All about Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk. He was a key figure in the
introduction of Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the western
world and was credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing
Hinduism to the status of a major world religion in the late 19th
century. He was a major force in the revival of Hinduism in India and
contributed to the notion of nationalism in colonial India. He was the
chief disciple of the 19th century saint Ramakrishna and the founder
of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He is perhaps
best known for his inspiring speech beginning with "Sisters and
Brothers of America,"through which he introduced Hinduism at the
Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago in 1893.

Born into an aristocratic Bengali family of Calcutta, Vivekananda
showed an inclination towards spirituality. He was influenced by his
guru Ramakrishna from whom he learnt that all living beings were an
embodiment of the divine self and hence, service to God could be
rendered by service to mankind.After the death of his guru,
Vivekananda toured the Indian subcontinent extensively and acquired a
first-hand knowledge of the conditions that prevailed in British
India. He later travelled to the United States to represent India as a
delegate in the 1893 Parliament of World Religions. He conducted
hundreds of public and private lectures and classes, disseminating
tenets of Hindu philosophy in the United States, England and Europe.
In India, Vivekananda is regarded as a patriotic saint and his
birthday is celebrated as the National Youth Day.


"I am indebted to my mother for the efflorescence of my knowledge." –
Swami Vivekananda

Vivekananda was born as Narendranath in Calcutta, the capital of
British India, on 12 January 1863 during the Makar Sankranti festival.
He belonged to a traditional Bengali Kayastha (a caste of Hindus)
family and was one of the nine siblings. Narendra's father Vishwanath
Datta was an attorney of Calcutta High Court. Narendra's mother was a
pious woman and a housewife. The progressive rational approach of his
father and the religious temperament of his mother helped shape his
thinking and personality. Young Narendranath was fascinated by the
wandering ascetics and monks.

Narendra was an average student, but a voracious reader. He was
interested in a wide range of subjects such as philosophy, religion,
history, the social sciences, arts, and literature. He evinced
interest in the Hindu scriptures such as the Vedas, the Upanishads,
the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. He
trained in Indian classical music, and participated in physical
exercise, sports, and organisational activities. Narendra joined the
Metropolitan Institution of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in 1871 and
studied there until 1877 when his family moved to Raipur. The family
returned to Calcutta two years later.

College and Brahmo Samaj

In 1879 after his family moved back to Calcutta, Narendra passed the
entrance examination from the Presidency College. He subsequently
studied western logic, western philosophy and history of European
nations in the General Assembly's Institution (now known as the
Scottish Church College). In 1881 he passed the Fine Arts examination
and in 1884 he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Narendra studied the works of David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Johann
Gottlieb Fichte, Baruch Spinoza, Georg W. F. Hegel, Arthur
Schopenhauer, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, and
Charles Darwin. Narendra became fascinated with the evolutionism of
Herbert Spencer and had correspondence with him; he translated
Spencer's book Education (1861) into Bengali. Alongside his study of
Western philosophers, he was thoroughly acquainted with Indian
Sanskrit scriptures and many Bengali works. Dr. William Hastie,
principal of General Assembly's Institution, wrote, "Narendra is
really a genius. I have travelled far and wide but I have never come
across a lad of his talents and possibilities, even in German
universities, among philosophical students." Some accounts regard
Narendra as a srutidhara—a man with prodigious memory.

Narendra became the member of a Freemason's lodge and of a breakaway
faction of the Brahmo Samaj led by Keshub Chandra Sen. His initial
beliefs were shaped by Brahmo concepts, which included belief in a
formless God and deprecation of the worship of idols. Not satisfied
with his knowledge of philosophy, he wondered if God and religion
could be made a part of one's growing experiences and deeply
internalised. Narendra went about asking prominent residents of
contemporary Calcutta whether they had come "face to face with God"
but could not get answers which satisfied him. His first introduction
to the saint Ramakrishna occurred in a literature class in General
Assembly's Institution, when he heard Hastie lecturing on William
Wordsworth's poem The Excursion. While explaining the word "trance" in
the poem, Hastie suggested his students to visit Ramakrishna of
Dakshineswar to know the real meaning of trance. This prompted some of
his students, including Narendra, to visit Ramakrishna.

Narendra's meeting with Ramakrishna in November 1881 proved to be a
turning point in Narendra's life. Narendra said about this first
meeting that

"Ramakrishna looked just like an ordinary man, with nothing
remarkable about him. He used the most simple language and I thought
'Can this man be a great teacher?'. I crept near to him and asked him
the question which I had been asking others all my life: 'Do you
believe in God, Sir?' 'Yes', he replied. 'Can you prove it, Sir?'
'Yes'. 'How?' 'Because I see Him just as I see you here, only in a
much intenser sense.' That impressed me at once. [...] I began to go
to that man, day after day, and I actually saw that religion could be
given. One touch, one glance, can change a whole life."

Though Narendra did not accept Ramakrishna as his teacher initially
and revolted against his ideas, he was attracted by his personality
and started visiting him at Dakshineswar frequently. He initially
looked upon Ramakrishna's ecstasies and visions as "mere figments of
imagination", and "hallucinations". As a member of Brahmo Samaj, he
was against idol worship and polytheism, and Ramakrishna's worship of
Kali. He even rejected the Advaitist Vedantism of "identity with
absolute" as blasphemy and madness, and often made fun of the
concept.Though at first Narendra could not accept Ramakrishna and his
visions, he did not neglect him. Instead, he tested Ramakrishna, who
faced all of his arguments and examinations with patience—"Try to see
the truth from all angles" was his reply. His father's untimely death
in 1884 left Narendra's family bankrupt. Unable to find employment and
facing poverty, Narendra questioned God's existence. During this time,
Narendra found solace in Ramakrishna, and his visits to Dakshineswar
increased.Narendra gradually became ready to renounce everything for
the sake of realising God. In time, Narendra accepted Ramakrishna as
his guru.

In 1885, Ramakrishna developed throat cancer and he was transferred to
Calcutta and later to Cossipore. Narendra and Ramakrishna's other
disciples took care of him during his final days. Narendra's spiritual
education under Ramakrishna continued. At Cossipore, Narendra
reportedly experienced Nirvikalpa Samadhi.[46] During Ramakrishna's
last days, Narendra and some of the other disciples received the ochre
monastic robes from Ramakrishna, forming the first monastic order of
Ramakrishna. Narendra was taught that service to men was the most
effective worship of God. During his final days, Ramakrishna asked
Narendra Nath to take care of other monastic disciples and in turn
asked them to look upon Vivekananda as their leader.Ramakrishna died
in the early morning hours of 16 August 1886 at his garden house in

After the death of Ramakrishna, his devotees and admirers stopped
funding the Cossipore math. The unpaid rents soon piled up and
Narendra and other disciples of Ramakrishna had to find a new place to
live. Many of his disciples returned home and became inclined towards
a Grihastha (family-oriented) life. Narendra decided to make a
dilapidated house at Baranagar the new math (monastery) for remaining
disciples. The rent of the Baranagar Math was cheap and it was funded
by "holy begging" (mādhukarī). In his book Swami Vivekananda: A
Reassessment, Narasingha Prosad Sil writes, "the Math was an adult
male haven, a counter–culture community of freedom–seeking youths on
the fringe of society and the city". The math became the first
building of the Ramakrishna Math—the monastery of the first monastic
order of Ramakrishna.Narendra later reminisced about the early days in
the monastery:

" We underwent a lot of religious practice at the Baranagar Math. We
used to get up at 3:00 am and become absorbed in japa and meditation.
What a strong spirit of detachment we had in those days! We had no
thought even as to whether the world existed or not. "

In January 1887, Narendra and eight other disciples took formal
monastic vows. Narendra took the name of Swami Bibidishananda. Later
he was given the name Vivekananda by Ajit Singh, the Maharaja of
Khetri.In January 1899 the Baranagar Math was transferred to Belur in
the Howrah district, now known as the Belur Math.

As a monk wandering in India (1888–1893)

Swami Vivekananda sitting, black and white image

Swami Vivekananda at Jaipur, ca.1885–1893.

Swami Vivekananda as a wandering monk

Swami Vivekananda location unknown, ca.1888–1893

In 1888, Vivekananda left the monastery as a Parivrâjaka— the Hindu
religious life of a wandering monk, "without fixed abode, without
ties, independent and strangers wherever they go."His sole possessions
were a kamandalu (water pot), staff, and his two favourite
books—Bhagavad Gita and The Imitation of Christ.Vivekananda travelled
extensively in India for five years, visiting centres of learning,
acquainting himself with the diverse religious traditions and
different patterns of social life. He developed a sympathy for the
suffering and poverty of the masses and resolved to uplift the nation.
Living mainly on bhiksha (alms), Vivekananda travelled on foot and
railway tickets bought by his admirers whom he met during the travels.
During these travels he made acquaintance and stayed with Indians from
all walks of life and religions—scholars, dewans, rajas, Hindus,
Muslims, Christians, pariahs (low caste workers) and government

Northern India (1888–1890)

In 1888, Vivekananda's first destination was Varanasi,where he met the
Bengali writer, Bhudev Mukhopadhyay and the saint Trailanga Swami. He
also met Babu Pramadadas Mitra, the noted Sanskrit scholar, with whom
he corresponded on the interpretation of the Hindu scriptures. After
Varanasi he visited Ayodhya, Lucknow, Agra, Vrindavan, Hathras and
Rishikesh. At Hathras, he met Sharat Chandra Gupta, a railway station
master who later became one of his earliest disciples as Sadananda.
Between 1888 and 1890, he visited Vaidyanath and Allahabad. From
Allahabad, he went on to Ghazipur, where he met Pavhari Baba, an
Advaita Vedanta ascetic who used to spend most of his time in
meditation.During this period, Vivekananda returned to Baranagar math
a few times, because of ill health and to arrange for monetary funds
for the math.

The Himalayas (1890–1891)

In July 1890, accompanied by the fellow monk Swami Akhandananda (also
a disciple of Ramakrishna), Vivekananda visited the Himalayas. This
constituted the first phase of his journey that would encompass the
West. He visited Nainital, Almora, Srinagar, Dehradun, Rishikesh and
Haridwar. During these travels, he met Swami Brahmananda, Saradananda,
Turiyananda and Advaitananda. They stayed at Meerut for some days
engaged in meditation, prayer and study of scriptures. At the end of
January 1891, Vivekananda left his fellows and journeyed to Delhi.

Rajputana (1891)

After visiting historical sites at Delhi, Vivekananda journeyed
towards Alwar in Rajputana. Later Vivekananda journeyed to Jaipur,
where he studied Panini's Ashtadhyayi with a Sanskrit scholar. He next
travelled to Ajmer, where he visited the palace of Akbar and the
Dargah Sharif. At Mount Abu, he met Raja Ajit Singh of Khetri, who
became his ardent devotee and supporter. Swami Tathagatananda, a
senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order wrote of the relationship:

Swami Vivekananda's friendship with Maharaja Ajit Singh of Khetri was
enacted against the backdrop of Khetri, a sanctified town in Northern
Rajasthan, characterized by its long heroic history and independent
spirit. Destiny brought Swamiji and Ajit Singh together on 4 June 1891
at Mount Abu, where their friendship gradually developed through their
mutual interest in significant spiritual and secular topics. The
friendship intensified when they travelled to Khetri and it became
clear that theirs was the most sacred friendship, that of a Guru and
his disciple.

At Khetri, he delivered discourses to the Raja, became acquainted with
the pandit Ajjada Adibhatla Narayana Dasu, and studied Mahābhāṣya on
sutras of Panini. After two and a half months there, in October 1891,
he proceeded towards Maharastra.

Western India (1891–1892)

Vivekananda visited Ahmedabad, Wadhwan and Limbdi. At Ahmedabad, he
completed his studies of Islamic and Jain culture.[62] At Limbdi, he
met Thakur Saheb Jaswant Singh, who had himself been to England and
America. From Thakur Saheb, he first got the idea of going to the West
to preach Vedanta. He later visited Junagadh, where he was the guest
of Haridas Viharidas Desai, the Dewan of the State. The Diwan was so
charmed with his company that every evening he, with all the State
officials, used to meet Vivekananda and converse with him until late
at night. Vivekananda also visited Girnar, Kutch, Porbander, Dwaraka,
Palitana, Nadiad, Nadiad ni haveli and Baroda. At Porbander, he stayed
three quarters of a year, furthering his philosophical and Sanskrit
studies with learned pandits.

Vivekananda's next destinations included Mahabaleshwar, Pune, Khandwa
and Indore. At Kathiawar, he heard of the Parliament of the World's
Religions and was urged by his followers there to attend it. After a
brief stay in Bombay in July 1892, he met Bal Gangadhar Tilak during a
train journey. After staying with Tilak for a few days in
Pune,Vivekananda travelled to Belgaum in October 1892 and to Panaji
and Margao in Goa. He spent three days in the Rachol Seminary, the
oldest convent of Goa, where rare religious manuscripts and printed
works in Latin were preserved. There, he studied Christian theological

Southern India (1892–1893)

Later Vivekananda travelled to Bangalore, where he became acquainted
with K. Seshadri Iyer, the Dewan of the Mysore state, and stayed at
the palace as a guest of the Maharaja of Mysore, Chamaraja Wodeyar.
Iyer described Vivekananda as "a magnetic personality and a divine
force which were destined to leave their mark on the history of his
country." The Maharaja provided the Swami a letter of introduction to
the Dewan of Cochin and got him a railway ticket.

From Bangalore, he visited Trichur, Kodungalloor, and Ernakulam. At
Ernakulam, he met Chattampi Swamikal, contemporary of Narayana Guru,
in early December 1892. From Ernakulam, he travelled to Trivandrum,
Nagercoil and reached Kanyakumari on foot during the Christmas Eve of
1892. At Kanyakumari, Vivekananda meditated on the "last bit of Indian
rock", known later as the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. At Kanyakumari,
Vivekananda had the "Vision of one India", also commonly called "The
Kanyakumari resolve of 1892″.He wrote,

" "At Cape Camorin sitting in Mother Kumari's temple,
sitting on the last bit of Indian rock—I hit upon a plan: We are so
many sanyasis wandering about, and teaching the people metaphysics—it
is all madness. Did not our Gurudeva use to say, 'An empty stomach is
no good for religion?' We as a nation have lost our individuality and
that is the cause of all mischief in India. We have to raise the

From Kanyakumari he visited Madurai, where he met the Raja of Ramnad,
Bhaskara Sethupathi, to whom he had a letter of introduction. The Raja
became his disciple and urged him to go to the Parliament of Religions
at Chicago. From Madurai, he visited Rameswaram, Pondicherry and
Madras and there he met some of his most devoted disciples, who played
important roles in collecting funds for his voyage to America and
later in establishing the Ramakrishna Mission in Madras. With the aid
of funds collected by his Madras disciples and Rajas of Mysore,
Ramnad, Khetri, Dewans and other followers, Vivekananda left for
Chicago on 31 May 1893 from Bombay assuming the name Vivekananda—the
name suggested by the Maharaja of Khetri, Ajit Singh.

First visit to the West (1893–1897)

Vivekananda visited several cities in Japan such as Nagasaki, Kobe,
Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, and some places in China and Canada
en route the United States. He arrived at Chicago in July
1893.However, to his disappointment he learnt that no one without
credentials from a bona fide organisation would be accepted as a
delegate. He came in contact with Professor John Henry Wright of
Harvard University who invited him to speak at the university. On
learning that Vivekananda lacked credential to speak at the Chicago
Parliament, Wright is quoted as having said, "To ask for your
credentials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine in the
heavens." On the Professor, Vivekananda himself writes "He urged upon
me the necessity of going to the Parliament of Religions, which he
thought would give an introduction to the nation."

Parliament of the World's Religions opened on 11 September 1893 at the
Art Institute of Chicago as part of the World's Columbian Exposition.
On this day Vivekananda gave his first brief speech. He represented
India and Hinduism. He was initially nervous, bowed to Saraswati, the
Hindu goddess of learning and began his speech with, "Sisters and
brothers of America!". To these words he got a standing ovation from a
crowd of seven thousand, which lasted for two minutes. When silence
was restored he began his address. He greeted the youngest of the
nations on behalf of "the most ancient order of monks in the world,
the Vedic order of sannyasins, a religion which has taught the world
both tolerance and universal acceptance." He quoted two illustrative
passages from the Shiva mahimna stotram—"As the different streams
having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the
sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take, through different
tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead
to Thee!" and "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach
him; all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to
Me."Despite being a short speech, it voiced the spirit of the
Parliament and its sense of universality.

Dr. Barrows, the president of the Parliament said, "India, the Mother
of religions was represented by Swami Vivekananda, the Orange-monk who
exercised the most wonderful influence over his auditors."[88] He
attracted widespread attention in the press, which dubbed him as the
"Cyclonic monk from India". The New York Critique wrote, "He is an
orator by divine right, and his strong, intelligent face in its
picturesque setting of yellow and orange was hardly less interesting
than those earnest words, and the rich, rhythmical utterance he gave
them." The New York Herald wrote, "Vivekananda is undoubtedly the
greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we
feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation."
The American newspapers reported Vivekananda as "the greatest figure
in the parliament of religions" and "the most popular and influential
man in the parliament". The Boston Evening Transcript reported that
Vivekananda was "a great favourite at the parliament…if he merely
crosses the platform, he is applauded".He spoke several more times at
the Parliament on topics related to Hinduism, Buddhism and harmony of
religions. The parliament ended on 27 September 1893. All his speeches
at the Parliament had the common theme of universality, and emphasised
religious tolerance.

Lecturing tours in America and England

"I do not come", said Swamiji on one occasion in America, "to convert
you to a new belief. I want you to keep your own belief; I want to
make the Methodist a better Methodist; the Presbyterian a better
Presbyterian; the Unitarian a better Unitarian. I want to teach you to
live the truth, to reveal the light within your own soul."

Following the Parliament of Religions, Vivekananda spent nearly two
years lecturing in various parts of eastern and central United States,
mostly in Chicago, Detroit, Boston, and New York. He founded the
"Vedanta Society of New York" in 1894. By the spring of 1895, his busy
and tiring schedule led to poor health. He stopped lecturing tours,
and started giving free and private classes on Vedanta and Yoga.
Starting in June 1895, he conducted private lectures to a dozen of his
disciples at the Thousand Island Park in New York for two months.

During his first visit to the West, he travelled to England twice—in
1895 and 1896. His lectures were successful there.There in November
1895, he met Margaret Elizabeth Noble, an Irish lady, who would later
become Sister Nivedita. During his second visit to England in May
1896, Vivekananda met Max Müller, a noted Indologist from Oxford
University who wrote Ramakrishna's first biography in the West. From
England, he also visited other European countries. In Germany he met
Paul Deussen, another Indologist. Vivekananda was offered academic
positions in two American universities—one for the chair of Eastern
Philosophy at Harvard University and another similar position at
Columbia University—which he declined since such duties would conflict
with his commitment as a monk.

Vivekananda attracted several followers and admirers in the US and
Europe, such as Josephine MacLeod, William James, Josiah Royce, Robert
G. Ingersoll, Nikola Tesla, Lord Kelvin, Harriet Monroe, Ella Wheeler
Wilcox, Sarah Bernhardt, Emma Calvé, and Professor Hermann Ludwig
Ferdinand von Helmholtz. He initiated several followers into his
mission; Marie Louise, a French woman, became Swami Abhayananda, and
Mr. Leon Landsberg, became Swami Kripananda.

From West, Vivekananda also set his work back in India in motion. He
was in regular correspondence with his followers and brother
monks,offering advice and monetary funds. His letters in this period
reflect motives of his campaign for social service, and often
contained strong words.[104] He wrote to Swami Akhandananda, "Go from
door to door amongst the poor and lower classes of the town of Khetri
and teach them religion. Also, let them have oral lessons on geography
and such other subjects. No good will come of sitting idle and having
princely dishes, and saying "Ramakrishna, O Lord!"—unless you can do
some good to the poor." Eventually in 1895, money sent by Vivekananda
was used to start the periodical Brahmavadin, for the purpose of
teaching the Vedanta. Later, Vivekananda's translation of first six
chapters of The Imitation of Christ was published in Brahmavadin
(1889). Vivekananda left for India on 16 December 1896 from England
with his disciples, Captain and Mrs. Sevier, and J.J. Goodwin. On the
way they visited France and Italy, and set sail for India from the
Port of Naples on 30 December 1896. He was later followed to India by
Sister Nivedita. Nivedita devoted the rest of her life to the
education of Indian women and the cause of India's independence.

Back in India (1897–1899)

A group photo of Swami Vivekananda and his disciples.

Vivekananda at Chennai 1897

Colombo to Almora

The ship from Europe arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 15 January 1897.
Vivekananda received an ecstatic welcome. In Colombo, he gave what
constitutes his first public speech in the East, India, the Holy Land.
From there on, his journey to Calcutta was a triumphal progress. He
travelled from Colombo to Pamban, Rameshwaram, Ramnad, Madurai,
Kumbakonam and Madras delivering lectures. People and Rajas gave him
enthusiastic reception. During his train journeys, people often
squatted on the rails to enforce stopping of the train to hear
him.From Madras, he continued his journey to Calcutta and then to
Almora. While in the West he talked of India's great spiritual
heritage; on return to India he repeatedly addressed social
issues—uplift of the population, getting rid of the caste system,
promotion of science, industrialisation of the country, addressing the
widespread poverty, and the end of the colonial rule. These lectures,
published as Lectures from Colombo to Almora, show his nationalistic
fervour and spiritual ideology.His speeches had influence on the
contemporaneous and subsequent Indian leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi,
Bipin Chandra Pal, Balgangadhar Tilak and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

Founding of the Ramakrishna Mission

On 1 May 1897 at Calcutta, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna
Mission—the organ for social service. The ideals of the Ramakrishna
Mission are based on Karma Yoga. Its governing body consists of the
trustees of the Ramakrishna Math—the organ to carry out religious
works.Both Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission have their
headquarters at Belur Math.He founded two other monasteries—one at
Mayavati on the Himalayas, near Almora, called the Advaita Ashrama and
another at Madras. Two journals were started, Prabuddha Bharata in
English and Udbhodan in Bengali.The same year, the famine relief work
was started by Swami Akhandananda at Murshidabad district.

Vivekananda had earlier inspired Jamsetji Tata to set up a research
and educational institution when they had travelled together from
Yokohama to Chicago on Vivekananda's first visit to the West in 1893.
Now Tata requested him to head the Research Institute of Science that
Tata had established; he declined the offer citing conflict with his
"spiritual interests".Vivekananda visited Punjab where he tried to
mediate ideological conflict between Arya Samaj (a reformist movement
of Hinduism) and Sanatans (orthodox Hindus).After brief visits to
Lahore, Delhi and Khetri, he returned to Calcutta in January 1896. He
consolidated the works of math and trained disciples over the next
several months. He composed Khandana Bhava Bandhana, a prayer song
dedicated to Ramakrishna in 1898.

Swami Vivekananda– the photo was taken in Bushnell Studio in San
Francisco, 1900. Black and white image of Belur Math

The Swami Vivekananda temple at Belur Math, on the place where he was cremated.

Vivekananda left for the West for the second time in June 1899 despite
his declining health. He was accompanied by Sister Nivedita and Swami
Turiyananda. He spent a short time in England, and went on to the
United States. During this visit, he established the Vedanta societies
at San Francisco and New York. He also founded "Shanti Ashrama" (peace
retreat) at California.He attended the Congress of Religions in Paris
in 1900. From the US, he went to Paris. His lectures in Paris dwelt on
worship of Linga and authenticity of the Gita.From Paris he visited
Brittany, Vienna, Istanbul, Athens and Egypt. The French philosopher
Jules Bois was his host for most of this period. He returned to
Calcutta on 9 December 1900.

Following a brief visit to Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, he settled at
Belur Math from where he continued to coordinate the works of
Ramakrishna Mission and Math, and also the works in England and
America. Many visitors came to him in these days, including royalties
and politicians. He was unable to join the Congress of Religions in
1901 in Japan due to deteriorating health. He, however, went for
pilgrimages to Bodhgaya and Varanasi.[129] Declining health and
ailments such as asthma, diabetes and chronic insomnia restricted his


On 4 July 1902, the day of his death, Vivekananda woke up very early
in the morning, went to chapel and meditated for three hours. He
taught Shukla-Yajur-Veda, Sanskrit grammar, and yoga philosophy to
pupils in the morning at Belur Math. He discussed with colleagues a
plan to start a Vedic college in the Ramakrishna Math, and carried out
usual conversation. At seven p.m. he went into his room and asked not
to be disturbed.Vivekananda died at ten minutes past nine p.m. while
he was meditating. According to his disciples, Vivekananda attained
Mahasamadhi. Rupture of blood vessels in the brain was reported as a
possible cause of the death. His disciples believed that rupture was
on account of Brahmarandhra —the aperture in the crown of the head
—being pierced when he attained Mahasamadhi. Vivekananda had fulfilled
his own prophecy of not living to be forty years old.He was cremated
on sandalwood funeral pyre on the bank of Ganga in Belur. On the other
bank of the river, Ramakrishna had been cremated sixteen years before.

Vivekananda believed a country's future depends on its people; his
teachings focused on the development of the mass.He wanted "to set in
motion a machinery which will bring noblest ideas to the doorstep of
even the poorest and the meanest." Vivekananda believed that the
essence of Hinduism was best expressed in the Vedanta philosophy,
based on the interpretation of Adi Shankara. He summarised the
Vedanta's teachings as follows:

"Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this
Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal.

Vivekananda linked morality with the control of mind. He saw truth,
purity and unselfishness as traits which strengthened the mind.He
advised his followers to be holy, unselfish and have Shraddha (faith).
He supported practice of Brahmacharya (celibacy), and believed that
such practice was the source of his physical and mental stamina, as
well as eloquence. Vivekananda emphasized that success was an outcome
of focused thought and action. In his lectures on Raja Yoga, he said,
"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."

Vivekananda revitalised Hinduism within and outside India. He was the
principal reason behind the enthusiastic reception of yoga,
transcendental meditation and other forms of Indian spiritual
self-improvement in the West. Professor Agehananda Bharati explained
that, "…modern Hindus derive their knowledge of Hinduism from
Vivekananda, directly or indirectly."Vivekananda espoused the idea
that all sects within Hinduism and, indeed, all religions, are
different paths to the same goal. This view, however, has been
criticised for oversimplification of Hinduism.

In the background of germinating nationalism in the British-ruled
India, Vivekananda crystallised the nationalistic ideal. In the words
of the social reformer Charles Freer Andrews, "The Swami's intrepid
patriotism gave a new colour to the national movement throughout
India. More than any other single individual of that period
Vivekananda had made his contribution to the new awakening of
India."Vivekananda drew the attention towards the prevalence of
poverty in the country, and maintained that addressing such poverty
was prerequisite for the national awakening.His nationalistic thoughts
influenced scores of Indian thinkers and leaders. Sri Aurobindo
regarded Vivekananda as the one who awakened India spiritually. Gandhi
counted him among the few Hindu reformers "who have maintained this
Hindu religion in a state of splendor by cutting down the dead wood of

The first governor general of independent India, Chakravarti
Rajagopalachari, said "Vivekananda saved Hinduism, saved India."
According to Subhas Chandra Bose, a major proponent of armed struggle
for Indian independence, Vivekananda was "the maker of modern India";
for Mahatma Gandhi, Vivekananda's influence increased his "love for
his country a thousandfold." Vivekananda influenced India's
independence movement;his writings inspired a whole generation of
freedom fighters such as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Aurobindo Ghose,
Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bagha Jatin. Many years after Vivekananda's
death, Rabindranath Tagore told French Nobel Laureate Romain Rolland,
"If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is
positive and nothing negative." Rolland himself wrote that "His words
are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms
like the march of Händel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of
his, scattered as they are through the pages of books, at thirty
years' distance, without receiving a thrill through my body like an
electric shock. And what shocks, what transports, must have been
produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero!"

Jamsetji Tata was influenced by Vivekananda to establish the Indian
Institute of Science—one of India's best known research universities.
Abroad, Vivekananda had interactions with Max Müller. Scientist Nikola
Tesla was one of those influenced by the Vedic philosophy teachings of
Vivekananda. On 11 November 1995, a section of Michigan Avenue, a
major thoroughfare in downtown Chicago, was renamed "Swami Vivekananda
Way". National Youth Day in India is observed on his birthday, 12
January. He is projected as a role model for youth by the Indian
government as well as non-government organisations and personalities.
In September 2010, India's Finance Ministry highlighted the relevance
of teachings and values of Vivekananda in the modern competitive
environment. The Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, approved in
principle the "Swami Vivekananda Values Education Project" at the cost
of INR100 crore (US$18.2 million) with the objectives such as
involving the youth through competitions, essays, discussions and
study circles and publishing Vivekananda's complete work in different
languages. In 2011, West Bengal Police Training College was renamed as
"Swami Vivekananda State Police Academy, West Bengal".


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