It could be said that it was Swami Vivekananda who took Hinduism to the world stage. It was not easy though for a mendicant monk to travel far and to deliver his world famous address. He wrote to Alasinga “Starvation, cold, hooting in the streets on account of my quaint dress-these are what I have to fight against. But my dear boy, no great things were ever done without great labour"
Swami Vivekananda reached Chicago via, China, Japan and Canada. As soon as he reached, he came to know that the 'Parliament of Religions' will not be held until September. It was impossible for one to became a delegate without proper credentials. So the Swami decided to stay in Boston which was not a pressure on his purse unlike Chicago.
An acquaintance from Boston, Miss Katherine Sanborn whom he happened to meet during his train journey from Vancouver to Chicago invited him to be her guest. It was through her that he came to know Professor John Henry Wright of Harvard university. He could have been one among the foremost who recoganised the greatness of the Swami. J.H.Wright helped the Swami by giving Him a letter of introduction to the chairman of the parliament of Religions. He said in his letter about the Swami, “Here is a man who is more learned than all our learned professors put together"
On his return to Chicago, the Swami realised to his utter disappointment that he had lost the address of the committee that had offered free hospitality for oriental delegates. The Swami spent the night in the railway freight yard in a boxcar (Goods Wagon) The next day he sat on the road side at the end of an utter fruitless search, submitting to the will of the Lord, exhausted in not being able to find a place to stay. It was Mrs George W. Hale who emerged from the house opposite to where he sat on the road who offered him hospitality.
The Swami's much awaited parliament of Religions opened on the 11th September 1893 in the 'Art Institute at Chicago'. It posed a packed appearance of about 7000 people who were to represent the best culture of the country. The platform boasted eminent delegates from across the world who represented different religions.
The Swami who had never addressed a huge crowd as this before was nervous . However when his turn came he mentally bowed down to Goddess Saraswati and began “Sisters and brothers of America...." There was a standing ovation and the hall was resounding with applause. It was this simple sentence with an approach of harmony that got the audience to their feet with admiration. The applause lasted for two full minutes. It was universality and harmony that the Swami expressed as revealed in Hinduism that caught the attraction of one and all.
The swami said in his speech, “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." (Courtesy: Vivekananda, A Biography in pictures, p 51) This simply revealed His tolerance and respect for all religions
The next day the papers carried words of praise and glory about the simple monk from India. This led him to deliver subsequent speeches in the Parliament Of Religions.
To be continued