The first known yogi to visit the West, Swami Vivekananda tops the list as one of the most influential sages of the modern yoga movement. In his opening address at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, Swami Vivekananda brought 7,000 attendees to their feet for an unprecedented four-minute standing ovation. While his charisma, eloquence, and exotic garb rocketed him to celebrity status, his accessible yet profound teachings touched thousands in his short lifetime. His wisdom continues to live on in the hearts and minds of yoga practitioners, scholars, and citizens around the world.
“All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.” –Swami Vivekananda
Sarah Bernhardt Mahatma Gandhi Aldous Huxley Carl Jung Vivien Leigh Henry Miller Laurence Olivier J.D. Salinger Gertrude Stein Nikola Tesla
The #1 hit single “My Sweet Lord,” written by the Beatles’ lead guitarist George Harrison, was inspired by a passage from one of Swami Vivekananda’s books that reads, “If there is a God, we must see him. And if there is a soul, we must perceive it.”
Every January 12, the Indian government commemorates Swami Vivekananda at the National Youth Festival, which promotes his teachings through a wide array of cultural performances and competitive sporting events. Calcutta will host the weeklong celebration this time to mark his 150th birthday. More than 5,000 participants from India and around the world are expected to attend.
January 12, 1863: Born as Narendra Nath Datta.
January 1887: Takes formal vows of monasticism and changes name to Swami Vivekananda.
May 31, 1893: Sails to America for the first time.
September 11, 1893: Addresses the Parliament of Religions at the World’s Fair. In his opening address at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, Swami Vivekananda brought 7,000 attendees to their feet for an unprecedented four-minute standing ovation.
November 1894: Founds the Vedanta Society of New York.
March 1896: Lectures at Harvard; meets William James.
1897: Founds the Ramakrishna Order, still the largest philanthropic organization in India.
April 1900: Founds the Vedanta Society of San Francisco.
July 4, 1902: Dies at age 39.