On The 125th Anniversary Of Swami Vivekananda's Iconic Speech In Chicago, Here's What He Said And Why It Still Matters

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September 11, 2018, marks the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda's most iconic speech, delivered in Chicago at the Parliament of the World's Religions.

Written By Digital Desk | Mumbai | Updated On:

September 11, 2018, marks the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda's most iconic speech, delivered in Chicago at the Parliament of the World's Religions. The spiritual leader delivered his speech among a wide delegation, inclusive of 5,000 scholars, historians and religious intellectuals representing the world's most widespread faiths. 

As per records, Swami Vivekananda's address to the delegation on September 11, 1893, was as follows:

"Dear sisters and brothers of America,

It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. l thank you in the name of the most ancient 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 the millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.

My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honour of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the Earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to the southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny.

I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings:

As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to thee.

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 wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita:

Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.

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 civilization, 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 is 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." 

His speech is said to have evoked a loud applause from the audience.

Additionally, Swami Vivekananda also spoke on the subject of the day, 'Why we disagree' giving the example of a frog restricted to his well, having no idea of the world outside his well.

He further elaborated on the Vedanta philosophy.

"The Vedas declare 'I am a spirit living in a body; I am not the body. The body will die but I shall not die.'"

"Consciousness is only the surface of the mental ocean and within its depths are stored all our experiences."

"The Hindu believes that he is a spirit- him the soul cannot pierce, him the fire cannot burn, him the water cannot melt, him the air cannot dry-- is nowhere but his center is located in the body and that death means the change of this center from body to body."


His speech, even to this day, is lauded by people the world over for its clarity of ideas and the charm of his speech's eloquence. While Swami Vivekananda represented the Hindu religion to the world, he also hoped and earnestly called for all religions to come together to ensure unity and prosperity of all faiths across the world.

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