Swami Vivekanand's name was Narendra Nath Dutta in his pre-monastic life. He was born in an affluent family in Kolkata on 12th January, 1863. His father, Vishwanath Datta, was a successful attorney with interest in varied subjects, and his mother, Bhuvaneshwari Devi, was endowed with qualities like deep devotion, strong character etc. The precocious boy, Narendra mastered music, gymnastics and studies. By the time he completed his graduation from Calcutta University, he had acquired a vast knowledge of different subjects, especially Western philosophy and history. He had a yogic temperament and used to practice meditation even from his boyhood, and was also involved in 'Brahmo Movement' for time being.
Meeting the Mentor
At the threshold of youth, Narendra had
to undergo a period of spiritual crisis when he was confused by doubts about
the very existence of God. And at that time, he came to know about Shri
Ramakrishna from his English professor at college. In November 1881, one day
Narendra went to meet Shri Ramakrishna at the Kali Temple in Dakshineshwar. He
straight away asked him a question, which he had asked to several others but
had received no satisfactory answer, "Sir, have you seen God?"
Without a moment's hesitation, Shri Ramakrishna replied, "Yes, I have. I can see Him as clearly as I see you, only in a much deeper sense."
Shri Ramakrishna not only removed doubts from the mind of Narendra, but also won him over through his pure, selfless love. And thus began a unique Guru-disciple relationship in the history of spiritualism. Narendra now started visiting Dakshineshwar frequently and, under the guidance of the Guru, made rapid progress on the spiritual path. At Dakshineshwar, Narendra also met many youngsters who were devoted to Shri Ramakrishna, and they all became close pals.
After a few years two incidents distressed Narendra considerably. One was the sudden death of his father in 1884, leaving his family in miserable condition. Hence, Narendra had to bear the burden of supporting his mother, brothers and sisters. The second event was the illness of Shri Ramakrishna which was diagnosed as throat cancer. In September 1885, Shri Ramakrishna was taken to a house at Shyampukur, and a few months later to a rented villa at Cossipore. At these two places the young disciples nursed their Guru with utmost care. Though there was poverty at home, as he was unemployed, Narendra had lead his fellows.