Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a student convention on Monday to mark the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s speech in Chicago and the centenary celebrations of Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya.
Commemorating Vivekananda’s speech in 1893, Modi said in his speech, “With just a few words, an Indian boy conquered the world and showed the world the power of unity. September 11, 1893 was about love, harmony and brotherhood.
Here is an introduction to the Hindu monk who propelled Hinduism onto the world stage in the late 19th century
Who was Vivekananda?
Swami Vivekananda was the chief disciple of the 19th century mystic and yogi Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Math, a monastic order based on the teachings of his guru in Kolkata and a worldwide spiritual movement known as Ramakrishna Mission based on the ancient Hindu philosophy of Vedanta.
Vivekananda is credited with contributing to a revival of modern Hinduism and inspiring nationalist consciousness during colonial rule. But he is best known for his famous 1893 speech where he introduced Hinduism to the Western world in Chicago.
The beginnings of Vivekananda
Vivekananda, born Narendranath Datta, belonged to an influential family in North Kolkata. He was born on January 12, 1863.
Her father, Viswanath Dutta, was a well-known lawyer and her mother, Bhuvaneswari Devi, a very religious woman, was a housewife. Vivekananda studied at the Metropolitan School in Kolkata and later at the General Assembly Institution, where he studied Western logic, Western philosophy and European history. It was there that he was first introduced to the work of Ramakrishna at a lecture by Professor William Hastie.
Meeting with Ramakrishna
Vivekananda met Ramakrishna in late 1881 or early 1882. He initially did not accept Ramakrishna’s ideas or philosophy, but began to visit the monk frequently and converse with him.
In 1884, Vivekananda’s family suffered a sudden reversal of fortune upon the death of his father. It was then that Vivekananda found solace in Ramakrishna’s teachings and finally accepted him as her guru. Vivekananda received saffron robes from Ramakrishna in 1885, before the guru died of throat cancer.
In 1888, Vivekananda began touring India as a “wandering monk”, living on bhiksha or donations and trying to discover the country by talking to ordinary people.
The Chicago Speech
Vivekananda delivered his now famous Chicago Address to the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in 1893 from September 11-27 at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Her speech, which began with “Sisters and Brothers of America,” earned her a standing ovation at the top. In his speech, Vivekananda referred to the fact that although people may follow different religions, all paths ultimately lead to God.
He had also warned of the dangers of bigotry and bigotry:
Bigotry, bigotry and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful land. They filled the earth with violence, flooded it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent entire nations to despair. Without these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.
He also presented a paper on Hinduism at the conference and spoke at length on religious unity. Swami Vivekananda’s teachings and oratorical style sparked the interest of America and the monk was invited to lecture at various reputed venues during his tour of the country.
Foundation of Ramakrishna Math
In 1897 Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Ashram. In 1899 he founded the Belur Math/monastery on the west bank of the Ganges, which became an important center for the teaching of philosophy and principles associated with Vedanta.
Swami Vivekananda died on July 4, 1902. He was meditating at Belur math when a ruptured blood vessel in his brain resulted in his death. His followers believe the break was due to the fact that the brahmarandhra (an opening in the crown of his head) was pierced when he attained mahasamādhi.
The writings and speeches of Vivekananda
He wrote four classics, Jnana-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Karma-Yoga and Raja-Yoga, which are his treatises on Hindu philosophy and Vedanta teachings. Moreover, his ideas and his philosophy shine through in the many lectures he gave, the letters he wrote to friends and disciples, and the poems and songs he composed.
Vivekananda’s writings and teachings impacted many Indian nationalist leaders, who struggled against colonial rule. Subhas Chandra Bose called Vivekananda “the creator of modern India” and Mahatma Gandhi credited Vivekananda with increasing his “love for his country” a thousandfold.
On January 12, Vivekananda’s birthday is celebrated as National Youth Day in India to mark the monk’s ideas on how young people should participate in the modern world while respecting their values.