Harmony, Peace, & Acceptance: Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda (popularly known as Swamiji), a great Hindu monk delivered his famous lecture on September 11, 1893 during the Parliament of World’s Religions, Chicago, USA held from September 11 to 27, 1893.

Swami Vivekananda

It was for the first time that the message of universal Brotherhood and its proper understanding was given to the western world. Unfortunately, everybody has forgotten his message. Had the world followed the message of the universal brotherhood, possibly, 108 years later it would not have had to face the fatal day of the world trade center attack, September 11, 2001.

Swami Vivekananda gave his first lecture on the first day. He began his speech with salutation, “Sisters and brothers of America!”. To these words he got a standing ovation from a crowd of seven thousand, which lasted for two minutes. When silence was restored he began his address. He greeted the youngest of the nations on behalf of “the most ancient order of monks in the world, the Vedic order of sannyasins, a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.”

Following is the extract from the speech that Swami Vivekananda delivered on September 11, 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. 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 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 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 there 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 their 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 Vivekananda, Parliament of World’s Religions, Chicago, USA, Sep 11, 1893

Annie Besant, a British Theosophist and a conference delegate, described Vivekananda’s impact, writing that he was “a striking figure, clad in yellow and orange, shining like the sun of India in the midst of the heavy atmosphere of Chicago…a lion head, piercing eyes, mobile lips, movements swift and abrupt.” The Parliament, she said, was “enraptured; the huge multitude hung upon his words.” When he was done, the convocation rose again and cheered him even more thunderously. Another delegate described “scores of women walking over the benches to get near to him,” prompting one wag to crack wise that if the 30-year-old Vivekananda “can resist that onslaught, [he is] indeed a god.”

Swami Vivekananda on the platform of the Parliament of Religions
Swami Vivekananda on the platform of the Parliament of Religions September, 1893. On the platform (left to right) Virchand Gandhi, Dharmapala, Swami Vivekananda and G. Bonet Maury. (Image: Wikipedia)

Swamiji concluded his speech on the final session of the Parliament with these golden words:

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 some people still dream of the exclusive survival of their own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity them from the bottom of my heart, and point out to them 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.”

Swami Vivekananda, Chicago, Sep 1893

Today, the world is remembering the horrors of September 11, 2001. We need to remember the messages of Swami Vivekananda to avoid the horrors of September 11, 2001.

May his thoughts enlighten us and lead us to the path of “universal toleration and acceptance”, “help and not Fight”, “Assimilation and not Destruction”, and “Harmony and Peace and not dissension.”

15 thoughts on “Harmony, Peace, & Acceptance: Swami Vivekananda

    1. Yes, he is indeed a great inspiration for everyone. He had written, before his Mahasamadhi, to one of his Western followers: “… I shall inspire men everywhere until the whole world shall know that it is one with God.”
      Thanks for your visit.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Universal message delivered by an enlightened soul with infinite wisdom. With his clarity, vision and confidence, Swamiji is certainly an idol to be emulated, Thank you, sir, for sharing the speech.
    It seems in that Parliament seven Indians were present including a lady from Pune.Strangely I also came across an article in Scroll, in which the author tried to question and even belittle his contribution, but then each person is entitled to his views.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There was no “Indian Delegation” as such. The invites went out to the leaders of the “leading religions” of that time, and Swamiji was not considered to be among them. He had no invitation, and John Henry Wright of Havard university gave him recommendation, and as they say, the rest is history.
      After reaching Chicago, more than a month early for the Parliament, Vivekananda learned no one could attend the Parliament as delegate without credential or bona fide. He did not have one at that moment and felt utterly disappointed. There was time for the Parliament to begin and Swamiji did not give up his hope. To cut his expenditure, he decided to go to Boston, which was less costly than Chicago. On his train journey from Vancouver to Chicago, he had met a Boston woman, Kate Sanborn, who had graciously invited him to her house in the country outside Boston. It was at her estate, that Swami Vivekananda was introduced to a number of Bostonians, including professor John Henry Wright of Harvard University. Professor Wright invited Vivekananda to give a lecture at the University. After being acquainted with Vivekananda’s knowledge, wisdom and excellence, Professor Wright insisted him to represent Hinduism at the Parliament of World’s Religions. When Wright learned that Swami Vivekananda was not officially accredited and did not have any credential to join the Parliament, he told Vivekananda – “To ask for your credentials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine in the heavens.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The story of the journey is very interesting. Yes there no Indian delegation. People had gone individually but the others had affiliations. A person by the name of Mr Mazoomdar was also in the attendees. It must have taken humongous amount of courage and determination to go and attend such a meet in those days.

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  2. Bro, to say anything about Swami Ji will liking lighting a bulb on a sunny outdoor. What I am going to say is that you should seriously start writing a book on any subject that you fancy because you get into the depth and has fluid style that captures the imagination of the reader. Cheers…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ashis Mukherjee

    This is a good reminder of the purpose of our existence as eloquently put by Swami Vivekananda. This is so inspiring , helps us to recalibrate, do the course corrections in our journey of life. His energy, vast knowledge, indomitable spirit has been inspiring generations. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love to read and write on Swami Vivekananda. Swamiji’s relationship with Varanasi was from birth, a few days before his death, Swamiji came to the city of his beloved Shiva and stayed in Gopal Lal Villa. Along with the local citizens, I was also trying to transform Gopal Lal Villa into a museum, you will be glad to know that the state government has agreed to do this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Swamiji is always very inspiring and his explanations are so simple and practical that we can find them relevant even today, perhaps more than his era. It’s glad to know that you could mobilize people to get his temporary residence converted to a museum. Kudos to your great work.

      Liked by 1 person

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