Yesterday, January 12th was Swami Vivekananda’s birthday. He was born in 1863. His first grand entry on the stage was in 1893 in Chicago where he made the speech at the World Parliament of Religions (get the MP3 files from here). After that he stayed in the US and gave many lectures, which are all encapsulated in “The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”.
Swami Vivekananda, born Narendranath Dutta, was a very logical and practical man. He had many interests including philosophy, scriptures, and music. He was a trained vocalist and instrumentalist in Indian Classical Music. He had been steeped in the writings of contemporary western philosophers and scientists like David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Baruch Spinoza, Georg W. F. Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, and Charles Darwin. He was a genius for his age and was recognized by his professors and other luminaries of his time as such.
We all know of his contribution to the revival of Spiritual discourse in India and in the West, but we don’t know that he also changed the destiny of science within India. On the voyage from Japan to Chicago, he met another Indian luminary – Jamsetji Tata. He suggested Tata to start a scientific research institution. Although the young Swami declined to lead the institute, when invited by Jamsetji, the institution went on to become Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). [A Voyage in 1893 that Changed India – for letter from Jamsetji to Swami Vivekananda]
For all those who don’t know, the Swami was also a poet. Please see one of his poems written in his own handwriting (click on the pic for larger view):
One circle more the spiral path of life ascends
And time’s restless shuttle – running back and fro
Through maze of warp and woof
threads of life – spins out a stronger piece.
Hand in hand they stand – and try to
fathom depths whence
springs eternal love, each in other’s eyes;
No hold o’er that age but brings the youth anew –
And time – the good, the pure, the true.
Swami Vivekananda was one of those few who fired the imagination of many generations to come. He was not an easy disciple to have. He went to Ramakrishna Paramhans but despite his evidence when asked by Naren ‘Do you believe in God, Sir?’ His Guru replied ‘Yes”. The young disciple asked again ‘Can you prove it, Sir?’ – the Guru showed the splendour – yet the Young skeptic wasn’t sure. He would run away from the Guru. Ramakrishna would run after him to the anguish of his other disciples, and beg for him to return. When asked by these steadfast and faithful disciples why the Guru showed such discriminatory behavior, Ramakrishna would say – that what this man can do no one else can.. I have to prepare him for that task.
That is the beauty and grace of a Guru. He works toward a goal of fostering spiritual awakening everywhere in the world. Vivekananda was the tool that Ramakrishna used. And as Ramakrishna said – NO ONE else could do what he had prepared Naren to do as Swami Vivekananda! No one had prior to him and no one since!
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