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[Today [26.1.11] is Swami Vivekananda’s 149th birthday. On this auspicious occasion, may we all draw inspiration from his divine words and life. Given below is mainly the extract of Jawaharlal Nehru’s speeches delivered during the birth centenary celebration of Swami Vivekananda.]  

Rooted in the past and full of pride in India’s prestige, Vivekananda was yet modern in his approach to life’s problems and was a kind of bridge between the past of India and her present.

Many of my generations were very powerfully influenced by Swami Vivekananda. I think that it would do a great deal of good to the present generation if they also went through Swami Vivekananda’s writings and speeches, and they would learn much from them. There was fire in his heart- the fire of a great personality coming out in eloquent and ennobling language – it was no empty talk that he was indulging in. He was putting his heart and soul into the words he uttered.

Swami Vivekananda influenced powerfully the minds of many in India and two or three generations of young men and women have no doubt been influenced by him. If you read Swami Vivekananda’s writings and speeches, the curious thing you will find is that they are not old [but remain ever fresh].    

Swami Vivekananda was one of the great founders of the National Modern Movement of India. A great number of people who took more or less an active part in that Movement in a later date drew their inspiration from him. Directly of indirectly he has powerfully influenced the India of today. I think that our younger generation will take advantage of this fountain of wisdom, of spirit and fire that flows through Swami Vivekananda.

Men like Sri Ramakrishna and men like Swami Vivekananda are great unifying forces, great constructive geniuses of the world not only in regard to the particular teachings that they taught, but their conscious and unconscious influence on it is of the most vital importance to us. His was a kind of nationalism which automatically slipped into Indian nationalism which was part of internationalism.

Swami Vivekananda was one of those persons, who belonged to our ancient culture, knit the country together and inspired a new life into the people and awake the country from slumber. His voice was not momentary, although it was suited for the occasion, and rose from the heart of India. During the brief period of his life, not only did he win the hearts of the people of India, but also of the entire world.

I express the hope that the people of today, of tomorrow – our countrymen, particularly our children and young men – will keep before them the example and memory of Swami Vivekananda and learn from his writings and his life.

COURTESY: Ramakrishna and Vivekananda by Jawaharlal Nehru (Book Code: AVE072), Published by: Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata



Sri Ramakrishna was a man of God and I am a man of earth. Even a man of earth can admire and perhaps be influenced by a man of God. So I have been admiring Godly men, though sometimes I do not altogether understand what they said. I have admired these great men of God, and have been influenced by reading what was written about them by their disciples. These extraordinary personalities have powerfully influenced their generation and the succeeding generations. They have powerfully influenced great men and changed the whole tenor of their lives.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa obviously was completely outside the run of average humanity. He appears to be in the tradition of the great Rishis of India, who have come from time to time to draw our attention to the higher things of life and of spirit. For India never ignored, in spite of the other activities of the world, the spiritual values of life, and say always laid certain stress on the search for truth and has always welcomed the searches of truth by whatever names they may call themselves.

One of the effects of Sri Ramakrishna’s life was the peculiar way in which he influenced other people who came in contact with him. Men often scoffed from a distance at this man of no learning, and yet when they came to him, very soon they bowed their heads before this man of God and ceased to scoff and ‘remained to pray’. They gave up, many of them, their ordinary vocations in life and business. They were great men and one of them, better known than the others, not only in India but in other parts of the world, is Swami Vivekananda. Men like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, men like Swami Vivekananda and men like Mahatma Gandhi are great unifying forces, great constructive geniuses of the world not only in regard to the particular teachings that they taught, but their approach to the world and their conscious and unconscious influence on it is of the most vital importance to us.

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When Swami Vivekananda [then Narendra] was studying in school he was punished for no fault of his own. The Geography teacher asked him a question which Narendra answered correctly. But the teacher thought Narendra he was wrong and punished him. But Naredra was undaunted even as a boy. He protested, ‘I committed no error, sir; I am sure what I said is right.’ This made the teacher furious and he caned Narendra mercilessly.

Narendra returned home, his eyes filled with tears and narrated every thing to his mother. But Bhuvaneshwari Devi consoled him saying, ‘My son, why do you care if you are in the right? Follow the truth always, whatever happens.’

Narendra found his Master, Sri Ramakrishna to be an embodiment of the ideal his mother had instilled in him. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘Truth is to be cultivated by all means. If a man holds to truth in this Kaliyuga, he will certainly realize God.’ And Sri Ramakrishna himself practised what he preached.

This ideal of unwavering loyalty to truth which, Swami Vivekananda saw in his mother and later in his spiritual master Sri Ramakrishna found expression in all his actions. It was therefore only but natural that the world would later hear him proclaim: ‘Every thing can be sacrificed for truth, but truth cannot be sacrificed for anything.’

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While in school one day Swami Vivekananda [then Narendra] was talking animatedly to his friends during a class recess. Meanwhile, the teacher had begun to teach his subject. But the students were too absorbed in Narendra’s story to pay any attention to the lesson. After some time had passed, the teacher heard the whispering and understood what was going on! Visibly annoyed, he now asked each student what he had been teaching on. None could answer. But Narendra was remarkably talented; his mind could work simultaneously on two planes. While he had engaged one part of his mind in talking, he had kept the other half on the lesson. So when the teacher asked him that question, he answered correctly. Quite nonplussed, the teacher inquired who had been talking so long. Everybody pointed at Narendra, but the teacher refused to believe them. He then asked all students except Narendra to stand upon the bench. Narendra also joined his friends and stood up. The teacher asked him to sit down. But Narendra replied: ‘No sir, I must also stand up because it was I who was talking to them.’

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