Almost 20 years ago, the US faced one of the worst tragedies today (September 11). Religious extremists hijacked planes and crashed them into the world-renowned twin towers, shocking and even shuddering arguably the world’s most powerful nation.
The whole world mourns the tragedy. As Indians, we too mourn it. But again as Indians, there is something that we need to be proud of on this particular day.
SEPTEMBER 11, 1893
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA DELIVERED THE HISTORIC SPEECH
On the same day that the twin towers were felled, but more than 125 years ago from this date, a monk from India gave a riveting speech that changed the very impression India had had in the eyes of the Westerners. Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking of the Hindu monk of India, Swami Vivekananda!
‘SISTERS AND BROTHERS OF AMERICA!’
It was the Parliament of Religions held way back in 1893. Swami Vivekananda represented India at the historic event. It was one tense moment for the swami as he had never addressed such a humongous gathering at such an important meet. As the swami rose on the dais and uttered the words… sisters and brothers of America, he got a thunderous applause for a period of 2 long minutes!
Never in the history of India had an ambassador managed to get such glowing encomiums, that too in a foreign land! That very instant, a hero had been produced who had brought out the hidden knowledge of India and thrown it open to mankind, in a foreign land!
Here’s the speech:
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 honour 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 has come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour 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. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).