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Swami Vivekananda at The Parliament of Religions:
During the period 1882 to 1886, Swami Vivekananda acquired knowledge of 'Divinity of Soul' at the holy feet of his Guru - Teacher - Sri Ramakrishna. The direct realization of divine nature of all beings illumined his mind forever. This rare experience made him renounce worldly pleasures and duties in favour of monastic life.
In the year 1886, when Sri Ramakrishna left this world, Swami Vivekananda thought over his future plan of action. With his fellow brothers, he started living in a dilapidated house near Calcutta as a monk. There he was engaged in deep contemplation on the teachings and sayings of his Guru, as well as the study of ancient Indian Scriptures. In addition, the influence of British education helped him acquire more information and knowledge about Western philosophies and philosophers. He got himself well acquainted with the concepts of Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and many others.
By 1891 Swami Vivekananda became a sage of high intellect, action, and devotion. He had become a true Yogi. He was well versed in the study of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. He also studied life and teachings of Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed, and Lord Buddha. Thus having acquired direct knowledge of all the religions, having come to the conclusion that all religions speak of the same Truth, Swami Vivekananda had intense desire to spread this wonderful message of Unity of Existence and Unity in Diversity.
Accordingly, he decided to travel all over the Holy Land of India to get first hand information about the state of religion in the Indian masses. The vast land opened up a new challenge before the Swami to explore its religious-spiritual truths. All alone, in January 1891, he embarked upon the journey.
These days of a 'wandering monk' make an important stage in the history of spiritual revival of India as well as the whole world. Because, his experiences during the wandering days added compassion to his broad outlook and sharp intellect. He could understand the sad plight of fellow countrymen, their exploitation, poverty, suffering and affliction under the mercy of foreign rule and darkness of ignorance.
"To the hungry religion comes in the form of bread," he declared.
And he would have added,
"And for the ignorant religion comes in the form of education".
Material progress and spiritual uplift are not contradictory, are not antagonist to each other; but, rather, to bridge the yawning gap between the two should be the goal of religion.
He was convinced that science and religion should and would join hands so that a new chapter may be written in human history. He saw, learnt, and was convinced that while material progress of India was important for her spiritual revival, to the West religion would come in the form of spiritualilty blended with physical science.
He met with many eminent and noble persons, the Maharaja of Khetri, Dewan of Porbandar and Junagadh, Raja of Ramnad, and other intellectuals in the state of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madras. All these gentlemen were highly impressed by the sincerity, knowledge, spirituality and new Vedantic approach to life of this English speaking Monk.
And then, once during casual discussion, the Dewan of Porbandar said,
"Swamiji, I am afraid you cannot do much in this country. Few will appreciate you here. You ought to go to the West where people will understand you and your worth. Surely you can throw a great light upon Western culture by preaching the Sanatana Dharma!"
"The poverty ridden illiterate people of our country are not yet ready to receive the message of Vedanta. Why don't you attend the Parliament of Religions to be held in Chicago a few months hence? There you represent and elaborate true Hinduism of which your Guru, Sri Ramakrishna, was the living embodiment."
Thus, the Swami began to plan for his visit to America, and on 31st May 1893 he set sails for that far off land; the ochre robed sadhu planning to conquer the scientific reason of West with Vedantic intuition of the East.
At the parliament of Religions: 11th to 27th of September 1893.
It is worthwhile to give a few direct quotes from the lectures/speeches of the Swami at the Parliament. The readers are requested to make their own judgements. In another article, the impact of Swami Vivekananda's life, teachings, and efforts in the East and West would be discussed.
(1) 11th September, 1893: 'Response to welcome' address
Swami Vivekananda addressed the august assembly of seven thousand people starting with the words: "Sisters and Brothers of America...", and the whole of audience went into inexplicable rapture with standing ovation and clapping that lasted for more than three minutes.
What Swami Vivekananda spoke came from the inmost depth of his illumined soul, from his conviction and deep spiritual insight. This explains why his common words-'Sisters and Brothers of America'-- created an unprecedented spontaneous spiritual upsurge of emotion in the minds of an audience of seven thousand members and raised them to their feet.
"I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of mother of religions; I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects".
The lord says in Gita, "Whosoever comes to Me; through whatever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to Me."
"I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all of persecution with the sword or with the pen."
(2) 19th September: Paper on Hinduism
"...Just as the law of gravitation existed before its discovery, and would exist if all humanity forgot it, so is it with the laws that govern the spiritual world. The moral, ethical, and spiritual relation between soul and soul and between individual spirit and Father of all spirits, were there before their discovery, and would remain even if we forgot them."
"...Allow me to call you; brethren, by that sweet name-heirs of immortal bliss-yea, the Hindu refuses to call you sinners. Ye are the children of God, the sharers of immortal bliss, holy and perfect beings. Ye divinities on earth-sinners! It is a sin to call a man so; it is standing libel on human nature..."
(3) 27th September 1893: Address at the Final Session
"If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity, and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if any dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: "Help and not Fight," "Assimilation and not Destruction," "Harmony and Peace and not Dissension.""
The Swami's epoch-making representation of Hinduism at the Parliament of Religions was to raise India not only in the estimation of the West but in her estimation as well, and was eventually to bring about a profound change in her national life.
And a few newspaper reports and other comments:
"The Parliament of Religions at Chicago is, we believe, the beginning of the movement that will come into greater prominence by and by for unification of all nations into a common religious bond. That was the impression, at least, of all those whom attended the Parliament of Religions, and listened intelligently to presentation of the different religious creeds. ..."
"Vivekananda's address before the Parliament was broad as the heavens above us; embracing the best in all religions, as the ultimate universal religion -charity to all mankind, good works for the love of God, not for fear of punishment or hope of reward. ..."
"That man a heathen!" said one, as he came out of the great hall, "and we send missionaries to this people! It would be more fitting that they send missionaries to us (America)."
continued... Please read:
Implications of Swami Vivekananda's Speeches at The Parliament of Religions: Chicago 1893
c s shah