11th September 1893: Swami Vivekananda Delivers his First Speech in the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago


 

On 11th September 1893 Swami Vivekananda, a famous Hindu monk delivered his first speech in the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago.

 

Swami Vivekananda was a wandering Hindu monk who was the most prominent disciple of Ramakrishna, a well known 19th century saint. Vivekananda is remembered as one of the key people who introduced Indian philosophies such as Vedanta and Yoga to the West. He is also responsible for awakening Hinduism in India, while also assisting the idea of Nationalism in British India. Swami Vivekananda has also established the Ramakrishna Mission and the Ramakrishna Math.

 

Born Narendra Nath Datta on 12th January 1863, to an influential family in Kolkata, from a young age Vivekananda displayed an inclination towards spirituality. One of the major influences on his life was his guru Ramakrishna who taught him that all living beings are manifestations of the Divine and hence service to mankind is ultimately service to God. Following the death of his Guru Ramakrishna, Vivekananda began a tour of India and eventually studied the conditions prevalent in Colonial India.

 

Later, Vivekananda travelled around the world to the United States, England and other parts of Europe and delivered lectures, both public and private, sharing the basic principles of Hinduism with the West. One of Vivekananda’s most memorable speeches was at the Parliament of the World Religions in Chicago in 1893 where he introduced India and Hinduism to the West.

 

Even though Swami Vivekananda was initially nervous of addressing the large international gathering of seven thousand people, he bowed to Saraswati and began his speech by addressing all the gathered as “Sisters and brothers of America”. Upon uttering these words, Vivekananda received a two minute standing ovation from the crowd. He began his speech by greeting the youngest nation 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". During his speech, Vivekananda also quoted from the “Shiva Mahimna Stotram” through which he explained that even though people use different paths to reach the divine, they all ultimately reach Him, irrespective of the path they had chosen. Vivekananda’s speech was received wonderfully by the parliament and Parliament President John Henry Barrows praised Vivekananda greatly and said that he had a great influence over the entire audience. Vivekananda also received massive attention in the press who called him the “cyclonic monk from India”. Newspapers like the New York Herald wrote of him saying “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".

 

Following this successful and highly inspiring speech, Swami Vivekananda gave more speeches at the Parliament about Hinduism and Buddhism and peace and understanding between religions. All of Vivekananda’s speeches had a similar undertone, that of religious harmony and tolerance. After his speech in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda toured the United States and gave lectures at New York, Detroit, Boston and Chicago. Later Swami Vivekananda also travelled to England and other European countries such as Germany. He was also offered prestigious academic positions in two American Universities, which he declined because he felt that it would affect his duties as a monk.

 

Swami Vivekananda passed away on 4th July 1902 at Belur Math in West Bengal; he was only 39 at the time. Vivekananda will always be remembered as a monk who introduced the West to Hinduism and Hindu philosophy. He is also considered a patriotic saint and his birthday 12th January is celebrated as National Youth Day every year.

 

Also on This Day:

 

1895: Vinoba Bhave (real name Vinayak Narahari Bhave), great Gandhian Acharya, was born at Ganoda village of Maharashtra.

 

1948: Indian Government troops enter in the Hyderabad State.

 

1958: India and Pakistan announced that most border disputes between the two countries had been settled.

 

1968: Central Government provides more autonomy to hilly region of Assam.

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