He traveled to America as a representative of Hinduism and the ancient Indian tradition of Vedanta. However Vivekananda wasn’t bound by every formal tie of religion, and to the World Parliament of Religions, he offered a message of brotherhood and the harmony of world religions. This universal message and his dynamic spiritual character won the minds and hearts of many seekers, and his vision is still treasured today. He proclaimed that he is proud to belong to a religion that has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. He quoted ”We believe not just in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true”.
Early Life of Vivekananda – Vivekananda was born to an orthodox Hindu family in Bengal in 1863. From a young age, he displayed signs of great compassion and also the qualities of a natural leader. Vivekananda had a keen intelligence and devoured literature from both East and West. This included Western philosophy and the great English poets. Vivekananda especially liked the rational reasoning of the West and was easily dismayed by a lot of the religious superstitions and the cultural decline that Indian society found itself in. From this background, Vivekananda was drawn to join the Brahmo Samaj. The Brahmo Samaj was a modern Hindu movement that sought to revitalize Indian life and spirituality through a rationalist approach and abandonment of image worship.
Nevertheless, the rationality of the Brahmo Samaj couldn’t satisfy the latent spiritual hunger of Vivekananda. From a young age, he started to have spiritual experiences and, by the age of 18, he felt an overwhelming desire to see God. With a directness which was typical of Vivekananda, he asked those around whether they’d seen God. All affirmed in the negative. This included the great Devendranath Tagore. Nevertheless, Devendranath told Vivekananda that he saw in him the eyes of a yogi and surely he’d realize God in this lifetime. Even though none could satisfy his question, he came to hear of the name Ramakrishna Paramhansa who had been reputed to be an excellent spiritual character and somebody who’d realized God.
Ramakrishna vs Vivekananda – In several ways, Ramakrishna was different to Vivekananda. Ramakrishna was an illiterate and straightforward villager who’d taken a post at a local Kali temple. Nevertheless, his simple exterior hid a character of remarkable spirituality. For several years Ramakrishna had pursued the most intense spiritual practices burning with the desire for realization of his beloved Mother Kali. However, after achieving awareness, Ramakrishna not only practiced Hindu rituals but additionally pursued the spiritual paths of all of the main religions. Sri Ramakrishna concluded that all religions lead to the same goal of union with the infinite. As Sri Aurobindo would later say: ”the Master marked out Vivekananda as the heroic soul destined to take the world in his two hands and change it”.