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Spiritual Masters

An introduction to the life of Swami Vivekananda

Spiritual articles - Spiritual MastersAn introduction to the life of Swami Vivekananda by Richard Pettinger.

In his short lifetime of 38 years, Swami Vivekananda, worked tirelessly to harmonise the dynamism of the West with the spirituality of the East. Vivekananda, was a rare spiritual personality; he embodied the ancient spiritual depths of the Vedas, and at the same time he was a thoroughly modern Yogi, who sought to revitalise and inspire his countrymen to throw of the yoke of ignorance and lethargy.

Swami Vivekananda achieved many significant things during his short lifespan, not least was his illumining contribution to the World parliament of Religions in 1893. It was Vivekananda who was able to make a reality the lofty ideal of the harmony of World Religions. Vivekananda sought, not to convert others to his religion; he sought to emphasize the good in each religion, and encourage others to live the inner truths of their own religion. This vision of religious harmony struck a deep chord with the American public. It was not just his words which inspired others. Vivekananda lived the Vedantic truths he espoused; people of an open heart instinctively warmed to his humility, modesty and spiritual magnetism.

As the Boston Evening newspaper noted of Vivekananda in September 30th, 1893, “If he merely crosses the Platform, he is applauded, and this marked approval of thousands he accepts in a childlike spirit of gratification, without a trace of conceit.” [1]

To Vivekananda, the ideal of religious harmony was not mere philosophy; it was a spiritual reality that had been fully practised by his own spiritual Master Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna, in his own sadhana, practised devotedly all the main religious and spiritual traditions; it was his realisation and experience that different spiritual paths could indeed lead to the same goal of God - Realisation. It was most fitting that Vivekananda, Ramakrishna's most devoted disciple, would be able to spread this unique spiritual message to the world at large.

Vivekananda dearly loved his motherland, India. His heart yearned for India to be free from ignorance and poverty; he saw in India a potential for both spiritual greatness and material prosperity. However, the heart of Vivekananda could not be confined to just his motherland. Vivekananda embraced both the East and West. He recognised the spiritual depth of India, but he also saw how America was far more advanced in dynamism and material progress.

“As regards spirituality, the Americans are far inferior to us, but their society is far superior to ours." - Swami Vivekananda [2] Vivekananda and America

It was the aspiration of Vivekananda to unite the spirituality of the East, with the materialism of the West. Speaking to his Indian countrymen, he exhorted them to "Arise, Awake and stop not till the goal is reached" [3] He wanted a revival in Indian pride and sense of national identity. This national pride, would of course, be based on the highest spiritual ideals and not the nationalism of egoism. His mission in the West was a somewhat different, Vivekananda sought patiently to share the teachings of yoga and spirituality with aspiring seekers. To his pleasant surprise, Vivekananda found a receptive audience, even in England, the nation ruling his beloved India. Vivekananda was truly a pathfinder for the harmonization of East and West. The poet in Kipling said; "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet." [4] But, impossibility was not in Vivekananda's dictionary. Against all obstacles, he brought Hindu spirituality to Victorian England, and revitalised a sense of national pride amongst Indians. Sri Chinmoy, paying tribute to Vivekananda said:

"His function was to bring in oneness where there was none before, by carrying the best of each to the other. The East had become lost by moving away from materialism; the West, by keeping clear of spirituality. A happy marriage of the two, he deeply felt, was the supreme need of the world. " [5]


[1] Excerpt from Vivekananda: An Ancient Silence-Heart And A Modern Dynamism-Life by Sri Chinmoy.

[2] Excerpt from Vivekananda: An Ancient Silence-Heart And A Modern Dynamism-Life by Sri Chinmoy.

[3] Swami Vivekananda

[4] The Ballad of East and West, Rudyard Kipling, 1895

[5] Excerpt from "Vivekananda and America" by Sri Chinmoy



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ruleNon-cooperation with injustice is a sacred duty.” -- Mahatma Gandhi
Richard Pettinger lives in Oxford, where he works as an economics teacher.

Richard is a meditation student of Sri Chinmoy, and gives meditation classes on behalf of the Sri Chinmoy Centre.