Swami Vivekananda: Delivering Hinduism to the USA and his Contributions

Swami Vivekananda, brown and green island surrounded by water

Swami Vivekananda(1863-1902 ), a renowned spiritual leader and philosopher, played a pivotal role in introducing Hinduism to the United States in the late 19th century. His journey to the West not only brought the teachings of Hinduism to a new audience but also left a lasting impact on the world.

Swami Vivekananda and his life:

Vivekananda’s achievements were multifaceted. He was a key figure in the revival of Hinduism in India and worked tirelessly to promote its principles of tolerance, unity, and spiritual harmony. In 1893, he represented Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Chicago, where he delivered a powerful speech that captivated the audience. This speech marked the beginning of his mission to spread the message of Hinduism globally.

While Vivekananda‘s contributions to Hinduism are widely celebrated, it is important to address certain misconceptions about his personal habits. There have been claims that he had a habit of drinking alcohol and smoking. However, these allegations are not supported by credible evidence.

To understand Swami Vivekananda’s food, fasting, his love for cooking, and his food philosophy, the two books that must be read are The East and the West and Paribrajak (The Nomad). Interestingly, Vivekananda wasn’t vegetarian and consumed fish and mutton. This is not very shocking as he was a Bengali and came from the Kayastha community, which consumes non-veg food. Swami Vivekanand said, “You will be nearer to Heaven through a game of football, than studying the Gita”.

(This quotation is a part of Vivekananda’s book Lectures from Colombo to Almora.)

This statement of his encapsulates a profound perspective on the spiritual significance of engaging in physical activities, particularly through the universal language of sports like football. Ironically suffered from a host of health problems including diabetes, kidney and liver problems, and he was an insomniac (31 ailments). He suffered from his 3rd heart attack, on July 4, 1902, at a very young age of 39 yrs.

Vivekananda was known for his disciplined lifestyle, which included strict adherence to vegetarianism and abstinence from any form of substance abuse.

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning Vivekananda’s views on Sikhism. He had great respect for Sikhism and its teachings. He saw Sikhism as a religion that emphasized the importance of selfless service, equality, and devotion. Vivekananda believed that Sikhism, like Hinduism, had the potential to contribute to the spiritual growth of humanity.

Swami Vivekananda did say that thoughts of marriage did cross his mind now and then, but he steeled himself to accept brahmacharya, the vows of celibacy, which meant renunciation of private pleasure for the public good.

In conclusion, Swami Vivekananda’s journey to the United States marked a significant milestone in the history of Hinduism. His contributions not only introduced Hindu philosophy and spirituality to the Western world but also inspired countless individuals to embrace a more inclusive and tolerant approach to religion. Despite unfounded claims about his personal habits, Vivekananda’s legacy continues to inspire millions around the globe.

Rabindranath Tagore

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