India has, since time immemorial, given birth to a number of imminent personalities and international figures who have indeed been some of the brightest stars in the annuls of the history of the country or rather, the whole world. The great Swami Vivekananda was one such son of the India motherland who was a ‘man’ in the truest and the purest sense of the term. No country, no nation today is unknown to or unfamiliar with the name, works and words of this great man who was certainly one of the firsts to have brought India and her rich cultural heritage and tradition to the global stage thus securing India’s worth and position in the eyes of the entire western world once and for all. It was none other than this famous sage from India who taught the whole world a new language, i.e. the language of humanism and love which is celebrated as a path breaking concept in the human’s life, even till this date of ultra modernity, consumerism and high technology and globalization. It is truly a tale of great wonder and inspiration that someone like he who had every luxury in the world and every prosperity, decided to simply throw away and renounce all his material and earthly comforts and riches for the sake of searching and attaining the ultimate and the absolute truth of life.
Swami Vivekananda also showed and gifted to the people a whole new dimension and meaning to the apparently clichéd term ‘religion’ and its scopes and applications in a man’s life and how it can enrich and advance us from our daily mundane and ordinary life to one of spiritualism and peace. In fact, throughout his life he talked of liberation and freedom, not only from the external sources and powers but also from our own shallowness, our mental bondages,our petty narrow mindedness, the shackles of parochialisms, all our fears and failures and, most importantly, from our own selves. Getting rid of all our negative thoughts and energies, according to him, was the source and, in fact, the only path to eternal joy and success for then we would indeed cease to be the ordinary human beings that we think ourselves to be and will in turn be united to that supreme force or the Creator, as we also call Him, who we are all a part of and whose indomitable and endless energy rests within all of us making us the latent power house of every kind of action. Thus, with Swami Vivekananda’s great teachings and ideals it is quite true that no goal and no dream in a man’s life would seem invincible any longer and he or she would be able to attain the highest state of mental, physical and intellectual wellness, harmony and semblance.
Therefore, it is of no less importance and is perhaps somewhat an essential thing for every soul out there, young and old, across the universe, to know in details the whole life history of this great son of Mother India and how he ceremoniously rose from being a simple naughty country kid to the reason behind an entire nation’s pride and the greatest international youth icon that he is till date. In fact, it is something worth knowing how this young man from an eastern world revolutionized the whole world with his progressive and dynamic thinking, his inspiring and soul searching words that have succeeded in touching and moving zillions of hearts irrespective of their caste, creed, age, sex, nation, religion and language. So much so that his words and teachings are like the commandments which if sincerely and properly followed in one’s life would surely lead one to reach or attain the highest level of survival and living and to achieve every difficult goal in life by sheer dint of one’s mental strength, stamina and vigor or courage. Swami Vivekananda’s name has also long been unanimously associated to India’s struggle for freedom when he ignited the young minds of the country with his words and practices to come and arise from their spiritual and mental torpor and to hone their physical and mental strengths such that they are able to fend themselves, their fellow country brethren and their motherland no less against any external evil force as and when in need.
It is a quite popular and common belief, especially in India and other such eastern countries of the world, that those kids who are very naughty and troubling in their childhood generally grow up to be one of the most sensible, bright, wise and mature kind of persons. The opposite, they say, holds equally good that those who seem to be rather gentle and precocious during their early years actually turn out to be somewhat menacing and troublesome in the later days as they grow up. This belief, however, seems to be not completely without base and, in fact, seems to have rather a grain of truth in it. At least, this was exactly the case with our little ‘Bileh’or more formally, Narendranath Dutta, as he was known in his pre monastic days and who in his later years renounced his former life, identity and existence to take up the name of Swami Vivekananda by which the world today knows and loves him. It is noteworthy to add here that it is not for nothing that we set to study and learn about the early lives of great men and personalities, be it Swami Vivekananda or Lord Krishna or Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. This is probably because the life story of these wonderful persons actually helps and shows us the way these personalities led their lives and held themselves together in the dark and difficult times of their lives. Moreover, it has to be and must be admitted that it is always interesting and fascinating to study and learn about the childhood adventures of these great saints and leaders to be and then look and search for clues and signs of their future transformation and fame in the seemingly regular and mundane actions, incidents and speeches of their early days.
It must be mentioned here that the childhood days of our favorite Swamiji is so popular and dear to all till today that it is quite a common tale which the mothers tell their little ones almost in every Indian household and they all grow up over these tales of the little Billeh, his heroisms and his later transformations, listening to them over a thousand times and reading about them in their school text books, just like in the case of all other great leaders and saints. This is actually like an age old tradition which has been continuing from generation to generation in every city and in every house of this country. These tales of young Naren still keep on inspiring us, his never give up attitude, his questioning nature, his courage and brevity and, most of all, his relentless search for the truth actually tell us about his indomitable spirit, which was a constant companion of right from his very childhood days. In fact, it can now be rightly said that those actions and natures were truly the early hints of the making of that great personality and the sage which was hidden in a latent stage inside the boy and which he was later to be. His visions of a fearless spirit and a questioning mind along with a steel like mind and mental strength with a genuine heart of pure gold, had all their raw materials in that ever curious and menacing little boy whose life story is worth knowing for every human being on this planet so that they too can elevate themselves from their mundane routine life and rise and shine like the brightest star in the sky.
To begin with, Swami Vivekananda was born as Narendranath Dutta in a rather well to do family inShimla Pally in Kolkata, erstwhile Calcutta, on one bright sunny Monday morning in the winter of1863 at about 6.33 am. The date was the 12th of January which is today celebrated as an auspicious day among the followers of Swamiji throughout the nation and even beyond. Born to an affluent family of an attorney father, Naren had, quite naturally, an easy access to all kinds of earthly comforts and luxuries. However, they were also a family of educated and cultured people as Naren’s father Vishwanath Dutta, besides being a very successful attorney of the Calcutta High Court during the British period in India, was also a rather rational yet righteous person who had a wide range of interest in a number of subjects. More importantly, his mother, Bhuvaneshwari Devi was a very simple and pious lady with an extraordinary strong character and an impressive personality besides the several other general qualities. She too, like her husband, was endowed with a deep sense of humanism, devotion and spiritualism and nurtured a very keen interest in a varied array of subjects. She practiced several austerities and fasts which was quite common to her kind during those days. But though religious at heart, she was never illogical in her thinking and known for her rather progressive outlook. That way, in fact, she was quite an exception to the other general kind of women of her time. Therefore, it hardly needs to be mentioned now that Naren got his first lessons in Humanisn, idealism and conduct from his very righteous parents who were perhaps his most strong pillars of strength throughout his life, even after their death. That is probably the reason why in spite of being surrounded by all types of pleasures, affluences and other worldly and material attachments right from his boyhood he had the basic mental set up of that of an absolute hermit and was, quite surprisingly, completely detached from all his earthly possessions. Such a nature, it has to be admitted, is indeed quite contrary to other normal children belonging to a similar social and financial position as him.
Little Bileh, as his close ones called him with affection, was the apple of every body’s eye due to his lovable nature and razor sharp mind. However, the main reason why he managed to win everyone over in spite of his rather precocious nature was because he excelled in every single aspect, be it music, sports, studies or even in being naughty. Yet, in spite of all his truants and misdeeds as a child, Bileh was an unbelievingly generous, emotional and soft hearted boy who took immense pleasure in helping others and those in need and could never bear to see or even hear about the pains of others, no matter who they were. A very important lesson that Swami Vivekananda received as a boy from his parents and which was to remain with him forever, till his very last day, was never to look down upon the poor or less privileged ones and never to differentiate people and discriminate them on any basis, be it on the basis of caste, creed, religion or social or financial status. In fact, he himself once remarked,”I am indebted to my mother for the efflorescence of my knowledge.”These words probably, to some extent, succeed in proving the intensely close bonding that Naren shared with his mother and his abounding love and respect for her. It is common story that makes the round that Bhuvaneshwari Devi, while still in her pregnancy period, had prayed with all her heart to the Vireshwar Shiva of Varanasi to bless her with a son. After that, it is said that she had a wonderful dream where she saw Lord Shiva rising from his deep meditation and saying to her that he would come to earth to be born as her son.
Narendranath was given his earliest primary education at his home by private tutors till the age of eight after which his father got him admitted to the Metropolitan Institution in 1871 which was run by the great educationist and social reformer of the time, Mr. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. In 1879 he cleared his Entrance Examination and came out with flying colors. This was the beginning of an excellent and outstanding academic career. By this time Naren had already started to show more clear signs of his brilliance and his extra ordinary mind and nature. While, on the one hand, he had imbibed his father’s rational and questioning mind, on the other, he was greatly influenced by his mother’s religious and spiritual temperament. Thus he never shied away from questioning anything, be it just any well known fact or any popular belief, and would never accept anything blindingly without a proper rational proof or a pragmatic examination. He also inherited from his father his keen interest in various subjects and as a result, he became quite well acquainted with the western philosophies, science, theologies, history and literature from the books he had access to as a child and very soon his young mind was naturally molded likewise with a vast knowledge of the ancient and contemporary world. Again, his spiritual and yogic temperament, which came from his mother and formed the other half of his self was hugely attracted to the ideals of spiritualism, meditation and severe non attachment. Thus, from a very early age, and also in spite of his restless nature, Naren used to practice meditation even in his plays while all his friends would get bored and would decide to rather indulge in other playful activities. Such an exceeding inclination for meditation and spiritualism further advanced him in his quest for the ultimate truth and this was probably why he was drawn to the idea of the Brahma Samaj, which he later joined.
Right from the beginning, when he had started to understand and comprehend the world around him and had begun to have senses of different aspects of life and the world, Naren discovered the wonderful and amazing world of books that provided him an endlessknowledge on the various subjects on the earth. Quite naturally, it was not so long before he started to evince a profound interest and scholarship in a number of subjects that varied widely starting from history, philosophy, social sciences, literature, mathematics, science, arts etc. to the more profound ones like the spiritual texts, the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, the Bhagvad Gita and so on. He was well acquainted with these works so much so that he could even remember and recite or quote from the different passages of these books. Again, he was quite skilled and well versed in classical music, in the field of both vocal and instrumental skill. All these real education molded his tender mind such that as he grew up he began to question the validation of the various religious beliefs and the superstitions and customs that people blindly obeyed and followed and were quite prevalent in the society during his time. One of the most important and notable factor here is that these ideals also reinforced all the more his previous objections and qualms against discrimination of human beings on the basis of petty issues like caste, religion, color, social standards etc. He was a perpetual lover of human beings and thus any discrimination or action against them hurt him profoundly and he used to bleed inwardly. Such a spiritual development opened his eyes no doubt to the basic truths of life and thus in his later years when he had realized the meaning of life, he was often heard quoting his loving mother,”Remain pure all your life; guard your own honor and never transgress the honor of others. Be very tranquil, but when necessary, harden your heart.”
Since Bileh was the youngest of the three siblings with two elder sisters before him, he was always protected and pampered to death by the entire Dutta family and, in spite of his naughtiness and pranks, was loved to death by all. In fact, he was so well known for his pranks that with time his family members and even the neighbors got tired of complaining constantly and often got exhausted with trying to stop him. There are several such incidents and events that speak of Naren’s pranks and naughtiness while at the same time they prove his witty nature and intelligence. However, it was only his mother Bhuvaneshwari Devi who had a special trick up her sleeve that could pacify her restless son. When everything else failed she would resort to this trick in which she used to pour cold water over Bileh’s head while at the same time chanting the name of “Shiva” repeatedly and quite surprisingly this used to calm the boy down. There are beliefs among his followers that such an event only proved that he was indeed an avatar of the holy Lord Shiva. However, much later, when Vivekananda had returned after conquering the whole world with his teachings and ideas, his then senile mother would talk about him lovingly to others saying,”In those days I would often say ‘I prayed to Shiva for a son and He sent me one his demons!” However, it was also equally true that the ‘demon’, as his mother called him affectionately, though he was at times, he was an adept in meditation, which recounted to his yogic side and could easily spend hours doing that. He would also often urge his play mates to play this wonderful ‘game’ of meditation with him and during one such event, it occurred that while they were playing the game sitting in a lotus position, a large cobra happened to enter the room terrifying all the boys and each running helter and skelter warning their Bileh all the time about the dangerous serpent. But by then Naren was too deep into his meditation to even hear his mates as they all watched in absolute shock how the snake spreading its hood started watching Naren in his meditation intently. After that it simply made its way out without so much as touching the little boy leaving all the other boys shell shocked. Later Naren admitted to his friends,”I wasn’t aware of the snake or anything else; I was only experiencing great joy.”
His early days – the Ramakrishna Connection
Before long, Narendranath Dutta joined the Calcutta Presidency College in 1879 soon after clearing his Entrance Examination. By then he had acquired a vast amount of knowledge on both western and eastern culture, theology, religion, science and lots more. His penchant for meditation during these years had increased manifold, all a deep influence and impact of his mother. It must be mentioned here that since his early childhood days, Naren had made meditation one of his favorite pastimes and perhaps even more than that. There is, in fact, a striking incident, rather some recurring incidents that started right from his early days in this regard that is worth mentioning. It occurred often that when little Naren would at times close his eyes in order to meditate or sleep, he would get flashes of a glowing and burning ball of bright light appearing between his brows, on his mid temple. He even reportedly used to visions of Lord Buddha and Lord Shiva during these meditation sessions. Sometimes, these lights would even change their hues and grow in their size until they finally grow large enough to burst out into a glow of a blindingly white and bright radiance that would bathe his whole body in its wonderful brilliance. Now as it occurred to him since as long as he could remember, he simply considered it to be something quite normal only and seemed to find nothing extra ordinary or unnatural about it. Therefore, when days later he thought of discussing this and asking about such incidents during meditation to his friends, he realized that it was something quite exclusive to him as it had never happened to any of his playmates. Much later, after his introduction to him when he would narrate these incidents and visions to his mentor and philosophical guide Sri Ramakrishna who, being himself one of the greatest philosopher and sage of all times, could at once recognize the early signs of the great hermit and sage that he was destined to be and which, in fact, set him apart from the other children of his age.
Much like the Telegu proverb that says, “A flower radiates its fragrance from the time it is born.” Swamiji’s life too is full of incidents and events that directly reflect his later transformation and justify the ways and ideals of his later years. There are several stories about how he, both as a child and as a young lad, would give away even his last bit to any poor or needy person who would come begging at their door. A very popular incident in this regard narrates how once young Bileh having seen a very old and sickly beggar at the front door of his house asking for alms and food, decided to give him his own clothes and food. However, when the beggar was properly fed and was about to take leave with the other offerings, it struck Bileh that he had not provided for the poor man enough and properly since he still had few clothes and other materials left with him. When his mother found out about Bileh’s strange thoughts, she had no other alternative or option but to lock her soft-hearted crazy boy up in their attic room at least until the poor old beggar had gone out. However, this was not to be, since, having been locked up in a room against his wishes, little Bileh got all the more determined in his plans and what he did next was simply unimaginable. He began to throw out anything and everything in front of him, that he could lay his hands on, from the attic window to the beggars, the street urchins, and other needy ones on the street just below their house while telling them to take away whatever or anything they wished to. After throwing away all his shirts and clothes when he could manage to find any more of his own belongings to give away, he began to get hold of his mother’s sarees and other clothes. In fact, he did not even spare the blankets and curtains and other such household articles which were there in the room and which could be used by those people as cloth materials may be against the cold or anything. Bhuvaneshwari Devi was too shell shocked and speechless at her little boy’s madness to react, however, truly speaking, she was no less pleased inwardly at her Bileh’s actions and behaviors towards the poor and needy people who have always been cruelly neglected, denied their basic rights and socially looked down upon.
Around this time, when he had just started his college life in Calcutta and had become quite popular and favorite among both his class mates and his teachers for his unhindered, progressive and fast mind and his sharp intellect along with his natural simplicity and genuineness, a certain desperacy and waywardness started to creep in the young Naren’s mind which gradually began to influence the whole of his mental and intellectual being. The apparent futility and the factor of absolute nothingness of everything around him started to haunt him day and night and he began to disregard all the ideals and beliefs that he had truly valued and nurtured in his heart so long since his childhood. The pompous religious rituals and the strict unreasonable customs of Hinduism disillusioned him and created in him an aversion, which he did not even know, existed within him before this. A very famous incident involving Naren and his mother Bhuvaneshwari Devi, can be narrated here for a better perspective into Naren’s changes in behavior and actions during the trying time that he was going through, which although, certainly does not explain his behavior. It happened so that one day as he returned home from his college, he became particularly dissatisfied regarding some petty household issue and had a slight altercation with his mother. As Bhuvaneshwari Devi tried to explain to her son the triviality of the situation and that it was an unintentional and genuine mistake, angry Naren started to shower accusations on his loving mother blaming her for the apparent mistake or error in the chore and in his frenzy he crossed all limits and went so far as to the extent of calling his mother a ‘liar’. Bhuvaneshwari Devi was deeply hurt at this, especially as it came from her Bileh who she loved dearly, more than her life and who had never earlier so much as disobeyed her. In the evening when his father came home from work, he came to know of the showdown between the mother and the son and quickly realized the solution. He went straight up to Naren’s room who was not present there at the time and wrote on his walls with a piece of chalk, “Today Mr. Narendranath Dutta has abused his mother and called her a ‘liar’.” As soon as Naren returned home, he saw the writing on the wall of his room and instantly went red with a deep sense of shame and disgust for his actions and words. He, at once, went over to his mother and apologized to her kneeling over and touching her feet. He repeatedly asked for her forgiveness and Bhuvaneshwari Devi, a doting mother that she was, readily took her son to her bosom since she knew that the realization of a mistake was the greatest amendment for any human being. This incident probably speaks volumes about the deep bond that the mother and son shared between them right until their last breath.
In this context, it has to be mentioned here that soon after getting an admission in the renowned academic institution of Calcutta, namely, Presidency College, Naren had to be transferred to the General Assembly Institution due to some unspecified family issues. His earlier apprehensions and hesitations in relation to religion, faith and life, in general, now gave way to a much bigger desolation, which directly resulted in a deep turmoil and a strong spiritual crisis in Naren’s mental and intellectual world. He was unable to find peace and solace in any faith and had begun to doubt the very existence of the Almighty. Like the whole country or rather the whole world, he too started going through a very strange and barren phase in his life. He could not find any truth or sincerity in the normal daily rituals that other common people called religion or faith. Thus the idea or concept of God and His existence began to seem to him as altogether fake and completely without any valid or strong base and most importantly, people’s faith and the pomposity with which the show of that faith is carried out by the then Brahmins appeared no less than a farce and a falsity to this great future leader of the country. All around him, Naren could see the insincerity, emptiness and the hollowness of the common human behavior and also how shallow and empty their apparent faith and love for God was too. All these things intensely disgusted and disrupted the spiritual semblance of Swami Vivekananda, then Narendranath Dutta, so much so that he was desperately in need and search of a spiritual guide and an intellectual mentor who could show and direct him along the right and just path of living and also help him to establish for good once again within him his lost faith in God, the ultimate Creator, His creation and of course, humanity in general. Moreover, added to such diverting circumstances was the condition at home which, particularly speaking, was not really a preferable or a happy one for the financial stability or rather the affluence that the family once used to enjoy was very gradually declining with Naren’s father’s slowly worsening health condition, as was natural with age and for which he could no longer continue with his work as he would do in the earlier times.
At such a juncture in his life when Naren was almost at the threshold of renouncing all his faith, regard and respect for humanity, as if by the game of fate, he came to know of the yogic man, the great Sri Ramakrishna from one of his English professors from his college. The name of Sri Ramakrishna and some of his actions, as he learned from his professor, somehow roused a great deal of interest and curiosity in Naren for this apparently mad philosopher and yogic person who was known all across the city as an earnest and the most sincere devotee of Maa Kali, the goddess of power and the conqueror of darkness and everything evil. At that time Sadhak Sri Ramakrishna was residing at the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple which was built under the patronage and instruction of another Maa Kali devotee and a great personality, Rani Rashmoni, a strong willed and just queen who hold on her own amidst the dominance of the British rule at that time and was brave enough to fight and protest against their oppressions and humiliations. The Dakshineshwar Kali Temple which is located slightly at the outskirt of the then Calcutta had this famous Sri Ramakrishna, or the ‘Sadhak Bamakhyapa’ as he was commonly referred to by the local people, as the chief priest, employed personally by Rani Rashmoni, with the responsibility of looking after and taking full care of the deity. Sri Ramkrishna was perhaps rightly called Bamakhyapa by the common people not as a slight or a remark against him but due to his intense and extreme love and devotion for Maa Kali which surely was the rarest and truest kind of devotion and passion and which actually drove him almost mad and frenzied to such extent that he was often reported to be having an imaginary conversation with the Maa Kali idol or trying to feed her with his own hands. The strange fact here, however, remains that Maa Kali was indeed reported to have appeared in front of him on several occasions and did take offerings from one of her most sincere devotees’ hands. In fact, it is a strong belief among the followers of Sri Ramakrishna that he too was actually an avatar of Lord Shiva, the Creator, in the guise of a somewhat crazy, illiterate country man and his wife Maa Sarada, another simple and illiterate country girl to be an avatar of Maa Durga, the destroyer of evil and the feminine half of the Creator.
Therefore, having heard quite a lot about Sri Ramakrishna from his English professor, Narendranath decided in his mind to give the man a visit and see for himself if he could do something, anything actually, about his tired and restless soul. Thus, he walked into the famous Dakshineshwar kali Temple on one November morning in 1881, a rather important date in the history of humanity and which was later to have its effect on the whole world, to meet this much talked about priest who had apparently claimed to have actually been blessed with Maa Kali’s appearance or physical presence before him and was reported to regularly see and talk to her oblivious of his surrounding and state. As Naren reached the temple, we asked straight away about Sri Ramakrishna to the people there. Having been directed towards him, without any primary introduction or cordiality, Naren shot the Master the most obvious and important spiritual question that had been plaguing him for a long time now for he had not been able to find out a suitable answer yet and had never received a satisfactory reply from those who he had happened to ask about it before this. “Sir, have you seen God?”, Naren had asked directly to which the great sage, without even a moment’s hesitation, had replied with force, “Yes, I have. I see Him as clearly as I see you, only in a much more intense sense.” This answer, or rather the truth, the sincerity and the force behind it completely bowled Naren over who was so long only accustomed with the general evasiveness, apprehensions and the hesitations that are usually related with the answers and discussions when it came to matters of religion, faith or God. Within seconds, Naren realized, as if it flashed upon him, that this was the man who was destined to be his only guiding star along his path of life. With all his doubts and hesitations cleared and his heart completely won over by the great Master’s simplicity, warmth and purity of heart, his genuineness and his selfless and unconditional love for everyone, Naren now found a new lease of life, a new way of living and all his faiths and regard were once again established firmly in his soul, this time certainly forever. Thus begun the life long journey of a landmark ‘Guru and Disciple’ relationship that is quite unique of its kind in the entire history of spiritual leaders across the globe and which was to revolutionize the thinking process and the actions of the whole world in the years to come.
Soon he became quite a regular at the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple and before long became good friends with the other disciples over there who were to be by side till the last days. Although Sri Ramakrishna loved everyone equally, he still developed a special affection and a soft corner for the bright and intelligent Naren who made rapid and fast progress in his spiritual education under the great Mater and thus, quite naturally, became his favorite disciple along the path of spiritualism and faith. He was, in fact, the Master enough to foresee that this particular disciple of his had within him that power, talent and fire that were needed to take on and conquer the whole world, not with swords but with words and actions of love. He could well understand that all he needed was a proper guidance and an ignition of the fiery spirit that was already there inside him. However, the happy days did not seem to last long since around this very time two successive events took place that caused Naren much distress and was a cause of a good deal of pain for him. First it was the sudden demise of this beloved father in 1884 which left him and his family completely shattered. They were now almost penniless and Naren was now left with the responsibility of supporting his distraught mother and his brothers and sisters. As if this was not enough, the second blow came in the form of a shocking news as his Guru, his second father, Sri Ramakrishna was diagnosed with throat cancer. However, he continued his teachings from his house at Cossipore and a rented cottage at Shyampukur alternatively and even formed a community of selfless services of which he made Naren the leader. He gradually made them accustomed with the ways of monastic life and the importance of absolute renunciation. He later gave Naren specific instructions and directions about his wishes of establishing a whole new Monastic Order. However, before his dreams could be fulfilled this great sage left his mortal body on the 16th of August, 1886. The two successive loss opened to Naren a whole new meaning of life and be finally vowed to give himself up to the last bit for the cause of humanity. In 1887, he along with his other comrades established a new Monastic brotherhood under his leadership, according to their mentor’s wishes and formally took oath to ‘Sannayasa’ or celibacy thereby renouncing their past life, relations and names. That very day a new man was born who the posterity across the world was to remember as Swami Vivekananda.
However, he quickly understood that this alone was not going to help humanity since in order to truly serve man, they needed to reach out to people, starting from the lowest strata. Soon, he paid heed to his inner calling – to serve his country, his beloved motherland, which was then severely bludgeoned under the brutal British Empire. With Maa Sarada’s blessings, he set out on a journey of exploring and discovering the real India. He realized soon enough that the true progress of a nation lay in educating the people and nourishing them both mentally and physically. The appalling poverty, illiteracy and backwardness of his fellow countrymen shocked him. He became the first spiritual leader of the country to declare openly that the reason behind India’s present downfall lay in its ill-treatment of the common mass. He readily understood that education was the only weapon to fight out all kinds of evils and that common men needed a real emancipation of their soul to realize their latent powers and talent. Thus as soon as he got back from his tour, now gaining a vast amount of knowledge and experience, he decided to open an organization to reach out to the most deprived sections of the society and bring them in close proximity to the real lessons of life and to God. Thus was founded the Ramakrishna Mission, after the name of his beloved mentor. He, along with his men, worked extensively in the remotest parts of the country in teaching men about the basic steps of living like hygiene, education, healthy eating and so on. The whole idea behind his institution, as he said later, was in fact, “to set in motion a machinery which will bring noblest ideas to the doorstep of even the poorest and the meanest.”, the ideal of which they had all vowed with their lives to accomplish. Thus started his vision of creating a new better and developed India the ideals and concept of which he could spread and present in front of the western world namely America. And pretty soon that opportunity came knocking at his door.
The Chicago episode
The long and extensive journey as a ‘nameless monk’ across the length and breadth of his motherland instilled in Swami Vivekananda a deep sense of responsibility and his heart cried at the severe poverty and misery of his fellow countrymen. Their abject suffering caused him deep and considerable pain and he therefore resolved to free his country and his fellow brothers from all social and political evils. He narrowed down the primary factor of the prevalent evil in the society to be lack of proper awareness among the common people about the importance of physical and mental hygiene. Thus, he recognized that education was the root of eradicating all evils from all strata of the society. It occurred to Swamiji that until and unless the common mass were made aware of their potentials as a single unit of the greater and larger connotation of the universe and of his or her basic and fundamental rights, things were not going to change much. So with these factors on his mind and with the passion of a true social reformer the great Swami Vivekananda set out in his oath to educate the general mass of his beloved nation and to show to the whole world the true ability and worth of India. His dream to present India on the International stage and to spread the ideals and philosophy of this country across the universe were however, destined to come true pretty soon. Before long, the concepts and ideals of Swamiji and his fellow missionary brothers gained a considerable amount of popularity with his new founded institution The Ramakrishna Mission. People irrespective of caste and creed welcomed it and appreciated the novelty of their thoughts. Several rich and influential people of the city extended their help and patronage to run the mission successfully, get these simple ignorant people out of their spiritual torpor, and break free from the shackles of illiteracy, parochialism, blind customs, superstitions and narrow mindedness. Only then would they be truly emancipated and advanced. Consequently, Swamiji and his members worked relentlessly day and night for the uplift of their country people. They also took special care and attention about the education and empowerment of the women folks, which was another burning and important question of the time since the great leader, had realized that a nation’s progress truly lay in the progress of its women.
It was precisely at this time that Swamiji’s intention of taking his religion and his country to the world was received a further boost in which came in the form of an opportunity to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions that was to be held at Chicago in 1893. Although there was no formal invitation on the part of the organizers to India, Swamiji wanted none the less to attend it and not to let go of such a golden opportunity to present his motherland in front of the whole world, especially the developed countries of the west. In this matter, however, Swamiji even got considerable encouragement and help from many of his friends, admirers and followers. He too felt that the time was high to take the next big step and the platform was just perfect for the spread and presentation of his Guru Sri Ramakrishna’s messages and ideals of brotherhood, devotion, love and sacrifice to the entire world. Soon enough, Swamiji heard his inner call for the fulfilment of his mission. He could sense his greater responsibility that was not only towards his own countrymen but also to the total universe as a whole. For this reason, with MaaSarada’s blessings, whom he considered a deity and an avatar of Goddess Durga, he embarked upon a deep meditation at the very south part of India, named Kanyakumari, on a rock island, a few kilometers from the shore. He swam across the sea to reach that rock where he sat on meditation for quite a few days until he could finally have his inner certitude and could hear the divine call that urged him to go ahead with his plan and thus place his beloved country to the position it deserved in the great court of this world. Before long, he began to receive financial aids from different sources. The chief monetary support came partly from the fund raised by his Chennai followers and disciples while the rest of the amount came from the Raja of Khetri. Therefore, aided with the funds and with lots of blessings and good wishes from all quarters, at last, Swami Vivekananda set out for that historical voyage to America on 31st May, 1893 from the port of Mumbai, an event that was to change the history of India’s spiritual as well as religious journey in the eye of the world forever.
Swamiji’s journey to the west involved quite a few remarkable incidents. He reached America through brief stops at China, Japan and also Canada. In China, he even came across some Buddhist monasteries and some Bengali and Sanskrit manuscripts which gave him a good deal of pleasure and helped him boost his self confidence regarding the heritage of his country. While in Japan, he visited the historical and doomed Nagasaki, Tokyo and finally started his voyage to the west from Yokohama. On his ship to Canada, named, RMS Empress of India, he accidentally bumped into the famous Indian businessman Jamsetji Tata which marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship and the establishment of a number of educational and health institution by Tata in India, all due to Swamiji’s inspiration and encouragement. Here in this ship, they also discussed the setting up of a steel factory in their country, the rest of which is quite well known to the world today.However, once he reached Chicago, it was not a smooth affair over there in the unknown shores of America for the great son of India motherland. After a few days, Swamiji had exhausted almost the entire of the little money he had brought from his country although he had tried to live as humbly as possible. He, therefore, had to go through a really hard and trying time and some days he did not even have a proper square meal. Added to it was the fact, which he learnt on reaching there, that the Parliament could not be attended by any delegate without a proper credential or bonafide, of which, unfortunately, Swamiji had none at that time. But he was the glaring example of hope and an inspiration to millions. Disappointment or giving up was not his language. He started planning a way out. Moreover, he learnt that the Parliament was not to be opened till the first week of September. He soon decided what to be done and as a measure of cutting down his expenditure for the coming days he shifted to the relatively cheap sides of Boston city. While in Boston, Swami Vivekananda came across Professor John Henry Wright of the Harvard University who at once invited him for a lecture at the prestigious University when he realized Vivekananda’s great depth of knowledge on various subjects and especially on religion and God and his latent potentials. It was then that he insisted him to represent his country and Hinduism at the Parliament of World’s Religions that was to be held in Chicago in the coming September.
Vivekananda felt duly honored and happy at the professor’s faith and trust in him, his abilities and most importantly, in the worth of his motherland. It gave him immense joy and later he even wrote about that incident in his notes saying, “He urged upon me the necessity of going to the Parliament of Religions, which he thought would give an introduction to the nation.”. However, Vivekananda had to tell him with much disappointed that unfortunately he had no official accreditation and therefore it was rather difficult for him to attend and join the Parliament of World’s Religion without a proper bonafide and that he was trying hard to get or manage one. At this the learned professor told Swami Vivekananda something which he was to remember till the last day of his life. He said to him, “To ask for your credentials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine in the heavens.”. Thus began Swamiji’s preparation for attending much-waited Parliament of the World’s Religions that was famous all over the world. He had at last reached the destination that he along with his fellow missionaries had always dreamt of and for which he had been single handedly chosen by his Guru, his mentor Sadhak Sri Ramakrishna. He could indeed feel the blessings of his parents, his Master, MaaSarada and his thousands of disciples across the country along with the miilions of his countrymen who had prayed for him and his success day and night. Thus finally luck did favor the favorite child of God and he started to prepare his speeches to speak at the council in favor of his country, uplifting the Indian nationality, its rich culture, heritage and traditions and his Guru’s message and idealisms for the spread of love and brotherhood among all the citizens of the world, for all are the children of the same God and all belong to the same great family or fraternity that is the mother earth. And rightly enough, he did not fail to use to the maximum this wonderful opportunity and did actually make the best out of it by having established his country and its rich cultural and spiritual resources in the great world stage once and for all. His display of a great oratory talent and his moving and inspiring speeches at the Parliament of World’s Religions compelled every delegates to sit up and take notice of this great monk from an eastern world country named India.
The odd seventeen-day session of the Parliament of World’s Religion began on a fine 11th September in 1893 at the Art Institution of Chicago and was considered as a part of the World Columbian Exposition. Swami Vivekananda’s very first lecture was on that day only during the second half of the day, almost towards the afternoon. It was a sort of introductory speech and Vivekananda was utterly nervous about the whole thing. He knew he was bearing the expectations and responsibility of his whole nation and it all now depended upon how he fared in this Parliament. But he invoked MaaSaraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and wisdom and instantly he could feel a renewed vigor and energy, as if he had been possessed by some great cosmic force that included in it “The Soul of India, the echo of the Rishis, the voice of Ramakrishna, the mouthpiece of the resurgent Time spirit”. With this extraordinary force and spirit, he began his historical and immemorial speech at the Parliament of World’s Religion at Chicago with the following words of salutation: “Sisters and brothers of America!”.Instantly, at these words, the whole auditorium consisting a crowd of some odd seven thousand people, broke into a rupture of claps and applause and he received a standing ovation that lasted for a whole two minutes that no doubt created a record. Once the applause stopped and the silence restored again, Swami Vivekananda, the light of India, began his speech to which the delegates of every nation and others listened to almost as if spell bound breaking occasionally into thunderous claps, applauses and appreciation at the sheer brilliance, excellence and not to be forgotten at the amazing oratory skills of this handsome son of God from the east who had by then won over their hearts. He seemed to all as a born leader and an excellent orator by perhaps some divine right. The people started to identify him as Swami Vivekananda, the ‘Messenger of Indian wisdom to the Western world’ and wondered at his vast range of learning, knowledge and education. With the first two memorable lines from his world famous speech, he then completely bowled the audience over and established, as his Master had wished and known of, the true worth and culture of Hinduism. His words, right after his salutation as the audience went quite, went, “It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.”.
What came next was something that the delegates from the west and the rest of the world were clearly not at all prepared for. Although they had already got a glimpse of the greatness that was Swami Vivekananda with his salutation, as he continued with his speech, it gradually unfolded to them that standing before them was a world class leader who had surely been chosen and sent to them by the God Almighty for the emancipation of their miserly soul. He propagated and spread the eternal ideologies of Hinduism and its influence on the lives of human being. He announced to the world in his firm and confident voice the ultimate truth about Hinduism, “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance….We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” The crowd now had no doubts left about the greatness of this handsome yogi who was speaking before them and the greatness of the land that he came from or the religion, namely Hinduism that he belonged to. He spoke extensively about how Hinduism had, since the time immemorial, not only tolerated, but also sheltered a number of religious sects and their refugees and the persecuted from all across the globe. Starting from the Israelites who had at one time fled to India and taken shelter in the south to fostering till date with all their due respect and rights, the remnants of the grand Zoroastrians in India, every incident rightly proves and speaks of the big heart that the religion called Hinduism nurtures and the undying spirit with which it teaches its followers to embrace every human being with a brotherly affection irrespective of his or her religion, nationality, class, sex etc. He presented the convention of the assembly in the words of Gita as he spoke of the motion which, “is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.” Swami Vivekananda here also mentioned the same philosophy in the western world that was pronounced by the people as, “As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.” And which had succeeded in touching and inspiring zillions of lives across various nations that spoke various languages. Here Swamiji also expounded the similarity between all sects and religions with this single piece if example which spoke volumes about how all great religion think alike and therefore how all men are equal before the eyes of the all powerful God.
Towards the close of his address, Swamiji laid special emphasis on the need for all the nations of the world, both big and small, to come to together and to join hands in creating a better and safer future for our descendants as it was our primary responsibility towards them to leave behind for them a world which they could love and truly call their home. He thus declared in a bold and clear language, “Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.” At this the world recognized that the time has really come at last to break down, once and for ever, all the barriers and walls of division and discrimination that separated men from each other as God had never wished or created any division between his creations and that He loved all with equal fervent and zeal. Swamiji’s subsequent addresses at the Parliament of World’s Religion concerned of the following topics:
- Hinduism – Why we disagree
- Paper on Hinduism
- Religion not the crying need of India
- Buddhism – The fulfilment of Hinduism
- The final address
In this consecutive addresses he discussed and explained in details the different aspects of humanity, why and how people behave as they do, the reasons behind the growing disagreement between men, nations, families etc. he reasoned that petty narrow mindedness and selfish mentality was the cause of most of the wars and disagreements and that it could easily be resolved if men vowed to stand by each other through thick and thin and certainly irrespective of who they were, what language they spoke and which nationality or religion they belonged to. At the end of the long seventeen day assembly, the whole world fad already known who Swami Vivekananda was and, more importantly, what India actually meant and what great potentiality she bore within herself. As the Parliament got over, Swamiji did not return to India immediately. Instead, he stayed abroad for about three and a half years more to properly propagate the ideals and the ways of Hinduism that he had discussed at the assembly and which consisted only a fraction of what Hinduism actually meant or its significance. During this period, he travelled extensively across various parts of USA and even made a short trip to London spreading Vedanta.
The Last episode of Swami Vivekananda’s life
As Swamiji toured around the various countries and places, he interacted with more and more people and tried to get acquainted and gain knowledge about the different cultures, customs and traditions of different religions and nationalities. He tried to understand and learn about the various ways and aspects of leading life that are practiced in the foreign lands and that are quite unknown to his native countrymen. He realized that everywhere people were all the same with the same aspirations, dreams and requirements. Yet, in spite of all these basic similarities, people fight with each other for trivial issues and wish to be the sole power. He quickly decided that it was time to take action against such spiritual barrenness among the people of the world, which was one of the primary reasons behind their sorrow and misery. They were all lost souls who had no direction and no meaning to their life, only some mechanized physical beings who lead life in a routine that was gradually turning into something completely devoid of emotions or feelings. Thus, he started to tell and discuss with people about the Vedanta that he had known from his great Master Sri Ramakrishna at the famous Kali temple at Dakshineshwar in Calcutta. During these trips, he made a number of new acquaintances who were greatly influenced by his teachings, his personality and his idealisms and ways of life. People would stock and gather in large numbers in the halls and rooms where he was scheduled to deliver any lecture or hold a discussion session. Everywhere people were simply lost and thirsty for a spiritual and intellectual guidance that could quench their spiritual thirst and lead and direct them to the right path of living.
Thus wherever these people would hear about Swamiji’s discussion sessions they would come running to meet him and thereby solve their spiritual and religious queries calming their restless minds and barren souls. Swamiji too never disappointed them and with his sound knowledge and wisdom always guided them through their troubles and sufferings. He was like a drop of water to the vast desert of misery that was there inside the heart of the common mass. His words and teachings gave them a new direction of life and rejuvenated their spirits. Their wandering souls were calmed with Swami Vivekananda’s wise and loving words and his unconditional love and affection for them touched their hearts filled them with a wonderful sense of belonging which they had probably never experienced before. In no time they all turned into some of his most earnest and faithful disciples. Captain and Mrs. Sevier, Sarah Ole Bull and the very young Margaret Noble from London were some of such followers of Swami Vivekananda who were so greatly and so deeply enchanted by Swamiji’s teachings and ideals that they became some of his most loyal disciples and would always be by his side at any time under any circumstances. Margaret Noble later decided to come to India to serve Swami Vivekananda and be under his personal guidance while at the same time helping the distressed people out of their misery and showing them a new ray of hope. This Margaret Noble later came to be known in the whole world as Sister Nivedita, no doubt named by Swami Vivekananda himself and who was no less than a shadow for Swamiji and who gave herself up completely to his cause of freeing his motherland from the suffering and pain that she was in at that time. Swamiji too valued her company and her utmost dedication and sincerity soon assured him of her great ability and that she was no ordinary woman but rather one made of steel. She was a lifelong follower of Swamiji and no talk or discussion about Swami Vivekananda can be complete without mentioning Sister Nivedita and her tireless service to India.
After conquering the whole of the world, as his Master Sri Ramakrishna had rightly predicted and apprehended, Swami Vivekananda left Naples for his voyage to India on 30 December 1896 and soon he came back to his beloved country on 6th February 1897 as his ship reached the shores of Chennai. He stayed there for a couple of days attending different lectures, assemblies and functions that his followers and admirers had arranged for his spectacular success overseas. They were all overjoyed at the overwhelming response and adulations that Swamiji’s speeches had brought for the country and its people. To the western world India was now no more an oriental myth that was known only as the land of snake charmers and old folk tales. Thus, they all greeted and welcomed Swamiji back to his homeland after all these days with a warm heart and doubly blessed him in his further mission. On 19th February Swami Vivekananda landed in Calcutta at the port of Komagatamaru near Budge Budge from where he took the local train to the city. As Swamiji returned to Calcutta all his friends, family and followers were all overjoyed to see him and his successive lectures and discussions at various assemblies across the country sent a ripple down the people and created a great stir in their hearts. In his lectures, he tried to propound to all people the following points as a measure of effective and good living and attempted to rebuild their lost consciousness and calm and direct their wayward souls:
- To move and rouse their religious and spiritual consciousness and make them take pride in the rich and long cultural and religious heritage of their motherland
- To bring a sense of unity and integrity among the diverse kind of people of his country
- To bring all the people of different sects together in making their country a better and an integrated whole
- To make Hinduism the common base for the diverse sects and classes which would no doubt create a bond between the people and thus keep aside all their differences and disagreements
- To instill within them a strong sense of patriotism and brotherhood and make them self sufficient, both mentally, financially and spiritually
- To extend their helping hands in the eradication of the social evils prevalent during the time like dowry, child marriage, widow burning etc. from the society and the dark shadows of superstitions and blind rituals from people’s minds
- To stop the exploitation of the downtrodden people and help them so that they too can see the light of education and culture. Emancipation of the women and the street children was another important issue that Swami Vivekananda decided to propagate among the general mass
After his return Swamiji invested quite some time in the thorough propagation and presentation of the doctrines and ideals taught to him and his fellow brothers at the Dakshineshwar Kali temple by their Master Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa who had been a constant source of inspiration and motivation to Swami Vivekananda and the other monks of Ramakrishna Mission even after so many years of his death. But soon he realized that in order to serve the people of his country better and in a systematic way, they would need to set up an organized unit that could be spread across the country and may be even beyond and could be controlled by the different centers. With this view in mind, Swamiji started the work of the Ramakrishna Mission with a renewed vigor, which so long was just a name with a very small service area. It had no systemic work process and was not as effective an organization as Swamiji himself had wished it to be. But now he took up the responsibility of making it a larger institution that he had always dreamed of and more importantly which his Master had always wanted and instructed him to do. Therefore with a renewed vigor and dream Swami Vivekananda on 1st May 1897 set up a wonderful and a unique kind of organization which he named as the Ramakrishna Mission, as earlier and in which he declared that both monks and the common people could work jointly and participate in serving the society and its people through various social works and initiatives. The ideals of this noble mission were based on those of Karma Yoga and the responsibility of being the governing body of this great organization was entrusted on the Ramakrishna Math, which had so long been conducting all the religious works and services. In fact, now both the prestigious institutions namely the Ramakrishna Mission and the Ramakrishna Math shared the same head quarters at Belur Math. With this, Swami Vivekananda became completely dipped in the huge responsibility he had undertaken. He had no time for respite and no time for his own self. He had no thought of his health and the only thing that occupied his mind day and night was how to serve his country and his fellow countrymen better so that they can enjoy a better life that they surely deserve as a citizen of the country.
Swami Vivekananda now began to think of ways of how to reach out to people in the remote and distant parts of the country and how to bring them all together. There was also the responsibility of making the common people aware of such an institution where they could come and join without any fear of being an outcast. Moreover, they needed as much donations as possible and that also rather in a short time since the organization was run primarily by these donations and funds and it was necessary to support as many people as they could within a short span. Only then could they make it into something bigger. Thus, Swamiji chalked out a number of ways in which this could be done. He brought out two journals, one in English and the other one in Bengali that he named Probuddha Bharata and Udbodhan respectively. He also set up a number of monasteries in different places and cities across the country of which the one in Mayavati located near Almora in the Himalayas and two others in Madras, currently Chennai one of which was named the Advaita Ashrama. Also, as the great famine of 1897 struck Calcutta and the nearby area, Swami Vivekananda along with his associates and other monks poured out their heart and soul in the relief work which was especially needed in the Murshidabad district. Gradually the name of the Ramakrishan Institution began to spread far and wide and millions of people, from both India and abroad, started to take interest and an active participation in its social works and services. He opened several brunches and annexes that were run simultaneously with the main body and which were widespread in their services like hospitals, separate antenatal care units and wards for pregnant women which were very rare in those times, schools and colleges for the boys and the girls, special night schools for the working men who liked to study and become literate but were unable to do so due to their work during the day and so on. In addition to all these, he also took special care of the remote villages and to him the progress of real India was the only means for true development of the country. Therefore, he set up several rural development organizations and their brunches and centers at various remote places and organized a number of massive relief camps and rehabilitation works for the victims of earthquake, famine, flood, cyclones and other such likewise natural calamities that had been taking place across the different parts of India.
Around this time, Jamsetji Tata who had been a very close acquaintance of Swamiji since they first met accidentally on the famous ship to Chicago, having been inspired by Swamiji, had now set up a number of public hospitals, educational institutions and other public service organizations. He personally requested Swamiji during this time to be the head man of his newly built organization namely the Research Institute of Science. However, Swamiji had to decline his offer since, according to him, the ideals of the Institution clashed directly with his spiritual interests. But this did not affect a bit their deep friendship and it continued till the end of their lives since both might have had slightly dissimilar thinking process and ideals but both were equally committed to their country and its advancement and progress was the priority for both the great sons of this motherland. After all these Swamiji again set out on a tour of the whole country to create mass awareness, this time on a much larger scale and with a greater and larger number of participation from all corners of the country. He first visited Punjab where he tried his heart and soul to bridge the mental and religious differences between the Arya Samaj who were controlling a reformed movement on Hinduism and the Sanatan groups who were the orthodox Hindus and who did not believe in any kind of change or reformation. Thus, they were strictly against the abolition of the superstitions and blind traditions and customs and in fact themselves followed and practiced them in their daily lives. Swamiji stepped forward to mediate between the two sects and bring them to a common ground where both the two ideologically different parties could work together hand in hand for the betterment and progress of the country they live in and they love so much. He also made some very short trips to Lahore, Delhi and then Khetri, whose king was a very loyal and well wishing friend of Swamiji and who would even support his family when they were distraught. In fact, the king of Khetri even supported Swamiji’s mother after her great son’s death when the family was in utter misery once again. Once Swamiji came back to Calcutta in the January of 1898, he began to make plans to accustom and get his western devotees who were quite a few in number now and who had all come to India in response to Swamiji’s call for social service that every man was bound to in his or her lifetime by dint of their humanity, used to the ways of the common man in India and their experience and see for themselves the endless sufferings and plights of these people. On the other hand, however he was particularly pleased with the way his beloved Ramakrishna Mission was taking shape and how it had gradually managed to win the trust, faith and support of a maximum number of people across the country. It gave him a great sense of joy and satisfaction to see the devotees and monks and the common people too working with each other selflessly towards a greater cause keeping aside all their differences. In this context, it must be mentioned that Sister Nivedita, during this time opened a number of schools for the women and the little girls and had become quite a close confidante of Swamiji.
In memory of his deceased mentor and Guru Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, Swamiji had even composed a prayer song about the same time in 1898 named Khandana Bhava Bhandana. Soon Swmiji noticed that in order to extend the works and services of the Ramakrishna Mission and its other holdings, it was important to generate a large sum of finance. This he knew would not be sufficient enough from the aids and funding they were receiving at that time from their India devotees and patrons, sometimes even those from abroad. But to make it a much bigger institution far more effort was needed in terms of financial and physical power. He was not much worried about the man labor since by then thousands of youths had been inspired by Swamiji’s ideals and had vowed to make contributions to it in the form of physical efforts and labors. Now in spite of his gradually declining health, all due to over work and fatigue, Swamiji decided to make a second trip to the west mainly due to collect a lofty amount of funds by which they could support and run their various organizations properly. Thus on 20th June 1899, Swamiji left his motherland once again, this time with a different purpose than the first, for London and accompanied by two of his most close persons namely, sister Nivedita and Swami Turiyananda. Swamiji with his disciples reached the port of London on 31st July. After staying there for a few days meeting his old associates and acquaintances and attending a few lectures on the way, they set out for New York City and reached there on August 28 the same year. During his stay Swamiji set up the Vedanta Samaj in New York and San Francisco along with the foundation of a peace retreat or Shanti Ashrama in California. Having done all these Swamiji then returned back to Europe on 26th July, 1900. Reaching the lands of Europe, Swamiji first went to Paris on 3rd August for the International Exposition that was to be held there within a few days. Subsequently, on 7th August he attended the lecture at the Congress of the History of Religions where he spoke eloquently about the different religions of the world and their interrelation and how Hinduism is not just a mere religion but a larger much vision or philosophy that teaches man to be united with the cosmic power of nature. Later that year he also made trips to Vienna, Greece, Constantinople, Cairo, Brittany, Istanbul and many more till he came back to his home city Calcutta on the 9th of December in 1900. Now his health had worsened a lot and he decided to settle finally at Belur Math from where he conducted his works and the various organizations. Sadly, he could not attend the Religious Conference at Japan the following year due to a very critical health condition. His well-wishers and followers now began to warn him to slow down and take rest. But how could he? He had vowed to free his motherland from all the pestering evils and he could never rest until he achieved that. For it was he who had taught the whole world to, “Awake and arise, and stop not until the goal is reached.” However, it was perhaps destiny’s plan to make him stop and rest now. Since on July 4, 1902, this great leader, thinker and philosopher left his mortal body and set out for a whole new kind of journey, a journey to be reunited with the Creator. He left a massive work of human upliftment behind him for which till date the whole world remembers him.