Both discovered their humanism and became deeply concerned for the poor after travelling extensively in their youth, one across India and the other throughout South America.
Swami Vivekananda’s work in the United States would hardly have been possible without the hospitality of American families and individuals. Among the most important of these were Mr. and Mrs. George Hale of Chicago. It was opposite their house, in September 1893, that Swamiji, disheveled and exhausted, sat on the curb after spending the night in a boxcar.
Swami Vivekananda said, “I have to thank you of America for the great attempt you are making to break down the barriers of this little world of ours, and I hope that in the future the Lord will help you to accomplish your purpose.” In this the 150th anniversary year celebration of Swamiji, the above quote from his talk, “Why We Disagree,” given at the Parliament of Religions on September 15, 1893, raises the pertinent question: How far have we come in realizing what Swamiji calls “our purpose” as Americans in breaking down the barriers in this little world of ours?
A One-Act Play in Four Scenes with Choral Support
One was a Hindu monk who looked like a prince, whereas the other—a British educated barrister turned politician—looked like “a half-naked fakir,” as Churchill described him deridingly. The monk in the princely garb was none other than Swami Vivekananda, who mesmerized Eastern and Western audiences not only by his magnificent looks and magnetic personality, but also by the forceful delivery of his universal message of Vedanta in the last decade of the nineteenth century.
In her biography of Swami Vivekananda, The Master as I Saw Him, Sister Nivedita writes: “ Our Master has come and he has gone, and in the priceless memory he has left with us who knew him, there is no other thing so great, as this his love of man.”
At the dawn of the 20th century Swami Vivekananda challenged his Western audiences with language and concepts they found deeply inspiring. As Ann Louise Bardach put it in a recent article in The New York Times, “[Vivekananda] simplified Vedanta thought to a few teachings that were accessible and irresistible to Westerners, foremost being that ‘all souls are potentially divine’. His prescription for life was simple, and perfectly American: ‘work and worship’.”
Most revolutionaries are remembered for one particular revolution: George Washington for the American revolution against British imperial rule, Adam Smith for the creation of modern political economics, Lenin for the Communist revolution in Russia, Einstein for superseding Newton and creating modern physics, Haydn for creating modern musical structure.