On 11 September 1893, at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda addressed the audience by uttering these simple yet powerful words, “Sisters and brothers of America” for which he received a thunderous applause. At a time when bigotry, fanaticism, discrimination and violence were prevalent, Swami’s sole purpose was to unite humanity for peace and compassion on Earth. Not only did he want to introduce yoga and Vedanta philosophy to the west, he also advocated the emancipation of the women in India and worked towards ending the rampant caste system that was prevalent at the time. Swami Vivekananda was a believer and practitioner of Karma Yoga. His short life (died at age 39) was dedicated to karma yoga (selfless service) to all those who crossed his path.
Born Narendranath Datta on 12 January 1863, to an aristocratic Bengali family, Vivekananda was drawn to spirituality at a young age. He was intelligent and of a mischievous nature. He took a great interest in music, both vocal and instrumental. He pursued the Hindu scriptures like the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. He was an avid reader and didn’t limit himself to Indian literature; he also studied western philosophy, spirituality and history. In his teens, he underwent a deep spiritual crisis. His well studied knowledge made him question the existence of God. He believed in agnosticism and yet he couldn’t completely ignore the existence of a Supreme Being. Vivekananda found his master in Ramakrishna Paramahansa who was a devotee of Goddess Kali. Ramakrishna wanted Vivekananda to transmit his message, the message of God to the world and to show eternal life-giving love to all of mankind.
It has been more than a century since Swami Vivekananda left his body but even now his vision lives on. Today, so much is happening for the well-being of humanity, under his name. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur Math is Kolkata. Service and self-perfection were his ideals that people followed and still do. If people carry out the same visions, the world will be a more beautiful place.