Now Reading
A Young Indian American’s Reflections on Swami Vivekananda on His 160th Birth Anniversary

A Young Indian American’s Reflections on Swami Vivekananda on His 160th Birth Anniversary

  • In honor of his birthday on January 12, I wish to highlight some lessons from his works I take to heart.

As a second-generation Indian American and Hindu, realizing my dual identities and understanding my faith has been a long journey (and is one I am still undergoing). I could not approach my beliefs and faith as my parents did; as a teenager belonging to a completely different country and society than the one they were raised in, I did not understand the world as they did and it seemed much of their traditions and teachings did not apply to my daily life. The one place I could find meaning in ancient texts and practices was the Vedanta Centers of Berkeley and San Francisco. 

Swami Vivekananda at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

Swami Vivekananda, a 19th-century monk, philosopher, teacher, and Hindu social reformer, was born Narendra Nath Datta on January 12, 1863. The influence of Swami Vivekananda on Indian Americans and Hindus cannot be understated. He introduced Hinduism to Americans at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, and later embarked on a tour where he delivered hundreds of lectures on Hinduism throughout the United States. 

In honor of his birthday, I wish to highlight some lessons from his works I take to heart: 

  1. The soul is the essence of God and is necessarily perfect. 

Swami Vivekananda states that our “first duty is not to hate ourselves because to advance we must have faith in ourselves first and then God.” God is within all of us, and we must accept and love who we are for spiritual enlightenment. 

2. We must take time to meditate on Dharma and define our path 

I understand Dharma to mean righteousness and justice. Each of us has a role to play in attaining this and advancing the state of our world. Understanding our duty requires meditation, removing ourselves from the material world, and purifying our minds. 

3. Do not be afraid of hardships and do not fear life. 

Swami Vivekananda teaches us to “face the terrible, and face it boldly.” Our freedom comes from conquering nature, not running away. 

4. Respect, understand, and learn about all faiths. 

The essence of Vedanta is that all Gods are one. He states that “any sect that may help you realize God is welcome. Religion is the realizing of God.” 

5. Prioritize social welfare and make sure to elevate all those around us.

Let us “seek to help our fellow men.” That is all we should aim to do. 

6. Live a life of service.

See Also

Swami Vivekananda preached that we must “work for work’s sake.” In both our professions and our daily life, we should act in ways that are rooted in “love, truth, and unselfishness” and without any selfish motives so that good may come out of our actions. 

7. Our minds are limited and our viewpoints often do not reflect the entire reality 

While the mind has infinite potential, our opinions and thoughts are grounded in a material reality that we individually experience. We should approach all ideas with humility and understanding that we can and are often wrong. 

8. Practice unconditional love towards all people and beings 

Loving God requires having eternal love for the universe and all that is around us. 

Madhumitha Krishnan is a recent graduate from U.C. Berkeley who will be a Gardner Fellow from 2021-2022. She is an aspiring historian and a hopeful public servant, intending to work to secure the rights and liberties of migrants and marginalized people. She is passionate about reclaiming agency in how we tell our stories and our pasts.

What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2020 American Kahani LLC. All rights reserved.

The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
Scroll To Top