Towering genius called Vivekananda
He dazzled the world with his impeccable lectures and stormed the West with his practical Vedantic philosophy. His success revived the unprecedented sense of national pride among Indians, writes Rashi Sharma

Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda

Who can forget the indomitable mammoth task of the great warrior monk Swami Vivekananda? As an envoy of the spiritual legacy of India, he has embossed his name with perfect emollient on the annals of world religious history. Today we are celebrating the 145th birth anniversary of this legendary figure. Born on January 12, 1863, Vivekananda was the proud son of Vishawanath Datta and Bhuvaneshwari Devi. In his childhood he was known as Naren. One can simply marvel at the wonderful intellect and prodigious memory of this exceptionally gifted child. His activities in childhood were unmistakable pointers to his future disposition.

He would often plunge into the deepest rumination without any sense of space and time. As a student he exhibited his erudite by passing three years’ studies in one year. His precocious talent made it possible for him to digest the hulking volumes in a number of hours. As a college student he probed deep into the modern stalwarts of science and philosophy and developed a stern scientific attitude. Though his study of Herbert Spencer, Kant, J.S.Mill, Schopenhauer, Hegal and Comte sharpened his thirst for unflinching rationality, it did not help him elicit a perfect answer regarding the existence of God.

Later he turned to Shri Ramakrishana Paramhansa and sought the historic answer: "Yes, I see him as I see you, only in an infinitely intenser sense." The questioner was mesmerised and the mesmerism never ended.

Naren’s spiritual apprenticeship lasted for five years. During this period he craved earnestly for nirvikalp samadhi—the state of highest non-dual consciousness. He importuned his guru to open the door leading to the bliss of the ‘Absolute’. At this Ramakrishana remarked: "Shame on you. I thought you were to be the great banyan tree giving shelter to thousands of tired souls. Leave these little things alone, my child. How can you be satisfied with so one-sided an ideal?" Naren did not let his mentor down. After the mahasamadhi of Shri Paramhansa in 1886, a new epoch commenced in his life.

He widely travelled India and rediscovered her majesty, sheen and regality. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, he gathered plumes of novice experiences. Everybody, who came in his contact, was totally bowled over by his discretion, vivacity and vigour. It was during this period that he was named as Vivekananda by the Maharaja of Khetri. Meanwhile, his ardent disciples made earnest attempts to send him for the Parliament of Religions which was to be held at Chicago in 1893.

On embarking upon this expedition he felt that he was no longer an individual but a ‘condensed and concrete’ India. Having a constant view of the regeneration of his motherland, he appeared to represent Hinduism at the Parliament of Religions on September 11,1893. He dazzled the whole world with his impeccable lectures, and his charismatic persona became a household talk. He stormed the western countries with his practical Vedantic philosophy. His success revived the unprecedented sense of national pride among Indians. At this Lokmanya Tilak said: "Vivekananda played the role Sankara played in the eighth century."

He rejuvenated the hoary wisdom of ancient India with his electrifying discourse and roused up our dormant pride in our past. He shooed away the very concept of weakness and proclaimed: "Vedanta recognises no sin; it only recognises error, and the greatest error, says the Vedanta, is to say that you are weak." He brought about the superb confluence of immense idealism with immense practicality. For this he made religion multidimensional. He brought it out from the secluded caves of Himalayas to the plane of everyday life.

He emphasised to serve the poor whom he used to call daridranarayan. He wished to give a tangible image to his ideas. For this he founded Ramkrishan Mission in 1897. Along with the preaching and practicing of Vedanta, this mission carried on with its philanthropic relief work. Even today the mission workers are known for their silent but substantial help to sufferers.

The huge impact of his teachings can be visualised by scrutinising the thought process of youngsters who idolise him as their youth-icon. His indubitable popularity is a proof that he reigns over the hearts and souls of millions of people.

His birthday is celebrated as national youth day. We can learn a lot from this towering genius who has left us spellbound with his magnitude of work. Such is the pulchritude of this great sage.