It took hardly 5 seconds for this young mystic in saffron robes to conquer the hearts of 7000 people comprising of intellectuals and religiously inclined, who had gathered at the Art Institute of Chicago for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, 1893.
Some of us may not know him at all. Some of us might have heard of him. And some of us revere him.
His name was Narendranath Dutta, known to the world as Swami Vivekananda.
When this young man, initially nervous, walked up to the podium to address the prestigious gathering to introduce the philosophy of Sanatana Dharma, no one there had expected that he or she was about to witness an epic speech that would forever establish the role of this charismatic monk in bringing the wisdom of ‘the most ancient order of monks in the world’ to one of the youngest of nations.
And it took hardly 5 seconds for Swami Vivekanada to conquer the heart of spiritual America. All it took him were 5 words :
When the young ascetic addressed the audience thus, he was received with a standing ovation for 2 minutes. What was it that send such tremors and goosebumps in the Americans and the world, so much that a single line such as this would receive such an outstanding and unprecedented ovation ? What trick did this handsome mystic conjure?
Swami Vivekananda performed no magic trick. It was an ingenious application of psychology, philosophy and spirituality.
There is a well known proverb which says, ‘Well begun is half done’. True to these words, Vivekananda ensured that he had an exceptional beginning. Every orator knows that the key to gaining the rapt attention of the audience is in having an eventful introduction. This is exactly what Vivekananda did. To the ears that were bored with the usual address of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ and the likes of it, his address was completely unexpected and heartwarming..it was music to the tired ears.
But there is more to that address. It wasn’t just a line to grab the attention of the audience. It was a powerful message as well. He reminded us about the connection that we share, inspite of all the superficial differences. He was an Indian ascetic, completely foreign to the American audience. Yet, him addressing them as ‘sisters’ and ‘brothers’ was a reminder of the universal bond that all children of God share, irrespective of caste, culture, colour or creed. The address was the core concept that the Parliament aimed to achieve – the fact that we all are a family, the blessed children of the Father of all spirits. No matter what path we choose, we had come from the same home, and shall go to the same home too.
Swami Vivekanada’s landmark success lies in this intimacy that he forged with his audience. His words are of utmost importance in today’s world that see meaningless bloodshed, forced conversions, and ‘holy’ wars that go against what the Lord has actually taught us through his wise children. It is time for us to remember our lessons from ‘home’.
May the one Almighty whom we call by different names, love and revere in different ways, grace us with universal love and acceptance.
All images are from Public Domain
If you haven’t heard the historic speech at Chicago, don’t forget to follow the link above to do so.. I have heard the speech at least 20 times now, and I still get goosebumps 🙂
Swami Vivekanada continues to be an inspiration to millions today, especially the youth of India. His birthday (January 12th ) is celebrated as India’s National Youth Day. He was an inspiration to many notable Indians and Non-Indians, especially to the freedom fighters. Among them include Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Jamsetji Tata. He is also said to have influenced the famous French Opera singer, Emma Calve.
There is another Narendra who is an ardent admirer of the former Narendra Dutta..It is none other than the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi!