Swami Vivekananda was the greatest gift of God to the Indian society. According to Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, "Swami Vivekananda was a saintly personality who was not content merely with reaching and practicing the highest ideals of Hindu religion and philosophy.
His motto was worship of God through the service of the poor and lowly and he called upon his countrymen and women to shake off the age old lethargy, remove the abuses which had crept into their society and work for the freedom of their motherland.''
Swami Vivekananda was born on 12th January, 1863 in an aristocratic Kshatriya family of Calcutta. His childhood name was Narendranath Dutta. His father Biswanatha Dutta was a leading advocate of Calcutta. His mother Bhubaneswari Devi was a spirited and accomplished lady with an air of majesty in her demeanor.
The enlightment and liberal views of his father molded the character of Vivekananda. He was very energetic and dynamic from the childhood. Besides academics Vivekananda was an expert in games, sports and physical exercise. He was a lover of music.
Though Vivekananda represented many castrating feature of his great Guru, however, even from his childhood he had a religious bent of mind, and in this respect surely, he resembled his master. In the immature age when boys find nothing more interesting than play, Narendranath delighted in spending long hours in a meditative pose before the image of God. He was a naughty boy, demonstrated kingly attributes, had no caste consciousness, and confounded his teachers. He passed entrance examination in 1878-79 and began studies at Presidency College.
In his adolescence, he grew up to be a rationalist to a core of his being and became a member of the Brahmo Samaj. From Presidency group he changed to Scottish Church College and also switched his affiliation to the Adi-Brahmo Samaj which was more conciliatory towards Hindu community. In his college career he also studied deeply philosophy of John Stuart Mill and Hebert Spencer. By his personality and talent Vivekananda drew the attention of his teachers and became extremely popular among his friends in the college." When Vivekananda was a student of B.A. his father expired and he had to shoulder the responsibility of the family.
To maintain the family he wanted a job and passed through deep mental agony. Simultaneously in his spiritual quest he could not find correct about God. Even he thought that God is the mad man's dream. At a moment when young Vivekananda was passing through deep psychological crisis in November 1881 he met the great saint of Dakhineswar accidentally in the house of Brahmo devotee. Narendranath shortly afterwards had frequent interaction with the great saint and put before the sage his straight, earnest, and crucial query, Sir have you seen God? Ramakrishna replied, "Yes I see him just as I see you here, only in a sense much more intense." Narendranath has left a record of this impression in the following words. "For the first time, I found a man who dared to say that he had seen God, that religion was a reality to be felt, to be sensed in an infinitely more intense way than we can sense the world.
As I heard these things from his lips, I could not but believe that he was saying them not like as ordinary preacher, but from the depth of his own realizations." Narendranath was very much impressed by the magnetic personality of Ramakrishna and became his disciple.
He passed through Nirvikalpa Samadhi and became known as Vivekananda to the external world. After the death of Ramakrishna in 1886, he took charge of his disciples at Baranagore monastery. Vivekananda hereafter undertook a pilgrimage to North, West, and South India. It brought him closer to the heart and spirit of India. In May, 1893 Vivekananda went to Chicago and participated in the world parliament of religions.
In the Chicago Conference very forcefully he advocated the spiritual treasure of East and magnanimity of Indian culture. Vivekananda gave the clarion call for universality of religion to mankind.
He spent more than three years of the best part of his life in America and Europe and spread his message. According to Vivekananda, the goal of the West was individual independence, her language was money making education, and her mean politics, while the goal of India was mukti and her language was that of Vedas, and her means renunciation." After a long stay in Europe and America Vivekananda returned to India in 1897. Soon he founded Ramakrishna Mission to provide institutional shape to his philosophy.
He also published many books namely "Jnana Yoga", "Bhakti yoga", "Karma yoga," "Raja Yoga". "To youth of India." From the second week of May, 1897 till the end of the year, he made an extensive tour in Northern provinces and went on pilgrimage to the holy shrines of Amaranth and Ksirabhavani in Kashmir.
Vivekananda after his return from west in January, 1901 dedicated himself to the noble cause which he highly cherished. He went to East Bengal, Assam, Bodh-Gaya and Benaras and inspired the people of India. Swami Vivekananda passed away on the 4th July, 1902 at the premature age of thirty-nine after successfully spreading the message of his beloved master in India, Europe and America and consolidating his mission by organizing the Ramakrishna order of monks, inspiring it with his ideas and ideals.
In 1897 Vivekananda founded Ramakrishna Mission to provide institutional shape for the spread of his message and that of his Guru. In 1899 the foundation of a monastery at Belur expedited the works of the Mission.
The mission was to train monastic workers to live upon and propagate the Vedic religion in the light of Ramakrishna's life and teaching, establish fellowship among the followers of different religions, and serve suffering humanity without making any distinction of caste, creed or community.
The mission had many branches in different parts of the country and carried on social service by opening schools, hospitals, orphanages, libraries, etc. Branches of Ramakrishna Mission were also opened in America, Germany, England, and Switzerland and in other states after the death of Vivekananda.
Ramakrishna Mission breathed the spirit of not only personal salvation but also social liberation. Ramakrishna Mission through its humanitarian works for the last one century epitomizes the spirit of sacred soul of Swami Vivekananda and his illustrious philosophical mentor Ramakrishna Paramhansa.