A western disciple’s letter on Chicago address published in The Pioneer
Tuesday, 11 September 2018 | Radhika Nagrath | Haridwar–
As we are celebrating the 125th year of the historic address of Swami Vivekananda- the nineteenth century monk who shook the world with his soul- stirring words- in Chicago, it is interesting to study how the contemporary newspapers reported the event.
The first edition of ‘Life of Swami Vivekananda’- compiled by his Eastern and Western disciples in 1912 and published by Advaita Ashrama-quotes a long letter written by the president of the scientific section of the World’s Parliament of Religions, Merwin Marie Snell to the editor of The Pioneer which was published in the edition of the paper dated March 8, 1894 and was reproduced later in other papers.
A western disciple says in the book, “Mr. Merwin –Marie Snell, president of the scientific section of the parliament, wrote in the goodness of his heart and the courage of his convictions a long letter to the editor of The Pioneer, an Anglo-Indian newspaper of Allahabad. His letter dated January 30, 1894 was printed in The Pioneer on March 8 the same year. Subsequently it was reprinted in the Indian Mirror of March 9 and the Amrita Bazar Patrika of March 10 with accompanying editorials in respectively agreement and disagreement with its views.” It is further said that this laudatory letter, written by a highly respected Western scholar together with editorial reactions to it, constituted a wave of amazement and journalistic attention relating to the Swami’s success at the Parliament of Religions.
Vivekananda’s speech is as much relevant today as it was when it was delivered. It is pertinent to mention here that to rate ‘the greatest speech ever?’ in the world, six writers were asked recently to give their choices. Mark Tully, BBC’s former bureau chief for India, and Padma Bhushan awardee, had chosen Swami Vivekananda’s speech at the first World’s Parliament of Religion in Chicago in 1893 as the best.
The western scholar Snell wrote that “…never before has so authoritative a representative of genuine Hinduism – as opposed to the emasculated and Anglicized versions of it so common in these days- been accessible to American inquirers and it is certain that the American people at large will, when he is gone, look forward with eagerness to his return, or the advent of some of the confreres of the institute of Shankaracharya …America thanks India for sending him.”
In the opening speech, he sounded the death knell of all bigotry and fanaticism and robustly advocated acceptance of all religions of the world as true.
He says in the address, “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance…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 has 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.”
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