125th Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s historic speech in Chicago
|125th Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s historic speech in Chicago|
September 11, 2001 will always be remembered as a black day in the history of the US. But for Hindus living in the US and Hindus living all over the world, September 11, 1893 will also be remembered as a historic and memorable day. On that day, Swami Vivekananda, one of the most famous and spiritual Hindu swamis, delivered an iconic speech in Chicago at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The spiritual leader delivered his speech among a wide delegation that included more than 5,000 delegates, historians and religious scholars representing the various religions and faith from all over the world.
For the first time in the history of Parliament of the World’s Religions, Hinduism was introduced by our great spiritual leader. His historic speech with crisp logic and scientific insight attracted major attention. Since organizers of the conference did not know him as a religious leader, they did not want to give him permission to speak. After a long back and forth discussion, he was given two minutes to speak.
Swami ji began his speech with “Sisters and brothers of America.” This first line gave him a two-minute standing ovation from the audience and later the title of ‘the cyclonic monk of India.’
September 11, 2018, marked the 125th anniversary of Swami ji’s most memorable speech. Even though Swami ji addressed delegates of the Parliament of the World’s Religions 125 years ago, his speech is still relevant today. May be more so than what it meant 125 years ago.
His entire speech appears below.
“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. l 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 the 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 honour 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 the 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 honour 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.”
Concluding Address Chicago, September 27, 1893
While the above speech at the opening address of the conference is most famous, Swami ji also gave other speeches at the conference that were extremely popular. He continually stressed the need for harmony and unity in the world. Below is his full closing speech.
Below is his full closing speech.
“The World’s Parliament of Religions has become an accomplished fact, and the merciful Father has helped those who labored to bring it into existence, and crowned with success their most unselfish labor. My thanks to those noble souls whose large hearts and love of truth first dreamed this wonderful dream and then realized it. My thanks to the shower of liberal sentiments that has overflowed this platform. My thanks to this enlightened audience for their uniform kindness to me and for their appreciation of every thought that tends to smooth the friction of religions. A few jarring notes were heard from time to time in this harmony. My special thanks to them, for they have, by their striking contrast, made general harmony the sweeter.
Much has been said of the common ground of religious unity. I am not going just now to venture my own theory. But if any one here hopes that this unity will come by the triumph of any one of the religions and the destruction of the others, to him I say, “Brother, yours is an impossible hope.” Do I wish that the Christian would become Hindu? God forbid. Do I wish that the Hindu or Buddhist would become Christian? God forbid.
The seed is put in the ground, and earth and air and water are placed around it. Does the seed become the earth, or the air, or the water? No. It becomes a plant. It develops after the law of its own growth, assimilates the air, the earth, and the water, converts them into plant substance, and grows into a plant.
Similar is the case with religion. The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth.
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 anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the 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.””