“Come to God any way you can; only come.”
Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) was the foremost disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and is credited as a key figure in bridging the spirituality of the East and West, and in introducing Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world. He both taught and exemplified inner strength and service to all, respecting all religions and worshiping the divine in all beings.
Swami Vivekananda broke new ground, transcending tolerance into acceptance and raising interfaith awareness. His teachings, like those of his master, emphasize the harmony of religious thought. In the United States, he is perhaps best known for introducing Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893. A man with immense spiritual presence and brilliant intellect, he was invited to speak all over America and Europe. After returning to India, he established the Ramakrishna Order in 1897.
Swami Vivekananda also provided a modern interpretation of Vedanta, demonstrating how the timeless philosophy can improve everyday lives. He pioneered efforts to bring a scientific foundation to religion. He demonstrated that religion and faith do not conflict with reason and logic, but complement them.
His literary works—compiled into The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda—have inspired generations of men and women, both in India and internationally. As a tribute to his tremendous and abiding influence, his birthday is celebrated as National Youth Day in India.
Quotes from Vivekananda
“Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within.”
“Why should I tolerate? Toleration means that I think that you are wrong and I am just allowing you to live. Is it not a blasphemy to think that you and I are allowing others to live? I accept all religions that were in the past, and worship with them all; I worship God with every one of them, in whatever form they worship Him.”
“In judging others we always judge them by our own ideals. That is not as it should be. Everyone must be judged according to his own ideal, and not by that of anyone else.”
“If there is a God we must see Him, if there is a soul we must perceive it; otherwise it is better not to believe.”
“He who has no faith in himself can never have faith in God.”
“Be an atheist if you want, but do not believe in anything unquestioningly.”
“Holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world. Every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character.”
“Religion is not in books, nor in theories, nor in dogmas, nor in talking, not even in reasoning. It is being and becoming.”
“The first sign that you are becoming religious is that you are becoming cheerful. When a man is gloomy, that may be dyspepsia, but it is not religion.”
“He alone is worshiping God who serves all beings.”
What others have said about Vivekananda
“The book by Vivekananda is more than a pleasure, it is a broadening of the soul.”
— Leo Tolstoy
“If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative.”
“[Vivekananda has given] the most definitive statement of religious tolerance and interfaith unity in history.”
—Coretta Scott King, honoring Vivekananda
“The paragon of all Unity systems is the Vedanta philosophy of India, and the paragon of Vedanta missionaries was the late Swami Vivekananda. The swami is an honor to humanity.”
“The strength of India—the very idea of India—is its embrace of all colors, castes and creeds. It’s the richness of faiths celebrated by a visitor to my hometown of Chicago more than a century ago—the renowned Swami Vivekananda.”
“My homage and respect to the very revered memory of Swami Vivekananda. … I have gone through Swami Vivekananda’s works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country became a thousand-fold.
— Mahatma Gandhi
“Even after another 150 years, the life and message of Swami Vivekananda will continue to carry the same significance as they do now. … His words have the power to awaken the spiritual potential inherent in humankind. … If Swami Vivekananda’s words are contemplated upon, they can help inspire a peaceful yet powerful spiritual revolution. Not an external revolution but an internal one—a transformation based on values.”
—Mata Amritanandamayi (“Amma”)
Recommended Reading on Swami Vivekananda
Vivekananda: The Yogas and Other Works
Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda