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On the 150th anniversary of one of India’s greatest sons, Swami
Vivekananda, Verma assesses
his deathless legacy and traces his influence among today’s
Vivekananda. Hardly has there been an idealistic person who has
not been inspired by the aching youthfulness and revolutionary
zeal of this iconic figure. His flaming patriotism, conviction in
universal brotherhood, worship of God in the weak and downtrodden,
and dynamic, forward marching spirituality have made him one of
the most towering icons of modern times.
Best remembered for his Chicago speech that started with ‘Sisters
and Brothers of America’, and which roused a standing ovation
unprecedented in history, he still remains one of the most popular
role models of our times.
How many have dreamed of modelling themselves around this
enigmatic personality! Today, 150 years since his birth, he stays
as irresistibly attractive to young men and women , as he had been
to the youth of the world in his time. I became aware of this
legend at the age of eight, when I casually bought an old, thin,
worn-out, paperback edition of his life history from a nondescript
shop near a temple. He became a habit. Almost every night before
going to bed, I would read an excerpt and imagine myself as the
child Vivekananda. I would close my eyes and pretend to see the
same colourful concentric circles forming in the centre of my
forehead as they had formed on Narendra’s. I would romanticise
about becoming a great leader whose trail would be followed by
thousands and who would re-establish the rule of truth and dharma
in this world. He fired in me an ardour no matinee idol could
kindle. Perhaps this was the aim and purpose of Vivekananda’s
advent: To leave such a deep impact on society that his vision
will continue to affect generations. Two principles solidly became
the foundation of my conduct, and they were honesty and idealism.
I strongly felt that unless youth was spent in the service of
humanity, it was a wasted youth.
Life and times
Though his life story is so popular that it does not merit
repetition, it is only befitting to recap the milestones of his
inspiring life. Known in his pre-monastic life as Narendra Nath
Datta, he was born in an affluent family in Kolkata on January 12,
1863. His father, Vishwanath Datta, was a successful attorney with
interests in a wide range of subjects, and his mother,
Bhuvaneshwari Devi, was endowed with deep devotion, strong
character and other qualities. A precocious boy, Narendra excelled
in music, gymnastics and studies. By the time he graduated from
Calcutta University, he had acquired a vast knowledge of different
subjects, especially Western philosophy and history. Born with a
yogic temperament, he used to practise meditation from boyhood,
and was associated with the Brahmo Movement.
At the threshold of youth, Narendra passed through a spiritual
crisis when he was assailed by doubts about the existence of God.
It was at that time that he first heard about Sri Ramakrishna from
one of his English professors at college. One day in November
1881, Narendra went to meet Sri Ramakrishna who stayed at the Kali
Temple in Dakshineshwar. He straightaway asked the master, “Have
you seen God?” Sri Ramakrishna replied: “Yes, I have. I see Him as
clearly as I see you, only with more intensity.” Apart from
removing doubts from the mind of Narendra, Sri Ramakrishna won him
over through his pure, unselfish love. Thus began a guru-disciple
relationship quite unique in the history of spirituality. At
Dakshineshwar, Narendra also met several young men who were
devoted to Sri Ramakrishna, and they all became close friends.
After a few years his father died suddenly in 1884. This left the
family penniless, and the responsibility of supporting his mother,
brothers and sisters fell upon him. Soon after that, Sri
Ramakrishna was diagnosed with cancer of the throat. The young
disciples nursed the master with devoted care. In spite of poverty
and inability to find a job, Narendra joined the group as its
One day, Sri Ramakrishna distributed ochre robes among them and
sent them out to beg for food. In this way he laid the foundation
of a new monastic order. In the small hours of August 16, 1886,
Sri Ramakrishna gave up his mortal body. After the master’s
passing, 16 of his young disciples formed a new monastic
brotherhood, and in 1887 they took the formal vows of sanyasa,
thereby assuming new names. Narendra now became Swami Vivekananda.
Todays-Special 12-June in Swami Vivekananda Life
12 June 12 June 1898 : Left Almora... traveled through almost
tropical forest toward Kathgodam... Sister Nivedita, Mrs Ole Bull,
Josephine MacLeod and others with the Swami...
Translated the "Rudra prayer" :
From the Unreal lead us to the Real.
From darkness lead us unto light.
From death lead us to immortality.
Reach us through and through our self.
And evermore protect us—Oh Thou Terrible!— From ignorance, by Thy sweet compassionate Face.
Note: The Swami hesitated a long time over the fourth line, thinking of rendering it, “Embrace us in the heart of our heart.
Mrs Bull, Sister Nivedita, Josephine MacLeod and possibly Mrs Patterson
and others he put his perplexity to them, saying, “The real meaning is
‘Reach us through and through our self.”
He was concerned that the latter might not make good sense in English.
The women advised unhesitatingly to keep "Reach us through and through our self."
The Swami rendered this fragment of the Hindu sacrament... (The Great Benediction After Mourning)