The transformation from Narendranath to Vivekananda

The transformation from Narendranath to Vivekananda

by Swami Chetanananda

Today we are celebrating a very auspicious occasion, as all of us from all over the world have come here to pay our homage to Swami Vivekananda in connection with his 150th birth anniversary. Chicago is a very, very holy place. Swamiji arrived here on 30 July 1893 and he gave his maiden speech on 11 September 1893. He was Sri Ramakrishna’s “vāṇī mūrti”—that is, his manifested “Voice Form”. Swamiji himself implied this when he said, “All the ideas that I preach are only an attempt to echo his [Ramakrishna’ʹs] ideas.”ʺ

When I first walked on the shore of Lake Michigan in 1972, I tried to imagine that Swamiji had nirvikalpa samadhi somewhere around that place. Perhaps when you walk there you also may think of it. There are so many wonderful episodes connected with Swamiji in Chicago. One touching incident comes to my mind. When Swamiji was leaving Chicago for the last time, in 1900, for India, he stayed a few days with the Hale family. On the morning of his departure, Mary Hale came to the Swami’ʹs room and found him sad. His bed appeared to be untouched, and on being asked the reason, he confessed that he had spent the whole night without sleep. “ʺOh,”ʺ he said, “ʺit is so difficult to break human bonds!”ʺ Swamiji knew that this was the last time he was to see these devoted friends. 

My topic for today is ‘The transformation from Narendranath to Vivekananda’. Vivekananda was born on 12 January 1863, and was brought up having a Western education which taught him not to accept anything without evidence. He gradually became well versed in both Eastern and Western thought. There are a few important qualities that we see in Narendranath’s life at that time. First, he had a tremendous passion for Truth. Second, he overflowed with excessive energy -­‐‑-­‐‑ too much energy. Third, he was a rebel. His classmate Brajendranath Seal wrote: “Undeniably a gifted youth, sociable, free and unconventional in manners, a sweet singer, the soul of social circles, a brilliant conversationalist, somewhat bitter and caustic, piercing with shafts of a keen wit the shows and mummeries of the world, sitting in the scorner’ʹs chair but hiding the tenderest of hearts under that garb of cynicism; altogether an inspired Bohemian but possessing what Bohemians lack -­‐‑-­‐‑ an iron will; somewhat peremptory and absolute, speaking with accents of authority and withal possessing a strange power of the eye which could hold his listeners in thrall.”

This article is based on a lecture given on 9 November 2013 at the Hilton Hotel, Chicago, on the occasion of the convention “Chicago Calling”, organized by Swami Ishatmananda.

Read the rest @


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *