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Swami Vivekananda understood in the most keen of senses that his address at the Parliament of Religions was going to be an introduction of Indian culture to many in the "West." Accordingly, he was able to offer a vision of Indian culture that represented the very essence of diversity, tolerance, and a movement away from dogma. Swami understood that many of his audience might have a narrow and ill- informed construction of what Indian culture was. It is for this reason that Swami presented a vision of Indian culture where acceptance of plurality was vital. The opening line that received the most thunderous of applause was reflective of this. Using the idea of "Sisters and Brothers," Swami was able to establish that fraternity and honoring bonds between human beings was a central idea of Indian culture and tradition.
The Indian value of toleration forms the crux of Swami's address. This was deliberate, as Swami had espoused a vision of Vedanta- based Hinduism that moved away from dogma to a pluralistic vision of the good:
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
Swami made it very clear that Indian culture and tradition was a home to all those who were "lost" or "displaced." Swami Vivekananda understood that he was not going to win the battle of "my religion and culture is better than yours." Rather, he understood that the best way to assert the power and strength of a culture is to emphasize how others are embraced in it. Swami quotes from the Bhagavad- Gita to emphasize this point: “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.” Through the invocation of the Gita, Swami Vivekananda is able to suggest that Indian culture and tradition are synonymous with the idea of acceptance and cherishing all. The rejection of dogmatic and narrow notions of the good becomes one of the benchmarks of Swami's address. In doing so, Swami Vivekananda is able to define India culture and tradition to a foreign audience and an indigenous one in the best of manners, something that is the ideal for all to aspire.
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