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Swami Vivekananda

Portrait de Swami Vivekananda

Born in 1863, Vivekananda was only 18 years of age, when he met Ramakrishna for the first time. At that time Vivekananda was a young Indian of his time, torn between the attractions of progressive Western civilisation and the attractions of the ancestral civilisation of India, between the necessity for social reforms that necessitated involvement in history and the need for an interior life which required one to consider eternity as the only reality.

Preoccupied with the question of the existence of God, Vivekananda was looking for someone who could bear witness to His existence, and he was going to each person and asking: “Have you seen God?” This quest came to an end when, in answer to this question, Ramakrishna replied: “Yes, I see Him just as I see you, but much more intensely”, and when, by a simple physical touch, Ramakrishna transmitted his vision to him.

Then Vivekananda did not leave Ramakrishna any more, and all the more so because Ramakrishna had at once recognised in him the disciple he was waiting for.

Before leaving this world, Ramakrishna conferred on Vivekananda the responsibility for the disciples. During the years following Ramakrishna’s departure Vivekananda lived the life of a wandering mendicant monk, traversing the whole of India. This stage in his life, at the same time as it expanded his spiritual consciousness, also expanded his awareness of the social poverty in which his Indian brothers lived; from all this he drew several conclusions which one can summarise as follows: first of all, no one can develop his spiritual power if he is living in material poverty – one must therefore work for the social elevation of the people;  then material prosperity, which is the great strength of the West, is only real prosperity if it is subordinate to spiritual prosperity – one must therefore work for the spiritual elevation of the whole of humanity.

From then on this was his goal, and when Swami Vivekananda learned that during the Chicago Universal Exhibition (in 1893) a World Parliament of Religions was to be held, he saw it as an opportunity to work on it. His appearances at the World Parliament of Religions made such an impression that he was invited to various places in the United States to give lectures. During the years thereafter Vivekananda had the opportunity to travel in Europe: he was able to stay in France, Switzerland, England, Germany, Holland and, in returning to India, he crossed the continent by train from Paris to Istanbul.

The two plans of the Ramakrishna Mission were thus established: education for social improvement and spiritual elevation for East and West.

On return to India, Swami Vivekananda, with other disciples of Ramakrishna, established the institution that were going to make it possible to develop these two plans.

Swami Vivekananda left this world on 4 July 1902.

Last Updated on Saturday, 02 June 2012