He came to be known as Swami
Vivekanda only when he became a sannyasi or monk. His parents called him Narendra. His
father was Vishwantha Datta and his mother Bhuvaneshwari Devi. Narendra was born on 12th
January 1863 in Calcutta. As a child he was very lively and naughty.
When Narendra stepped into boyhood, his naughtiness grew. He was a natural leader of
the children in the neighborhood. His companions bowed to his decision always. Once a
landlord threatened the children saying, "There is a demon in the tree and he
swallows children." Narendra was not impressed by this threat. He settled down on a
branch. The other boys took to their heels. Narendra waited for several hours, but the
demon did not appear. So, he declared that the landlord's story was a spoof. Narendra
loved to tease his sisters. Meditation, too, was a sport to him. But as he meditated he
became oblivious of the whole world. Not even a lizard or a snake moving near him could
disturb his concentration.
Even as a child Narendra had great respect for sannyasis or ascetics. He would give
away anything to anybody if asked for. On his birthday, he would wear new clothes,
wouldn't he? If a beggar asked for alms he would give away the new clothes. From that day,
his mother would lock him up in a room whenever a beggar passed by the house. But every
beggar knew Narendra's nature very well. So beggars would stand near the window of
Narendra's room. He would throw to them anything he had. The spirit of sacrifice and
renunciation was already blossoming in him.
In her leisure time his mother would tell him the story of the Ramayana. He could not
sleep unless she told him a story. Then he would be all ears, forgetting his study and
play. He had great reverence for Lord Hanuman. Once he sat before the idol of Lord Shiva,
with his body all smeared with ash. His perplexed mother asked him, "Naren, what's
all this?" He smiled and said, "Mother, I'm Lord Shiva." The mother feared
that her son would become a sannyasi, like his grandfather.