Swami Vivekananda, known in his pre-monastic life as Narendra Nath Datta, was born in an
affluent family in Kolkata on 12 January 1863. In his youth, Narendra had to pass through a
period of spiritual crisis when doubts about the existence of God assailed him. At that time he
first heard about Sri Ramakrishna from one of his English professors at college. One day in
November 1881, Narendra met Sri Ramakrishna who was staying at the Kali Temple in
Dakshineshwar. He straightaway asked the Master a question that he had put to several others
but had received no satisfactory answer: “Sir, have you seen God?” Without a moment’s
hesitation, Sri Ramakrishna replied: “Yes, I have. I see him as clearly as I see you, only in a
much more intense sense.” Apart from removing doubts from the mind of Narendra, Sri
Ramakrishna won him over through his pure, unselfish love.
Sri Ramakrishna transformed his favorite disciple Narendranath into Swami Vivekananda for
the same purpose. The difference is that in the latter instance, the transformation was gradual
and it continued even after the Master left the mortal world.
His speeches at the World’s Parliament of Religions held in September 1893 made him
famous as an ‘orator by divine right’ and as a ‘Messenger of Indian wisdom to the Western
world’. After the Parliament, Swamiji spent nearly three and a half years spreading Vedanta
as lived and taught by Sri Ramakrishna, mostly in the eastern parts of the USA and also in
London. He returned to India in January 1897. In response to the enthusiastic welcome that
he received everywhere, he delivered a series of lectures in different parts of India, which
created a great stir all over the country. Through these inspiring and profoundly significant
lectures Swamiji attempted to rouse the religious consciousness of the people and create in
them pride in their cultural heritage; to bring about the unification of Hinduism by pointing
out the common bases of its sects. He founded 1 May 1897 a unique type of organization
known as Ramakrishna Mission, in which monks and lay people would jointly undertake
propagation of Practical Vedanta, and various forms of social services, such as running
hospitals, schools, colleges, hostels, rural development centers, etc, and conducting massive
relief and rehabilitation work for victims of earthquakes, cyclones, and other calamities, in
different parts of India and other countries.
When one starts reading more and more about Swamiji, his words will change one’s life
forever. He will quit all his bad habits and will start practicing meditation to transform
himself into a good person academically as well. Every child must be taught the discipline
Swamiji has left for us. He should be considered the master of every youth.