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South Asian and Himalayan Art

September 11, 1893

Posted by on Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Swami Vivekananda on the platform at the Parliament of Religions, September 1893.

Swami Vivekananda on the platform at the Parliament of World Religions, September 1893.

September 11 is a day we’ve come to associate with intolerance, but 120 years ago that was not the case. In September 1893, Swami Vivekananda traveled from India to the United States to address the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago. “Sisters and brothers of America…” the swami said, and was met with thunderous applause from the nearly seven thousand people in attendance. Only thirty years old, he wowed the audience, conveying a message of hope and peace. Wearing his orange robes, he spoke as a Hindu monk with a universal message: “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.” Reporting on the event, the New York Herald wrote: “Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation.”

Swami Vivekananda was also the author of Raja Yoga, a groundbreaking treatise that became a bestseller in India and around the world. In the book, Vivekananda writes that “Raga Yoga. . .never asks the question of what our religion is. We are human beings, that is sufficient” (Raja Yoga, 1896). His teachings helped shape modern discourses on yoga, which we will explore in greater depth when Yoga: The Art of Transformation opens on October 19.

Listen to Swami Vivekananda’s speech from September 11, 1893.

Learn more about Swami Vivekananda and his connection to Charles Lang Freer.

3 Responses to “September 11, 1893”

  1. John Blee Says:

    Amazing speech by Swami Vivekananda, as it speaks to today, and not just in the context of 9/11. He is absolutely right that human history is spoiled by fanaticism. It’s wonderful to visit the Freer and see so many spiritual traditions celebrated and represented side-by-side.

  2. Swami Tyagananda Says:

    Thank you for your post reminding your readers about the “other” significance of Sep 11. It will be helpful if you preface the link given toward the end of your post inviting readers to listen to Vivekananda’s speech with the clarification that the link provides only an re-enactment of the speech. His speech in Chicago was never recorded (actually, none of his speeches are recorded)–so what is heard is not Vivekananda’s voice. Thank you.

  3. shoshana wittenberg Says:

    It is uplifting to read the history of Swami Vivekananda in USA.
    I think he was one of the pioneer of bringing yoga to the West.
    In this time people did not travel far distances, as he did for making yoga acceptable for all.

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