Swami Vivekananda's Speech at Chicago in 1893

October 22, 2019
Swami Vivekananda was one of the first Indian Yogis to visit the west and spread the light of eastern wisdom. There is some on the internet debate on whether the recording is the actual recording, however, there is no doubt that the content of the speech is the original words of Swami Vivekananda. This beautiful speech is a lesson and education on the universality or God, religion and core values of spirituality.
The World's Parliament of Religions started on 11 September 1893 at the Permanent Memorial Art Palace (also identified as the World's Congress Auxiliary Building), now the Art Institute of Chicago, as part of the World's Columbian Exposition. Vivekananda gave his first lecture on that day. Towards the afternoon his turn came, after so much of procrastination. Though initially nervous, he bowed to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning, and he felt he got new energy in his body; he felt someone or something else had occupied his body– "The Soul of India, the echo of the Rishis, the voice of Ramakrishna, the mouthpiece of the resurgent Time spirit".[3] Then 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.!"

Why we disagree (15 September 1893)

Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions with Virchand Gandhi, Hewivitarne Dharmapala

In this speech Vivekananda tried to explain the reason of disagreement between each other and different sects and religions. He told a story of a frog,which is popularly known as (kuor bang). And in the story he told, a frog used to live in a well. It was born there and brought up there and it used to think his well was the biggest water land of the world. One day, a frog from a sea came to that well. When the frog from the sea told the frog of the well that sea is much bigger than that well, the frog of the well did not believe it and drove the frog of the sea away from his well. Vivekananda concluded– "That has been the difficulty all the while. I am a Hindu. I am sitting in my own little well and thinking that the whole world is my little well. The Christian sits in his little well and thinks the whole world is his well. The Muslim sits in his little well and thinks that is the whole world."

Paper on Hinduism (19 September 1893)

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.  (December 2012)

Vivekananda gave a short introduction of Hinduism and spoke on "The meaning of the Hindu religion". He also talked about the 3 oldest religions of the world, namely Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism and their survival and the emergence of Christianity. He then went ahead and shared his knowledge of the Vedanta philosophy, the concept of god, soul and body in Hinduism.[9]

Religion not the Crying need of India (20 September 1893)

Main article: Religion not the crying need of India

In this brief address Vivekananda made a "little criticism" and told, religion was not the most important need of Indians at that moment. He regretted for sending of Christian missionaries and trying to save the souls of Indians although poverty had been a much more important issue at that time. He then told, his aim was to join the Chicago Parliament of Religions and to seek aid for his impoverished people.

Buddhism, the Fulfillment of Hinduism (26 September 1893)

Main article: Buddhism, the Fulfilment of Hinduism

In this speech Vivekananda talked on Buddhism. He talked about origin of Buddhism, relation between Buddhism and Brahmanism, Buddhism and Vedas. He concluded "Hinduism cannot live without Buddhism, nor Buddhism without Hinduism." and showed how Buddhism is the fulfillment to Hinduism.

Address at the Final Session (27 September 1893)

This was Vivekananda's final address at the Parliament of World's religion. In his last speech he told that the Parliament had become an accomplished fact. He thanked the "noble souls" for organizing the Parliament which he felt "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". He finished his speech with appeal "Help and not Fight," "Assimilation and not Destruction," "Harmony and Peace and not Dissension.".


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. I 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 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 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 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 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.  Source

CONCLUDING ADDRESS - Chicago, Sept 27, 1893

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."  - Source

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. -Swami Vivekananda

Vivekananda later traveled to California during his second visit to the West. Vivekananda reached California on 3 December 1899 where he was received at the railway station by Josephine MacLeod, met Miss Spencer and stayed with her as a guest. Miss Spencer was living at California with her aged blind mother. She became his disciple. Miss Josephine MacLeod, a friend and disciple of Vivekananda welcomed him to California.[3]

From 3 December 1899 to 30 May 1900 when he left for Chicago he conducted a series of lectures and private classes in California.[4][3] He was hosted by many American disciples such as; Miss Spencer, Roxie Blodget, Stimsons and Emeline Bowler in Los Angeles; by J. MacLeod et al. at Mt. Lowe; by Mead sisters at South Pasadena; at Oakland and Almeda in the Home of Truth by a friend; by A. Hansbrough and Dr. M. Logan in San Francisco and Camp Tylor; and by Dr. Albert Hiller at Mt Shasta, for different periods. During this nearly 6 months period of stay in California he delivered 62 lectures, gave 12 formal and informal talks and also held 8 lecture classes to disciples at his place of stay. His first lecture in this series was on 8 December at Blachard Hall, 233 S Broadway, LA, in which he discussed on "Vedanta Philosophy" or "Hinduism as a religion".[3]

He gave lectures on the concept of “The way to the Realization of the Universalization of a Universal Religion” and on “Christ, the Messenger”. Vivekananda interpreted Jesus from the point of view of Vedantic enunciations. He opined that Jesus was a Yogi.[5][6] He spent a month at the "Home of Truth" and noted that of all Americans, “Californians are specially fit to understand the raja-yoga of intuitive meditation which he labeled Applied Psychology”. Thereafter, many Vedanta centers were founded in the northern part of California under the stewardship of C.F. Patterson. To keep up with the pace of development he recalled Turiyananda one of his disciples to California.[6]

During the time he stayed in Los Angeles, Vivekananda was given a large area of land by one of his devotees, which was a forested hilly terrain about 12 miles from Lick Observatory, an area of 160 acres, in Northern California, to build a Vedanta retreat to house students. He called it Peace retreat or Santi Asrama. His brother disciple Turiyananda was called to inspect the land and develop the center in San Francisco. He, thereafter, trained students here in the art of “meditation and austere monastic life of India.” for next two years.[7][8]

After lecturing in Los Angeles, Vivekananda went to San Francisco. He then lectured students for three months in San Francisco, Oakland, and Alameda. On the urgings of students from the areas around San Francisco Bay, urged Vivekananda to set up an institution that could be run to keep the study of Vedanta going even after Vivekananda's departure from the US. It was then on 14 April 1900 that Vivekananda, after his evening lecture established the Vedanta Society with the objective of "assisting Swami Vivekananda in his work in India and studying Vedanta Philosophy." Vivekananda then decided to bring in his disciple to run the institution.[8]

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