Vivekananda was born in 1863 of an affluent family. He was given
the name of Narendra. As a boy he showed signs of interest in spirituality as he meditated.
He was very clever and excelled in both academic studies and sports.
In 1881 at the age of 17 he went to see Ramakrishna who was well known as a spiritual teacher.
On meeting Narendra asked, `Have you seen God?` Most of the teachers he had asked this before were
unable to say they had. Ramakrishna`s reply was that he saw God more clearly than he saw Narendra.
Narendra was convinced and remained his pupil until the death of Ramakrishna in 1886. In 1884 Narendra`s father died
leaving the family penniless and he was faced with supporting his family but at the same time spending much time with Ramakrishna
and his followers.
In 1886 Ramakrishna developed
throat cancer and died in 1886. After his death the close circle of followers formed a monastic order of poverty and meditation.
Narendra took the name of Vivekananda and as leader of the group became Swami Vivekananda. In 1890 he began a pilgrimage
and took the life of a sannyasi – a penniless beggar. He also formed the organisation Ramakrishna
Mission whose aim was to help the poor. During this time he began to be well known.
In 1893 he travelled to Chicago and addressed the World Parliament of Religions with
great acclaim. He then spent some time in America and Europe lecturing on Indian spirituality, Hinduism
When he returned to India in 1897 he was a national hero and
travelled all over India being met by huge crowds who often unharnessed the horses of his carriage and pulled it by hand.
The work of Ramakrishna Mission expanded focusing on personal illumination and social service.
Sw Vivekananda died on July 4 in 1902. Having spent a normal day
he retired to his room in the early evening giving instruction that he did not wish to be disturbed. He
achieved mahasamadhi later that evening while meditating.
Vivekananda is credited with having introduced Vedanta and Yoga to the west. He is regarded as a great
Jnana Yoga (the yoga of knowledge and wisdom) but should also be seen as an equally important Karma Yogi (the yoga of service
Sw Shantananda Brahmendra Avadhut/Derek Osborn 2014