International Forum for NeoVedantins

Life and Teachings of Swami Vivekananda: Part 8

Swami Vivekananda: The Universal Man
[B. 12 January 1863; S. 4 July 1902]
Narendra = Narendranath = Naren = Swami Vivekananda
Master = Thakur = Sri Ramakrishna

Wanderings continued...

Accordingly, he continued to travel all over the holy land of India to get first hand information about the state of religion in the Indian masses. The vast land opened up a new challenge before the Swami to explore its religious-spiritual truths. These days of a 'wandering monk' make an important stage in the history of spiritual revival of India as well as the whole world.

Why? For, his experiences during the wandering days added compassion to his broad outlook and sharp intellect.

He could understand the sad plight of fellow countrymen, their exploitation, poverty, suffering and affliction under the mercy of foreign rule and darkness of ignorance.

"To the hungry religion comes in the form of bread", he declared. And he would have added, 'and for the ignorant religion comes in the form of education'. Material progress and spiritual growth are not contradictory, are not antagonistic to each other, but rather, the goal of religion and our efforts should be to bridge the yawning gap between the two, he maintained.

He was convinced that science and religion should join hands so that a new chapter could be written in human history. He saw, learnt, and was convinced that, while material progress of India was as important as the spiritual revival, to the West religion would come in the form of a blend between spirituality and materialism.

He met with many eminent and noble persons, the Maharaja of Khetri, Dewan of Porbandar and Junagadh, Raja of Ramnad, and other intellectuals in the state of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madras. All these gentlemen were highly impressed by the sincerity, knowledge, spirituality and new Vedantic approach to life of this 'English-speaking monk'.

And then, once during casual discussion, the Dewan of Porbandar said, "Swamiji, I am afraid you cannot do much in this country. Few will appreciate you here. You ought to go to the West where people will understand you and your worth. Surely you can throw a great light on Western culture by preaching the Sanatana Dharma."

"The poverty ridden illiterate people of our country are not yet ready to receive the message of Vedanta. Why don't you attend the Parliament of Religions to be held in Chicago a few months hence? There you represent and elaborate the true Hinduism of which, your Guru, Sri Ramakrishna, was the living embodiment."

Swami Vivekananda reached the southernmost tip of India - Kanyakumari, where occurs the vast confluence of Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Jumping in the shark-infested waters he reached an offshore rock and was absorbed in deep meditation for three days. The highest Knowledge dawned in his mind and he saw Sri Ramakrishna's huge figure striding towards the West and beckoning him to follow him. There Swami Vivekananda resolved to go to the West.

Swami Vivekananda Arrives In America

Swami Vivekananda began to plan his visit to America, and on 31st May 1893 he set sails for that far off land; the ochre robed sadhu planning to conquer the scientific reason of the West with Vedantic intuition of the East.

Simple in life style, even unaware of exact dates of the Parliament, Swami Vivekananda reached Chicago much ahead of the commencement of the Parliament. He had no letter or credentials from any society or organization; he was not aware what religion he would represent at the Parliament, and most importantly he was short of money. In the Chicago Science Fare he was impressed by the advances America had made in the field of science and technology in comparison to which India was very poor and backward as far as material progress was concerned. The glamour, the innovative application of electricity, telephone, communication, applied aspects of physics for the welfare and comfort of the masses, all filled his heart with amazement and excitement. He used to think: Oh, how much India needs to learn and acquire!...

Further Reading: At the Parliament of Religions  |  His American Work
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