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The Modern Prophet -Vivekananda

Ochre robed Swami Vivekananda, Narendranath, vedantic, Vedanta, religion, Hinduism, Ramkrishna Paramhamsa

The modern Prophet: Vivekanand

Swami Vivekanand was born on January 12, 1863 in Calcutta. He was called Narendranath in his childhood. His father Shri Vishwanath Dutta was a well known attorney in Calcutta High Court. His mother, Bhuvaneshwari Devi was a traditional lady of religious temperament. She spent most of her time in praying and worshiping lord Shiva.

Narendranath had an incisive mind and was quite playful since his childhood. He used to play pranks not only with his peers but never missed such an opportunity even with his teachers.

There used to be regular prayers at Narendra’s home. Bhuvaneshwari Devi, being a lady of religious temperament, was quite interested in listening to the stories from Puranas, Mahabharat and Ramayan. Religious story tellers used to visit the house hold regularly. Religious discourses and devotional songs were also conducted regularly. Due to the prevailing religious and spiritual atmosphere in the household, religious and spiritual influence took deeper roots in Narendra, the child.

Due to the parental influence and the religious atmosphere Narendra showed a keen interest in knowing and realizing God since his childhood. This extreme curiosity at times led him to ask such questions about God that even his parents and the learned pundits were left speechless.

The parents had brought up their prodigious child with extreme love and affection. They made arrangements for teaching of Narendra at home itself, by the time he was five years old. Narendra paid full attention to the teachings of his tutors.

Besides education, Narendra took an active interest in the religious functions held at his home and in his neighbourhood where he sang devotional songs or sat with complete concentration.

His haveli(mansion) had a garden. One day the child Narendra along with his friends sat there meditating, when a black cobra slithered and reached near the plate used for worship. When children opened their eyes on hearing the ruffling sound made by the snake, they found the black cobra stretching itself besides the statue of lord Shiva had spread its hood. The children got scared and ran away shouting, ‘ snake! Snake!’.

When children told Bhuvaneshwari Devi about the snake, she rushed to the spot where the hooded cobra stood near Narendra sitting deep in meditation. This gruesome spectacle sent chill down her spine. She about to shout, but controlling herself, she folded her hands and prayed to lord Shiva for the safety of her child.

At that instant, the snake folded its hood and slithered away.

Afterwards, she told Narendra about the snake, but he remained absolutely fearless despite hearing about the chilling incident.

This extra-ordinary child of five who could think and behave like grown-ups, who analysed every information he received used to make his own well thought conclusions about the events taking place around his surroundings.

Once a client of Vishwanathji, known as Khan Sahab had come to the haveli in connection with some case.
Vishwanathji had gone somewhere that time, so Khan Sahab waited for him. Khan Sahab used to come there frequently. Narendra was also quite familiar with him. Khan Sahab was quite impressed with the child like activities of little Narendra and on entering the haveli, he would start playing with the little child Narendra.

On finding Khan Sahab sitting alone in the drawing room, little Narendra came running to him and started playing with him. There he saw a bag lying in front. He asked Khan Sahab, “ Khan uncle, what is there in this bag?” Khan Sahab replied, “ There are delicious sweets in it”. Narendra loved sweets. On hearing about sweets his eyes sparkled. Narendra said innocently, “ Khan uncle, I like sweets very much”.
Narendra’s request put Khan Sahab in a dilemma. He wanted to offer sweets to Narendra but he didn’t have courage to. Actually Narendra’s mother Bhuvaneshwari Devi was so blindly dedicated to Hindu religion that she could neither herself nor let her children accept any edible stuff out of a Mussalman’s hands. She considered such an act against the dictum of her religion. Khan Sahab was aware with that, therefore he didn’t have the courage to offer sweets to Narendra. But the child reflected love, innocence and fellow feeling in his request. Khan Sahab forgot everything when he saw the cherubic face of the young child and he offered a piece of sweetmeat to the child.

On getting the piece of sweet, Narendra happily ran to the mother. He told the mother that Khan uncle had given him the sweet. As he was about to eat the sweet, his mother held his hand and slapped him in anger. He felt bitter at the behaviour of his mother. He didn’t know the reason, but felt puzzled over why his mother had slapped him on taking sweet from Khan uncle. Even as his tender mind puzzled over the issue, he remembered that once his mother had scolded him on touching the lady who used to clean his toilet. Child Narendra now used to remain more curious to know these things.

Once a katha of Hanumanjee was organised in the haveli of Vishwanathji. Child Narendra was also intently listening to the story of Hanumanji. While telling the story the panditji said that Hanumanji had won over death due to the powers of celibacy or brahmacharya. He is living and even today lives in a banana orchard.

Child Narendra grew extremely curious to see Hanumanji on hearing the fact of immortality about him. He was instantly reminded of the banana orchard in his haveli. He left without informing anybody and sat under a banana plant waiting for Hanumanji to arrive. He was fully confident that Hanumanji was somewhere around and will definitely meet him. Child Narendra kept sitting there for hours waiting for Hanumanji to arrive, but when he didn’t arrive he felt extremely disappointed. On reaching home, he wept profusely before the statues of Ram and Sita.

Next day when his charioteer was taking him around in the horse cart, he asked him, “ Charioteer uncle, where will one find Hanumanji?” The charioteer was completely baffled by the question. He didn’t know what reply to give to that question. When child Narendra repeated his question, the charioteer replied, “ it is very difficult to have a darshan of Hanumanji. For that one has to remain a lifelong bachelor and take the vow of celibacy.” On listening to his reply, Narendra said, “ All right. I will also not marry and remain a celibate for ever."

As soon as child Narendra reached home, he told his mother, “ mother, I will not marry. I will follow the rules of abstinence all my life”. Bhuvaneshwari Devi was filled with joy on hearing his words. She instantly embraced her little son.

After completing the primary education, Narendra was admitted in the Metropolitan Institute at Calcutta. His friend circle also started increasing. He took interest in his studies in school. After the school hours, he used to play, learn music, ride horse, meditate and help others in their work. He never liked sitting at a place, nor did he like to rest.

During the course of his studies, when Narendra was about 14, he fell ill. Those days, his father Vishwanathji was in the Raipur town of Madhya Pradesh. He called back Narendra to be with him on hearing of his illness.

His stay at Raipur opened his vision to the diversities of life. The surrounding hillocks and the dense forest around Raipur proved helpful in awakening his inner sensibilities. He felt a strange energy surging within on trekking across the hillocks and observing the virgin beauty of the lonely valleys.

Narendra spent two years in the free atmosphere of Raipur. Meanwhile he recovered completely and appeared handsome and healthy.

After spending two years in Raipur, Narendra came back to Calcutta. He had lost two years of school education due to the illness. On reaching Calcutta, he took re-admission and began studying seriously. Narendra successfully completed his school education due to his hard work and sincerity.
After completing school education, Narendra took admission in Presidency College, Calcutta at the age of 18. However, sometimes later his health deteriorated, as a result he could not continue his studies at the Presidency College. He lost one year as a result of his ill health. On recovering a year later, he took admission in the General Assembly College. Narendra was quite interested in Philosophy. Since his childhood he had developed a keen interest to know the entire mysteries of human life. This quest went on increasing with time. Such an interest led to an extreme devotion towards reading and meditating. It would be difficult for anybody to break his concentration once he absorbed himself in studies or meditation. During his college days itself he had mastered the philosophical works of several western scholars.

Narendranath had a melodious voice. Whenever any intellectual or religious discourses or religious speeches etc used to be organized in the city, Narendra would be always present there.
Audience attending the function enjoyed the songs sung by him.

Once Surendranath Mishra, the neighbor of Narendranath organized such a function at his place. The saint of Dakshineshwar, Sri Ramkrishna Dev was invited there to present his discourse. The program began with the song of Narendra. He sang in such a melodious voice that Sri Ramkrishna Dev along with the others present there became completely absorbed and began dancing to the tune of the song.

When the song was over, Ramkrishna Dev gestured Narendra to come near him. Narendra came and bowed in his feet with reverence. Ramkrishna Dev put his right hand over his head to bless him.

Narendra instantly felt a divine current surging through him. He was highly impressed with the spiritual aura of Ramkrishna Dev and felt thrilled. Swamiji smiled and said, “ All right, you can go now and meet me at Dakshineshwar, there we shall talk heart to heart.

After this incident Narendra developed a strange attraction towards swamiji. Meanwhile he completed his MA. Due to constant involvement in his studies, Narendra forgot about going to Dakshineshwar.

During the summer holidays, he made up his mind to go to Dakshineshwar, when his father put forward the proposal of his marriage. He refused to marry in no uncertain terms. Infact he was born to alleviate the social and religious evils like caste system, child marriage, superstition, ignorance and religious orthodoxy as well as to reform them.

One day Narendra along with some of his friends reached Dakshineshwar in a state of mental apprehension. Ramkrishna Dev felt extremely joyful on finding him there. Taking him to a secluded place, he told Narendra in privacy, “You are not an ordinary soul, Narendra. You are a great soul. I know who you are. I had recognized you that day itself.”

Narendra came back to his home after meeting swamiji. On reaching home he gave a serious thought. Finally, he decided that one-day, he would put all his conflicting thoughts before swamiji. If he clears my doubts and is able to make me realize the ultimate truth, I would accept him as my guru and sacrifice everything at his holy feet.

The Brahmo Samaj was already established those days. Narendra was especially influenced by its social reform agenda. Therefore, he would at times participate in the meetings of the Brahmo Samaj.

Narendra met several religious gurus in order to satisfy his inner conflicts, but none of them could come close to his expectations. Finally he went to Ramkrishna Dev once again and asked, “ Maharaj, have you seen God?’’ Swamiji replied innocently, “ Yes son! I have seen God directly and if you want, you can also see the God similarly: but there is a condition, come to me leaving back everything else and do whatever I tell you to do.”

Narendra was thrilled to realize that he could actually be face to face with God. Thereafter, slowly and gradually he began to be quite devoted to Shri Ramkrishna Dev.

One evening, Sri Ramkrishna Dev was looking at Narendra intensively. Suddenly he got up from his place, came near Narendra and put his right foot over the shoulder of Narendra. Instantly Narendra realized all his doubts had vanished. He felt everything getting dissolved in the infinity, and that he was left alone. And then Swamiji put his right hand over the chest of Narendra as a result everything now appeared normal.

After this experience Narendra accepted Ramkrishna Dev as his guru. His life took a new turn even as Narendra began to flow in the currents of spiritualism. Sri Ramkrishna Dev was also getting lost in the love for his disciple. Thereafter, one day he imparted diksha to Narendra. He now became a sanyasi or renunciate.

After the adoption of sanyas, Sri Ramkrishna Dev gave a new name to Narendranath—Swami Vivekananda. Thereafter, the guru transferred all his powers to the new sanyasi and disciple so that he may highlight India’s prestige through his deeds of global welfare.

He taught Swami Vivekanand – the aim of sanyas is to freely do the public service. One who always thinks of his own liberation is selfish. Today millions of people are in the grip of misery, the real duty of a sanyasi is to liberate these suffering millions. If you want to realize God, you must serve human beings as the representatives of God.

In the August month of the year 1886, Sri Ramkrishna Dev merged in absolute. In other words, he no longer existed in his physical form. Thereafter Swami Vivekanand began to live in the math of Barahnagar. There he extensively studied a number of religious texts and philosophy.

Swami Vivekanand was the chosen leader under whose guidance the other disciples of Sri Ramkrishna Dev started working from Barahnagar math. Swami Vivekanand was the life around which the lives of the other disciples centered. The activities at the math included bhajan, kirtan, reading and listening to of religious texts, meditation and chanting of hymns. His orders were considered the orders of Guru. At the age of 27 Swami Vivekanand went on a pilgrimage to the various holy places in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. During his visit, he met a number of scholars, philosophers and religious teachers. He met a number of saints and great souls. He placed just one question before them all --- how the common people of India were to get the deliverance from poverty and hunger? Many people joined him influenced by his commitment to the nation as well as his spiritual power. Slowly and gradually, more and more people began to appreciate him.

Swami Vivekanand visited Kashi, Prayag, Mathura, Vrindavan etc. during his holy pilgrimage. In the course of his journey he felt that people are not less dedicated towards but due to the prevailing social circumstances, the natural momentum seemed to be lacking in them.

On September 11, 1893 a Parliament of Religion was organized at Chicago in America. The representatives of different religions from the different parts of the world participated in it. Several participants from India had also come to attend the conference. Swami Vivekanand had also come to attend the Chicago conference thanks to some of his enthusiastic followers. Swami Vivekanand was patiently waiting for his turn. When his name was called he reached the front of dais. Ochre robe, head held high, keen sight, a body radiating vigor—the audience was surprised to see this strange dressed, youngest speaker. Few moments later, when Swami Vivekanand began speaking on the ancient religion of Hinduism the audience marveled at his logic and thoughts on religion. Introducing the original religion of India, he said, “ the religion I represent, is the ancient Hindu religion. The welfare of the entire mankind lies at its root. The ancient Hindu religion is so extensive that all the religions of the world may find place in them.”



Published: 2006-12-23
Author: Ajit Jha

About the author or the publisher
I am a writer with 15 years experience having worked in Times of India and several other publishing groups. I am of the opinion that amongst the several other roles I have as an author, the most primary one is to use writing for creating evolved human beings and a pacifist world order. Although I have an experience in different genres, I prefer these days to write on spiritual, motivational and self-help subject matters.

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