Comment on Swami Vivekanandas addresses at the Parliament of Religions Response to welcome.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would say that Swami Vivekananda's welcome to the crowd was electrifying and reflective simultaneously.  Consider that in 1893, Hinduism was not fully understood as a unifying force, but rather seen as a primitive set of practices.  British Colonization was at its zenith, while Western expansion all over the world was present.  The ingrained belief on the world stage at the time was that the "East" was savage, or at the very least, disorderly.  When Swami calls out to "brothers and sisters in America," knowingly or not, he is making a direct call to what would be later called "globalization."  Swami Vivekananda's welcoming address was constructed in such a manner that it seemed like Hinduism was welcoming the West.  It made sense because from a chronological point of view, Hinduism is much older than the other religions that were featured on the stage.  When he calls out to Saraswati, it is almost as if he brings the divine force of learning and understanding to the Art Institute of Chicago, to bless the convergence of figures present and to solidify the belief that Hinduism is not something to be approached with foreign attitudes or demonizing fear.  Rather, it is only through the divine grace of Saraswati that something like the Parliament of Religions can be understood.  When Swami Vivekananda received a standing ovation and thunderous applause, it is almost as if he knew that he was the primary force in bringing Hinduism into the West, the force that would forever change how religions in the "East" would be seen in the light of those in the "West."  When American reaction was almost "shameful," that Western religions sought to convert those in the East and not fully embrace such traditions, one can see Swami Vivekananda's true impact.  It is no surprise that Swami sought to make a worldwide connection between Hinduism and the world.  When he returned back to India, his words of how it is the individual's responsibility to serve God, in the form of Lord Shiva, and the rest of the world were inscribed on the doors of one the holiest of Hindu shrines at Rameshwaram.  At this location, where the narratives of Shiva and Vishnu in the form of Rama intertwine, Swami Vivekananda's words are inscribed.  It seems as if the meesage to Chicago traveled from India, and the meesage from Chicago traveled all the way back to India.


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