What Swami Vivekananda Taught a 13 Year Old

Of all the remarkable things about Swami Vivekananda, I find him just as relevant to the privileged youth of today, as to the starving, directionless young Indians of the 19th century.

In our technology infested homes buzzing with social platforms, videos and the entire self-obsessed world of internet, the greatest thing Swami Vivekananda taught me is selflessness. For when I looked up after hours of poring over his biographies, something truly astonishing happened. I could open my eyes to a newer, wiser world.

Selflessness defined Swamiji. Born into a well-fed family and gifted with a good education, the young man Naren surely belonged to the elite class.

Yet, even when life’s changing tides crushed him with his family’s responsibilities after his father’s untimely demise, leading to nights when he slept hungry to suffice food for his siblings, he didn’t lose hope in people.

He hoped for the millions of wretched Indians on the streets, painfully downtrodden by the British. The infuriating gap between the rich and poor, which Swami Vivekananda held as the deepest wound in the heart of Modern India.

To see an educated mind step out on the streets and forsake everything for the sake of his people is truly humbling. In today’s fast paced competitive world, it is a unique thought.

Patriotism was undoubtedly another prominent pillar in Swamiji’s life. His famed Chicago speech, not only upheld the tolerance and core virtues of the religion he was born in, but also showed the rationality and universality of his teachings.

‘It is an insult to a starving man to offer him religion, in place of bread,’’ he declared. ‘Find the God in every man and serve him unconditionally.’

He launched his celebrated Ramakrishna mission on return to India, and employed hundreds of his disciples to help people, while the government failed. He recognized youth as the power of the country, and his inspiration on strengthening and believing in oneself, helped millions of young men.

‘You will be closer to God by playing football, than studying the Gita,’ he famously said. ‘I need you to build nerves of steel to work. It is a shame to see your countrymen suffering while you still live.’

Swami Vivekananda accomplished a great deal in his 39 years. His magnetism, the glowing face and a fire in his deep, mesmerizing eyes captivated millions.

In our noisy world, people are forever trying to gain fame. But even as fame came from all corners of the world, Swami Vivekananda accepted it with childlike gratitude. This simply astounds me.

In our short lives, famous names change every decade and the most prominent billionaires of today, will be buried in the pages of history tomorrow. Everyone tries to leave their mark in the world, and yet Swamiji wanted to leave an eternal message.

This changed my perspective towards life, that I could disregard the dazzle of current celebrities, and think of life in the tumultuous waves of time.

Ponder over the message I would choose to leave.

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