Essay No. 01
Swami Vivekananda (January 12, 1863 – July 4, 1902), whose pre-monastic name was Narendranath Dutta was one of the most famous and influential spiritual leaders of the philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. He is a major figure in the history of the Hindu reform movements.
While he is widely credited with having uplifted his own nation, simultaneously he introduced Yoga and Vedanta to America and England with his seminal lectures and private discourses on Vedanta philosophy. Vivekananda was the first known Hindu Sage to come to the West, where he introduced Eastern thought at the World’s Parliament of Religions, in connection with the World’s Fair in Chicago, in 1893. Here, his first lecture, which started with this line “Sisters and Brothers of America,” made the audience clap for two minutes just to the address, for prior to this seminal speech, the audience was always used to this opening address: “Ladies and Gentlemen”. It was this speech that catapulted him to fame by his wide audiences in Chicago and then later everywhere else in America.
The swami described about his condition during wandering days as follows: Many times I have been in the jaws of death starving, footsore, and for days and days I had no food, and often could walk no farther; I would sink down under a tree, and life would seem to be ebbing away. I could not speak, I could scarcely think, but at last the mind reverted to the idea: “I have no fear neither life nor death; never was I born, never did I die; never hunger or thirst. I am It! I am It! The whole of nature cannot crush me; it is my servant. Assert thy strength, thou Lord of lords and God of gods! Regain thy lost empire! Arise and walk and stop not!” And I would rise up, reinvigorated; and here I am today, living! Thus, whenever darkness comes, assert the reality and everything adverse must vanish. For after all, it is but a dream. Mountain-high though the difficulties appear, terrible and gloomy though all things seem, they are but Maya. Fear not, and it is banished. Crush it, and it vanishes. Stamp upon it, and it dies”.
Vivekananda was a renowned thinker in his own right. One of his most important contributions was to demonstrate how Advaitin thinking is not merely philosophically far-reaching, but how it also has social, even political, consequences. One important lesson he claimed to receive from Ramakrishna was that “Jiva is Shiva“(each individual is divinity itself). This became his Mantra, and he coined the concept of ‘daridra narayana seva’ – the service of God in and through (poor) human beings. If there truly is the unity of Brahman underlying all phenomena, then on what basis do we regard ourselves as better or worse, or even as better-off or worse-off, than others? – This was the question he posed to himself. Ultimately, he concluded that these distinctions fade into nothingness in the light of the oneness that the devotee experiences in Moksha. What arises then is compassion ose “individuals” who remain unaware of this oneness and a determination to help them.
Swami Vivekananda belonged to that branch of Vedanta that held that no one can be truly free until all of us are. Even the desire for personal salvation has to be given up, and only tireless work for the salvation of others is the true mark of the enlightened person. Vivekananda also pleaded for a strict separation between religion and government (“church and state”).He believed the ideal society would be a mixture of Brahmin knowledge, Kshatriya culture, Vaisya efficiency and the egalitarian Shudra ethos, domination by any one led to different sorts of lopsided societies.
Vivekananda made a strict demarcation between the two classes of Hindu scriptures: the Sruti and the Smritis. The Sruti, by which is meant the Vedas, consist of eternally and universally valid spiritual truths. The Smritis on the other hand, are the dos and don’ts of religions, applicable to society and subject to revision from time to time. Vivekananda felt that existing Hindu smritis had to be revised for modern times. But the Srutis of course are eternal – they may only be re-interpreted. Vivekananda advised his followers to be holy, unselfish and have shraddha (faith). He encouraged the practice of Brahmacharya (Celibacy). He believed that the youth of our country has to play an important role in the prosperity me nation, and it is his great views that continues to inspire millions world across. He is unquestionably the true son of India.
Essay No. 02
Vivekananda was born in 1863. He was a disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa. He believed in bringing back all the best traditions in Hinduism and not merely the Veda. After the death of Ramakrishna, he founded the Ramakrishna Mission to spread the teachings of his teacher. He established many educational institutions throughout the country. He was very interested in improving all aspects of national life. He helped the neglected masses, and fought for their rights.
The economic prosperity of the west and the status enjoyed by the women there impressed him. He made up his mind to try to improve the condition of women in our country as well.
He stands as a symbol of nationalism and courage, and has greatly influenced the younger generation to take pride in their country.