Swami Vivekananda on the Platform of the Parliament of Religions
The Parliament of Religions opened on 11 September 1893 at theArt Institute of Chicago. On this day Vivekananda gave his first brief address. He represented India andHinduism.Though initially nervous, he bowed toSaraswati, the goddess of learning and began hisspeechwith, "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 in the name 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."And he quoted two illustrative passages in this relation, from theBhagavad Gita—"As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee!" and "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to Me."Despite being a short speech, it voiced the spirit of the Parliament and its sense of universality.
Dr. Barrows, the president of the Parliament said, "India, the Mother of religions was represented by Swami Vivekananda, the Orange-monk who exercised the most wonderful influence over his auditors."He attracted widespread attention in the press, which dubbed him as the "Cyclonic monk from India". TheNew York Critiquewrote, "He is an orator by divine right, and his strong, intelligent face in its picturesque setting of yellow and orange was hardly less interesting than those earnest words, and the rich, rhythmical utterance he gave them." TheNew York Heraldwrote, "Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to sendmissionariesto this learned nation."The American newspapers reported Swami Vivekananda as "the greatest figure in the parliament of religions" and "the most popular and influential man in the parliament".
Hespokeseveral more times at the Parliament on topics related to Hinduism andBuddhism. The parliament ended on 27 September 1893. All his speeches at the Parliament had one common theme—Universality—and stressed religious tolerance.