Speech delivered by Swami Vivekananda at the World's Parliament of Religions, Chicago 11th September, 1893 Sisters and Brothers of America, It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects. My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.” The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.” Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.
Swami Vivekanand A spiritual genius of commanding intellect and power, Vivekanda crammed immense labor and achievement into his short life, 1863-1902. Born in the Datta family of Calcutta the youthful Vivekananda embraced the agnostic philosophies of the Western mind along with the worship of science. At the same time, vehement in his desire to know the truth about God, he questioned people of holy reputation, asking them if they had seen God. He found such a person in Sri Ramakrishna, who became his master, allayed his doubts, gave him God vision, and transformed him into sage and prophet with authority to teach. After Sri Ramakrishna's death, Vivekananda renounced the world and criss-crossed India as a wandering monk. His mounting compassion for India's people drove him to seek their material help from the West. Accepting an opportunity to represent Hinduism at Chicago's Parliament of Religions in 1893, Vivekananda won instant celebrity in America and a ready forum for his spiritual teaching. For three years he spread the Vedanta philosophy and religion in America and England and then returned to India to found the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Exhorting his nation to spiritual greatness, he wakened India to a new national consciousness. He died July 4, 1902, after a second, much shorter sojourn in the West. His lectures and writings have been gathered into nine volumes.
Sri Ramakrishna carefully guided Narendra and a band of other young dedicated disciples, and the Master chose Narendra as the leader of the group. After the Master’s passing away, these young devotees gathered together in a dilapidated house in Baranagore, a northern suburb of Calcutta, which became the first centre of the Ramakrishna Order. With a total rejection of material possessions and an unshakeable commitment to their Master and his teachings, they endured unbelievable privations and devoted themselves to spiritual practices. After establishing the new monastic order, Vivekananda heard the inner call for a greater mission in his life. Vivekananda thought of the Master in relation to India and the rest of the world. As the prophet of the present age, what was Sri Ramakrishna’s message to the modern world and to India in particular? This question and the awareness of his own inherent powers urged Swamiji to go out alone into the wide world. So in the middle of 1890, after receiving the blessings of Sri Sarada Devi, The Holy Mother, who was then staying in Kolkata, Swamiji left Baranagar and embarked on a long journey of exploration and discovery of India.
Travelling throughout the length and breadth of India, mostly on foot, Narendra was trying to work out a purpose for his life. While on the road, he often faced starvation and frequently found himself with nowhere to stay. To Narendra, this was an opportunity to study India and its needs at first hand. He observed that his country possessed a priceless spiritual heritage, but had failed to reap the benefit of it.
When the Parliament of Religions convened in September 1893, Vivekananda created a sensation. His call for religious harmony and acceptance of all religions brought him great acclaim. Thus, his work in the West instilled self-respect and self-confidence in the Indian psyche and helped India in its search for identity. It also helped to overcome the stereotypes and deep-rooted prejudices about India in Westerners’ minds. His speeches at the World’s Parliament of Religions made him famous as an ‘orator by divine right’ and as a ‘Messenger of Indian wisdom to the Western world’. After the Parliament, He spent nearly three and a half years spreading Vedanta mostly in the eastern parts of USA and also in London. He returned to India in January 1897. In response to the enthusiastic welcome that he received everywhere, he delivered a series of lectures in different parts of India, which created a great stir all over the country. to rouse the religious consciousness of the people and create in them pride in their cultural heritage; to bring about unification of countrymen by pointing out the common bases of its sects; to focus the attention of educated people on the plight of the downtrodden masses, and to expound his plan for their uplift by the application of the principles of Practical Vedanta.
Narendra’s power of concentration – of fixing his mind on one thing while detaching it from everything else – was remarkable. No less striking was his self-control. He remained calm and unruffled, no matter how dramatic the situation he was in. He met the challenge of modern science by showing that religion is as scientific as science itself; religion is the ‘science of consciousness’. As such, religion and science are not contradictory but complementary. This universal conception frees religion from the hold of superstitions, dogmatism, priestcraft and intolerance, and makes religion the highest and noblest pursuit – the pursuit of supreme Freedom, supreme Knowledge, supreme Happiness.
“ Exposure to exemplary role models, particularly when they are teachers, and also to wholesome curriculum materials that impart culturally-approved values to the young, are critical to character education.” Character Education To The Youth
“ We have to give back to the nation its lost individuality and raise the masses. Again, the force to raise them must come from inside.” To Fellow Countrymen
Vivekananda, however, was a genuine friend of the poor and the weak, particularly the helpless masses of India, and he was the first Indian leader who sought a solution to their problems through education. He argued that a nation was advanced to the extent that education and culture reached the masses.
“ Swamiji harmonized the East and the West, religion and science, past and present. And that is why he is great. Our countrymen have gained unprecedented self-respect, self-reliance and self-assertion from his teachings.” …… . Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
“ Rooted in the past, full of pride in India’s prestige, Vivekananda was yet modern in his approach to life’s problems, and was a kind of bridge between the past of India and her present … he came as a tonic to the depressed and demoralized Hindu mind and gave it self-reliance and some roots in the past.” …… ..Pt. Jawaharlal Lal Nehru
The current theories of ethics do not explain why a person should be moral. Vivekananda has given a theory of ethics and principle of morality based on the intrinsic purity and oneness. Degradation of man has been going on apace, as witnessed by the enormous increase in broken homes, immorality, violence, crime, etc. in modern society. Vivekananda’s concept of potential divinity of the soul prevents this degradation, divinizes human relationships, and makes life meaningful and worth living. <He has laid the foundation for ‘spiritual humanism’> “ We should be pure because purity is our real nature, our true divine Self or Atman. “
WHEN I ASKED GOD FOR STRENGTH , HE GAVE ME DIFFICULT SITUATIONS TO FACE. WHEN I ASKED GOD FOR BRAIN & BROWN, HE GAVE ME PUZZLES IN LIFE TO SOLVE. WHEN I ASKED GOD FOR HAPPINESS, HE SHOWED ME SOME UNHAPPY PEOPLE. WHEN I ASKED GOD FOR WEALTH, HE SHOWED ME HOW TO WORK HARD. WHEN I ASKED GOD FOR FAVOURS, HE SHOWED ME OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK HARD. WHEN I ASKED GOD FOR PEACE, HE SHOWED ME HOW TO HELP OTHERS. GOD GAVE ME NOTHING I WANTED, HE GAVE ME EVERYTHING I NEEDED.
He harmonized the intellectual, emotional, ethical and spiritual elements of a human being and became the role model for all.