Born into an aristocratic Bengali family of Calcutta, Vivekananda was inclined towards spirituality. He was influenced by his guru, Ramakrishna, from whom he learnt that all living beings were an embodiment of the divine self; therefore, service to God could be rendered by service to mankind. After Ramakrishna’s death, Vivekananda toured the Indian subcontinent extensively and acquired first-hand knowledge of the conditions prevailing in British India. He later travelled to the United States, representing India at the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Vivekananda conducted hundreds of public and private lectures and classes, disseminating tenets of Hindu philosophy in the United States, England and Europe. In India, Vivekananda is regarded as a patriotic saint and his birthday is celebrated there as National Youth Day.
On 4 July 1902 (the day of his death) Vivekananda awoke early, went to the monastery at Belur Math and meditated for three hours. He taught Shukla-Yajur-Veda, Sanskrit grammar and the philosophy of yoga to pupils, later discussing with colleagues a planned Vedic college in the Ramakrishna Math. At 7:00 p.m. Vivekananda went to his room, asking not to be disturbed; he died at 9:20 p.m. while meditating. According to his disciples, Vivekananda attained mahasamādhi; the rupture of a blood vessel in his brain was reported as a possible cause of death. His disciples believed that the rupture was due to his brahmarandhra (an opening in the crown of his head) being pierced when he attained mahasamādhi. Vivekananda fulfilled his prophecy that he would not live forty years. He was cremated on a sandalwood funeral pyre on the bank of the Ganga in Belur, opposite where Ramakrishna was cremated sixteen years earlier.
Publications: Published in his lifetime
- Sangeet Kalpataru (1887, with Vaishnav Charan Basak)
- Karma Yoga (1896)
- Raja Yoga (1896 [1899 edition])
- Vedanta Philosophy: An address before the Graduate Philosophical Society (1896)
- Lectures from Colombo to Almora (1897)
- Bartaman Bharat (in Bengali) (March 1899), Udbodhan
- My Master (1901), The Baker and Taylor Company, New York
- Vedânta philosophy: lectures on Jnâna Yoga (1902) Vedânta Society, New York OCLC 919769260
- Jnana yoga (1899)
- Addresses on Bhakti Yoga
- Bhakti Yoga
- The East and the West (1909)
- Inspired Talks (1909)
- Narada Bhakti Sutras – translation
- Para Bhakti or Supreme Devotion
- Practical Vedanta
- Speeches and writings of Swami Vivekananda; a comprehensive collection
- Complete Works: a collection of his writings, lectures and discourses in a set of nine volumes( ninth volume will be published soon)
- Seeing beyond the circle (2005)