15 Benefits Of Neo-Vedanta That May Change Your Perspective
According to Gavin Flood, Vivekananda (1863–1902) (Narendranath Dutta) "is a figure of great importance in the development of a modern Hindu self-understanding and in formulating the West's view of Hinduism".
He played a major role in the revival of Hinduism, and the spread of Advaita Vedanta to the west via the Ramakrishna Mission. (His interpretation of Advaita Vedanta has been called "Neo-Vedanta")
In 1880 Vivekananda joined Keshub Chandra Sen's Nava Vidhan, which was established by Sen after meeting Ramakrishna and reconverting from Christianity to Hinduism.
Narendranath (a.k.a. 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 Keshub Chandra Sen and Debendranath Tagore.
From 1881 to 1884 he was also active in Sen's Band of Hope, which tried to discourage the youth from smoking and drinking. It was in this cultic milieu that Narendra became acquainted with Western esotericism.
His initial beliefs were shaped by Brahmo concepts, 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".
He propagated the idea that "the divine, the absolute, exists within all human beings regardless of social status", and that "seeing the divine as the essence of others will promote love and social harmony".
During this period, he came in contact with Ramakrishna, who eventually became his guru. Maharaj has argued that Ramakrishna gradually brought Narendra to a Vedanta-based worldview that "provides the ontological basis for 'śivajñāne jīver sevā', the spiritual practice of serving human beings as actual manifestations of God." Maharaj describes how, "on one occasion in 1884, Sri Ramakrishna was explaining... that one of the main religious practices of Vaiṣṇavas is 'showing compassion to all beings' (sarva jīve dayā)",
and that Ramakrishna then asserted "It must not be compassion, but service to all. Serve them, knowing that they are all manifestations of God [śivajñāne jīver sevā]".
According to Maharaj, Ramakrishna teachings that day "affected the young Naren so deeply that he took his friends aside afterward and explained its profound ethical significance to them", stating What Ṭhākur [Sri Ramakrishna] said today in his ecstatic mood is clear: One can bring Vedānta from the forest to the home and practice it in daily life. Let people continue with whatever they are doing; there’s no harm in this.
People must first fully believe and be convinced that God has manifested Himself before them as the world and its creatures. If people consider everyone to be God, how can they consider themselves to be superior to others and harbor attachment, hatred, arrogance—or even compassion [dayā]—toward them? Their minds will become pure as they serve all beings as God [śivajñāne jīver sevā], and soon they will experience themselves as parts of the blissful God. They will realize that their true nature is pure, illumined, and free. (Saradananda 2003: 852, Sāradānanda  2009: II.ii.131)
Vivekananda popularized the notion of involution, a term which he probably took from western Theosophists, notably Helena Blavatsky, in addition to Darwin's notion of evolution, and possibly referring to the Samkhya term sātkarya (Theosophic ideas on involution has "much in common" with "theories of the descent of God in Gnosticism, Kabbalah, and other esoteric schools.").
According to Meera Nanda, "Vivekananda uses the word involution exactly how it appears in Theosophy: the descent, or the involvement, of divine cosnciousness into matter." With spirit, Vivekananda refers to prana or purusha, derived ("with some original twists") from Samkhya and classical yoga as presented by Patanjali in the Yoga sutras.
Vivekananda's acquaintance with Western esotericism made him very successful in Western esoteric circles, beginning with his speech in 1893 at the Parliament of Religions. Vivekananda adapted traditional Hindu ideas and religiosity to suit the needs and understandings of his Western audiences, who were especially attracted by and familiar with Western esoteric traditions and movements like Transcendentalism and New thought.
An important element in his adaptation of Hindu religiosity was the introduction of his four yoga's model, which includes Raja yoga, his interpretation of Patanjali's Yoga sutras,
which offered a practical means to realize the divine force within which is central to modern Western esotericism. In 1896 his book Raja Yoga was published, which became an instant success and was highly influential in the Western understanding of yoga. In line with Advaita Vedanta texts like Dŗg-Dŗśya-Viveka (14th century) and Vedantasara (of Sadananda) (15th century), Vivekananda saw samadhi as a means to attain liberation.