At the World's Parliament of Religions, Chicago
11th September, 1893

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 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.”

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 civilisation 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 is 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.

Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions

One description of Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament comes from the Chicago Advocate, a journal that was not entirely favorable to him. In certain respects, the most fascinating personality was the Brahmin monk, Suami [sic] Vivekananda with his flowing orange robe, safforn turban, smooth-shaven, shapely handsome face, large, dark subtle penetrating eyes, and with the air of one being inly-pleased with the consciousness of being easily master of his situation. His knowledge of English is as though it were his mother tongue. In addition to the plenary sessions at the Parliament, Vivekananda addressed the Scientifc Section several times. Unfortunately the talks were not taken down and hence are missing from the reports. Nevertheless, Dr. Barrows' book lists the dates:


September 22, Friday morning: Conference on Orthodox Hinduism and the Vedanta Philosophy
September 22, Friday afternoon: with Mr. Merwin-Marie Snell conducted a Conference on the Modern Religions of India
September 23: Conference on the subject of the Rinzai Zen on Japanese Buddhism
September 25: The Essence of the Hindu Religion

The Chicago Inter Ocean of September 23 contains the following report: In the Scientific Section yesterday morning, Swami Vivekananda spoke on Orthodox Hinudism. Hall 3 was crowded to overflowing and hundred of questions were asked by auditors and answered by the great Sannyasi with wonderful skill and lucidity. At the close of the session he was thronged with eager questioners who begged him to give a semi-public lecture somewhere on the subject of his religion. He said that he already had the project under consideration.

After the opening day, Swamiji again spoke on September 15. His talk Why We Disagree can be found in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Vol. 1. On September 19, he presented his now-famous "Paper on Hinduism". The Chicago Herald called his speech one of the most interesting features of the day. It was in this speech that he laid out his idea of a universal religion.

It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognize divinity in every man and woman, and whose whole scope, whose whole force, will be created in aididing humanity to realise its own true, divine nature.

On September 20, he spoke again at the end on Religion not the crying need of India On September 26, he gave a talk on Buddhism, the fulfilment of Hinduism According to Life, he spoke on at least three other occasions. On September 22, in Hall VII, he spoke at a special session organized by Mrs. Potter Palmer of the Woman's Branch of the Auxiliary, on Women in Oriental Religion. On September 23, he spoke before a session of the Universal Religious Unity Congress. On September 24, he spoke on "Love of God" at the Third Unitarian Church at the southeast corner of Monroe and Laflin.

Assimilation and not Destruction

On September 27, the final day of the Parliament, Swami Vivekananda gave his final address concuding it with the rousing call

... 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.’

If that call for assimilation and not destruction was relevant then, it is all the more relevant today, and it is incumbent upon us to take the message of assimilation, harmony and peace to heart.

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The Parliament of Religions

The Parliament was a unique phenomenon in the history of religions. Never before had representatives of the world's great religions been brought together in one place, where they might without fear tell of their respective beliefs to thousands of people. The proposed objectives were (Ref. World's Parliament of Religons, ed. John Henry Barrows, 1893)
1. To bring together in coference, for the first time in history, the leading representatives of the great Historic Religions of the world. 2. To show to men, in the most impressive way, what and how many important truths the various Religions hold and teach in common...4. To set forth, by those most competent to speak, what are deemed the most important distinctive truths held and taught by each Religion and by the various chief branches of Christendom...7. To inquire what light each Religion has afforded, or may afford, to the other Religions of the world...9. To discover from competent men what light light Religion has to throw on the great problems of the present age, especially the important questions conncected with Temperance, Labor, Education, Wealth and Poverty. 10. To bring the nations of the earth into a more friendly fellowship in the hope of securing permanent international peace."

Source : Google