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About Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda, the Indian monk, an ardent disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, at age 30, delivered a short 458 word speech at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, which was cited by Sir Mark Tully of the BBC as the greatest of all speeches ever made. His powerful message to the West was eternal in scope. But that was just the beginning; being persuaded by numerous enthusiastic and highly impressed Americans, over the next several years, he would go on to preach his doctrine of universal brotherhood, of spiritual realization and of religious unity and harmony through acceptance and tolerance all over America, England, and India, captivating audiences everywhere.

Vivekananda preached eloquently and lucidly the fundamental approaches to spiritual life, presenting Vedanta as a universal framework for understanding religion and a universal system for unfolding our innate human and spiritual potential. He initiated Ramkrishna Missions and the Vedanta Societies all over America, to preach and propagate the teachings of Vedanta, and to help individuals become free from all bondage by realizing the divine within. To Vivekananda religion was not about talk or doctrine, or dogma or theory, but is about realization, as he said, "it is being and becoming, not hearing or acknowledging; it is the whole soul becoming changed into what it believes. Also, “to preach unto mankind their divinity and how to make it manifest in every movement of life,” our daily life that is.
Like few other immortal icons in human history, Vivekananda truly was a man for all ages and all virtues. Besides vedantic messages, he also articulated his views on education, character building, on womanhood and treatment of woman and minorities, on service to community and above all the importance of faith in one’s self. His pronouncements on these subjects are as relevant in socio-cultural fabric, economic and political discourse in all societies today as they were when he proclaimed them more than a century ago. He believed that human mind could be a source of immense power only when it is controlled and concentrated and so he preached people to practice intense meditation and yoga therapy which is widely practiced in all over USA and the world today.

Vivekananda believed that education is the manifestation of perfection already in the human being. Education should not be just about collection of information but should be man-making, life-giving, and character-building, an assimilation of noble ideas. He also warned against the mistreatment of women. To him, men and women are two wings of a bird. Without the one the other alone cannot help the bird fly and so also is the society. It cannot fulfil its aspirations to the fullest by mistreating woman or neglecting the poor amongst us. He argued that since God lives in every soul, and since soul does not have gender or wealth, so one must treat every human being, man or woman, rich or poor equally. This is why he stressed on Shiva Jnane Jiva Seva, (to serve common people considering them as manifestation of God). According to Vivekananda, man is potentially Divine, so, service to man is indeed service to God.
As we celebrate the 150th birthday of this celebrated icon, monk, philosopher, preacher, teacher, unifier and servant of mankind, it is important for us to know and remember who this monk was and how potent is his message today for our self and spiritual development, for inter-faith dialog, for tolerance and acceptance of all in our ever diversified societies, to promote peace in a world that is riddled with conflict and above all to serve the humanity around us.

© Copyright 2013, Vedanta Society of North Carolina