Swami Vivekananda written by: Davina14 Early Life and Education Swami Vivekananda was born Narendra Nath Datta on 12th January 1863, to Vishwanath Datta and Bhuvaneswari Devi in Culcutta, India. His family was a wealthy but traditional Bengali family, that comprised of an attorney father, housewife mother and nine children. Described as mischievous, precocious and active as a child, Narendra found solace in meditation. His understanding of spirituality was influenced by his religious mother and forward-thinking father- it should be noted that Narendra's grandfather became a devout monk when he turned 25 years of age. Narendra was an avid reader, who enjoyed studying history, social studies, religion, literature, philosophy and Hindu scriptures. Outside of his classes Narendra excelled in classical music and sports. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Western Philosophy and European History from the General Assembly Institution in 1884. Along the way Narendra became conversant in Bengali literature and Sanskrit scripture- there is speculation that Narendra was a genius with photographic memory. Spiritual Journey As a young man, Narendra encountered a spiritual dilemma, asking several spiritual leaders and ordinary individuals if they had seen God . In 1881 frustrated by the answers he was seeking but not getting, he asked his English professor Sri Ramakrishna about God's existence, to which his professor answered in the affirmative. Ramakrishna's answer and demeanor immediately attracted Narendra, and thus begun a strong relationship between the two, based on spiritual guidance and mentor ship. Though Narendra's Brahmo beliefs at first caused him to reject Ramakrishna's teachings, time and patience led to Ramakrishna being his guru. Ramakrihna's teachings included calls of brotherly love and abstention, as he tried to lead his disciples(Narendra included) towards a New Monastic order. Narendra's father died in 1884, and the following year Ramakrishna was stricken by throat cancer. Narendra and other youth who had opted to follow Ramakrishna cared for him in his last days. On his death bed Ramakrishna asked Narendra to take up the leadership mantle giving instructions to Narendra to guide the other disciples towards the New Monastic order. In 1887 after Ramakrishna's death, Narendra and the other disciples who had formed a New Monastic Brotherhood took their ceremonial sannyas vows, resulting in a change of names. The name Swami Vivekananda was born. Travels In 1888 Swami Vivekananda left his home in Baranagar Math to travel and explore India. Swami Vivekananda chose to be a travelling monk, leaving possessions and family behind, and relying on the generosity of strangers to fund his travel, buy his food and offer him residence. He interacted and stayed with people from all religions and from all walks of life; be it Hindu's, Muslims, Christians, beggars or government workers, learning about their beliefs and ways of life. During his journey, Swami Vivekananda witnessed the poverty and oppression the common man went through and as a result developed an empathetic and compassionate spirit. He realized that not only were the people neglected, they also had no hope in alleviating their deplorable living situations. He then realized he had an obligation to take a stand, and recognized that he could uplift the masses situation by educating them. By using secular knowledge to advance their financial position, and spiritual wisdom to give them strength and faith, Swami Vivekananda was sure that he could alleviate their suffering. He discovered Vedanta-an ancient philosophy that when applied practically would help achieve the goals he aimed for. Ramakrishna Mission In 1893 Swami Vivekananda attended the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He used this stage to advance his forum and appeal for funding to help educate and alleviate the suffering of the Indian masses. His speeches at the forum opened up doors for him in the Western world, and for the next 3 and a half years Swami Vivekananda toured the USA and London, spreading the message Ramakrishna taught him as well as other aspects of Vedanta. Upon his return to India in 1897 Swami Vivekananda begun giving profound lectures throughout the country, with the aim of unifying different Hindu sects, inspiring cultural pride, reigniting religious beliefs, advocating for the poor and spreading practical Vedanta. In the same year Swami Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission-this organization aimed to bring monks and ordinary people together, to spread Vedanta to the masses as well as carry out various acts of community service i.e running hospitals, schools, universities and rehabilitation of those affected by natural disasters. Belur Math In 1898 Swami Vivekananda constructed a permanent living space in Belur, for the Monastic Order he had begun years ago- he named the abode Ramakrishna Math. Swami Vivekananda intended for it to bring together traditional Monastic beliefs and modern thinking to create an environment in which all men-irregardless of their race,religion or caste could experience personal enlightenment and carry out social service- In short take part in practical Vedanta. Last Days Swami Vivekananda spent the rest of his time giving lectures and spreading practical Vedanta to the masses in India. On the 4th of July 1902 Vivekananda went to his room to meditate. He died that night of a suspected blood vessel that burst in his brain. He was 39 years old. Legacy Swami Vivekananda aimed to inspire everyone to the wonders of God in the life of man, and the power man had to create positive change. He led a selfless life based on uplifting the downtrodden, and his life revitalized the teaching of Hinduism in India. Today his message can be seen in the adoption of moral and selfless behavior by the masses, and the practice of yoga has in totality been brought about by his idea that meditating on a positive idea will bring that idea to pass. Swami Vivekananda's messages and lectures can be found in literature all over the world.