Skip to main content

Swami Vivekananda: Life , Philosophy and Message to the Youth

Swami Vivekananda will be always remembered and revered for his tireless work towards the betterment of society, and service to humanity.

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda

National Youth Day

Swami Vivekananda’s birth date is celebrated as National Youth Day in India because he brought to light the role of youth in nation-building. He believed that every child could contribute to making a nation better. He championed the concept of education being the primary means to empower people. He had an immense knowledge of philosophy, religion, literature, Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads. His quotes continue to inspire us even today.

His service of the poor and the needy and his dedication to his country and its religious heritage is immeasurable. His message of universal brotherhood and self-empowerment is especially relevant in today’s world filled with widespread chaos and confusion. He has left behind a treasure of inspirational quotes and messages for the youth of today to follow and lead a life of meaning and attain the highest level of happiness and fulfillment.



Early Life of Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda also known as Narendranath Datta before his monastic days, was born in an affluent Bengali family. His father Vishwanath Dutta was a renowned lawyer and his mother Bhubaneswari Devi was a deeply religious and cheerful and devout lady. Narendranath Dutta was born on January 12 1863 on Makara Sankranti day. A precocious child, Narendranath had incredible energy and was prone to fits of restlessness at age three. Only cold water poured on his head and the name of Shiva chanted in his ear by his mother could calm him. After schooling at the Metropolitan Institute of Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar he joined the Scottish church college in Kolkata. During his early childhood, apart from studies, he spent much time in other activities, often gazing into space drifting into some other world. He had a spirit of adventure and fearlessness rare for a child of his age. And on one instance It is believed that he spent many hours on a tree to prove that there were no ghosts in it. He later said that one should not believe in things because one has read it in a book, or somebody has said it but one has to find out the truth by oneself.


Spiritual Enquiry

Even as a child Narendra had great love and compassion towards wandering monks and saints. He used to always give whatever he had to them. As days went Narendranath grew more thoughtful and intellectual. He joined the Brahmo Samaj, the Hindu social reform organization that protested against orthodox Hindu rituals and practices. The desire to know the ultimate truth and to know God became stronger. He was assailed by doubts and went around asking everyone whether they had seen god.

Inspirational Quote

Inspirational Quote

Finding his Guru in Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

One of his professors mentioned that the great saint Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa could help him. Narendra along with two friends went to meet him. The meeting was a strange one. Shri Ramakrishna talked to Narendra as though he had known him for years. When asked whether he had seen god. Ramakrishna replied directly that he had seen God as clearly as he could see him and one had to seek sincerely for God to manifest. Ramakrishna’s pure and unselfish love and devotion won over Narendranath and from there the Guru-disciple relationship developed. After completing college, he was drawn back to Ramakrishna and attained great spiritual progress under his guidance. His spiritual training went on for four years consisting of intense discussions and teachings of Vedanta, bhakti yoga, and Gnana yoga. During this time he gained a vast knowledge of different subjects especially western philosophy and history.

Adverse Circumstances

Two difficult situations distressed Narendra at this time. One was the death of his father and the other Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa being diagnosed with throat cancer. Narendra nursed his master with great care and devotion along with the responsibilities of his own family. Narendra’s meditation intensified and just before the sage’s passing, Narendra had his first experience of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the total dissolution of one’s self into the supreme divinity. Just before passing Sri Ramakrishna distributed saffron robes to all the disciples and established Narendra as the next head of the Ramakrishna Order. Thus, the foundation for a monastic order was laid. By 1887 the math was established in Baranagar near Kolkatta and Narendra gave new names to the disciples there.

Greater Mission

After establishing the new monastic order, Narendra following an inner call for a greater mission in life decided to tour India. After receiving the blessings from Shri Sharada Devi, the divine consort of Shri Ramakrishna also known as the holy mother, he set out on a journey to discover the true character of the Indian population. During a visit to Rajasthan, he met Raja Mangal Singh who was against the worship of idols. Vivekananda justified idol worship by alluding to its psychological use as an aid to concentration. In his view, one moves from lower truth to higher truth and from forms to the formless and even beyond. Raja of Khetri gave him the name Vivekananda. He traveled to many parts of south India. During his travels, he saw in great depth the poverty, hunger of the people, and degeneration of the ancient Hindu practices all over India.



Discovery of Real India

Vivekananda was greatly moved by the impoverished condition of the people, social fragmentation in the name of caste, religion, political subjugation, and the loss of faith in the Hindu Religion, of people all over India. He eventually reached the shores of the Kanyakumari where in frustration he swam across the ocean and reached a large rock and meditated for three days. Why had India reached this state? he pondered. In his meditation, he realized that India would rise through renewal and restoration of the highest spiritual consciousness that has made her at all times the cradle of nations. He knew this could only be done by uplifting the downtrodden masses.

Establishment of the Ramakrishna Mission

He realized that the foremost necessity for improving the lives of the people of the country was to instill faith in themselves. He took recourse to Vedanta, the ancient spiritual philosophy of India to uplift the masses by strengthening their moral compass. Next was education. He felt education was absolutely necessary to improve the plight of the people. He founded the Ramakrishna Mission to address this. The Mission was open to anyone who was interested without bias of caste, creed, race, or religion. Everyone was welcome to contribute in any way possible.

Arrival at the US

In a moment during his meditation on the rock at Kanyakumari, he looked at the ocean and realized that he had to go to the west to spread the message of Vedanta. On May 31, 1893, with the money collected by the Raja of Khetri and other disciples he set sail for America by ship, eventually landed in a port in Vancouver, from there took a train to Chicago. As the people there were not accustomed to seeing monks in saffron clothing, he was mocked and discriminated against on several occasions.

Inspirational quote

Inspirational quote

After a lot of suffering, he finally reached Boston where he met the famous professor J H wright who was so impressed by Vivekananda’s high intellectual and spiritual caliber that he requested him to represent Hinduism in the parliament of religions at Chicago. He then wrote to the chairman of the committee of Parliament of Religions and sent him to Chicago to stay with a friend. In the course of the journey, Vivekananda lost the address of that friend. He went around not knowing where to go. He spent nights homeless, sleeping in the railway freight boxes.

Participation at the World Parliament of Religions

One day a Lady, Mrs. George Hail saw him in this condition and invited him to stay at their home and later helped him connect with the delegates of the World Parliament of Religions. Again, a divine force had guided Swamiji to the right place in spite of all the obstacles. On Sept 11, 1893. Swamiji addressed the gathering at the World Parliament of Religions in a thunderous voice. He started with the address” Brothers and Sisters of America” and received a standing ovation which lasted for a full two minutes. He continued to describe the principles of Vedanta and its spiritual significance, thus evoking people’s interest in Hindu Philosophy. His sheer earnestness, sincere emotion, and spirit of universality took the parliament by storm. He had captivated America. People waited for hours to listen to his speech. Various editorials even thanked India for sending him to Chicago. He was invited to speak in a variety of public events and homes of prominent individuals.

Sister Nivedita

He traveled to various parts of America giving discourses on Hindu philosophy and later traveled to England on a lecture tour. There he met Margaret Noble, an Irish teacher, a social activist who was instantly drawn to the principles of Swamiji and became his disciple. Vivekananda named her sister Nivedita who later moved to India and had an active role in the education of girls and women. She loved India and its rich spiritual heritage and was instrumental in instilling the spirit of nationality in the hearts and minds of the Indian people. She was the first to advocate the worship of the nation as a mother. Sister Nivedita dedicated her whole life to the service of humanity, true to the ideals of Swami Vivekananda.

Scroll to Continue

Return to India

Vivekananda returned to India in 1897 to an ecstatic welcome. After a series of lectures across India, he returned to Kolkata and founded the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur Math near Kolkata. The goals of the mission included serving the poor and distressed people, the establishment of schools, colleges, hospitals, propagation of the tenets of Vedanta through seminars, courses, and workshops. Relief and rehabilitation of people stuck with natural calamities like cyclones, earthquakes, and other natural disasters were also included in the Mission’s goals.

Last Days

On his second trip to America in 1899, he visited the west coast and established the Vedanta Society in San Francisco and New York. He also visited Europe and japan and attended various conferences on religion. He returned to India in 1901. At this time his health declined severely. He had told several people he would not live to be forty. Swamiji attained Maha samadhi on July 4th, 1902 while meditating and was cremated on the banks of the Ganga. Swamiji’s life was a tribute to Hindu Dharma, a dedication to the spirit of universal peace, and an inspiration for all. He spoke both of the need to develop an indomitable will in the face of difficulty as well as the need to develop the humility to serve fellow human beings. Celebrate the birth anniversary of Swamiji every year to spread and imbibe his message of selfless service with work with unity and integrity and each other. Vivekananda was a role model for all. He was mainly responsible for the revival of Hinduism and the concept of nationalism in India.

In Conclusion

In 1984, the Government of India decided to celebrate January 12th, the birth date of Swamiji, as the ‘National Youth Day’ to honor and celebrate the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. His quotes continue to inspire the young even today. He rightly stated that the future of a country depended on the youth of that country. He encouraged the youth to develop ‘muscles of iron’ and ‘nerves of steel’ to bring about social change. Empowerment of the youth is important as they can be instrumental in nation-building.

When the country was plunged into despair due to various circumstances like lack of faith, political turmoil, poverty, and illiteracy, Vivekananda rose and succeeded in awakening a sleeping nation to its rich spiritual heritage and gain strength from it to attain great heights. He formed a bridge between Indian and Western cultures, Interpreting Hindu Philosophy to the western people and at the same time taught India to adapt the western values of humanism, social equality, justice, and respect for all life.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.



VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on January 18, 2021:

Thanks, Nithya for the visit and the comments. Appreciate it.

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on January 18, 2021:

On the contrary Mr.Singh, Swamiji always stressed on universal brotherhood and worked for the upliftment of the downtrodden irrespective of religion, caste, creed, or race. His contention was that all religions lead to one truth, that being the pursuit of supreme happiness, supreme knowledge. Our intrinsic nature is true divinity and social service is divine service. His teachings were based on the Vedantic principle of the oneness of our consciousness with the supreme consciousness.

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on January 18, 2021:

Thanks, Flourish for the visit and the nice comments. Swami Vivekananda's story is really inspiring. In the face of severe adversities, he worked so hard to better the lives of people by awakening them with his uplifting words. His quotes continue to inspire us even today.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on January 15, 2021:

An interesting and informative article about Swami Vivekananda, thank you for sharing.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 15, 2021:

I liked your article Vidsagster, But I wish you had elucidated his rigid concept on the caste system which he defended. He writes, "Caste is good. That is the only natural way of solving life."

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 15, 2021:

Thank you for sharing this uplifting and informative article about the swami's life. His quotes and life example provide good reflection.

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on January 14, 2021:

Thanks, Alicia for the visit and the kind comments. Swami Vivekananda was truly a great visionary and philosopher. He was instrumental in making Yoga and eastern philosophy popular the world over. His ideals of universal oneness and brotherhood and service to humanity are relevant today. His quotes continue to inspire us even today.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 14, 2021:

Thank you for creating such a detailed and informative article. I’ve seen photos of Swami Vivekananda before but knew nothing about him. I appreciate the education. It sounds like he did some wonderful things.

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on January 14, 2021:

Thanks Chitrangada for your visit and kind comments. Swamiji's life story is very inspiring. At a time when India and its rich spiritual heritage was at its lowest, he rose to instill faith in the people by gaining strength from the ancient philosophy of Vedanta. His struggles and sacrifices are worth reflecting upon.

VIDYA D SAGAR (author) on January 14, 2021:

Thanks Pamela for the visit and the kind comments. Yes Swami Vivekananda was a great personality and continues to inspire even today. His philosophy of the universality of religion and service to others are relevant today with so much chaos around. His quotes are very motivating and uplifting.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 14, 2021:

Excellent article about the life and times of Swami Vivekanand, and how he inspired and continues to inspire the Indian youth. So good of you to introduce him to others, through your well written article.

Thank you for sharing this.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 14, 2021:

Vivekananda was obviously a brilliant young man. I think it is great that they established ‘National Youth Day’ . It seems fitting due to the message he carried around the world really, and also in India. This is a very interesting article, Vidya.

Related Articles