Om Namah Sri Yatirajaya Vivekananda Suraye
Sat-Chit-Sukha Swarupaya Swamine Tapa Harine.
ॐ नमः श्रीयतिराजाय विवेकानन्द सूरये ।
सच्चित्सुखस्वरूपाय स्वामिने तापहारिणे ॥

Swami vivekananda at parliament of religion


It was on 11-Sep-1893, exactly 129 years back that Swami Vivekananda gave his historic address, which propelled his mission to the next orbit. As we know he spoke without a prepared speech, and he postponed his speaking slot to the afternoon.   He prayed to Divine Mother Saraswati and started. His first sentence “Sisters and Brothers of America” got tremendous applause.

The Swami himself describes to a disciple the opening of the Parliament and his own state of mind in replying to the address of welcome:

“On the morning of the opening of the Parliament, we all assembled in a building called the Art Palace, . . . Men from all nations were there. From India were Mazoomdar of the Brahmo Samaj and Nagarkar of Bombay, Mr. Gandhi representing the Jains, and Mr. Chakravarti representing Theosophy with Mrs. Annie Bcsant. Of these men, Mazoomdar and I were of course old friends, and Chakravarti knew me by name. There was a grand procession, and we were all marshalled on to the platform. Imagine a hall below and a huge gallery above, packed with six or seven thousand men and women representing the best culture of the country, and on the platform learned men of all the nations on the earth.

And I who never spoke in public in my life, to address this august assemblage!! It was opened in great form with music and ceremony and speeches ; then the delegates were introduced one by one, and they stepped up and spoke! Of course my heart was fluttering and my tongue nearly dried up ; I was so nervous, and could not venture to speak in the morning. Mazoomdar made a nice speech—Chakravarti a nicer one, and they were much applauded. They were all prepared and came with ready-made speeches. I was a fool and had none, but l bowed down to Devi Saraswati and stepped up, and Dr. Barrows introduced me. I made a short speech . . . and when it was finished, I sat down almost exhausted with emotion.”

Here is his speech verbatim below.  I must also add, to the best of my knowledge his speech was not recorded, and the version making rounds on YouTube or other social media is not original.

“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 honor 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.”

ps:  Thanks to Akshay for sharing a profound poem by Swami Vivekananda The Song of Sannyasin, and have written a short commentary on it here.

Complete works of Swami Vivekananda – Vol 1
Swami Vivekananda – A Biography By His Eastern and Western Disciples