Address Parliament of Religions 1893 by Swami Vivekananda

  • By Swami Vivekananda
  • April 2005

Views on Address      

What they said of Swamiji and his speeches

Swami Vivekananda exercised a wonderful influence over his audience.

-Dr. J. H. Barrows
Chairman of General Committee of the Parliament of Religions, Chicago.

… by far the most important and typical representative of Hinduism was Swami Vivekananda, who in fact was beyond question the most popular and influential man in the Parliament

-Mr. Merwin-Marie Snell
President of Scientific Section of the Parliament of Religions, Chicago

He 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.

-The New York Herald.

Vivekananda’s address before the Parliament was broad as the heaven above us, embracing the best in all religions, as the ultimate universal religion-charity to all mankind and good works for the love of God not for fear of punishment or hope of reward. He is a great favorite of the Parliament… if he merely crosses the platform he is applauded… At the Parliament of Religions they used to keep Vivekananda until the end of the programme to make people stay till the end of the session.

… The four thousand fanning people in the Hall of Columbus would sit smiling and expectant waiting for an hour or two to listen to Vivekananda for fifteen minute. The Chairman knew the old rule of keeping the best until the last.

-Boston Evening Transcript.

Of the Swami’s address before the Parliament of Religions it may be said that when be began to speak it was of ‘the religious ideas of the Hindus’ but when he ended Hinduism had been created.

For it was no experience of his own that rose to the lips of the Swami Vivekananda there. He did not even take advantage of the occasion to tell the story of his Master. Instead of either of these it was the religious consciousness of India that spoke through him the message of his whole people as determined by their whole past…

Others stood beside the Swami Vivekananda, on the same platform as he, as apostles of particular creeds and churches. But it was his glory that he came to preach a religions to which each of these was in his own words, “only a traveling, a coming up, of different men and women through various conditions and circumstances to the same goal”.

-Sister Nivedita (Miss Margaret E. Noble) in her Introduction to
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda.

Swami Viveknanda’s participation and his magisterial and at the same time sweet and reasonable pronouncements at the International Congress of Religions at Chicago in 1893 form a very important event in the intellectual history of modern man. There he proclaimed for the first time the necessity for a new and enlightened kind of religious understanding and toleration. Although the ordinary run of people are not conscious of it, the message which was given out by Viveananda to America and the Western World at Chicago in 1893 and subsequently to people in America, England and India, has been an effective force in the liberalization of the human spirit in its religious approach.

-Suniti Kumar Chatterjee
Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial Volume, p. 228-33.

On Monday, September 11, 1893, the first session of the Parliament was opened… but it was the young man [Vivekananda] who represented nothing-and everything-the man belonging to no sect, but rather to India as a whole, who drew the glance of the assembled thousands… his speech was like a tongue of flame, it fired the souls of the listening throng…

Each of the other orators had spoken of his God, of the God of his sect. He- he alone- spoke of all their Gods and embraced them all in the Universal Being. It was the breath of Ramakrishna, breaking down the barriers through the mouth of his great disciple.. During the ensuing days he spoke again ten or twelve times. Each time he repeated with new arguments but with the same force of conviction his thesis of a universal religion without limit of time or space uniting the whole Credo of human spirit from the enslaved fetishism of the savage to the most liberal creative affirmations of modern science. He harmonized them into a magnificent synthesis which… helped all hopes to grow and flourish according to their own proper nature. There was to be no other dogma but the divinity inherent in man and his capacity of indefinite evolution…

The effect of these mighty words was immense. Over the heads of the official representatives of the Parliament they were addressed to all and appealed to outside thought. Vivekananda’s fame at once spread abroad, and India as a whole benefited…

-Romain Rolland
The Life of Swami Vivekananda, pp.36-40.

The visit of Swami Vivekananda to America and the subsequent work of those who followed him did more for India than a hundred London Congresses could effect. That is the true way of awakening sympathy-by showing ourselves to the nations as a people with a great past and an ancient civilization, who still possess something of the genius and character of our forefathers, have still something to give to the world and therefore deserve freedom-by manliness and fitness not by mendicancy.

The going forth of Swami Vivekananda marked out by the Master as the heroic soul destined to take the world between his two hands and change it, was the first visible sign to the world that India was awake not only to survive but to conquer. Once the soul of the nation was awake in religion, it was only a matter of time and opportunity for it to throw on all spiritual and intellectual activities in national existence and take possession of them.

-Sri Aurobindo in Sri Aurobindo
(Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, Pondicherry) Vol.2(1972) pp.37 and 171.

The spirit that reigned over the Parliament and dominated the soul of almost every religious representative present, was that of universal toleration and universal deliverance, and it ought to be a matter of pride to India, to all Hindus specially that no one expressed, as the American papers say, this spirit so well as the Hindu representative, Swami Vivekananda. His address in every way worthy of the representative of a religion such as Hinduism is struck the keynote of the Parliament of Religion… The spirit of catholicity and toleration which distinguishes Hinduism, forming one of its broad features, was never before so prominently brought to the notice of the world, as it has been by Swami Vivekananda and we make no doubt that the Swami’s address will have an effect on others religions, whose teachers, preachers and Missionaries heard him, and were impressed by his utterance.

-Indian Mirror (21 March 1894)
Quoted in The Life of Swami Vivekananda Vol.I (1979), page 437.

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-such way my first impression of Swami Vivekananda, as I met him in one of the rooms set apart for the use of the delegates to the Parliament of Religion.

Enraptured, the huge multitude hung upon his words; not a syllable must be lost not a cadence missed! “That man a heathen!” said one as he came out of the great hall, “and we send missionaries to his people! It would be more fitting that they should send missionaries to us.”

-Dr. Annie Besant
Quoted in The Life of Swami Vivekananda Vol. I (1979), page 429.

In his deep voice he began ‘Sisters and Brothers of America-and the entire audience, many hundred people, clapped and cheered wildly for two whole minutes… No doubt the vast majority of those present hardly knew why they had been so powerfully moved. The appearance, even the voice of Vivekananda cannot fully explain it. A large gathering has its own strange kind of subconscious telepathy, and this one must have been somehow aware that it was in the presence of that most unusual of beings, a man whose words express exactly what he is When Vivekananda said, ‘Sisters and Brothers’ he actually meant that he regarded the American women and men before him as sisters and borthers; the well-known orational phrase became simple truth.  
-by Christopher Isherwood
 in What Religion I sin the words of Swami Vivekananda, (1991) page XVI.

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