Swami Vivekananda

  • He was a disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa. He was a true luminary, credited with enlightening the western world about Hinduism.
  • In 1886, he formally accepted monastic vows.
  • He founded the Ramakrishna Mission in May 1897.
  • He established a new monastic order in Baranagar in Kolkata and went to explore India.
  • He established Belur Math (1899) in West Bengal to promote his ideas and philosophy.
  • He pushed for national integration in colonial India, and his famous speech remains the one that he gave in Chicago in 1893. His writings and speeches did a lot to spread Hindu philosophy in the West especially Advaita Vedanta and Yoga philosophies.
  • During his travels, he was deeply moved by the appalling poverty and backwardness of the masses. He was the first religious leader who highlighted that the real cause of India’s downfall was the neglect of the masses and highlighted the immediate need to provide food and other necessities. He emphasised improved methods of agriculture, village industries etc.
  • According to him, the crux of the problem of poverty in India was because of centuries of oppression, downtrodden masses had lost faith in their capacity to improve their lot. Therefore, it was necessary to infuse faith in their capacities.
  • Vivekanand believed that the principle of Atman i.e., the doctrine of the potential divinity of the soul, taught in Vedanta could ameliorate the condition of poor people. Thus, the masses needed two kinds of knowledge: secular knowledge to improve their economic condition and spiritual knowledge to infuse their faith in themselves.
  • Preached ‘neo-Vedanta,’ an interpretation of Hinduism through a Western lens, and believed in combining spirituality with material progress.
  • Known to have introduced Hindu philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the West. In 1893, he took the name ‘Vivekananda’ after Maharaja Ajit Singh of the Khetri State requested him to do so changing from ‘Sachidananda’ that he used before.
  • He was against caste system & endorsed rationalism.
  • He also worked against superstitions and advocated the upliftment of women’s position in society.
  • According to him, the best form of worship was the service of the people.
  • Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had called Vivekananda the “Maker of modern India.”
  • Literary contribution: He wrote on ‘Karma Yoga’ ‘Raja Yoga,’ and ‘Jnana Yoga.’
  • In 1984, the Government of India declared that 12th January, the birthday of Swami Vivekananda, will be celebrated as National Youth Day.
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