" (Monism). He had no faith in mystic experiences. Advaitic assertions such as "I am Brahman", "I am Shiva- did not impress Narendra. But Sri Ramakrishna would always bring him back to the right path by saying, "There are many roads to reach a destination. No one has the right to say that the path the other man takes is not the right one. It is improper to pass judgement on anything that one does not understand."

One day Sri Ramakrishna took Narendra to a secluded place. He said, "I have attained some powers after a long period of meditation. They will give whatever a man wants. I have given up all desire, and so I have no use for these powers. Shall I bestow these powers on you ?" "But will they help me to realize the Self?" - asked Narendra. "No," said Sri Ramakrishna. "Then I do not want them. More than anything, I want to realize God." Narendra's reply filled Ramakrishna with joy. The Master had tested Narendra, and Narendra had passed the test.

Gradually Narendra turned towards renunciation, giving up all worldly desires. The parents came to know of this. He was then studying for his B. A. degree examination. They planned to bring him back to worldly life through marriage. Sri Ramakrishna became unhappy on hearing this. He advised Narendra that if bound by family ties, he would not be able to serve mankind. At times, Narendra would lose faith in Ramakrishna's teaching; at such times Ramakrishna would first touch him with his hands. Then Narendra would lose contact with the world around. When he regained consciousness he would surrender to his Guru's teaching. Thus the Guru gradually gifted all his powers to the disciple.

In 1884, Narendra passed the B. A. degree examination. A friend of his hosted a party. As Narendra was singing at the party, the news of his father's death came like a bolt from the blue. Poverty hit the family immediately after the father's death. The money-lenders began to harass the family. Some of them even went to a court of law. Narendra wandered far and wide looking for a job. His clothes were tattered and torn; and it was difficult even to get one meal a day. Many a day he fasted so that -his mother and his brothers and sisters might have something to eat. He would tell them that he had eaten with a friend. Sometimes he would faint with hunger and fall down in the street. But in spite of such overwhelming misfortune he never lost faith in God. Sri Ramakrishna would console him saying "You are here to serve mankind and do mother Kali's work. You should be brave."

One day he said to himself : "God gives whatever my Guru seeks. So it is best to seek my Guru's help." He went straight to his Guru and said, ''On my behalf kindly pray before the Goddess to rid me of this poverty. She will give you whatever you wish for, won't She?" The Guru said, "My child, you have no faith in Her, why then will she listen to my prayer? You approach Her yourself. Then she will fulfil your Feed." So in the dead of night Narendra stood before the idol of Goddess Kali. He lost himself in deep meditation. He begged the Goddess, "O Mother, bestow on me the spirit of renunciation. Let me see You, that is all I beg of You." When he came out, the Guru asked, "Did you submit your prayer to Her? And What did She say?" Narendra said in dismay, "O! forgot about it completely." "Then go back and ask Her, " said. the Guru. Again he forgot to speak about his poverty in his prayer to the Goddess. Again the Guru sent him. Back came Narendra and the same thing happened. The Guru's joy knew no bounds. "My child, you should not crave for only food and clothes. They are not the ultimate goals of man. Have faith in God. He will look after the welfare of your family," said the Guru.

Later Narendra took up the profession of teaching. For some time he taught in the Vidyasagar School. Now the family had at least enough food. While he worked as a teacher he continued his study of law. His Guru' health broke down. Sri Ramakrishna developed a tumour in the throat. Narendra gave up both his job and his studies and devoted all his time to nursing his Master.

Once, while Narendra was in meditation he shouted, "Where is my body?" Others had to touch his body and convince him of its existence. When Sri Ramakrishna heard this episode, he was happy that at last his desire to find a worthy disciple had been fulfilled.

The disciples nursed the Guru to the best of their ability. But the thought that the Guru would not recover from the illness agonized them. His end was drawing near. On the last day he called Narendra to his bedside and touched him. He invested Narendra with all his spiritual powers. He said, "Naren, now you are all-powerful. All these are my children. It is your. duty to take care of them." These words filled Narendra's heart with grief. He went out of the room weeping like a child.

After the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna, the young disciples went to live in a rented house in Baranagar. Although old, the house was far away from the noise and bustle of the city; and it was on the banks of the river Ganga. It was very close to the tomb of Sri Ramakrishna. So, the Mutt (monastery) was opened there. The young monks had two goals salvation and the service of fellow-men. Some young men left their homes and became monks and joined the Mutt. Narendra became a monk and headed the institution. The young sannyasis were unmindful of lack of food and clothing. But even when they fasted they did not neglect their studies and meditation. Narendra taught his brethren Sanskrit and Philosophy. To visitors he expounded the teachings of the Master. Pilgrimage

As a sannyasi, one cannot be tied to a particular place. Even the Mutt is a kind of a prison. Attachment to a particular place is also wrong. It was the great good fortune of India that Narendra took to sannyasa and became 'Vivekananda'. Bharat became his home and its inhabitants his brothers. The sacred task of wiping the tears of his unfortunate brothers was dear to his heart. He had to travel all over the country. His assets were - a saffron robe, 'Kamandalu' (an ascetic's waterpot) and 'danda' (staff). On his way he visited many holy places. He lodged at huts and choultries and slept on the bare ground. He satisfied his hunger by begging for food. He was in the company of sadhus, spending the time in religious discussions and holy rituals.

He travelled on foot or by any vehicle whose driver was hospitable. Varanasi was the first city that Vivekananda visited. During his stay there, he met many scholars and exchanged ideas with them. In philosophical disputations he triumphed over them. In Ayodhya, his imagination pulsated with the memory of Sri Rama and Seeta. In Agra the Taj filled him with wonder. On his way to Brindavan, he smoked a hukka borrowed from a passer-by who was a fisherman; he drank water in a pariah's house; begged for aims and accepted food from a cobbler. As he stepped into Brindavan (where Lord Krishna is believed to have lived) he was in ecstasy. At Alwar, some Muslims became his disciples. While Swamiji used to eat in their houses, he became acquainted with Maharaja Mangal Singh. Initially the Prince had no faith in the Swami. There was a heated debate between the two. "Swamiji, I have no faith in idol worship," said the Maharaja. The Swamiji replied, "An idol is only a symbol. It is not something to sneer at. Every devotee has his own way of realizing God. It depends on the individual's devotion." The Prince was not satisfied with Swamiji's explanation. There was a portrait of the Maharaja on the wall. The Swamiji asked the Diwan (chief minister) by his side, 'Whose picture is that?" "The Maharaja's," replied the Diwan. Vivekananda said, "Spit on it." The Diwan was taken aback. "Why are you unhappy?" asked the Swamiji. The Diwan thought this man was certainly mad. Swamiji explained: "After all, the photograph is just a shadow of your Maharaja. It is devoid of flesh and blood." "But then it reminds us of the Maharaja, does it not?" said the Diwan. Wisdom then dawned on the Maharaja. He apologised to the Swamiji. Later the Swamiji went to Mount Abu, passing through Jaipur and Ajmer. He spent some time in tapas (prayer and meditation) in a cave.

While Swamiji was travelling by train, in Rajasthan an interesting incident took place. He was resting in a second class compartment. Two Englishmen were profusely hurling abuses at him. They were under the impression that the Swami did not know English. When the train reached the station. Swamiji asked an official, in English, for a glass of water. The Englishmen were surprised; they asked Swamiji why he was silent though he could understand them. Swamiji snapped back, "This is not the first time I have met fools." The Englishmen were enraged, but Swamiji's formidable physique silenced them.

During his travel, Swamiji could travel by train only if somebody bought him his ticket. Otherwise, he had to travel on foot. He had to starve most of the time for he had no money. Once it happened that a merchant travelling with him was helping himself to varieties of eatables. Swamiji was hungry and tired. But he did not beg for food. The merchant spoke to him tauntingly and said, "You are an idler. You wear the saffron clothes only because you do not want to work. Who will ever feed you? Who cares if you die?" Just then, a sweetmeat seller offered Swamiji some eatables and said, "I saw you in my dream this morning. The Lord Sri Rama himself introduced you to me." The haughty merchant was put to shame when he saw all this.

In Mysore, Swamiji got to know Diwan Seshadri Iyre and also the Maharaja of Mysore. The Swamiji's discourse in Sanskrit at a gathering of scholars deeply impressed the Maharaja. One day he questioned the Swamiji as to his future plans. "India is the land of many religions and schools of philosophy. The Western world has progressed in science. Human welfare is possible only by a reconciliation of the two. Therefore, I want to go to America in order to propagate Vedanta," said Swamiji. The Maharaja said, "Then I shall bear all the expenses of the visit." Swamiji thanked the Maharaja for his offer and promised him that he would make use of it when he needed it, and took leave of him.

Swami ji next visited Ramanad. Bhaskara Setupati was the ruler of Ramanad at that time. He discussed with Swamiji the problems that the country was facing. The prince treated him with great respect. "You should attend the Conference of World Religions in America. I shall bear all your travel expenses," said the ruler. Assuring the prince that he would give serious thought to his suggestion, Swamiji went to Rameshwaram and from there he finally reached Kanyakumari. He swam to a rock and sat on it. Surrounded there by the sea, he reflected on the state of affairs in India. The thought of the poverty of the masses in this country made him miserable. He decided that unless casteism was rooted out, there could be no salvation for his countrymen. He concluded that his first task was to go to Western countries and expose the spiritual values of India. He would then return to awaken his own slumbering land.

It was in Madras that the little lamp that appeared in Bengal's Narendra became the blazing light of all India as Vivekananda. It was there that pressure mounted on him to go to America. The fame he won in Madras travelled to Hyderabad. Thousands gathered at the meeting addressed by him there. it was the first ever public meeting addressed by Swamiji. After he returned to Madras from Hyderabad, he started making preparations for his tour abroad. Contributions towards his travel expenses poured in from all parts of the country. But he kept with him only as much money as he needed for the journey. He returned the rest of the money to the donors. The ship set sail from the Bombay harbour on 31st May, 1893.

Swamiji reached the city of Chicago in the middle of July. On his way he touched at the ports of Colombo, Singapore, Hongkong and Tokyo. He chose a hotel for his stay. He made enquiries about the opening of the Conference of World Religions. It was still three months away. How was he to stay so long in a strange place? The money he had was fast disappearing. Meanwhile, an international fair was going on. Swamiji was wandering in the premises of the fair. Just then he spotted a Maharaja from India. He approached the Maharaja. But the Maharaja turned away with a wry face.

Since Chicago was a big city and very expensive, Swamiji moved to the nearby city of Boston. On the way he met a lady. She was from Boston. She was amazed at Swamiji's strange attire, his magnificent physique, and his bright eyes. She decided that he was no ordinary man. She begged Swamiji to be her guest. He agreed. Occasionally he addressed meetings at small clubs. The subject of his talk was Indian Culture and the Hindu Dharma. Gradually many scholars became his friends. One of them was John Henry Wright. He was professor of Greek at Harvard University. He was greatly impressed by Swamiji's scholarship. The delegates to the Conference of World Religions had to submit their letters of introduction to the organisers. But Swamiji had lost his letter of introduction. Wright himself wrote the letter of introduction, in which he called Swamiji "A scholar who surpasses all of us professors."

Swamiji went back to Chicago. When he reached the city he found that he had lost the addresses of some people. The people of the city were mostly Germans and could not understand English. As a consequence, Swamiji could not stir out. Finding no way out, Swamiji curled himself in an empty box which was lying in the railway station. The next morning he wandered about in the streets. Unable to bear his hunger, he begged for aims at some houses. He could not get anything. On the contrary he was insulted and humiliated. He was sitting on the footsteps of a playground. A lady came out of a house facing the playground and asked him, "Are you a delegate to the conference of World Religions?" The Swamiji replied, 'Yes'. The lady said, "Please come to my house. You can bathe and have food. Then I shall take you to the Conference." Her name was Mrs. George Hails.

The conference started on 11th September, 1893. Thousands of delegates belonging to different countries of the world had gathered at the conference. Vivekananda was the youngest of them all. When it was his turn to speak, his heart was pounding. His throat went dry. Besides, he did not have, like the other delegates, a prepared speech. He requested the President to let him be the last speaker, His turn did come as the last speaker, He prayed fervently to Sri Ramakrishna and Mother Sharadadevi, and stood up to speak. When he began his address in his pleasing voice with the words "Brothers and Sisters of America," there was a thunderous applause; it lasted for a full three minutes. When it subsided at last he continued his short speech. He said that people born in different religions finally reach the same God, as rivers born in different places finally reach the sea. He emphatically declared that no religion is superior and none is inferior. The delegates, every one of them, praised his speech. Newspapers carried his photographs and his speech. In later days people flocked chiefly to listen to his speech. He became the darling of the crowds. Whenever he rose to speak there was deafening applause.

Even as the conference was in session, many institutions and associations extended invitations to Swami Vivekananda. Rich people begged. Vivekananda to honour them with a visit. Within a short time he became world famous. Wherever he went, he dwelt at length on the greatness of Indian Culture. He spoke with spontaneous ease on every topic, be it History, Sociology, Philosophy or Literature. He deplored the malicious propaganda that had bee unleashed by the Christian missionaries in India.

"He speaks without a scrap of paper in his hand. We see in him some of the qualities of Jesus himself. A strange attire, a radiant personality, a rare elegance, the skill to epitomize Hinduism superbly - with these gifts he has won the hearts of our people. He is mesmeric. He is unsurpassed in conversation. His mastery of English is exceptional. A man like him appears only once in an age. We are fortunate that we can see him and hear him," - thus the newspapers went into raptures.

Till then Americans had the impression that Indians were superstitious and ignorant. Thanks to Swamiji's persistent efforts, India was elevated to an honoured position not only in America, but in the entire comity of progressive nations. Wherever Swamiji went, people flocked to listen to him and waited patiently. After the speech they would invite him to their houses and treat him as an honoured guest. They would entertain him lavishly. At such times, Swamiji was constantly and painfully reminded of the poverty and squalor of India. The opulence around him would become unbearable. He spent many a sleepless and tearful night. Meanwhile, he received pressing invitations from England. A rousing reception awaited him in London when he arrived there. The newspapers were all praise for the Hindu Yogi's oratory and outlook. Many became his disciples. Among them was Margaret Noble who later became famous as 'Sister Nivedita'. She came to India and settled here. Swami Vivekananda returned to India after his foreign tour lasting four years.

By the time he arrived in India, Swamiji's fame had spread far and wide. When he landed in Colombo on 15th January 1897, he was accorded a welcome that befitted an Emperor. When he reached Madras there was an unprecedented crowd at the railway station. He was carried in procession in a coach drawn by an admiring crowd. Innumerable addresses and garlands were presented to him.

Thereafter, wherever Swamiji went, he disseminated the message of his master. To those who came to him for guidance he taught the importance of spiritual development. To his fellow monks he explained the importance of dedicated service. He repeatedly told them that it was mere selfishness to look for personal salvation. He used to say, "I do not want salvation, as long as there is a single sorrow-stricken man in India." He had realised that social set-vice was possible only through the concerted efforts on an organized mission. That is why he started Sri Ramakrishna Mission in 1897 and formulated its ideology and goal. During the next two years he bought a site at Belur on the banks of the Ganga, constructed the buildings and established the Ramakrishna Mutt.

The body is no more, but the voice is deathless. Swamiji's health was constantly eroded owing to tireless work. He visited many hill resorts in the Himalayas. But even there his missionary work continued. He visited many cities in North India in response to public demand. He visited America again at the invitation of his American disciples. He participated in the Conference of Religions in Paris and returned home.

In spite of the entreaties of his disciples he would not rest. He became more inward-looking. The body grew weak, but the mind and the soul remained alert and active. On 4th July 1902 he performed his daily routine. He taught his disciples as usual. He rested for a while after food; after some time he had a shock. He spent a pleasant time talking to his followers and even cracking jokes. That night at nine o' clock he looked tired and his hands were trembling. He cried and sat up. He breathed a deep sigh and went to sleep. Within a short while he attained eternal bliss. His disciples and fellow-teachers felt orphaned and cried like children.

Although Swamiji is no longer with us, his words live. His message has continued to inspire millions of his countrymen. His voice can comfort the suffering and sanctify their lives.

Listen again: 'You rejoice that you belong to the race of the great sages. But until those who belong to the upper classes help to uplift the downtrodden, and until exploitation ends, India will only be a grave. May Mother India step forth anew from the humble dwelling of the peasant!

"May she appear in the hut of the fisherman! May she step forth from the cottages of the cobbler and the sweeper! May she become manifest in godowns and factories! May the song of New India echo and reverberate amidst mountains and in forests and valleys!"


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