The year Sept. 1993 to Sept. 1994 was the centenary year of Swami Vivekananda's coming to America as a representative of Hinduism at the World's Parliament of Religions held in Chicago. The year 1893 is a significant landmark in the history of America. That was when, on the 400th anniversary celebration of the discovery of America in search of India, the Spiritual Wisdom of India was discovered and broadcast by Swami Vivekananda all over the world in and through America. Until then, India had remained a land of dark mysteries to the western world.
Swami Vivekananda stopped at Hong Kong and Japan en route from India to America. At Yokohama the Swami boarded the ship Empress of India on July 14 and disembarked at Vancouver, in British Columbia, on the evening of July 25. Then he reached Chicago by train, probably on July 30, passing through the scenic Canadian Rockies to Winnipeg and Wisconsin.
The Parliament of Religions opened on the morning of September 11 in the Hall of Columbus, at the Art Institute on Chicago's Michigan Avenue. The first day was devoted to speeches of welcome from the officials and reply by the delegates. About his feeling at the time, the Swami wrote later, "My heart was fluttering, and my tongue nearly dried up."1 Indeed, the sight of six or seven thousand men and women representing the best culture of America might have given even an accomplished speaker stage fright. Several times he had been called upon to speak, but he had said, "No, not now." At last the Swami "bowed down to Devi Sarasvati," the Goddess of learning, and stepped to the rostrum. Dr. Barrows introduced him. Then the Swami started with "Sisters and Brothers of America."2 At once hundreds rose to their feet with shouts of applause. It was the inspiration, the feeling he conveyed, that touched their hearts. When the audience settled down he gave a short speech and concluded saying, " . . . 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."3
On September 15 the Swami gave a short lecture on "Why We Disagree." He read a paper on "Hinduism" on September 19. On the following day he gave a short speech on "Religion Not the Crying Need of India." On September 26 he delivered a short address entitled "Buddhism, the Fulfillment of Hinduism." On the last day, September 27, the Swami delivered his "Address of the Final Session." He declared, ". . . upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: 'Help and not Fight,' 'Assimilation and not Destruction,' 'Harmony and Peace and Not Dissension.' "4
Swami Vivekananda became so popular that after the Parliament of Religions he undertook a whirlwind lecture tour throughout the length and breadth of the United States preaching the ancient wisdom of the sages of India. In 1894 he established the Vedanta Society of New York--the first permanent Vedanta Centre in the West.5
Swamiji went back to India in 1897. During his second visit to America he established the Vedanta Society in San Francisco in 1900--the second Vedanta Society in the U.S.A.6
1 The Life of Swami Vivekananda, by His Eastern & Western Disciples (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1989) Vol. 1, page 416.
2 Ibid., page 417.
3 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1986, 1986) Vol. 1, page 4.
4 Ibid., page 24.
5 The History of the Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1983), page 72.
6 Ibid., page 113.
7 Swami Atulananda, With the Swamis in America and India (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1988), page 87.
8 The History of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, page 197.
9 Vedanta Monthly -- The message of the East (Boston: Boston Vedanta Centre, Swami Paramananda, 1920) Vol. IX, page 192.
10 The History of the Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission, page 209.
11 Ibid., page 310.
12 Ibid., page 257.
13 Oregon Journal, Magazine, Sunday, July 16, 1950.
14 Ibid., Saturday, July 31, 1954; and The Oregonian, Monday, August 2, 1954.
15 Hinduism Comes to America (Chicago: The Vedanta Society, 1933), page 50.
16 The Oregonian, March 25, 1936.
17 Northwest, The Sunday Oregonian Magazine, April 30, 1989, page 14.
18 Vedanta for the Western World, Editor, Christopher Isherwood, Hollywood, 1946, page 1.