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Played a major role in spiritual enlightenment of Indian masses; Spread Vedanta philosophy in the West; established Ramakrishna Mission for the service of the poor.

Swami Vivekananda was one of the most influential spiritual leaders of Vedanta philosophy. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa and was the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Swami Vivekananda was the living embodiment of sacrifice and dedicated his life to the country and yearned for the progress of the poor, the helpless and the downtrodden. He showed a beacon of light to a nation that had lost faith in its ability under British rule and inspired self-confidence among Indians that they are second to none. His ringing words and masterful oratory galvanized the slumbering nation.

Swami Vivekananda real name was Narendranath Dutta. He was born on January12, 1863 in Calcutta. His father’s name was Vishwanath Dutta and his mother’s name Bhuvaneswari Devi. Narendranath acquired the name of Swami Vivekananda when he became a monk.

As a child Narendra was very lively and naughty. He was good in studies as well as in games. He studied instrumental and vocal music and also practiced meditation from a very early age. Even when Narendra was young he questioned the validity of superstitious customs and discrimination based on caste and religion. As a child Narendra had great respect for sanyasis (ascetics). He would give away anything to anybody if asked for. Whenever a beggar asked for alms, he would give him anything he had. Thus from childhood Narendra had the spirit of sacrifice and renunciation.

At the same time, vehement in his desire to know the truth about God, he questioned people of holy reputation, asking them if they had seen God. He found such a person in Sri Ramakrishna, who became his master, allayed his doubts, gave him God vision, and transformed him into sage and prophet with authority to teach.

After Sri Ramakrishna’s death, Vivekananda renounced the world and criss-crossed India as a wandering monk. His mounting compassion for India’s people drove him to seek their material help from the West. Accepting an opportunity to represent Hinduism at Chicago’s Parliament of Religions in 1893, Vivekananda won instant celebrity in America and a ready forum for his spiritual teaching.

For three years he spread the Vedanta philosophy and religion in America and England and then returned to India to found the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Exhorting his nation to spiritual greatness, he wakened India to a new national consciousness. He died July 4, 1902, after a second, much shorter sojourn in the West. His lectures and writings have been gathered into nine volumes.