India celebrates National Youth Day on January 12 every year. This date was chosen to honor the birthday of Swami Vivekananda, one of the greatest spiritual and social leaders in Indian Society.
The laureate, who introduced the phrase, “Sisters and brothers of America …,” at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893 and introduced Hinduism to the western world was an Indian Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda. He was born in a Bengali family in Kolkata on January 12, 1863. He was also a patriotic saint, whose ideas were admired by renowned thinkers and writers, including Robert Ingersoll, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.
Swami Vivekananda envisioned hope for the country’s future in every child. He believed that with “muscles of iron” and “nerves of steel” they could bring about social change. Swami said the eternal energy of the youth is a restless quest for the truth.
He was a great philosopher, writer, preacher, and spiritual thinker, who had planted the seeds of consciousness among the youth of the country. Vivekananda won the western world by introducing Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga and raised interfaith awareness. The chief disciple of the 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna Mission had brought Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century.
Among the most timeless of his works is one titled “The Secret of Work,” in which Swami explained, how our choices and actions shape who we become, how our characters are shaped:
“Every work that we do, every movement of the body, every thought that we think, leaves such an impression on the mind-stuff, and even when such impressions are not obvious on the surface, they are sufficiently strong to work beneath the surface, subconsciously.” What we are every moment is determined by the sum total of these impressions on the mind. What I am just at this moment is the effect of the sum total of all the impressions of my past life. This is really what is meant by character; each man’s character is determined by the sum total of these impressions. If good impressions prevail, the character becomes good; if bad, it becomes bad.”
He also emphasizes our existential confusion about what work has to do about the forever perplexing situation that we live in– forever judging and choosing between good and bad. On which he expressed:
“Good and evil will both have their results and will produce their Karma. Good action will entail upon us good effect; bad action, bad. But good and bad are both bondages of the soul. The solution reached in the Gita in regard to this bondage-producing nature of work is that, if we do not attach ourselves to the work we do, it will not have any binding effect on our soul. We shall try to understand what is meant by this “non-attachment to” to work.”
In his early thirties, when he traveled to New York, where he spent a month holding a series of public lectures on the notion of karma, and various other aspects of mental discipline. His lectures attracted the groundbreaking inventors of his times, such as Nikola Tesla and pioneering psychologist and philosopher William James, and were eventually transcribed and published as Karma Yoga: The Yoga of Action in 1896.
“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.”