Swami Vivekananda

VivekanandaVivekananda (1863-1902) was the foremost disciple of the great mystic Ramakrishna. Well educated and articulate in English, he spoke at the World’s Parliament of Religion in Chicago in 1893, describing Vedanta as a rational, spiritual, and universal tra... was an educated Bengali and a disciple of RamakrishnaRamakrishna (1836-86) was a Bengali mystic, a devotee of the Goddess Kali, who also venerated his wife, Sarada Devi, as Holy Mother. In his spiritual experience, he claimed to have had the supreme mystical “God-realization” of many religious tradition..., one of the great nineteenth century mystics and spiritual teachers of India. His brief remarks at the opening session set the tone for his many addresses during the Parliament.


I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monksA monk is a man who renounces worldly life and is ordinarily a member of a monastic order or community, thereby undertaking a special commitment to study, service, asceticism, prayer, or disciplined spiritual practice. In the Buddhist tradition, fully ord... 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…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 into 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 templeA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... 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 ZoroastrianOriginating with the teachings of the Prophet Zarathushtra in the second millennium BCE, the ancient faith of Zoroastrianism is referred to as “the Good Religion” in the sacred texts. Zoroastrians are encouraged to live out their faith through the pra... nation. I will quote you, bretheren, 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 GitaThe Bhagavad Gita or “Song of the Lord” forms part of the sixth book of the epic Mahabharata and contains Lord Krishna’s teachings to the warrior Arjuna. The Gita is beloved by Hindus for its message of selfless action and devotion to God.: “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 descendent, 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.

[From Rev. John Henry Barrows, ed., The World’s Parliament of Religions, vol. 1 (Chicago: The Parliament Publishing Company, 1893), 102.]