by Robert Wilkinson
Today we honor the birthday, life, and work of the great Spiritual Teacher Vivekananda, representative of Hinduism at the 1893 Parliament of World’s Religions and one of the first to bring meditation and yoga to the US.
From Wikipedia, with edits:
Swami Vivekananda (12 January 1863 – 4 July 1902), was an Indian Hindu monk and chief disciple of the 19th-century saint Ramakrishna. He was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century.... He is perhaps best known for his inspiring speech which began, “Sisters and brothers of America” ...in which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.
The Parliament of the World's Religions opened on 11 September 1893 at the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the World’s Columbian Expositions. On this day, Vivekananda gave a brief speech representing India and Hinduism. He was initially nervous, bowed to Sarawati (the Hindu goddess of learning) and began his speech with “Sisters and brothers of America!” At these words, Vivekananda received a two-minute standing ovation from the crowd of seven thousand. When silence was restored he began his address, greeting 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". Vivekananda quoted two illustrative passages from the "Shiva mahimna stotram": "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!" and "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to Me." Despite the brevity of his speech, it voiced the spirit and sense of universality of the parliament.
Parliament President John Henry Barrows said, "India, the Mother of religions was represented by Swami Vivekananda, the Orange-monk who exercised the most wonderful influence over his auditors". Vivekananda attracted widespread attention in the press, which called him the "cyclonic monk from India". The New York Critique wrote, "He is an orator by divine right, and his strong, intelligent face in its picturesque setting of yellow and orange was hardly less interesting than those earnest words, and the rich, rhythmical utterance he gave them". The New York Herald noted, "Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation". American newspapers reported Vivekananda as "the greatest figure in the parliament of religions" and "the most popular and influential man in the parliament". The Boston Evening Transcript reported that Vivekananda was "a great favourite at the parliament... if he merely crosses the platform, he is applauded". He spoke several more times at the Parliament on topics related to Hinduism, Buddhism and harmony among religions until the parliament ended on 27 September 1893. Vivekananda's speeches at the Parliament had the common theme of universality, emphasizing religious tolerance....
So today we send a huge happy to one of the Lights of the Ages, the Great Swami Vivekananda! Regardless of which Path to God we’re on, the brighter the Light the better for the world. Aum and blessings to a great Spiritual Master who blazed bright across the world and helped unify the nations!
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson