Photo from Library of Congress
Swami Vivekananda was born on the 12th of January 1863 in Calcutta. During his childhood, his name was Narendranath. His father, Vishwanath Dutta, was a renowned advocate of the Supreme Court. Narendra was intelligent from his birth. He was also very brave. Because of his bravery and intelligence, he became the leader of his group of friends.
When he was fourteen years old, the health of his father was declining. To improve his health, his father had to go to Madhya Pradesh. Narendra also went there with him. Here he became acquainted with many learned men who came to visit his father. He was deeply influenced by the religious works.
Two years later, Narendra returned to Raipur. He enrolled in college. He also started learning the religious works in depth. Because of his readings, he had a strong desire to meet God. At that time the Brahmo Samaj activities were carried out vigorously in Bengal. Narendra also became a member of this committee. But even the priests couldn’t quench his thirst for meeting God. Hence, he started wandering here and there in search of the truth. At last, after meeting Ramakrishna Paramhansa, he learned about the mystery of religion and God. His thirst got quenched.
Obtaining permission from Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Narendra enrolled in the graduate program in Art. After earning his B.A., he started studying law, but he had to leave his studies because of the sudden death of his father. His father was ever-giving and he also never cared about the wealth he had, so his family had become very poor. His brothers also left the house. As Narendra was the eldest brother, all the responsibility of nurturing the remaining family fell on his shoulders. He had no money left to feed the family. There were many times when Narendra had not even touched a morsel of food for days on end. He started teaching in order to earn some money. After having earned enough money, he returned to his studies. This time he devoted all of his attention to his studies.
At the same time, Paramhansa was diagnosed with throat cancer and he was seriously ill. When Narendra heard this news, he went to help Paramhansa. Paramhansa was overjoyed to see him. He gave all the miraculous powers he had to Narendra and heaved a sigh of relief. On 16th of August 1886, Ramakrishna Paramhansa died peacefully and happily on his bed.
Nearly a year later, Narendranath Dutta became a sanyasi. To obtain knowledge and to meet the people, he started walking and wanted to cover the whole of India on foot. He renamed himself Swami Vivekananda. He felt very sad when he saw the poverty, hunger and illiteracy which was spreading like a forest-fire in the country. It was then that he experienced what his religious teacher, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, wanted from him and he knew why he had been given his teacher's miraculous powers.
When Vivekananda was in Madras, he heard about the World's Parliament of Religions that was going to be held in Chicago. He immediately got ready to attend the meeting. On the 31st of May 1893, he started off to Chicago by ship. When he arrived, he was greatly startled to hear that the meeting was going to be held in September. He was stuck in Chicago because he had no money. At last, the meeting was held on the 11th of September 1893. He was now known as Swami Vivekananda. In the afternoon, Swami Vivekananda stood on the dais and started to speak, “My dear brothers and sisters of America.” He received a tremendous response from the public, and he became very popular in America (Chicago).
After four years, Swami Vivekananda returned to India. The great love and affection he was shown by the Indian people impressed him. He knew that the people’s work could not be done without a strong constitution. Hence, he established ‘Ramakrishna Mission’ on the 11th of May 1897. He named it as the ‘Belurmath Mission Of Ramakrishna Paramhansa.’ He led a very hard life afterwards and passed away on the 4th July 1902. To me, I’ve never heard of such a great man.