He was born in Calcutta and was a pupil of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. In 1893, he addressed the World Parliament of Religions at Chicago.
PHILOSOPHY OF VIVEKANANDA – Vivekananda is an idealist as he believes the ultimate reality to be spiritual. Reality is one absolute Brahman who is beyond space, time and causation and the same reality viewed from religious point of view is God.
God – An outright rejection of God is impossible as God is presupposed as the necessary support and ground of both the world and the soul. Some of the arguments for the existence of God from the teachings of Vivekananda are as follows:
- Argument from Design -The vastness, harmony and the grandeur of the world lead us to suppose that there must be an architect, an intelligent designer of the universe.
- Argument from Causality – Everything in the universe is by turn a cause and an effect. This causal series leads to an ultimate cause, which is the Uncaused Cause (God).
- Argument from Unity – The universe expresses an essential unity of all things. The things that look very different from each other are really and basically one and the same. This fact of unity reveals the most underlying and unifying principle of all things, namely, God.
- Argument from Love – Love consists in discovering oneself in the object of love. In the act of love, the distinction between ‘me’ and ‘thou’ would vanish. The conclusion is that the reality behind everything is just one, supreme principle of love is God.
- Argument from Authority of Scriptures – So long as we have not been able to know and realize God, we can base ourselves on the authority of the scriptures and rely on their authority in teaching about God.
- Argument from Analogy – That person enjoys a picture who looks at it without the intention of buying and selling. Similarly, the whole universe is the picture of God, which would be enjoyed by humans when all their desires have vanished.
- Argument from Intuition – Every human has the capacity to experience God directly through intuition if one is prepared to follow the path of rigorous religious discipline and meditation. The rational ‘proofs’ are needed only so long as the capacity to have a direct vision (intuition) is not developed.
World – World is God’s creation which is the expression of the Creator in finite forms. The Absolute has become the universe by passing through time, space and causation.
Maya – Maya is the power of the Creator. It is the principle of change which makes creation possible. Itreflects the fact of contradiction that the universe so clearly exhibits. For instance, wherever there is good, there is evil; wherever there is life, there is death and so forth. Maya is neither existence nor non-existence, but something in between Absolute Being and non-being.
Human – Human is an organized unity of the physical and the spiritual being.
Human is physically superior to all other animals because human’s physical nature is better organized and exhibits a greater unity. This uniqueness of human’s physical nature is also due to the presence of spirituality in the person.
Freedom and Karma – The real nature of human is freedom which constitutes the very essence of the soul. Freedom does not mean ‘no-determination’ at all but it means self-determination in which the free agent is not determined by anything else but by himself. In this way, freedom and karma no longer remain incompatible with each other. One’s own actions create tendencies that bear fruit for the future. Karma does not contradict human’s freedom since final escape rests ultimately with one’s own actions. By one’s own good deeds, one can win over one’s ignorance and suffering i.e. human is basically free.
Immortality – Vivekanada admits that it is not possible to give an exact and scientific demonstration of the soul’s immortality. The soul survives death that assumes the form of rebirth and finally the realization of immortality. True immortality can be attained only when the ‘cycle’ of birth and rebirth is stopped. The following are some of the evidences for immortality:
- Simplicity of Soul – The soul is immortal because it is simple. Simplicity is the absence of complexity. What is liable to destruction is invariably something complex.
- Infinite Potentialities – Human has the capacity to go beyond every task that one is faced with.
- Yearning for Liberation – Our yearning for liberation from death is a sign of immortality. Our desire for immortality itself is an evidence of immortality.
Liberation and the Means – The liberation can be attained through the practice of yoga. Vivekananda proposes the following four set of yogas;
- Karma-Yoga – Work is not done due to compulsion but out of a sense of duty. The karma-yogi works as a free being, unattached to all self-interest. Such work leads to knowledge, which in turn brings liberation.
- Bhakti-yoga – It is a genuine search for the Lord in love which grows and assumes supreme devotion in which all forms and rituals vanish. In bhakti- yoga, one trains to control one’s feelings and emotions and gives the soul higher and higher direction towards God.
- Jnana-Yoga – In jnana-yoga, the entire energy of the body can be concentrated in the direction of knowledge. In course of time, this concentration will become more intense and the individual may attain the stage of complete concentration. At this stage, even the distinction between the Self and Brahman will vanish.
- Raja-yoga – It is the method of realization through the mystic union of the lower Self with the higher Self. It restrains the activities of the mind and with the cessation of the activities of the mind, attachment and bondage disappears. When a person goes into samadhi or superconscious stage, one comes out as a sage and attains metaphysical and transcendental knowledge.
Origin and nature of religion – Religion originates in human’s attempt to go beyond the senses. The nature of religion can be known by analyzing the religious sense, which is universally present with all the three elements in it – cognitive elements, feeling elements and conative elements. The nature of religion is determined by the preponderance of one element over others. For instance, where there is a preponderance of feeling, religion tends to be mystical; where there is emphasis on knowledge, religion is intellectual and abstract; and where there is predominance of volitional elements, religion becomes practical and ritual.
Characteristics of religion – These are as follows;
- Supernatural Content – The supernatural content provides a religion with its uniqueness and distinguishes it from all other forms of disciplines.
- Transcendence – Religion transcends not only the limitations of the senses, but also the power of reasoning or of pure intellectual deliberation.
- Abstractions – Religious facts are more or less abstractions which are super- sensuous, like ‘the ideal unity,’ ‘the ideal of humanity,’ and so on.
- Awakening of spirituality – To say that religion is a spiritual awakening is to emphasize that it begins in an awareness of the inadequacy of sense and reason.
- Social and moral content – Generally, morality serves social purpose and religion goes beyond it. However, religion provides a secure foundation and an ultimate sanction to morality.
- Mental exercise – Religion is the greatest and the healthiest exercise that the human mind can do.
- Triple aspects of religion – Every religion has three aspects or contents which are as follows –Philosophy, Mythology and Rituals
Universal Religion – A universal religion has the following features;
- It must open its door to every individual who is free to decide one’s religion.
- It must be inclusive of all sects – superseding conflicts and tensions that often occur among the various sects.
- The spirit of universal religion implies acceptance which is not just tolerance but respect for everyone.
- God is the essence and ideal of universal religion.
- It must have universal acceptability and harmonious balance over all the aspects of religion – philosophy, emotion, work, and mysticism.
Swami Vivekananda was known for his Practical Vedanta, who declared that he had come to prove the great Vedanta ideal, in practical life and to herald it before the todays’ world and society. He believed in the basic oneness of existence seen through different constitutions such as earth, heavens, gods, hell etc. and advocated strongly the eternal sameness or homogeneity beyond all differentiation.