Swami Vivekananda: His Influence in America

By Dr. Prakash C. Mullick, Pittsburgh, PA

This year India and many parts of the world celebrated the150th anniversary of one of the greatest religious leader and philosopher of Hinduism. Vivekananda was invited as a speaker of Indian religion at the world’s Parliament of Religion held in Chicago in 1893. The topic of the conference was unification of all religion into a Universal religion.

He was the last speaker on the first day, at the time when attendees were preparing to leave. However, when Vivekananda stood on the podium and addressed the parliament, “Brothers and Sisters of America,” those in the audience were stunned, and turned to listen to him. He spoke very clearly and said, “If there is ever to be a Universal Religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time, which will be infinite like the God it will preach, and whose sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahminic or Buddhist, Christian or Mohammeden, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development.”

He spoke powerfully about Indian religions and Hinduism. He explained the universal principles which form the foundation of Hinduism, such as the divinity of the soul, self-realization and eternal peace as explained in Vedantic principles that he grasped from his Master Sri Ramakrishna.

He told the parliament that the Hindus are open minded and embrace all the religions of the world, and explained the true religion as “eternal truths and the laws of the spiritual world,” namely, Vedanta. He introduced India as the spiritual leader of the world. From that time onwards people in the West and America came to know the worth of India and to develop a quest for spiritual knowledge.

Vivekananda was declared as the chief architect of the parliament by the Chairman of the Congress and people followed him all through his lectures on different topics and became his ardent followers. The New York Herald wrote, “He is undoubtedly the greatest figure of the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation.”  The Boston Evening Paper wrote, “He is a great favorite of the parliament by his sentiment and appearance. If he merely crosses the platform, he is applauded.”

Swami Vivekananda was born in Calcutta in 1863, graduated from Calcutta University with majors in Philosophy, History and Music. Perturbed with the poverty and backwardness in India, he questioned God until he met his Guru Sri Ramakrishna, who gave him direction and imparted to him spiritual knowledge.

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