“Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached.”
This is just one of the many inspirational quotes by Swami Vivekananda that make us strive for success and aspire for more in life. His teachings and lessons on love, life and spirituality continue to set life goals for people across generations, all over the world. Our children can learn a lot by simply following the life of Swami Vivekananda, his trials as well as his achievements.
On Swami Vivekananda’s birth anniversary, also celebrated as the National Youth Day, we give you a few anecdotes from his life and the lessons you can share with your children to encourage them to aim higher and live their life without fear.
- Anecdote: Vivekananda’s honesty
Swami Vivekananda, who was known as Narendranath Dutta in his younger days, was talking to his classmates during the recess. After the recess got over and they entered the class, the teacher began to teach. Narendra continued to whisper to his classmates who were too engrossed in Narendra’s story and did not pay attention to what the teacher said. Annoyed, the teacher asked the students to repeat what he had just said. No one was able to answer him, except Narendra, who was listening to the teacher while whispering to his friends. The teacher asked the students, “Who was whispering?” Everyone pointed at Narendra; but, the teacher refused to believe it. The teacher then asked all the students, except Narendra, to stand up on their bench, as punishment. But Narendra also stood up on the bench and said, “Sir, I must stand up because it was I who was talking to them.”
Lesson to share with your child: Honesty, at all costs
Vivekananda could have easily escaped punishment as he had answered the questions correctly. However, he chose to tell the truth despite the repercussions and face the consequences of his actions. Tell your child that being honest and true to yourself and others, despite what the outcome might be, is an important part of being a successful individual.
- Anecdote: Vivekananda’s focus
Once, while in America, Vivekananda was watching a few boys trying to shoot egg shells floating on the river. But they missed each time. So, Vivekananda took the gun from the boys and shot all the shells, one by one. The boys asked him, how he had managed to accomplish that, and Vivekananda said, “Whatever you are doing, put your whole mind on it. If you are shooting, your mind should only be on the target. Then you will never miss. If you are learning your lessons, think only of the lesson.”
Lesson to share with your child: Focus on the goal
The ability to completely focus on a task is a skill that will lead to future successes. Teach your child that no matter how hard a task is, if he puts his mind to it, he will reach his goal. As Vivekananda once famously said, “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”
- Anecdote: Teachings from Vivekananda’s mother
One day at school, in the Geography class, the teacher asked Vivekananda a question. Although he answered correctly, the teacher thought he was wrong and punished him. But Vivekananda protested and said, “I committed no error, sir; I am sure what I said is right.” On hearing this, the teacher got furious and caned him. Back home, Vivekananda recounted this incident to his mother. To which his mother responded, “My son, why do you care if you are in the right? Follow the truth always, whatever happens.” Swami Vivekananda followed this philosophy throughout his life.
Lesson to share with your child: Focus on the truth
Even after Vivekananda was punished, he continued to stand up for the truth. He practised this lesson in everything he did and how he lived his life. Tell your child that even though sometimes people may not be willing to listen to him or agree with him when he speaks the truth, it is important that he follows the truth and what he believes in.
- Anecdote: Vivekananda’s humanitarianism
Once, Vivekananda was spending some time at a railway station in Rajasthan. On hearing about it, people came to him day and night with questions on religion and spirituality. This continued for three days and Vivekananda found no time to eat or drink. However, he tirelessly answered all the questions. On the third day, a cobbler approached him and offered him some baked bread. Vivekananda gladly accepted the offer and thanked him. However, some gentlemen found out that the great Swamiji had accepted food from a cobbler. Since they considered cobblers as untouchables, they asked Vivekananda not to accept food from such people. Vivekananda replied to them, “You people made me talk without respite for the past three days, but you did not even care to inquire if I had taken any food and or rest. You claim you are gentlemen and boast of your high caste; what is more shameful, you condemn this man for being of a low caste. Can you overlook the humanity he has just shown and despise him without feeling ashamed?”
Lesson to share with your child: Don’t discriminate based on caste or religion
The character of a person is defined by his actions and not by his caste, religion or economic status. Discriminations based on caste or religion held no value for Vivekananda and he believed that “the greatest religion is to be true to your own nature.” It is important to teach your child not to discriminate people based on superficial things like caste or their background. She should learn to value and respect people based on their actions and thoughts.
- Anecdote: Facing your troubles
Once in Varanasi, as Vivekananda came out of a temple, he was surrounded by many monkeys. To avoid them, Vivekananda started running away from them and the monkeys started chasing him. On seeing this, an old woman, near the temple, told Vivekananda to stop and face the monkeys. So, he turned around and faced them and the monkeys ran away. Many years later Vivekananda said, “If you ever feel afraid of anything, always turn around and face it. Never think of running away.”
Lesson to share with your child: Have courage to face your troubles
Running away from your problems never solves anything. The problems only follow you, wherever you go and whatever you do. The best solution is to face your troubles and deal with them. Teach your child to face hurdles, whether in school or later in his career, with courage and deal with them right away rather than putting off for later.
- Anecdote: Test before placing trust
Although Vivekananda was a devoted disciple of Sree Ramakrishna Paramhansa, he didn’t blindly believe his teachings. He always debated and questioned Ramakrishna on what he said, to truly understand the meaning behind his philosophies. Once Ramakrishna told Vivekananda that he was allergic to money and couldn’t bear its touch. So, one day, Vivekananda placed a coin under his guru’s mattress to test if he was truly allergic to money. Soon Ramakrishna became restless and started complaining of a stinging pain. He removed the mattress and saw the coin and asked who put it there. When Vivekananda told him it was he who put the coin there, Ramakrishna said, “You are right Naren. Never trust anything blindly. Test it.”
Lesson to share with your child: Don’t accept anything on face value
No matter how great the preacher or how respected the source, do not take anything at face value. Study and test the claims made by others before you accept them as the truth. Tell your child to always try to find the meaning or substance behind what anyone says and not take anything for granted.
Swami Vivekananda survived through poverty and trying times to become one of the greatest Indian leaders the world has ever seen. Share these lessons with your child to enable her to get a better perspective on life and success and how to become a person who is respected and admired by all.
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