January 12, 2013

Swami Vivekananda - the Youth Icon..!!

The moment you hear 9/11, what strikes your mind?

Yes, most of us, even today, vividly remember the imageries of dreadful terror attacks on America. 9/11 is symbolic to a brutal launch of terrorism on an international scale.

But today, I would like to sway your attention towards a positive global event - the introduction of Vedanta & Yoga to the world ignorant of India's heritage & spiritual prowess, i.e. the launch of Hinduism on an international level.

Interestingly, this historic day was 9/11, when the World Parliament of Religions of 1893 took off in Chicago and Swami Vivekananda, a young chap in his twenties, stepped onto the world stage and presented Hinduism, the mother of all religions with a tint of nationalist flavour & left the audience spellbound.

I wish we remember 9/11 for what Vivekananda offered to us, than what an act of terror & hatred gave us.

My introduction to Swami ji was through a
book published by Advait Ashram, titled "What Religion is.." As a teen, I had a deep desire to develop my own thought process before starting to delve into ideologies & philosophies that might influence my thinking. Those were times when I was reluctant to read Mein Kampf or The Experiments with Truth even though having a deep interest in Gandhi & Hitler. Similarly, cautious not to get influenced by Swami Vivekananda as well, I avoided reading any in-house publication of Ram Krishna Ashram, which I thought might be unjustly deifying Vivekananda.

I made lots of effort in ensuring that no personality ever overpowers or dictates my individual conviction but it all went in vane. Today, I admit that Swami Vivekananda has had an everlasting impact in shaping my persona. In the divine influence of Vivekananda, I found all the answers to my inherent childish addiction of questioning every damn thing.

Narendra Nath Datta, as was Swami ji earlier known, was a convent educated Sannyasi in British India! That, in itself, would interest many of us. In fact, he had a profound impact on the leaders of his era, encompassing people from all creed of life.

Before moving ahead, lets observe his contemporaries during the period of Vivekananda's active life. Mahatma Gandhi was in his youth pursuing his law to fulfil the family dream of becoming a Barrister someday. The liberal & skilful Lord Dufferin was India's Viceroy. Indian National Congress was slowly developing into a threat to the British rule. Nehru was enjoying his privileged childhood playing in the lawns of Anand bhavan. The Swadeshi movement was about to get wings under the militant leadership of Lokmanya Tilak. Prof Jagdish Chandra Bose was working on his invention, the Crescograph, to measure plant response to various stimuli. Rabindra Nath Tagore was in his most literary productive Sadhna period. These are people who impacted social public life in India, enough to make you understand the times Vivekananda lived in & the overarching influence he had over his contemporaries.

In 1888, after taking monastic vows, Vivekananda travelled extensively all across India in his ascetic saffron robe without any belongings. His only possession were a Kamandal, a Bhagvad Gita & The Imitation of Christ. He mostly moved on foot & at times with train tickets bought by his disciples.

After covering the whole of India, from Himalayas to Deccans to Gangetic plains to Rajputana, Swami ji reached Kanyakumari in the last leg of his tour. Meditating on a rock, now known as the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, in the southern most tip of India, the monk reflected upon his visits & contemplated that India as a nation had lost its individuality.

In those days, it was highly unexpected of a saint to conceptualise the notion of a nation. And throughout his stint at the parliament of religions, this burning nationalism was the undertone of all his speeches. There were bishops, noted priests, saints & representatives of many faiths but none other than him talked of a demography. Yes, along with Hinduism, the flag of India was also held high by Swami Vivekananda. He represented India, at a time when the concept of a unified nation was still to take a concrete shape.

The Chicago Parliament of Religions was a part of the World's Columbian Exposition, a humongous event commemorating 400 years of the discovery of America by Columbus. The objective of which was to showcase human progress since the so-called "discovery." Some of the attractions of this international fair were Electric Lights, the first Ferris wheel and an Internal Combustion Engine, which Henry Ford saw thereby getting the idea of the first ever Horse-less carriage (the modern Car).

For the Parliament of Religions, delegates & representatives of various faiths were invited. But Vivekananda had reached Chicago without a formal invitation, simply upon requests & funds raised by his fellow disciples. Upon reaching there, he also came to know that only people with credentials could get an entry to the parliament. This was when a Harvard University professor met Vivekananda and had said of him after spending some time with the monk, "To ask you for credentials is like asking the sun if it has the right to shine." Prof John Henry Wright then wrote a letter of recommendation to the authorities and Swami Vivekananda, an orator of exceptional talent was allowed an entry as a speaker representing Hinduism. The rest is a legend!

Vivekananda was not just a representative of Hinduism, he was a flag-bearer of humanity, a professor of tolerance, a man of magnetic personality & a spokesperson of Indian spiritualism. Paradoxically, we desire to live & live long to make a mark in that very world where Swami Vivekananda, in a life span of just 39 years, left his indelible footprints for generations to follow. He accomplished his task and went into samadhi at an age when our leaders call themselves "youth." Inarguably, the world cannot have a better Youth Icon than Swami Vivekananda.

Today, the 12th of January is the National Youth Day and Swami ji's 150th birth anniversary. Let us all cherish the fact that our world has had the privilege to witness a legend like Vivekananda. Arise..!!


  1. could have been only by someone who understands Swami Vivekanand as Vivekanand ......

  2. Very informative piece and nicely expressed too. Anupam Sir, if at all you get mesmerized by anyone, I guess Swami Vivekananda would any day be the best personality.

  3. I respect this legendary figure Swami Vivekananda for all that he has done for India and hinduism.
    Well written.........

  4. I am back on ur Blog after long time.

    Very good article

  5. Saleem........

    I am back on ur Blog after long time.
    Very good article

  6. Swami vivekananda was actual youth icon but youth like u is great who wants to make popular to vivekananda in these day.

    1. Making Swamiji popular should not be our motto... Adapting his ideals in daily life should be the main motto. That will be the great tribute to this Great Icon.

  7. Here is the text of Swamiji's speech:
    It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. l 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 the millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects. My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration.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. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to the southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings:
    As the different streams having there sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to thee.
    The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, 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.
    Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. 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.

  8. You can listen to the audio of the speech at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8MRaedvfUU

  9. Don't know why name did not appear when I posted the text of the speech!

  10. Swami Vivekananda was the most intellectual spiritual personality in the history of India. His literature is quite helpful to human being to live peaceful and progressive life. I have read many Swami Vivekananda books such as Rajyoga,Gyanyoga and Karmayoga. He is immortal through his literature.

  11. " I came out alone on my way to my tryst. But who is that follows me in the silent dark?
    I move aside to avoid his presence but i escape him not.
    He makes the dust rise from the earth with his swagger; he adds his loud voice to every word that i utter.
    He is my own little self, my lord, he knows no shame; butI am ashamed to come to thy door in his company."
    : Gitanjali

  12. Amazingly written Sir! I feel like knowing more about Swamiji.


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