I convey my heartfelt tribute to Swami Vivekananda on his 153rd Birth Anniversary. He was an Indian Hindu monk. He was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the western world.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA’S inspiring personality
was well known both in India and in America during the last decade of
the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth. The
unknown monk of India suddenly leapt into fame at the Parliament of
Religions held in Chicago in 1893, at which he represented Hinduism. His
vast knowledge of Eastern and Western culture as well as his deep
spiritual insight, fervid eloquence, brilliant conversation, broad human
sympathy, colourful personality, and handsome figure made an
irresistible appeal to the many types of Americans who came in contact
with him. People who saw or heard Vivekananda even once still cherish
his memory after a lapse of more than half a century.
In America Vivekananda’s mission was the interpretation of India’s
spiritual culture, especially in its Vedantic setting. He also tried to
enrich the religious consciousness of the Americans through the rational
and humanistic teachings of the Vedanta philosophy. In America he
became India’s spiritual ambassador and pleaded eloquently for better
understanding between India and the New World in order to create a
healthy synthesis of East and West, of religion and science.
In his own motherland Vivekananda is regarded as the patriot saint of
modern India and an inspirer of her dormant national consciousness, To
the Hindus he preached the ideal of a strength-giving and man-making
religion. Service to man as the visible manifestation of the Godhead was
the special form of worship he advocated for the Indians, devoted as
they were to the rituals and myths of their ancient faith. Many
political leaders of India have publicly acknowledged their indebtedness
to Swami Vivekananda.
The Swami’s mission was both national and international. A lover of
mankind, he strove to promote peace and human brotherhood on the
spiritual foundation of the Vedantic Oneness of existence. A mystic of
the highest order, Vivekananda had a direct and intuitive experience of
Reality. He derived his ideas from that unfailing source of wisdom and
often presented them in the soul stirring language of poetry.
The natural tendency of Vivekananda’s mind, like that of his Master,
Ramakrishna, was to soar above the world and forget itself in
contemplation of the Absolute. But another part of his personality bled
at the sight of human suffering in East and West alike. It might appear
that his mind seldom found a point of rest in its oscillation between
contemplation of God and service to man. Be that as it may, he chose, in
obedience to a higher call, service to man as his mission on earth; and
this choice has endeared him to people in the West, Americans in
In the course of a short life of thirty-nine years (1863-1902), of which
only ten were devoted to public activities-and those, too, in the midst
of acute physical suffering-he left for posterity his four classics:
Jnana-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Karma-Yoga, and Raja-Yoga, all of which are
outstanding treatises on Hindu philosophy. In addition, he delivered
innumerable lectures, wrote inspired letters in his own hand to his many
friends and disciples, composed numerous poems, and acted as spiritual
guide to the many seekers, who came to him for instruction. He also
organized the Ramakrishna Order of monks, which is the most outstanding
religious organization of modern India. It is devoted to the propagation
of the Hindu spiritual culture not only in the Swami’s native land, but
also in America and in other parts of the world.
Swami Vivekananda once spoke of himself as a “condensed India.” His life
and teachings are of inestimable value to the West for an understanding
of the mind of Asia. William James, the Harvard philosopher, called the
Swami the “paragon of Vedantists.” Max Muller and Paul Deussen, the
famous Orientalists of the nineteenth century, held him in genuine
respect and affection. “His words,” writes Romain Rolland, “are great
music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the
march of Handel 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!”

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