Narendra who frantically went after many holy men to quench his soul’s thirst met Ramakrishna Parmahamsa and became Swami Vivekananda. Having travelled the length and breadth of India he wanted to attend the ‘Parliament of Religions’ to be conducted in Chicago, USA. Someone helped him reach Chicago but he had no invitation or sponsor and hence was not allowed to represent his country and his religion. But, seeing his calibre, a local lady recommended him and he was given a few minutes to speak before the audience. He started his speech with “Dear brothers and sisters of America”. Today this addressing does not evoke any emotion in us as we have been hearing it from every speaker on stage who really never means it. But to the Western people of those days whose usual addressing was “ladies and gentlemen” the way Vivekananda addressed created such vibration that there was thundering applause and standing ovation for a long time. Everybody wondered at the unknown man who considered all people as his own brothers and sisters. They could not fathom the depths of his religion which made him feel that way. Vivekananda proceeded in his deep reverberating voice to talk about his religion and the organizers could not remember the time limit given to him for speaking till he concluded his speech. The overwhelmed audience could not believe that such a great religion of which Vivekananda spoke did really exist in this world. Newspapers published extracts of his speech and his photos all over the world. Overnight he became a celebrity.
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Some people, who had the resources and time, came to India to find out if Hindu religion was really as great as eulogized by Vivekananda. They found that first they had to learn Sanskrit language to know about Hinduism. They did seek some gurus who could teach them Sanskrit and enable them understand Hindu scriptures which were in Sanskirt. They wrote on what they learnt and the whole world came to know about Hindu religion and culture. This reached only intellectuals and people who were interested in religious matters.
Rabindranadh Tagore through his Poetry, Essays, Plays, Novels, Short-stories made the common people all over the world know that Hinduism is a way of life and a culture that has been in existence since times immemorial because of its guiding principles for humanity. Great poets of 20th century like WB Yeats started writing about Hinduism. The movement “Krishna Consciousness” is an offshoot of knowledge of Hinduism. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, is a live example of a Hindu. The statues which are being erected all over the world for Gandhi long after his death is proof of its validity. Today Sri Narendra Modi made the world realize the importance of Yoga for human beings. Gayatri Mantra is recognized as the most powerful vibration on the earth and chanting of it is practised in some non-Hindu countries for its beneficial effects.
So let us realize the importance of Swami Vivekananda who unlike other spiritualists did not confine himself to his spiritual development but tried to sow seeds for the development of spirituality all over the world and lead humanity to higher realms of life.
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(January 12 is Swamy Vivekananda’s jayanti.)