Ann Louise Bardach has recently written an article for the New York times giving a brief introduction to Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Vivekanda’s thoughts have been very influential not only in his native India but worldwide. Arguably he was the first personality to widely disseminate yoga in the west, though as the article clearly points out in a very different and more profound form than what it has popularly become.
One key point of his teaching is universality of truth, and that there are many ways to arrive at that truth. He often taught using many different and sometimes contradictory ideas, trying to reach each of his listeners in a way that they could best relate to. A survey of his talks and writings reveals a highly original and broad minded thinker, able to view the problem of life and spirituality from every possible perspective.
From the article –
The Indian monk, born Narendranath Datta to an aristocratic Calcutta family, alighted in Chicago in 1893 in ochre robes and turban, with little money after a daunting two-month trek from Bombay. Notwithstanding the fact that he had spent the previous night sleeping in a boxcar, the young mystic made an electrifying appearance at the opening of the august Parliament of Religions that Sept. 11.
For most of the rest of the month, Vivekananda held the conference’s 4,000 attendees spellbound in a series of showstopping improvised talks. He had simplified Vedanta thought to a few teachings that were accessible and irresistible to Westerners, foremost being that “all souls are potentially divine.” His prescription for life was simple, and perfectly American: “work and worship.” By the end of his last Chicago lecture on Sept. 27, Vivekananda was a star. And like the enterprising Americans he so admired, he went on the road to pitch his message — dazzling some of the great minds of his time.
See here for the full article.
For more information on Swami Vivekananda see here.