At the age 8 in 1872 Vivekanada enrolled at Ishwar Chandra vidyasagat's Metropolitan
Institution, where he went to school untill his family moved to school until his family
moved in 1877. Adter his family's return to Calcutta in 1879, he was the only student to
receive first-division marks in the Presidency College entrance examination. He was an avid
reader in a wide range of subjects, including philosophy, religion, history, social science,
art and literature. He was also interested in Hindu scriptures, including the Vedas, the
Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. Narendra was
trained in Indian classical music, and regularly participated in physical exercise, sports
and organised activities. Narendra studied Western logic, Western philosophy and European
history at the General Assembly's Institution (now known as the Scottish Church College). He
passed the Fine arts examination in 1881, and in 1884 he completed a Bachelor of Arts.
Narendra studied the works of David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Baruch
Spinoza, Georg W. F. Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Auguste Comte,John Stuart Mill and Charles
The evolutionism of Herbert Spencer facinated Vivekanada and corresponded with him,
translating Spencer's book Education (1861) into Bengali. He also learned sanskrit
scriptures and Bengali literature, while studying western philosophers.
William Hastie (principal of Christian College, Calcutta, from where Narendra graduated)
wrote, "Narendra is really a genius. I have travelled far and wide but I have
never come across a lad of his talents and possibilities, even in German universities, among
philosophical students. He is bound to make his mark in life". Vivekanada has tremendes
memory and ability at speed reading.
Keshab Chandra Sen's Nava Vidhan was joined by Vivekanada in 1880, which was established by
Sen after meeting Ramakrishna and reconverting from Christianity to Hinduism. Narendra
became a member of a Freemasonry lodge "at some point before 1884" and of the Sadharan
Brahmo Samaj in his twenties, a breakaway faction of the Brahmo Samaj led by Keshab Chandra
Sen and Debendranath Tagore.
It was in this cultic milieu that Narendra became acquainted with Western esotericism.
Brahmo Samajh shaped Vivekanada's Belief which included belief in a formless God and the
deprecation of idolatry, and a "streamlined, rationalized, monotheistic theology strongly
coloured by a selective and modernistic reading of the Upanisads and of the Vedanta.
"Rammohan Roy, the founder of the Brahmo Samaj who was strongly influenced by unitarianism,
strove towards an universalistic interpretation of Hinduism. Tagore also brought this
"neo-Hinduism" closer in line with western esotericism, a development which was furthered by
Keshubchandra Sen. Sen was influenced by transcendentalism, an American
philosophical-religious movement strongly connected with unitarianism, which emphasised
personal religious experience over mere reasoning and theology. Sen strived to "an
accessible, non-renunciatory, everyman type of spirituality", introducing "lay systems of
spiritual practice" which can be regarded as prototypes of the kind of Yoga-exercises which
Vivekananda popularised in the west. The same search for direct intuition and understanding
can be seen with Vivekananda. Not satisfied with his knowledge of philosophy, Narendra came
to "the question which marked the real beginning of his intellectual quest for God." He
asked several prominent Calcutta residents if they had come "face to face with God", but
none of their answers satisfied him. At this time, Narendra met Debendranath Tagore (the
leader of Brahmo Samaj) and asked if he had seen God. Instead of answering his question,
Tagore said "My boy, you have the Yogi's eyes." According to Banhatti, it was Ramakrishna
who really answered Narendra's question, by saying "Yes, I see Him as I see you, only in an
infinitely intenser sense." Nevertheless, Vivekananda was more influenced by the Brahmo
Samaj's and its new ideas, than by Ramakrishna. It was Sen's influence who brought
Vivekananda fully into contact with western esotericism, and it was also via Sen that he met
Vivekanada met Ramakrishna first time in 1881, After the death of Vivekanada's father in
1884 it become his spirtual focus. Narendra's first introduction to Ramakrishna occurred in
a literature class at General Assembly's Institution when he
heard Professor William Hastie lecturing on William Wordsworth's poem, The Excursion. While
explaining the word "trance" in the poem, Hastie suggested that his students visit
Ramakrishna of Dakshineswar to understand the true
meaning of trance. This prompted some of his students (including Narendra) to visit
Ramakrishna. Image of Ramakrishna, sitting.
In November 1881 they met for first Time. However both o0f them didn't consider this as
their first meet. when Ram Chandra Datta accompanied him to Surendra Nath Mitra's, house
where Ramakrishna was invited to deliver a lecture, at this time Vivekanada was preparing
for his upcoming F. A. examination. In late 1881 or early 1882, Narendra went to
Dakshineswar with two friends and met Ramakrishna. Meeting with Ramakrishna changed
Vivekanda's death. Vivekanada was attracted by the personality of Ramakrishna, However he
didn't initially accepted Ramakrishna as his teacher and also questioned his ideas. For
Vivekanada Ramakrishna's vision as "mere figments of imagination and halllucinations".
As a member of Brahmo Samaj, he opposed idol worship, polytheism and Ramakrishna's worship
of Kali. He even rejected the Advaita Vedanta of "identity with the absolute" as blasphemy
and madness, and often ridiculed the idea. Narendra tested Ramakrishna, who faced his
arguments patiently: "Try to see the truth from all angles", he replied. Narendra's father's
sudden death in 1884 left the family bankrupt; creditors began demanding the repayment of
loans, and relatives threatened to evict the family from their ancestral home. Narendra,
once a son of a well-to-do family, became one of the poorest
students in his college. He unsuccessfully tried to find work and questioned God's
existence, but found solace in Ramakrishna and his visits to Dakshineswar increased. One day
Narendra requested Ramakrishna to pray to goddess Kali for their family's financial welfare.
Ramakrishna suggested him to go to the temple himself and pray. Following Ramakrishna's
suggestion, he went to the temple thrice, but failed to pray for any kind of worldly
necessities and ultimately prayed for true knowledge and devotion from the goddess. Narendra
gradually grew ready to renounce everything for the sake of realising God, and accepted
Ramakrishna as his Guru. In 1885, Ramakrishna developed throat cancer, and was transferred
to Calcutta and (later) to a garden house in Cossipore. Narendra and Ramakrishna's other
disciples took care of him during his last days, and Narendra's spiritual education
continued. At Cossipore, he experienced Nirvikalpa samadhi. Narendra and several other
disciples received ochre robes from Ramakrishna, forming his first monastic order. He was
taught that service to men was the most effective worship of God. Ramakrishna asked him to
care for the other monastic disciples, and in turn asked them to see Narendra as their
leader. On the morning of 16 August 1886 Ramakrishna died in Cossipore.
Founding of first Ramakrishna Math at
Ramakrishna's devotees and admirers stopped supporting his disciples after the death of
Ramakrishna, Because of not able to pay the rent, Vivekanada and other Disciples had to move
to a new place to live. Many returned home, adopting a Grihastha (family-oriented) way of
life. Narendra decided to convert a dilapidated house at Baranagar into a new math
(monastery) for the remaining disciples. Rent for the Baranagar Math was low, raised by
"holy begging" (mādhukarī). The math became the first building of the Ramakrishna Math: the
monastery of the monastic order of Ramakrishna.
Narendra and other disciples used to spend many hours in practising meditation and religious
austerities every day.