SWAMI VIVEKANANDA’S ENTIRE SPEECH AT WORLD PARLIAMENT OF RELIGION, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, USA
Response to Welcome, September 11th 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 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 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 childhood, 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, though whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths
which in the end lead to me.’ Sectarianism, bigotry, and it's 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 is come; and I fervently hope
that the bell that tolled this morning in honor 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.
Why We Disagree? September 15th 1893
You have heard the eloquent speaker who has just finished say, “Let us cease from abusing each other,” and he was very sorry that there
should be always so much variance. But I think I should tell you a story which would illustrate the cause of this variance.
A frog lived in a well. It had lived there for a long time. It was born there and brought up there, and yet was a little, small frog. Of course, the
evolutionists were not there then to tell us whether the frog lost its eyes or not, but, for our story’s sake, we must take it for granted that it had
its eyes, and that it every day cleansed the water of all the worms and bacilli that lived in it with an energy that would do credit to our modern
bacteriologists. In this way it went on and became a little sleek and fat. Well, one day another frog that lived in the sea came and fell into the
‘Where are you from?’ ‘I am from the sea.’ ‘The sea! How big is that? Is it as big as my well?’ and he took a leap how one side of the well to the
other. ‘My friend,’ said the frog of the sea, ‘How do you compare the sea with your little well?’ Then the frog took another leap and asked, ‘Is
your sea so big?’
‘What nonsense you speak to compare the sea with your well!’
‘Well, then,’ said the frog of the well, ‘nothing can be bigger than my well; there can be nothing bigger than this; this fellow is a liar, so turn him
That has been the difficulty all the while.
I am a Hindu. I am sitting in my own little well and thinking that the whole world is my little well. The Christian sits in his little well and thinks
the whole world is his well. The Mohammedan sits in his little well and thinks that is the whole world. I have to thank you of America for the
great attempt you are making to break down the barriers of little world of this little world of ours, and hope that, in the future, the lord will
help you to accomplish your purpose.
Paper on Hinduism Read at the Parliament, September 19th 1893
Three religions now stand in the world which have come down to us from time prehistoric--Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. They have
all received tremendous shocks and all of them prove by their survival their internal strength. But while Judaism failed to absorb Christianity
and was driven out of its place of birth by its all-conquering daughter, and a handful of Parsees is all that remains to tell the tale of their grand
religion, sect after sect arose in India and seemed to shake the religion of the Vedas to its very foundations, but like the waters of the seashore
in a tremendous earthquake it receded only for a while, only to return in an all-absorbing flood, a thousand times more vigorous, and when the tumult of the rush was over, these sects were all sucked in, absorbed, and assimilated into the immense body of the mother faith. From the
high spiritual flights of the Vedanta philosophy, of which the latest discoveries of science seem like echoes, to the low ideas of idolatry with its
multifarious mythology, the agnosticism of the Buddhists, and the atheism of the Jains, each and all have a place in the Hindu's religion. Where
then, the question arises, where is the common centre to which all these widely diverging radii converge? Where is the common basis upon
which all these seemingly hopeless contradictions rest? And this is the question I shall attempt to answer.
The Hindus have received their religion through revelation, the Vedas. They hold that the Vedas are without beginning and without end. It may
sound ludicrous to this audience, how a book can be without beginning or end. But by the Vedas no books are meant. They mean the
accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times. Just as the law of gravitation existed before its
discovery, and would exist if all humanity forgot it, so is it with the laws that govern the spiritual world. The moral, ethical, and spiritual
relations between soul and soul and between individual spirits and the Father of all spirits, were there before their discovery, and would remain
even if we forgot them.
The discoverers of these laws are called Rishis, and we honour them as perfected beings. I am glad to tell this audience that some of the very
greatest of them were women. Here it may be said that these laws as laws may be without end, but they must have had a beginning. The Vedas
teach us that creation is without beginning or end. Science is said to have proved that the sum total of cosmic energy is always the same. Then,
if there was a time when nothing existed, where was all this manifested energy? Some say it was in a potential form in God. In that case God is
sometimes potential and sometimes kinetic, which would make Him mutable. Everything mutable is a compound, and everything compound
must undergo that change which is called destruction. So God would die, which is absurd. Therefore there never was a time when there was no
If I may be allowed to use a simile, creation and creator are two lines, without beginning and without end, running parallel to each other. God is
the ever active providence, by whose power systems after systems are being evolved out of chaos, made to run for a time and again destroyed.
This is what the Brahmin boy repeats every day: "The sun and the moon, the Lord created like the suns and moons of previous cycles." And this
agrees with modern science.
Here I stand and if I shut my eyes, and try to conceive my existence, "I", "I", "I", what is the idea before me? The idea of a body. Am I, then,
nothing but a combination of material substances? The Vedas declare, "No". I am a spirit living in a body. I am not the body. The body will die,
but I shall not die. Here am I in this body; it will fall, but I shall go on living. I had also a past. The soul was not created, for creation means a
combination which means a certain future dissolution. If then the soul was created, it must die. Some are born happy, enjoy perfect health,
with beautiful body, mental vigour and all wants supplied. Others are born miserable, some are without hands or feet, others again are idiots
and only drag on a wretched existence. Why, if they are all created, why does a just and merciful God create one happy and another unhappy,
why is He so partial? Nor would it mend matters in the least to hold that those who are miserable in this life will be happy in a future one. Why
should a man be miserable even here in the reign of a just and merciful God? In the second place, the idea of a creator God does not explain
the anomaly, but simply expresses the cruel fiat of an all-powerful being. There must have been causes, then, before his birth, to make a man
miserable or happy and those were his past actions.
Are not all the tendencies of the mind and the body accounted for by inherited aptitude? Here are two parallel lines of existence--one of the
mind, the other of matter. If matter and its transformations answer for all that we have, there is no necessity for supposing the existence of a
soul. But it cannot be proved that thought has been evolved out of matter, and if a philosophical monism is inevitable, spiritual monism is
certainly logical and no less desirable than a materialistic monism; but neither of these is necessary here.
We cannot deny that bodies acquire certain tendencies from heredity, but those tendencies only mean the physical configuration, through
which a peculiar mind alone can act in a peculiar way. There are other tendencies peculiar to a soul caused by its past actions. And a soul with a
certain tendency would by the laws of affinity take birth in a body which is the fittest instrument for the display of that tendency. This is in
accord with science wants to explain everything by habit, and habit is got through repetitions. So repetitions are necessary to explain the
natural habits of a new-born soul. And since they were not obtained in this present life, they must have come down from past lives.
There is another suggestion. Taking all these for granted, how is it that I do not remember anything of my past life? This can be easily explained
I am now speaking English. It is not my mother tongue, in fact no words of my mother tongue are now present in my consciousness; but let me
try to bring them up, and they rush in. That shows that consciousness is only the surface of the mental ocean, and within its depths are stored
up all our experiences. Try and struggle, they would come up and you would by conscious even of your past life.
This is direct and demonstrative evidence. Verification is the perfect proof of a theory, and here is the challenge thrown to the world by the
Rishis. We have discovered the secret by which the very depths of the ocean of memory can be stirred up-try it and you would get a complete
reminiscence of your past life.
So then the Hindu believes that he is a spirit. Him the sword cannot pierce-him the fire cannot burn-him the water cannot melt-him the air
cannot dry. The Hindu believes that every soul is a circle whose circumference is nowhere, but whose centre is located in the body, and that
death means the change of this centre from body to body. Not is the soul bound by the conditions of matter. In its very essence it is free,
unbounded, holy, pure, and perfect. But somehow of other it finds itself tied down to matter and thinks of itself as matter.
Why should the free, perfect, and pure being be thus under the thraldom of matter, is the next question. How can the perfect soul be deluded
into the belief that it is imperfect? We have been told that the Hindus shirk the question and say that no such question can be there. Some
thinkers want to answer it by positing one or more quasi-perfect beings, and use big scientific names to fill up the gap. But naming is not
explaining. The question remains the same. How can the perfect become the quasi-perfect; how can the pure, the absolute, change even a
microscopic particle of its nature? But the Hindu is sincere. He does not want to take shelter under sophistry. He is brave enough to face the
question in a manly fashion. And his answer is ‘I do not know’. I do not know, how the perfect being, the soul, came to think of it self as
imperfect as joined to conditioned by matter. But the fact of the fact for all that, it is a fact that in everybody’s consciousness that one thinks of
oneself as the body. The Hindu doesn’t attempt to explain why one thinks that one is the body. The answer, that it is the will of GOD. There is
no explanation. This is nothing more than what the Hindu says. I do not know. Well then the human soul is eternal and immortal, perfect and
infinite, and death means only a change of centre from one body to another. The present is determined by our past actions, and the future by
the present. The soul will go on evolving up or reverting back from birth to birth and death to death. But here is another question: Is man a tiny
boat in a tempest, raised one moment on the foamy crest of a billow and dashed down into a yawning chasm the next, rolling to and fro at the
mercy of good and bad actions--a powerless, helpless wreck in an ever-raging, ever-rushing, uncompromising current of cause and effect; a
little moth placed under the wheel of causation which rolls on crushing everything in its way and waits not for the widow's tears or the orphan's
cry? The heart sinks at the idea, yet this is the law of Nature. Is there no hope? Is there no escape?--was the cry that went up from the bottom
of the heart of despair. It reached the throne of mercy, and words of hope and consolation came down and inspired a Vedic sage, and he stood
up before the world and in trumpet voice proclaimed the glad tidings: "Hear, ye children of immortal bliss! even ye that reside in higher
spheres! I have found the Ancient One who is beyond all darkness, all delusion: knowing Him alone you shall be saved from death over again."
"Children of immortal bliss" --what a sweet, what a hopeful name! Allow me to call you, brethren, by that sweet name--heirs of immortal bliss--
yea, the Hindu refuses to call you sinners. Ye are the Children of God, the sharers of immortal bliss, holy and perfect beings. Ye divinities on
earth--sinners! It is a sin to call a man so; it is a standing libel on human nature. Come up, O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are
sheep; you are souls immortal, spirits free, blest and eternal; ye are not matter, ye are not bodies; matter is your servant, not you the servant
of matter. Thus it is that the Vedas proclaim not a dreadful combination of unforgiving laws, not an endless prison of cause and effect, but that
at the head of all these laws, in and through every particle of matter and force, stands One "by whose command the wind blows, the fire burns,
the clouds rain, and death stalks upon the earth."
And what is His nature? He is everywhere, the pure and formless One, the Almighty and the All-merciful. "Thou art our father, Thou art our
mother, Thou art our beloved friend, Thou art the source of all strength; give us strength. Thou art He that beareth the burdens of the universe;
help me bear the little burden of this life." Thus sang the Rishis of the Vedas. And how to worship Him? Through love. "He is to be worshipped
as the one beloved, dearer than everything in this and the next life."
This is the doctrine of love declared in the Vedas, and let us see how it is fully developed and taught by Krishn, whom the Hindus believe to
have been God incarnate on earth.
He taught that a man ought to live in this world like a lotus leaf, which grows in water but is never moistened by water; so a man ought to live
in the world--his heart to God and his hands to work.
It is good to love God for hope of reward in this or the next world, but it is better to love God for love's sake, and the prayer goes: "Lord, I do
not want wealth, nor children, nor learning. If it be Thy will, I shall go from birth to birth, but grant me this, that I may love Thee without the
hope of reward--love unselfishly for love's sake." One of the disciples of Krishn, the then Emperor of India, was driven from his kingdom by his
enemies and had to take shelter with his queen in a forest in the Himalayas, and there one day the queen asked him how it was that he, the
most virtuous of men, should suffer so much misery. Yudhishthir answered, "Behold, my queen, the Himalayas, how grand and beautiful they
are; I love them. They do not give me anything, but my nature is to love the grand, the beautiful, therefore I love them. Similarly, I love the
Lord. He is the source of all beauty, of all sublimity. He is the only object to be loved; my nature is to love Him, and therefore I love. I do not
pray for anything; I do not ask for anything. Let Him place me wherever He likes. I must love Him for love's sake. I cannot trade love."
The Vedas teach that the soul is divine, only held in the bondage of matter; perfection will be reached when this bond will burst, and the word
they use for it is therefore, Mukti(freedom), freedom from the bonds of imperfection, freedom from death and misery.
And this bondage can only fall off through the mercy of God, and this mercy comes on the pure. So purity is the condition of His mercy. How
does that mercy act? He reveals Himself to the pure heart; the pure and the stainless see God, yea, even in this life; then and then only all the
crookedness of the heart is made straight. Then all doubt ceases. He is no more the freak of a terrible law of causation. This is the very centre,
the very vital conception of Hinduism. The Hindu does not want to live upon words and theories. If there are existences beyond the ordinary sensuous existence, he wants to come face to face with them. If there is a soul in him which is not matter, if there is an all-merciful universal
Soul, he will go to Him direct. He must see Him, and that alone can destroy all doubts. So the best proof a Hindu sage gives about the soul,
about God, is: "I have seen the soul; I have seen God." And that is the only condition of perfection. The Hindu religion does not consist in
struggles and attempts to believe a certain doctrine or dogma, but in realising, not in believing, but in being and becoming.
Thus the whole object of their system is by constant struggle to become perfect, to become divine, to reach God and see God, and this reaching
God, seeing God, becoming perfect even as the Father in Heaven is perfect, constitutes the religion of the Hindus.
And what becomes of a man when he attains perfection? He lives a life of bliss infinite. He enjoys infinite and perfect bliss, having obtained the
only thing in which man ought to have pleasure, namely God, and enjoys the bliss with God.
So far all the Hindus are agreed. This is the common religion of all the sects of India; but, then, perfection is absolute, and the absolute cannot
be two or three. It cannot have any qualities. It cannot be an individual. And so when a soul becomes perfect and absolute, it must become one
with Brahman, and it would only realise the Lord as the perfection, the reality, of its own nature and existence, the existence absolute,
knowledge absolute, and bliss absolute. We have often and often read this called the losing of individuality and becoming a stock or a stone.
"He jests at scars that never felt a wound."
I tell you it is nothing of the kind. If it is happiness to enjoy the consciousness of this small body, it must be greater happiness to enjoy the
consciousness of two bodies, the measure of happiness increasing with the consciousness of an increasing number of bodies, the aim, the
ultimate of happiness being reached when it would become a universal consciousness.
Therefore, to gain this infinite universal individuality, this miserable little prison individuality must go. Then alone can death cease when I am
one with life, then alone can misery cease when I am one with happiness itself, then alone can all errors cease when I am one with knowledge
itself; and this is the necessary scientific conclusion. Science has proved to me that physical individuality is a delusion, that really my body is one
little continuously changing body in an unbroken ocean of matter; and Advait (unity) is the necessary conclusion with my other counterpart,
Science is nothing but the finding of unity. As soon as science would reach perfect unity, it would stop from further progress, because it would
reach the goal. Thus Chemistry could not progress farther when it would discover one element out of which all others could be made. Physics
would stop when it would be able to fulfil its services in discovering one energy of which all the others are but manifestations, and the science
of religion becomes perfect when it would discover Him who is the one life in a universe of death, Him who is the constant basis of an everchanging
world. One who is the only Soul of which all souls are but delusive manifestations. Thus is it, through multiplicity and duality, that the
ultimate unity is reached. Religion can go no farther. This is the goal of all science.
All science is bound to come to this conclusion in the long run. Manifestation, and not creation, is the word of science today, and the Hindu is
only glad that what he has been cherishing in his bosom for ages is going to be taught in more forcible language and with further light from the
latest conclusions of science.
Descend we now from the aspirations of philosophy to the religion of the ignorant. At the very outset, I may tell you that there is no polytheism
in India. In every temple, if one stands by and listens, one will find the worshippers applying all the attributes of God, including omnipresence,
to the images. It is not polytheism, nor would the name henotheism explain the situation. "The rose called by any other name would smell as
sweet." Names are not explanations.
I remember, as a boy, hearing a Christian missionary preach to a crowd in India. Among other sweet things he was telling them was that if he
gave a blow to their idol with his stick, what could it do? One of his hearers sharply answered, "If I abuse your God, what can He do?" "You
would be punished," said the preacher, "when you die." "So my idol will punish you when you die," retorted the Hindu.
The tree is known by its fruits. When I have seen amongst them that are called idolaters, men, the like of whom in morality and spirituality and
love I have never seen anywhere, I stop and ask myself, "Can sin beget holiness?"
Superstition is a great enemy of man, but bigotry is worse. Why does a Christian go to church? Why is the cross holy? Why is the face turned
toward the sky in prayer? Why are there so many images in the Catholic Church? Why are there so many images in the minds of Protestants
when they pray? My brethren, we can no more think about anything without a mental image than we can live without breathing. By the law of
association, the material image calls up the mental idea and vice versa. This is why the Hindu uses an external symbol when he worships. He
will tell you, it helps to keep his mind fixed on the Being to whom he prays. He knows as well as you do that the image is not God, is not
omnipresent. After all, how much does omnipresence mean to almost the whole world? It stands merely as a word, a symbol. Has God
superficial area? If not, when we repeat that word "omnipresent", we think of the extended sky or of space, that is all. As we find that
somehow or other, by the laws of our mental constitution, we have to associate our ideas of infinity with the image of the blue sky, or of the
sea, so we naturally connect our idea of holiness with the image of a church, a mosque, or a cross. The Hindus have associated the idea of holiness, purity, truth, omnipresence, and such other ideas with different images and forms. But with this difference that while some people
devote their whole lives to their idol of a church and never rise higher, because with them religion means an intellectual assent to certain
doctrines and doing good to their fellows, the whole religion of the Hindu is centred in realisation. Man is to become divine by realising the
divine. Idols or temples or churches or books are only the supports, the helps, of his spiritual childhood: but on and on he must progress.
He must not stop anywhere. "External worship, material worship," say the scriptures, "is the lowest stage; struggling to rise high, mental prayer
is the next stage, but the highest stage is when the Lord has been realised." Mark, the same earnest man who is kneeling before the idol tells
you,"Him the sun cannot express, nor the moon, nor the stars, the lightning cannot express Him, nor what we speak of as fire; through Him
they shine." But he does not abuse any one's idol or call its worship sin. He recognises in it a necessary stage of life. "The child is father of the
man." Would it be right for an old man to say that childhood is a sin or youth a sin?
If a man can realise his divine nature with the help of an image, would it be right to call that a sin? Nor even when he has passed that stage,
should he call it an error. To the Hindu, man is not travelling from error to truth, but from truth to truth, from lower to higher truth. To him all
the religions, from the lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, mean so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realise the Infinite,
each determined by the conditions of its birth and association, and each of these marks a stage of progress; and every soul is a young eagle
soaring higher and higher, gathering more and more strength, till it reaches the Glorious Sun.
Unity in variety is the plan of nature, and the Hindu has recognised it. Every other religion lays down certain fixed dogmas, and tries to force
society to adopt them. It places before society only one coat which must fit Jack and John and Henry, all alike. If it does not fit John or Henry, he
must go without a coat to cover his body. The Hindus have discovered that the absolute can only be realised, or thought of, or stated, through
the relative, and the images, crosses, and crescents are simply so many symbols--so many pegs to hang the spiritual ideas on. It is not that this
help is necessary for everyone, but those that do not need it have no right to say that it is wrong. Nor is it compulsory in Hinduism. One thing I
must tell you. Idolatry in India does not mean anything horrible. It is not the mother of harlots. On the other hand, it is the attempt of
undeveloped minds to grasp high spiritual truths. The Hindus have their faults, they sometimes have their exceptions; but mark this, they are
always for punishing their own bodies, and never for cutting the throats of their neighbours. If the Hindu fanatic burns himself on the pyre, he
never lights the fire of Inquisition. And even this cannot be laid at the door of his religion any more than the burning of witches can be laid at
the door of Christianity.
To the Hindu, then, the whole world of religions is only a travelling, a coming up, of different men and women, through various conditions and
circumstances, to the same goal. Every religion is only evolving a God out of the material man, and the same God is the inspirer of all of them.
Why, then, are there so many contradictions? They are only apparent, says the Hindu. The contradictions come from the same truth adapting
itself to the varying circumstances of different natures.
It is the same light coming through glasses of different colours. And these little variations are necessary for purposes of adaptation. But in the
heart of everything the same truth reigns. The Lord has declared to the Hindu in His incarnation as Krishn,"I am in every religion as the thread
through a string of pearls. Wherever thou seest extraordinary holiness and extraordinary power raising and purifying humanity, know thou that
I am there." And what has been the result? I challenge the world to find, throughout the whole system of Sanskrit philosophy, any such
expression as that the Hindu alone will be saved and not others. Says Vyas, "We find perfect men even beyond the pale of our caste and creed."
One thing more. How, then, can the Hindu, whose whole fabric of thought centres in God, believe in Buddhism which is agnostic, or in Jainism
which is atheistic?
The Buddhists or the Jains do not depend upon God; but the whole force of their religion is directed to the great central truth in every religion,
to evolve a God out of man. They have not seen the Father, but they have seen the Son. And he that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father
also. This, brethren, is a short sketch of the religious ideas of the Hindus. The Hindu may have failed to carry out all his plans, but if there is ever
to be a universal religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time; which will be infinite like the God it will preach, and whose
sun will shine upon the followers of Krishn and of Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahminic or Buddhistic, Christian or
Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development; which in its catholicity will embrace in its infinite
arms, and find a place for, every human being, from the lowest grovelling savage not far removed from the brute, to the highest man towering
by the virtues of his head and heart almost above humanity, making society stand in awe of him and doubt his human nature. It will be a
religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognise divinity in every man and woman, and whose
whole scope, whose whole force, will be created in aiding humanity to realise its own true, divine nature.
Offer such a religion, and all the nations will follow you. Asoka's council was a council of the Buddhist faith. Akbar's, though more to the
purpose, was only a parlour-meeting. It was reserved for America to proclaim to all quarters of the globe that the Lord is in every religion. May
He who is the Brahman of the Hindus, the Ahura-Mazda of the Zoroastrians, the Buddha of the Buddhists, the Jehovah of the Jews, the Father
in Heaven of the Christians, give strength to you to carry out your noble idea! The star arose in the East; it travelled steadily towards the West, sometimes dimmed and sometimes effulgent, till it made a circuit of the world; and now it is again rising on the very horizon of the East, the
borders of the Sanpo, a thousand fold more effulgent than it ever was before.
Hail, Columbia, motherland of liberty! It has been given to thee, who never dipped her hand in her neighbour's blood, who never found out that
the shortest way of becoming rich was by robbing one's neighbours, it has been given to thee to march at the vanguard of civilisation with the
flag of harmony.
Religion not the crying need of India, September 20th 1893
Christians must always be ready for good criticism, and I hardly think that you will mind if I make a little criticism. You Christians, who are so
fond of sending out missionaries to save the soul of the heathen--why do you not try to save their bodies from starvation? In India, during the
terrible famines, thousands died from hunger, yet you Christians did nothing. You erect churches all through India, but the crying evil in the East
is not religion--they have religion enough--but it is bread that the suffering millions of burning India cry out for with parched throats. They ask
us for bread, but we give them stones. It is an insult to a starving people to offer them religion; it is an insult to a starving man to teach him
metaphysics. In India a priest that preached for money would lose caste and be spat upon by the people. I came here to seek aid for my
impoverished people, and I fully realised how difficult it was to get help for heathens from Christians in a Christian land.
Buddhism, the fulfillment of Hinduism, September 26th 1893
I am not a Buddhist, as you have heard, and yet I am. If China, or Japan, or Ceylon follow the teachings of the Great Master, India worships him
as God incarnate on earth. You have just now heard that I am going to criticise Buddhism, but by that I wish you to understand only this. Far be
it from me to criticise him whom I worship as God incarnate on earth. But our views about Buddha are that he was not understood properly by
his disciples. The relation between Hinduism (by Hinduism, I mean the religion of the Vedas) and what is called Buddhism at the present day is
nearly the same as between Judaism and Christianity. Jesus Christ was a Jew, and Shakya Muni was a Hindu. The Jews rejected Jesus Christ, nay,
crucified him, and the Hindus have accepted Shakya Muni as God and worship him. But the real difference that we Hindus want to show
between modern Buddhism and what we should understand as the teachings of Lord Buddha lies principally in this: Shakya Muni came to
preach nothing new. He also, like Jesus, came to fulfil and not to destroy. Only, in the case of Jesus, it was the old people, the Jews, who did not
understand him, while in the case of Buddha, it was his own followers who did not realise the import of this teachings. As the Jew did not
understand the fulfilment of the Old Testament, so the Buddhist did not understand the fulfilment of the truths of the Hindu religion. Again, I
repeat, Shakya Muni came not to destroy, but he was the fulfilment, the logical conclusion, the logical development of the religion of the
The religion of the Hindus is divided into two parts: the ceremonial and the spiritual. The spiritual portion is specially studied by the monks. In
that there is no caste. A man from the highest caste and a man from the lowest may become a monk in India, and the two castes become equal.
In religion there is no caste; caste is simply a social institution. Shakya Muni himself was a monk, and it was his glory that he had the largeheartedness
to bring out the truths from the hidden Vedas and throw them broadcast all over the world. He was the first being in the world
who brought missionarising into practice--nay, he was the first to conceive the idea of proselytising.
The great glory of the Master lay in his wonderful sympathy for everybody, especially for the ignorant and the poor. Some of his disciples were
Brahmins. When Buddha was teaching, Sanskrit was no more the spoken language in India. It was then only in the books of the learned. Some
of Buddha's Brahmin disciples wanted to translate his teachings into Sanskrit, but he distinctly told them, "I am for the poor, for the people; let
me speak in the tongue of the people." And so to this day the great bulk of his teachings are in the vernacular of that day in India. Whatever
may be the position of philosophy, whatever may be the position of metaphysics, so long as there is such a thing as death in the world, so long
as there is such a thing as weakness in the human heart, so long as there is a cry going out of the heart of man in his very weakness, there shall
be a faith in God.
On the philosophic side the disciples of the Great Master dashed themselves against the eternal rocks of the Vedas and could not crush them,
and on the other side they took away from the nation that eternal God to which every one, man or woman, clings so fondly. And the result was
that Buddhism had to die a natural death in India. At the present day there is not one who calls oneself a Buddhist in India, the land of its birth.
But at the same time, Brahminism lost something--that reforming zeal, that wonderful sympathy and charity for everybody, that wonderful
leaven which Buddhism had brought to the masses and which had rendered Indian society so great that a Greek historian who wrote about
India of that time was led to say that no Hindu was known to tell an untruth and no Hindu woman was known to be unchaste.
Hinduism cannot live without Buddhism, nor Buddhism without Hinduism. Then realise what the separation has shown to us, that the Buddhists
cannot stand without the brain and philosophy of the Brahmins, nor the Brahmin without the heart of the Buddhist. This separation between
the Buddhists and the Brahmins is the cause of the downfall of India. That is why India is populated by three hundred millions of beggars, and
that is why India has been the slave of conquerors for the last thousand years. Let us then join the wonderful intellect of the Brahmins with the
heart, the noble soul, the wonderful humanising power of the Great Master.
Address at the Final Session, September 27th 1893
The World's Parliament of Religions has become an accomplished fact, and the merciful Father has helped those who laboured to bring it into
existence, and crowned with success their most unselfish labour. My thanks to those noble souls whose large hearts and love of truth first
dreamed this wonderful dream and then realised it. My thanks to the shower of liberal sentiments that has overflowed this platform. My
thanks to this enlightened audience for their uniform kindness to me and for their appreciation of every thought that tends to smooth the
friction of religions. A few jarring notes were heard from time to time in this harmony. My special thanks to them, for they have, by their
striking contrast, made general harmony the sweeter.
Much has been said of the common ground of religious unity. I am not going just now to venture my own theory. But if anyone here hopes that
this unity will come by the triumph of any one of the religions and the destruction of the other, to him I say, "Brother, yours is an impossible
hope." Do I wish that the Christian would become Hindu? God forbid. Do I wish that the Hindu or Buddhist would become Christian? God
forbid. The seed is put in the ground, and earth and air and water are placed around it. Does the seed become the earth, or the air, or the
water? No. It becomes a plant, it develops after the law of its own growth, assimilates the air, the earth, and the water, converts them into
plant substance, and grows into a plant.
Similar is the case with religion. The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each
must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth. If the Parliament of
Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions
of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. 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."
Swami Vivekananda (* 12. Januar 1863 in Kolkata; † 4. Juli 1902 in Haora; bürgerlicher Name: Narendranath Datta) war ein hinduistischer Mönch und Gelehrter.
Vivekananda sprach 1893 in Chicago als erster Hindu vor dem Weltparlament der Religionen (World Parliament of Religions).
YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE SPEECH ON YOUTUBE IN ORIGINAL VOICE OF SRI SWAMI VIVEKANANDA
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