Swami Vivekananda was born on 12 January, 1863 in Calcutta. His family name was Narendranath Dutta. His father Vishwanath Dutta was a learned man who was well- versed in English and Persian. By profession, he was a successful Attorney-at-law in the High Court of Calcutta.
His mother was a pious lady who influenced Naren since his childhood in the formation of his character. She first taught Naren English lesson, and then made him acquainted with Bengali alphabets.
Naren studied in the Metropolitan Institution at Calcutta; and after passing the Entrance Examination, he joined the General Assembly's Institution founded by the Scottish General Missionary Board (later renamed as Scottish Church College) in Calcutta, from where he passed his B.A. examination, and went to study law. But since his father died, his family's financial position did not allow him to prosecute further study.
Naren was a good singer. Once Ramakrishna Paramahamsa happened to hear Naren singing a devotional song. He asked the young man to see him at Dakshineswar, where he was a priest at the Kali temple.
From his childhood, Naren was eager to see God face to face. He asked many religious stalwarts about his desire in the past, but none could satisfy him. Now this God-man of Dakshineswar said to Naren that as one can see him, he can also see God in the same real form. Naren was not convinced with his words. He wanted the saint to prove it to him. And in course of time, Naren had that wonderful divine experience in his life. He became the most important disciple of the saint. His Guru taught him that God lives in every human being. So by serving mankind, one can serve God.
With this teaching, Naren, in his later life, established the Ramakrishna Mission which is till this day engaged in rendering voluntary social service to the poor and the distressed, irrespective of caste, creed and religion.
Naren was later named as 'Swami Vivekananda', when he became a monk. He went to America to participate in the Parliament of World Religions held at Chicago in 1893. In his long lecture, Swami Vivekananda explained to the world that God is One, and that the different religions are like different rivers (or routes) to terminate in the sea (the same destination).
Hence there should not be any dispute among the preachers of different religions that they worship god in separate forms or with different beliefs. The realization of the eternal truth of One God can avoid hatred among the people. Swamiji's views were acclaimed with great appreciation, and a number of American men and women became his disciples, who later joined the Ramakrishna Mission.
Swami Vivekananda taught us the essence of nationalism in his bold writings. He wrote : "Our sacred motherland is the land of religion and philosophy-the birthplace of spiritual giants-the land of renunciation, where and where alone, from the most ancient to the most modern times, there has been the highest ideal of life open to man."
He also said, "Have faith that you are all, my brave lads, born to do great things."
Swamiji's call to the nation is: "Arise, awake; wake up yourself, and awaken others. Achieve the consummation of life before you pass off. Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached."
Swami Vivekananda passed away in 1902.