SWAMI VIVEKANANDA'S inspiring personality was well known both in India and in America during the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth. The hitherto unknown monk of India suddenly leapt into fame at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, at which he represented Hinduism. His vast knowledge of Eastern and Western culture as well as his deep spiritual insight, fervid eloquence, brilliant conversation, broad human sympathy, colourful personality, and handsome figure made an irresistible appeal to the many types of Americans who came in contact with him. People who saw or heard Vivekananda even once still cherish his memory after a lapse of more than half a century.
Born in Calcutta and educated at a Christian college. His early education familiarized him with the Western philosophy that he later used to interpret Hinduism. Vivekananda's original name was Narendranath Datta. He received his new name and the title swami (master) after accepting the teachings of Ramakrishna Pramhansa Vivekananda believed in the oneness of all creation in God. He devoted his life to working for social reform. He opposed what he regarded as abuses, such as caste (class) discrimination, child marriage, and the lowly status of women in society. He encouraged care for the sick and the poor, and supported education for all.
In America Vivekananda's mission was the interpretation of India's spiritual culture, especially in its Vedantic setting. He also tried to enrich the religious consciousness of the Americans through the rational and humanistic teachings of the Vedanta philosophy. In America he became India's spiritual ambassador and pleaded eloquently for better understanding between India and the New World in order to create a healthy synthesis of East and West, of religion and science.
In his own motherland Vivekananda is regarded as the patriot saint of modern India and an inspirer of her dormant national consciousness, To the Hindus he preached the ideal of a strength-giving and man-making religion. Service to man as the visible manifestation of the Godhead was the special form of worship he advocated for the Indians, devoted as they were to the rituals and myths of their ancient faith. Many political leaders of India have publicly acknowledged their indebtedness to Swami Vivekananda.
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