Swami Vivekananda began life as Narendranath Datta on 21st January 1863.
Perhaps the most important date to Narendranath, as he was then, was his first meeting with Sri Ramakrishna, which took place in November 1881. So impressed was he by this meeting that he became a follower and absorbed the teachings of the man he considered his guru. When he decided to travel to America later, he first sought the blessing of Sri Ramakrishna’s consort, Sri Sarada Devi, known amongst the followers as Holy Mother.
In 1884 Swami Vivekananda’s father passed away, leaving the family without support. This daunting task then fell on to Swami Vivekananda’s young shoulders.
In 1886 Sri Ramakrishna passed away after a long illness, through which Swami Vivekananda nursed him tirelessly, and in the January of the following year he took his formal vows at Baranger Monastery.
For over three years, from 1890 Swami Vivekananda travelled across India, learning first hand of the plight of the masses. During this time he became aware of the need for education and efficient agriculture if the country was to be fed, and the poor ever to escape their oppression.
In 1893 Swami Vivekananda gave his first lecture at Secunderabad in Southern India, and in May of that year sailed for America, where in September he addressed the Parliament of Religions in Chicago.
He founded the Vedanta Society of New York in November 1894, before setting off for Europe the following year.
During 1895 and 1896 he travelled in Europe and America giving talks and classes, and in March 1896 was offered the Chair of Eastern Philosophy at Harvard university.
Back in India he established the Ramakrishna Mission Association at Kolkata in 1897, and the Adavita Ashrama at Mayavati in 1899.
In 1900 he founded the Vedanta Society in new York, spoke at Congress and toured Vienna, Constantinope, Greece and Cairo.
He passed away on the fourth of July 1902.
The Teachings of Swami Vivekananda
He taught of man’s potential for Divinity, and the importance of education
One of his best known philosophies was ‘You are what you think’; that is if you think yourself worthless you will be worthless, whereas if you think of yourself as part of a greater divinity, then you will realise your spiritual potential.
The keys to success are Purity, Patience and Perseverance. And most importantly Love.
Finally he believed in the maxim of living for others, believing that a life lived selfishly was a life of little worth.