Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) is best known in the United States for his groundbreaking address to the World Parliament of Religions of 1893 in which he introduced Hinduism to America and called for religious tolerance and an end to fanaticism. Born Narendranath Dutta, he was the chief disciple of the 19th century mystic Ramakrishna and the founder of the Ramakrishna Mission. Swami Vivekananda is also considered a key figure in introducing Vedanta and yoga to the West and is credited with raising the profile of Hinduism to that of a world religion.
Speech delivered by Swami Vivekananda on September 11, 1893, at the first World Parliament of Religions on the site of the current Art Institute
Sisters and Brothers of America,
It fills my heart with unspeakable joy to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome you extended to us. I thank you in the name of the oldest 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 Hindus of all classes and sects.
My thanks also to some of the speakers on this rostrum who, referring to the delegates from the East, have told you that these men from distant nations could well claim the honor of carrying the idea of tolerance to different lands. I am proud to belong to a religion that has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We not only believe in universal tolerance, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation that has sheltered the persecuted and refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered into our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to southern India and took refuge with us in the very year their holy temple was torn to pieces. by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion that has housed and still nourishes the rest of the great Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember having repeated since my earliest childhood, and which is repeated every day by millions of human beings: through different tendencies, so diverse as they appear, twisted or straight, all lead to You.
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 marvelous doctrine preached in the Gita: “Whoever comes to me, in whatever form , I reach it; all men struggle along paths that eventually lead to me. Bigotry, bigotry and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful land. They filled the earth with violence, flooded it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent entire nations to despair. Without these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time has come; and I earnestly hope that the bell which has rung this morning in honor of this convention will sound the death knell of all fanaticism, of all persecution with sword or pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between people who are heading towards the same goal.