How are the ideas in Swami Vivekananda's Address to the Parliament of Religion still relevant to us today?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the most unique of ways, Swami Vivekananda articulated a vision of "globalization" that sought to bring people of divergent backgrounds together.   His opening of "Sisters and brothers of America," helped to create the understanding that Hinduism was not something that lay outside of the reach of "Western " religious expressions.  Rather, Swami Vivekananda articulated a vision of spiritual expression that sought to unify over common ground as opposed to divide it based on dogmatic doctrine:

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

In phrasing the Vedic scriptures and Bhagavad- Gita in this manner, Swami Vivekananda was able to suggest that religious worship is one that seeks to bring humans closer to the will of the divine.  The exact dogma is not as important as the idea of individuals embracing a spiritual path in order to be better than what individuals are in the hopes of being the best one can be.  In this light, Swami Vivekananda was seen as meaningful in his speech at the time and in the modern setting because it calls on individuals to change what is into what should be.  In embracing a life of spiritual identity, Swami Vivekananda's words are relevant to the modern setting in the call to be active in the transformation of reality into embracing the promises and possibilities that can be only recognized through spiritual worship.

gopikrishna | Student

At the age of 30, Vivekananda first visited the United States in 1893 as a delegate to the World's Parliament of Religions, held in conjunction with the Chicago World's Fair. In his opening remarks, he greeted the assembled gathering with the words "Sisters and Brothers of America." The 7,000 people in attendance rose to their feet for an ovation lasting more than three minutes. Vivekananda proceeded to give a brief but eloquent speech that celebrated toleration and condemned fanaticism and its ills: "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."Continuing in this vein, Vivekananda went on to quote from the Bhagavad Gita: "As different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their waters in the sea, so, Oh Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee."

His ideas were admired by renowned thinkers and writers, including Robert Ingersoll, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. are, The older I grow, the more everything seems to me to lie in manliness. love. Religion is realization; not talk, not doctrine, nor theories, however beautiful they may be. It is being and becoming, not hearing or acknowledging; it is the whole soul becoming changed into what it believes. Religion is the manifestation of the Divinity already in man. Teach yourselves, teach everyone his real nature, call upon the sleeping soul and see how it awakes. Power will come, glory will come, goodness will come, purity will come, and everything that is excellent will come when this sleeping soul is roused to self-conscious activity. They alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive ,It is love and love alone that I preach, and I base my teaching on the great Vedantic truth of the sameness and omnipresence of the Soul of the Universe.