Teachings and philosophy of Swami Vivekananda

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Swami Vivekananda – his teachings and philosophy stressed on different aspects of religion, youth, education, faith, character building as well as social issues pertaining to India."

Swami Vivekananda was a Hindu monk from India. He played significant role in the growing Indian nationalism of the 19th and 20th century, reinterpreting and harmonising certain aspects of Hinduism. His teachings and philosophy applied this reinterpretation to various aspects of education, faith, character building as well as social issues pertaining to India, and was also instrumental in introducing Yoga to the west.

According to Vivekananda a country's future depends on its people, stating that "man-making is my mission."[1] Religion plays a central role in this man-making, stating "to preach unto mankind their divinity, and how to make it manifest in every movement of life."[2]

Indian nationalism[edit]

Vivekananda played a major role in the growing Indian nationalism in the late 19th and the 20th century, encouraging many Indians with his success and appeal in the west. His example helped to build pride in India's cultural and religious heritage, and to stand up against the British colonial system.

Swami Vivekananda believed that India is the blessed punyabhumi, the "land of virtue":

".. the land where humanity has attained its highest towards generosity, towards purity, towards calmness, above all, the land of introspection and of spirituality - it is India. "[3]

According to Swami Vivekananda it is coordinated willpower that leads to independence. He gave the British colonial system as an example, with forty millions of Englishmen ruling three hundred millions of people in India. According to Vivekananda, the forty millions put their wills together and that resulted infinite power, and that was the reason of their success. Vivekananda prescribed, to make a great future India the whole serest will lie in organization, accumulation of power, co-ordination of wills.[4]

According to Vivekananda the Indian race never cared about physical wealth, although they acquired immense wealth.[5]


Religion played a major role in Vivekananda's ideas. To Vivekananda religion was not only talk or doctrine or theory, but realization of the best and strongest powers within oneself. He said,

[I]t is being and becoming, not hearing or acknowledging; it is the whole soul becoming changed into what it believes."[2] He also felt religion is the gist of all worship is to be pure and to do good to others.[6]

According to Swami Vivekananda, religion is the idea which is raising the brute into man, and man unto God.[7]


Vivekananda was deeply influenced by the Brahmo Samaj, and by his guru Ramakrishna, who regarded the Absolute and the relative reality to be nondual aspects of the same integral reality. According to Michael Taft, Ramakrishna reconciled the dualism of form and formless,[8] regarding the Supreme Being to be both Personal and Impersonal, active and inactive. Ramakrishna:

          The Personal and Impersonal are the same thing, like milk and its whiteness, the diamond and its lustre, the snake and its wriggling motion. It is impossible to conceive of the one without the other. The Divine Mother and Brahman are one.[9]

Yoga and meditation[edit]

Swami Vivekananda compared human mind with a monkey who is always restless and incessantly active by his own nature.[10] He noticed, the human mind naturally wants to get outside, to peer out of the body, as it were, through the channels of the organs.[11] So, he stressed on practice of concentration,[12] as he felt there is no limit to the power of the human mind, the more concentrated it is, the more powerful it becomes.[13] Swami Vivekananda suggested not to do anything which disturbs the mind or makes it restless.


Although embracing and propagating Universalism, he regarded Hinduism the best of all religions, and Advaita Vedanta the best of what Indian religious thought had to offer. According to Vivekananda the greatest misfortune of the world is we do not tolerate and accept other religions. In his lecture in Parliament of religions on September 15, 1893, he told a story of a frog who lived in a well for a long time, he was born there and brought up there and he used to think that nothing in the world can be bigger than that. Swami Vivekananda concluded the story:

According to Vivekananda we must not only tolerate other religions, but positively embrace them, since the truth is the basis of all religions.[15]


Social service[edit]

Social service was an essential aspect of Vivekananda's ideas, and an innovation which deviated from both Advaita Vedanta and Ramakrishna. He nevertheless attributed these ideas to both, trying to reconcile them with his own ideas.

According to Vivekananda, an important teaching he received from Ramakrishna was that Jiva is Shiva (each individual is divinity itself). So he stressed on Shiva Jnane Jiva Seva, (to serve common people considering them as manifestation of God). According to Vivekananda, man is potentially Divine, so, service to man is indeed service to God.[16]


Swami Vivekananda called Jain monks the first great ascetics.[17] He praised their ancient knowledge of presence of low form of life in water:[18]

A terrible thing, killing these low forms of life. So these monks, if they died of thirst, they would never kill these animals by drinking water. How all that we call ethics they simply bring out from that one great principle of non-injury and doing good.[19]

Personal development[edit]

In line with the influence of western ideas, Vivekananda stressed the importance of individual development.

Character building[edit]

Swami Vivekananda realized three things are necessary to make every man great, every nation great:[20]

  • Conviction of the powers of goodness;
  • Absence of jealousy and suspicion;
  • Helping all who are trying to be and do good.

Swami Vivekananda suggested to try to give up jealousy and conceit and learn to work unitedly for others. He told that purity, patience and perseverance overcome all obstacles. He suggested to take courage and work on. Patience and steady work, according to Swami Vivekananda, this is the only way to get success.

According to Swami Vivekananda "faith, faith, faith in ourselves, faith, faith in God- this is the secret of greatness. Swami Vivekananda observed the history of the world is the history of a few men who had faith in themselves, and he it is faith which calls out divinity within. So he told, if people have faith in three hundred and thirty millions of Hindu mythological gods, and in all the gods which foreigners have now and still have no faith in themselves, there will be no salvation.[21]


Vivekananda believed education is the manifestation of perfection already in men.[2] He thought it a pity that the existing system of education did not enable a person to stand on his own feet, nor did it teach him self-confidence and self-respect. To Vivekananda, education was not only collection of information, but something more meaningful; he felt education should be man-making, life giving and character-building. To him education was an assimilation of noble ideas.[1]

Education is not the amount of information that we put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life building, man making, character making assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library...[22][23]

Swami Vivekananda felt that the education that young boys and girls receive is very negative. He thinks they do not gain confidence or self-respect from these education, so according to Swami Vivekananda only positive education should be given to children.[24] Swami Vivekananda told, if young boys and girls are encouraged and are not unnecessarily criticized all the time, they are bound to improve in time.[25]
He also told the youth:

Set yourselves to the task of spreading education among the masses. Tell them and make them understand, "You are our brothers—a part and parcel of our bodies, and we love you and never hate you."[26]


Swami Vivekananda warned it is completely unfair to discriminate between sexes, as there is not any sex distinction in atman (soul), the soul has neither sex, nor caste nor imperfection. He suggested not to think that there are men and women, but only that there are human beings.[27] Swami Vivekananda felt, The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women[27] and it is impossible to get back India's lost pride and honor unless they try to better the condition of women.[28] Vivekananda considered men and women as two wings of a bird, and it is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing. So, according to him, there is no chance for welfare of the world unless the condition of woman is improved.

Swami Vivekananda noticed almost everywhere women are treated as playthings. In modern countries like America, women have more independence, still, Vivekananda had noticed, men bow low, offer a woman a chair and in another breath they offer compliments like "Oh, how beautiful your eyes.." etc. Vivekananda felt, a man does not have any right to do this or venture so far, and any woman should not permit this as well. According to Swami Vivekananda such things develop the less noble side of humanity. They do not tend to noble ideals.[29]

According to Vivekananda, the ideal of womanhood in India is motherhood – that marvelous, unselfish, all-suffering, ever-forgiving mother.[30] Vivekananda felt, in India, there are two great evils – trampling on the women, and grinding through the poor through caste restrictions.[31]

According to Swami Vivekananda, Sita is typical of India – the idealized India. Swami Vivekananda assured if world literature of the past and world literature of the future are thoroughly exhausted, yet, it'll not be possible to find out another Sita, because Sita is unique, the character was depicted once for all. Swami Vivekananda felt there may have been several Ramas, perhaps, but never more than one Sita.[32][33]

Vivekananda felt:

Sita was a true Indian by nature, Vivekananda concluded, who never returned injury.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Vivekananda, Swami (1996). Swami Lokeswarananda, ed. My India: the India eternal (1st ed.). Calcutta: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. pp. 1–2. ISBN 81-85843-51-1. 
  2. ^ a b c Swami Vivekananda: Life and Teachings, Belur Math, retrieved 30 March 2012 
  3. ^ "Vivekananda’s Lankan connection". Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  4. ^ "The future of India". ramakrishnavivekananda.info. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "My life and mission". ramakrishnavivekananda.info. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "Universal teachings of Swami Vivekananda". ramakrishna.org. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  7. ^ "Swami Vivekananda Sayings". abuddhistlibrary.com. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  8. ^ Taft 2014.
  9. ^ "Sri Ramakrisha The Great Master, by Swami Saradananda, (tr.) Swami Jagadananda, 5th ed., v.1, pp.558-561, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras.". 
  10. ^ "The mind is like a monkey". psychokhemia.com. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "The Cosmons- The Microcosm". ramakrishnavivekananda.info. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  12. ^ "Concentration, its practice". ramakrishnavivekananda.info. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  13. ^ "Why Control Mind?". greenmesg.org. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  14. ^ "Why we disagree". Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  15. ^ s:The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 5/Epistles - First Series/XXII Alasinga
  16. ^ "IDEOLOGY of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission". belurmath.org. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  17. ^ BUDDHISTIC INDIA Para 22-23
  18. ^ BUDDHISTIC INDIA Para 24
  19. ^ http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_3/buddhistic_india.htm
  20. ^ "Swami Vivekananda Ebook" (PDF). consciouslivingfoundation.org. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  21. ^ Vivekananda, Swami (1996). My India: the India eternal (1st ed.). Calcutta: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. pp. 110–111. ISBN 81-85843-51-1. 
  22. ^ s:The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 3/Lectures from Colombo to Almora/The Future of India
  23. ^ "Swami Vivekananda quotes". jnanagni.com. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  24. ^ s:The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 4/Translation: Prose/The Education that India needs
  25. ^ s:The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 7/Conversations And Dialogues/X
  26. ^ Narasimhananda, Swami (2012). "Vivekananda Reader". Advaita Ashrama. p. 335. 
  27. ^ a b "Thoughts on Women". writespirit.net. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  28. ^ "Vivekananda's letters". Angelfire. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  29. ^ Vivekananda, Swami (1996). My India: the India eternal (1st ed.). Calcutta: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. pp. 68–69. ISBN 8185843511. 
  30. ^ "Swami Vivekananda". rkmdelhi.org. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  31. ^ "Letters written from Chicago January 1895, To Mrs. Ole Bull". vivekananda.net. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  32. ^ "Valmiki's Sita". hindupedia.com. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  33. ^ Swami Yogeshananda. "A Vedantist's View of Mary". vedanta-atlanta.org. 
  34. ^ "The ideal of womanhood, Sita". yabaluri.org. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  35. ^ s:The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 4/Lectures and Discourses/The Ramayana