The Man the Mysticism and the Vedanta
Part 1 – The Man and the Vedanta Philosophy
India is home to one of the world’s oldest and most popular religions in Hinduism. With Hinduism’s age has come many periods of reform, re-identification, and prominence. To many in the West, Eastern religions - particularly Hinduism - have been a mystery. Eastern religions were often associated with the superstition, idolatry, and primitive societies. In the eyes of many Western theological scholars, Hinduism stood in stark contrast to the monotheistic ideals of the Abrahamic West, and was quite often mistaken as something polymorphous, polytheistic or even pagan. The majority of Western scholars were ...view middle of the document...
His family was part of the Kayastha (warrior) caste, and he showed it, as he was often referred to as the “warrior monk”. He acquired his more popular name, Swami Vivekananda, after the passing of his guru Ramakrishna, who had a profound and long lasting impact on his life. Upon Ramakrishna’s death, fifteen of his young disciples began to live together in a dilapidated building at Baranagar in North Calcutta. Under the leadership of Narendra, they formed a new monastic brotherhood, and in 1887 they took the formal vows of a sannyasa (Hindus life stage of the renouncer), thereby assuming new names. Narendra became Swami Vivekananda.
While Ramakrishna may have been his main influence, Vivekananda showed a keen interest for education, and during his studies was influenced by many Western thinkers, such as Emmanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Auguste Compte, and, most notably, Herbert Spencer. Swami Vivekananda had a natural propensity for philosophy, and devoured teachings of Western spirituality which would help form the foundation of his own spiritual beliefs. He was especially interested in applying Western logic and scientific reasoning to religion. Such an interest was at the core of Vivekananda’s interpretation and development of Advaita Vedanta, which later became accepted and revered by the West.
Despite his affinity for philosophy, one thing remained on Vivekananda’s mind, the search for Truth. Truth to Swami Vivekananda meant knowing God. There is a single question that will forever be linked to Vivekananda and his search for Truth, a question that plagued his mind for many years and which he asked a succession of scholars without ever receiving an answer with which he was satisfied: “Have you seen God?” It was not until he came across the presence of Ramakrishna that his question was finally answered.
Ramakrishna was meditating at a Kali temple when he was approached by Vivekananda, who asked him this undying question. Without hesitation Ramakrishna answered, “Yes, I have. I see Him as clearly as I see you, only in an infinitely intenser sense.” This was a crucial revelation for Swami Vivekananda, as his Vedanta philosophy is based on the idea that God is found is everything, including fellow man. His mind had been agitated with the question, hampering his search for Truth. In this simple answer Vivekananda found solace. This was a crucial step forward in his search for Truth. He later described the impact that Ramakrishna’s answer had on him: “Search for the direction was now over; traversing the path remained. It was a moment of great revelation in spiritual science like that of Newton’s vision of gravitation in physical science.” Swami Vivekananda became intoxicated by Sri Ramakrishna despite some of their theological differences, and thus began the strong bond and relationship of devotee and guru which is a prevalent theme throughout the history of Hinduism.
Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda’s relationship is essential for...