Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Appendix V

“ Be and Make.”

“The world is one family.”

 

DEVOTEES OF VEDANTA AND VEDIC DHARMA
USHER IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM</span

 

Recent Two Notable Events In Chicago

 

Prologue: India’s Special Contribution to World Harmony

   What is India's special contribution to World Peace and Harmony, particularly, at the present critical juncture? In the significant words of Arnold Toynbee, English Historian best known for his comparative study of civilizations: "Religion is the most important concern of every human being who passes through this world. Religion knows no barriers of nationality. It may speak through a Hindu mouth or through a Christian one or through a Muslim one; but if the message does truly come from the source of truth, it speaks to each one of us direct. This (latter point) is the special insight of Hinduism, and the special gift that Indian religion has to give to the world.”

 

   Toynbee adds: “Some of the religions that have arisen to the west of India are inclined to say, ‘We have the truth.’ Hinduism would not dispute this, but it would go on to say: ‘Yes, you have the truth; we have it too, but neither of us has the whole truth or the same piece of it. No human being ever can have the whole truth, because truth has an infinite number of sides to it. One human being will get one glimpse of the truth; another will get a different glimpse. The two glimpses are different, but both are illuminating. Also, two glimpses are more than twice as illuminating as one glimpse. Truth is one, but there are many approaches to it. These different views do not conflict; they supplement each other.’…. A Muslim or a Christian might say: ‘You can't take our road unless you give up all others, because ours is the only right one.’ A Hindu will say: ‘I take all these roads and many more, because they are not mutually exclusive.’

 

   “On this point,” says Toynbee, “I myself believe that Hinduism has seen further into the truth than the Western religions have. I also believe that this Indian understanding of truth is of supreme significance and value for the human race today.” And he concludes: “Of course, it always has been, and always will be, right and good that we should appreciate and value other people's glimpses of truth as well as our own; but this is particularly important today, when the peoples of the world are facing each other at close quarters, armed with fearful weapons. In this situation, the exclusive minded, intolerant temper is not more wrong than it has been in the past; it has always been as wrong as it could be but today it is more dangerous than it has ever been. The Hindu attitude is the opposite of exclusive mindedness; and this is India's contribution to world harmony." These words of the renowned British Historian have an important point to ponder

 

    The “exclusive minded, intolerant temper", rightly pointed out by Arnold Toynbee, has wrought havoc on this beautiful earth. It was in fact the root cause of all crusades, inquisitions and jihads, resulting in violence, torture and bloodshed. Its horrible descendant, terrorism, has brought about mass destruction, ruined societies and heaped misery on humanity, the latest horrendous experience being in New York where, on September 11, 2001, the famed, tall twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed by the terrorists in broad daylight, to the horror of the whole world, and plunged a whole nation into inconsolable grief, causing a huge loss of lives and property. This mindless act of terrorism was most cruel and barbaric, nay demonic indeed, and hence reprehensible and disdainful to all right thinking people of the world.

 

   This heinous act reminds one of the prophetic words of Swami Vivekananda, who, standing on the soil of America, on the very same day and month, 108 years ago, declared to the 7000 delegates thronging the World's Parliament of Religions at Chicago (on September 11, 1893): "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 civilizations 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."

 

   People fervently wish, in the words of the great Swami, that the recent, most unfortunate incident in New York might be the death-knell of all fanaticism (and terrorism), of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

 

    Quite contrary to this is the grand vision of Oriental spirituality, which proclaims to humanity: "We are all part of One Spirit. When you experience the meaning of religion, which is to know God, you will realize that He is your Self and that He exists equally and impartially in all beings. Learn to see God in all persons, of whatever race or creed. You will know what divine love is when you begin to feel your oneness with every human being, not before. In mutual service we forget the little self, and glimpse one measureless Self, the Spirit that unifies all men."

 

   “Man is what he is, according to his inborn or cultivated nature. Harshness, intolerance, and selfishness form the basis of the lives of some people, whereas kindness, tolerance and selflessness form the basis of some others. The former are responsible for creating strife and discord in the world while the latter bring in harmony and peace. All depends upon the choice, which a man makes in respect of these two paths”.

 

   In antithesis to the “exclusive minded, intolerant temper", an ardent devotee of Vedanta and Vedic Dharma, therefore, has no hesitation in boldly declaring: "I look upon all religions as paths to God, and shall try to live in peace and fellowship with the followers of all religions." Further, in the words of the great Hindu Monk of India, Swami Vivekananda, he would proclaim: "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."

 

   And, in today's dire situation, the devotees of Vedanta and Vedic Dharma have a crucial role to play in bringing about the much needed world peace and harmony. It is indeed heartening that they have already ushered in the new millennium with a vigorous propagation of the message of spirituality and the age-old concept of "vasudhaiva kutumbakam" (the whole world is verily one family), propounded thousands of years ago in Bharat.

 

   As envisioned by Swami Vivekananda long ago, "Today man requires one more adjustment on the spiritual plane; today when material ideas are at the height of their glory and power, today when man is likely to forget his divine nature, through his growing dependence on matter, and is likely to be reduced to a mere money-making machine, an adjustment is necessary. The voice has spoken, and the power is coming to drive away the clouds of gathering materialism. The power has been set in motion which, at no distant date, will bring unto mankind once again the memory of its real nature; and again the place from which this power will come will be Asia."

 

     In this context, recently there were two notable events in Chicago, a city considered as "the pulse of America,” and a city that was blessed by Swami Vivekananda, who made history there more than a century ago. The events were:

 

    1. "VEDANTA IN THE THIRD MILLENNIUM", a special conference organized by the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, June 22-24, 2001.

 

    2. "VISHWA DHARMA PRASAAR YAATRA 2001", a significant program in honor of eminent spiritual leaders from Bharat who were on world tour, to disseminate the message of Sanatana Dharma, for World Peace and Harmony (August 24, 2001), organized by the Chicago chapter of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Overseas and the Hindu Leaders Forum (formed earlier this year as a global network of prominent men and women from a Hindu background and wide variety of professions).

 

    These programs were given a wide coverage in the leading American and the ethnic Indian newspapers in Chicago, including the “Chicago Tribune” and the “India Tribune”. In fact, they highlighted the significance and uniqueness of both the programs, as can be seen from the excerpts appended to this write-up:

 

I

VEDANTA IN THE THIRD MILLENNIUM Be and Make.”

Pictures of the Conference:

1: The Revered Swamis' of the Ramakrishna Order Attending the Conference 

[Front row (l to r): Swamis Shantarupananda,Chetanananda,Gautamananda,Chidananda,Pramathananda,Prabuddhananda and Tathagatananda  Standing (l to r)Swamis Prapannananda, Sarvadevananda,Atmarupananda,Tyagananda,Brahmarupananda,Aparananda and Varadananda)]

2: The Audience at the Millennium Conference

 

(A significant conference organized by the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago)  

 Cloyed by the surfeit of a materialistic way of life, thinking people of the West are hungering for something which can give them abiding peace and perfect happiness. Paradoxically, amidst prosperity, pelf and plenty, they feel a sense of inner (spiritual) impoverishment, thus being ill at ease. And, aspiring for self-fulfillment in life, they are seeking the water of life, namely, spirituality, which alone can quench the human quest for everlasting peace, happiness and perfection.

 

   Here comes the relevance of Vedanta which, in the words of Swami Ranganathanandaji, is a philosophy of a comprehensive spirituality, rational and practical, that man in the modern age needs to rescue himself from his stagnation of worldliness and put him on the highroad of creative living and fulfillment. And in this regard, following the footprints of the founder, Swami Vivekananda, who first introduced the Oriental spirituality to the Occident, more than a century ago, the Vedanta Societies, (overseas branches of the Ramakrishna Order, an International Organization) have done a great service to spiritual seekers in the West, by disseminating, far and wide, the life-giving and inspiring message of Vedanta as taught and exemplified by Sri Ramakrishna, the prophet of spirituality and harmony of religions.

 

   Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda are verily the harbingers of peace and harmony to the woebegone world and, as Swami Ranganathanandaji puts it, their special appeal to the West lies in their thoroughly rational approach and their presentation of Vedanta as a philosophy which dares to bridge the gulf between the secular and the sacred, action and contemplation, in human life through a comprehensive spirituality.

 

   With this backdrop, the special conference, "Vedanta in the Third Millennium", recently organized by the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, was highly significant and appropriate. It was held at the sprawling precincts and the serene atmosphere of the Vivekananda Monastery and Retreat in Ganges, Michigan, June 22-24, 2001. Over 600 devotees (from different parts of the U.S.A, Canada, South America, South Africa, Trinidad and India) attended the three-day conference. It was the largest program since the Vedanta conference of 1987, in Chicago. Altogether, twelve Senior Swamis of the Ramakrishna Order based in the U. S. A. and Canada, participated in this notable event. This first ever meeting of so many Swamis had wide media coverage.

 

   Swami Chidanandaji, Head of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, led the program. The valued presence Swami Gautamanandaji, a Trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission, and the Head of the Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, as the chief guest of honor, gave an impetus to the proceedings of the conference. He monitored the three-day program with his mellowed wisdom, erudite introduction, significant remarks and conclusions to enlighten the participants.

 

   The discourses by the twelve scholarly Swamis of the Order, on various aspects of Vedanta as expounded by Swami Vivekananda, and in the light of the modern science and technology, were highly absorbing and indeed a grand feast to the ears and the hearts of the participants. How to live the Vedantic ideals in one’s day-to-day life, in order to make life smooth, happy and purposeful, was the main burden of the subject matter, and the speakers successfully hammered it into the minds of the participants and effectively motivated them to translate it into action, on their return to their respective places.

 

   At the commencement of every session, the atmosphere of the venue was surcharged with intense divine fervor by the soul stirring and mellifluous devotional songs rendered by Dr. Ram Bala and joined in chorus and perfect unison by his well-trained group. Needless to say that the delegates, who too participated in the chorus, were all transported to a blissful experience.

 

   And, on the conclusion of the three-day program, while returning home, all the participants did carry something in their minds and hearts to cherish and, above all, to live in their day-to-day life, for their Highest Good.

 

   It can be confidently said that the conference was a grand success and that it has gone a long way in making an impact on the Vedanta Movement in the U. S. A.,initiated more than a century ago by Swami Vivekananda, the 'Lion of Vedanta' (vedantakesari).

 

   In the words of Swami Chidanandaji, the chief organizer, "The conference was held to usher in the new millennium which has a great bearing and significance in the West. Many see the millennium as the dawn of a New Age, more advanced in spirituality, and equivalent to the beginning of the Satya Yuga in India.

 

   “Several events were held in the context of the new millennium. At the beginning of the year 2000, the city of Chicago hosted the International Millennium Dinner, to which they invited representatives from about 200 countries throughout the world (including India, from where Swami Jitatmanandaji, Head of the Ramakrishna Mission, Rajkot, also participated, on an invitation from the Mayor of the city of Chicago), bearing the huge cost of their air passage and hospitality accorded to them during their stay at Chicago.

 

   "In August 2000, the United Nations also hosted a Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders which brought together, on a single platform, more than a thousand religious leaders from around the world. (On this occasion, Swami Jitatmanandaji, who represented the President of the Ramakrishna Order, addressed the delegates of the Summit and drew their attention to the true significance of Vedanta in the context of the new millennium, in bringing about perfect World Peace and Harmony).

 

   "These were only two of the many programs which were organized throughout the United States to celebrate the commencement of the new millennium.

 

   Any major event taking place in America has a tremendous impact on the whole world. Hence, our millennium event celebrated in Chicago is very important and significant. We believe that the Vedanta Movement, with its universality and spirituality, is quite in harmony with the spirit of the new millennium, and it is but meet that the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission also joins the historic celebrations.

 

   "In the conference, we explored in detail, the ways and means by which the Ramakrishna Movement could be a part of this aspiration for a new spiritual age that is being eagerly welcomed in the West."

 

   As mentioned already, the conference was given a wide coverage both in the ethnic Indian and the American newspapers. Excerpts from one of them, which published fairly good write-ups, from time to time, about this historic event, gives a graphic account of the entire proceedings in a nutshell:

 

   "As many as 108 years after Swami Vivekananda came to Chicago and introduced Hinduism to the West, the monks of his Order gathered in a small, rural town in western Michigan, named after India's most holy river, Ganges, to usher in the new millennium.

 

   "Billed as 'Vedanta in the Third Millennium,' the three-day conference attracted nearly 800 followers around the U. S. A., and other parts of the world as well. It was among the largest assemblies of senior monks of the Ramakrishna Order in the history of the West.

 

   "Swami Chidananda, the chief organizer of the event, and the abbot of the Order's Chicago Ashram, said exultantly on the day of inauguration: 'This is the most sacred and historic event, the first of its kind in the U. S. A.'

 

   "In all, sixteen Swamis attended, and the event attracted considerable U.S. media attention.

 

   "It began on the evening of Friday, June 22, when the Swamis, dressed in ochre robes, gathered together at the 110-acre Vivekananda Monastery and Retreat in Ganges. Assembling in the 'Millennium Hall', the Swamis sat on chairs in a semi-circle, facing their audience, with a backdrop of the seal of the Ramakrishna Order, and larger than life-size photographs of Swami Vivekananda, and Sri Sarada Devi, known to devotees as The Holy Mother.

 

   "The mood was expectant, the conference, from the onset, steeped in the traditions of the oldest monastic Order in the world.

 

   "Swami Gautamananda, the abbot of the Chennai Ashram, and guest of honor, began by lighting a lamp. Then Swami Chidananda sang a Sanskrit invocation, before introducing the Swamis gathered, and explaining to the delegates the 'Purpose of the Conference.'

 

   "During the three days, the devotees kept a well-regulated schedule. In between discourses, breaks for meals and free times enabled many to meet the Swamis, individually, amidst the lush and spacious monastery grounds.

 

   "On the second day evening, Swami Chetanananda, head of the St. Louis monastery, and an author of several books on the life of Sri Ramakrishna and his disciples, presented an educative and informative slide show with rare photographs of Sri Ramakrishna and his birth place and its environs.

 

   "Over the three-day conference, the monks deliberated on the Vedanta's role in society, in our day-to-day life, the main emphasis being on the personal instruction and practical guidance.

 

   "In order of presentation, below are listed the titles of lectures and the Swamis who delivered them: 'Vedanta and the Ramakrishna Mission' by Swami Gautamananda (Chennai); 'Vedanta in the West: Past, Present, and Future' by Swami Chetanananda (St. Louis); 'Our Inheritance Is A Door Awaiting Us' by Swami Atmarupananda (Ridgely Manor); 'Truth is One But Sages Call It By Various Names' by Swami Aparananda (Berkeley); 'Unity in Diversity' by Swami Shantarupananda (Portland, Ore.); 'Vedanta In America' by Swami Tathagatananda (NY); 'Practical Vedanta: Its Future In The West' by Swami Prapannananda (Sacramento, CA); 'Application of Vedantic Principles' by Swami Sarvadevananda (Hollywood, CA); 'Ancient Values in a Technological Age' by Swami Brahmarupananda (Washington, DC); 'Sri Ramakrishna's Message For The Millennium' by Swami Prabuddhananda (San Francisco); 'Vedanta and the Modern Age' by Swami Pramathananda (Toronto); 'Where Are Vedantic Roots?' by Swami Tyagananda (Boston, MA); and 'Vedantic Wisdom: Way To Real Happiness' by Swami Chidananda (Chicago).

 

   "On the third day morning Swami Gautamananda delivered the 'valedictory' address, enumerating five spiritual principles which he hoped would find widespread acceptance in the new millennium: 1) Rationality: the courage to find truth against all superstitions, books and organizations; 2) To find God in all human beings and render dedicated service to God in man; 3) To believe in a God of love and give up all fear of Him; 4) To give up undue sense pleasures which make us slaves to the body; and 5) To make the goal of life: the realization of God.

 

   "'Wisdom and loving service should be the hallmark of the perfected man,' Swami Gautamananda added. He urged the attendees, among who were medical doctors,engineers, businessmen, and college professors, to turn their minds towards God and spend more time on spiritual causes. 'Success has to be tempered with spiritual life,' he emphasized. And, as the conference neared conclusion, Swami Gautamananda invoked the blessings of Sri Ramakrishna, the Holy Mother, and Swami Vivekananda upon the assembled devotees, and upon all humanity throughout the next millennium.

 

   "Overall, the reaction to the event among was favorable. A number of Christians also attended. Janet Poole of Naples, FL., was raised a Protestant and considers herself a Christian. She attended the event 'partly out of curiosity', but found herself 'tremendously impressed' by the Swamis. 'I am just discovering all about it, and it is fascinating what I am learning,' Poole was quoted in the New York Times.” (Frank Parlato, Jr. in "India Tribune", Chicago, July 7, 2001).

 

   [For the benefit of those who could not attend the conference, audio and vide tapes of the entire conference are available. For further information contact: Swami Varadananda, Manager, Vivekananda Vedanta Society, 5423 South Hyde Park Blvd., Chicago, IL 60615. Ph: 773-363-0027. Email: varadananda@mindspring.com]

 

* * * *

 

II

 

VISHWA DHARMA PRASAAR YAATRA 2001 “The world is one family.”

 

(World tour of eminent spiritual leaders from Bharat, for disseminating the message of Sanatana Dharma for World Peace and Harmony)

 

   Closely on the heels of the "Vedanta in the Third Millennium" conference, there was yet another important program at Bensenville (August 24, 2001), in connection with the "Vishwa Dharma Prasaar Yaatra 2001", a world tour of eminent spiritual leaders from Bharat, for disseminating the gospel of the Sanatana Dharma, for World Peace and Harmony. The Yaatra was on its way to five continents, 40 countries and 50 cities, including the five in the U. S., propagating the age-old message of Bharat that "the whole world is verily one family" (vasudhaiva kutumbakam). More than 2000 people participated in the program. It was educative and enlightening. Many in the audience wished to have such a program periodically.

 

   It was indeed a unique experience, which inspired the audience thronging the auditorium of the Manava Seva Mandir, to dedicate themselves, heart and soul, for the cause of the Sanatana Dharma and the Samaj (society).

 

   The Hindu Leaders Forum, which was formed earlier this year as a global network of prominent women and men from a Hindu background and a wide variety of professions, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad sponsored the Yaatra. Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America coordinated it.

 

   The program at Bensenville was an outcome of the dedicated and committed team work and labor of love of the Chicago chapter of the VHP Overseas and the Hindu Leaders Forum under the unassuming leadership and guidance of Dr. Bharat Barai, a leading Oncologist-Hematologist, based in Indiana. Many Hindu organizations of Greater Chicago also participated in the program.

 

   The Yaatra was mainly aimed at invigorating the Hindu community. It sought to reinforce among them a deep sense of belonging and identity with the spiritual culture of Bharat.

 

   A major component of the Yaatra was to dispel the long-standing myths and wrong notions held by others about the Hindu religion, and to educate them about its principles. (It is widely felt that there is a definite need for a greater interaction between the Hindu and non-Hindu population in order to allow the latter to familiarize itself with the Hindu culture and belief).

 

   According to the Sanatana Dharma, the world being one big family, the Yaatra sought to share with one and all, the message of love, tolerance and mutual respect, aiming for world peace and harmony.

 

   The Yaatra provided ample opportunity to the Bharatiyas (Indians) settled in the U.S.A., for Darshan and Satsang with the Spiritual Leaders of Bharat who are the modern torchbearers for promotion of harmonious living of the humanity. And the Yaatra also provided an opportunity for Hindus to stress the importance of their Dharma to their Children. Although the first generation of Indians in the U.S.A. often remains devout, their children who are born here sometimes lose touch with their heritage and faith.

 

   The Yaatra was lead by Jagadguru Shankaracharya, Swami Divyananda Teerth of Jyotirmath, Avantar, Bhanupur, and three other eminent spiritual leaders of Bharat: Swami Chidananda Saraswati of Paramarth Niketan, Dr. Pranav Pandya of Global Gayatri Parivar, and Sadhvi Ritambhara of Param Shakti Peeth.

 

    President of Bensenville village John Geils welcomed the members of the Yaatra. Iftekhar Shareef and Rajinder Singh Bedi felicitated the Shankaracharya and others on behalf of the Muslim and Sikh communities. The Consulate General of India, Chicago, also offered his felicitations. In view of the Yatra program at Bensenville, the Governor of Illinois declared August 24 as the “Yatra Day.”

 

   Renowned philanthropic-industrialists, Dr. B. K. Modi (Chairman of the VHP Overseas) and M. L. Mittal (President, Hindu Leaders Forum), who were part of the Yaatra, highlighted its purpose, besides reminding the audience the pressing need of the hour, and how the Yaatra sought to fulfill it.

 

   Dr. Alfred Ford, great-grandson of Henry Ford, and chairman of ISKCON, an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna, who participated in the program, was honored with the presentation of "Hindu Vibhushan Award", in recognition and appreciation of his dedicated service to the cause of Sanatana Dharma.

 

   “Vedic Service Awards” were presented to all the leading Religious and Cultural Institutions in Chicago in recognition and appreciation of their pioneering service to promote and preserve Vedic Culture and Hindu Dharma.

 

    To his credit, Swami Divyanandaji is the first ever Shankaracharya of Bharat, to have crossed the sea to participate enthusiastically in the Yaatra. The Swami, with a Master degree, is quite knowledgeable, well read in the shastras (Hindu scriptures as well as the western lore), and an impressive speaker in English.

 

    In his inspiring speech, Swami Divyanandaji said, inter alia, that the message of the Sanatana Dharma, with its fourfold ends of life, namely, Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, can alone bring about real and abiding peace and prosperity in the world, and not the Marxian or Freudian theories which have done more harm than good to society. They have aggravated and multiplied the social problems by making people hedonistic and avaricious.

 

   The other speakers noted that while the western culture saw the world as a vast market for trade and commerce, the Indian culture, in tune with its hoary spirituality, saw the world as one big family and wanted everyone to live in peace and harmony, as brothers and sisters.

 

    The speakers also emphasized the imperative need for the inculcation of values of the Sanatana Dharma in the younger generation, for their welfare and true happiness.

 

    The program was interspersed with melodious devotional songs rendered by famous Bhajan singer of Bharat, Sri Anup Jalota.

 

   During the program, both the organizers and the speakers remembered Swami Vivekananda who had made history, more than a century ago, in the city of Chicago.

 

   Thanks to the organizers, notably, Dr. Bharat Barai, Jyotirmayananda had a rare privilege of rendering a reverential homage to the hallowed memory of Swami Vivekananda, at the commencement of the program. (The text of his Homage is appended).

 

   Now that the spiritual leaders of Bharat have come together on a single platform, for spreading the gospel of the Sanatana Dharma, the world will experience, before long, the accumulated spiritual power and glory of Bharat, to usher in the much needed World Peace and Harmony.

 

    What a leading American newspaper (from Chicago) reported just a day before the Yaatra program, is worth noting in this context:

 

    "In a nod to Chicago's burgeoning Indian population and the area's growing importance as the midwestern hub for people of Hindu faith, a worldwide tour by eminent leaders will stop in Bensenville on Friday. The pilgrimage, called a Yaatra, began two weeks ago in Delhi, India. The Bensenville stop, at the Manav Seva Mandir temple, is expected to draw more than 2,000 people and pack the facility. Arrangements have been made for some to watch the program on video screens in the temple's basement. Organizers are hoping Friday's event will attract people of other faiths as well.

 

     "Yaatras, used since ancient times, have traditionally carried a message of love, peace and understanding. The 2001 pilgrimage includes Shankaracharya Swami Divyanandaji Teerth, one of the highest-ranking priests from India. The Bensenville marks the fourth stop on the American swing of the four-month, five-continent tour. Already, the Yaatra has been to Miami, Atlanta and Washington. On Saturday the Yaatra will head to Los Angeles before departing for Europe.

 

     "Including the Chicago area on the itinerary is a bow to the importance of the region as gathering spot for Indians. From 1990 to 2000, Indians and Indian-Americans became the largest Asian ethnic group in Illinois, numbering 124,723, according to the latest census. Drawing by high-technology jobs in Chicago's suburbs, Indians have settled primarily in DuPage and northwest Cook Counties, building large, immaculate temples that draw Hindus from across the region. The Chicago area now counts 116,000 Hindus." (“Chicago Tribune”, Aug. 24, 2001).

 

     "India Tribune", a renowned ethnic Indian Weekly from Chicago, besides publishing several attractive color photographs of the program, also gave a good coverage under the caption: "Dharma Yaatra gets overwhelming reception in Chicago". The following are a few excerpts from its long and detailed report by J. V. Lakshmana Rao, the Managing Editor, who gave a clear and comprehensive picture of the entire program:

 

     "It was a grand celebration of the glory of Hindu religion and its philosophy.... The sprawling expanse of the Mahalaxmi Hall of the temple was flooded with over 2000 devotees. The hall reverberated with the echoes of saintly discourses and Bhajans of Swamijis.

 

     "All the Swamijis in their speeches paid glowing tributes to Swami Vivekananda, who addressed the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1893 and enlightened the world with the knowledge of Hinduism and its philosophy.

 

     "Stating that Hinduism believed in the unity of all human beings in the world, Jagadguru Shakaracharya Swami Divyananda Teerth of Jyotirmath of Bhanpura, said: 'Hinduism believes and propagates its high ideal and philosophy that the world is one vast family of Almighty.' Reminding the audience of the historic Hindu message delivered a century ago in Chicago by Swami Vivekananda, the Jagadguru said that he too brought a message of greetings of the largest democracy of the world -- India -- to the people of the biggest democracy of the world -- the U. S. A.

 

     "Last century was a century of conflicts. The world as whole had been striving for peace. (Recently) the United Nations came to the conclusion that political leaders cannot establish peace. It can only be achieved through spiritual leaders. The millennium conference of world religions and spiritual leaders arranged by the U.N. last year was an example in this direction, and India brought the biggest contingent of over 110 religious leaders to this conference.

 

     "Calling for a world free of conflicts, he said: 'let the 21st century turn this hell into a heaven. Hindu Dharma should take this lead and initiative. It is necessary that all human beings should practice the feeling of brotherhood, because all are the creation of God.’

 

     "Stating that the Hinduism never believed in conversion, he said that everyone could achieve happiness through any religion he or she belonged. 'Be a good Hindu, be a good Christian, be a good Buddhist, and above all, be a good human being,' he added. He called upon everyone to work for the universal peace and brotherhood.

 

     "Swami Chidanand Saraswati (Muniji) of Paramarth Niketan, Rishikesh, stressed the need for the Indian parents living abroad to give good parental care to their children. They should find as much time as possible to spend with their children. They should communicate to their children in their mother tongue. They should set an example to their offspring.

 

     "Dr. Pranav Pandya of Gayatri Parivar, Hardwar, said that the 21st century would be the century of Hindus, and the Sanatana Dharma would become prominent in the world.

 

     "Sadhvi Ritambara of Param Shakti Peeth of Madhya Pradesh, in her forceful speech, said that everyone should develop an ideal relationship and communicate with God. She said that the world should become a 'Pariwar' or a family and not a 'Bazaar' (market place) of petty fights or wars. She said: 'Mother and motherland are very dear to Hindus. We love peace, but we will not hesitate to respond effectively and vigorously if our honor and self-respect are threatened.

 

     "Swami Jyotirmayananda of Chennai, said that Swami Vivekananda conquered the hearts of the westerners when he addressed them as 'Sisters and Brothers of America.' 'If one Swamiji, who came to the U.S. from a country ruled by the British, could achieve so much, one could imagine how much be achieved by so many Swamijis from free India who were participating in this historic Yaatra.’ He said that the aim of the Yaatra was the propagation of the gospel of Sanatana Dharma, universal peace and brotherhood.

 

     "Earlier, Dr. Bhupendra Kumar Modi, chairman and CEO of Modi Group of companies and chairman of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Overseas, lighted the lamp to mark the inauguration of the program. Addressing the gathering, he said that the world countries had never been so close as of now. 'The world is moving towards the concept of one family. The 21st century is going to be the century of spiritualism. The time has come for the world countries to become one family. In this effort and in this era of spirituality, India has to lead the world. Hinduism is a way of life. It is the only religion that allows unity in diversity. Hinduism is not just the property of Hindus only. All the peoples of the world should share its noble tenets, to pave the way for World Peace and Harmony.’

 

     "He said the Yaatra, which started in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu on August 12, covered Trinidad, Guyana, Miami, Atlanta and Washington, before it reached Chicago. It would visit Los Angeles, London, Germany, France, Moscow, Asia, Middle East, Africa, Far East, Japan and Australia. In all, it would cover 50 cities in 40 nations of the five continents, before it returns to India in December." (“India Tribune”, Sept. 1, 2001)

 

     Recalling how, through the First Parliament of Religions in Chicago (in 1893), Swami Vivekananda ushered in a new message to the world -- a message of religious harmony and understanding, of universal acceptance and respect for all, an author has poetically expressed his poignant grief, seeing the present situation of the world. He addresses Swami Vivekananda thus (vide "Swami Vivekananda in Chicago: New Findings", by Asim Chaudhury):

 

   

"You told the people of tolerance and love,
But now it's a grievous shame;
In spite of all your lifelong work,
The world's still in need of change."

* * * *

 

III

(Text of the Homage rendered by Swami Jyotirmayananda during the Yaatra program at Manava Seva Mandir, Bensenville, Chicago, on the 24th August, 2001):

 

Homage to Swami Vivekananda, the great Hindu Monk of India, who initiated the first ever-historic Vishwa Dharma Prasar Yatra in 1893:

 

     Revered Swamijis and brothers and sisters, we are fortunate to gather here in Chicago, a city blessed by Swami Vivekananda. And today, we have the proud privilege of rendering homage to the hallowed memory of that great Hindu Monk of Bharat who, in fact, initiated the first ever-historic Vishwa Dharma Prasaar Yaatra, more than a century ago, to spread the message of our Sanatana Dharma in the West.

 

     When Swami Vivekananda addressed the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, in his endearing words, as "Sisters and brothers of America", he indelibly stamped on the consciousness of the West, our age-old concept of "vasudhaiva kutumbakam", that the world is but one big family, of which we are all brothers and sisters.

 

     To the spiritually enlightened eyes of the great Swami, the whole world was verily one big family, and he emphasized universal love, tolerance and mutual respect. He strove for the promotion of harmonious living of the human family, even as he freely shared with the world at large the immortal message of the spiritual culture of Bharat.

 

     If a single Hindu Monk of India could do so much for the cause of our Sanatana Dharma, against so many odds, and that too when our country was under the British rule, how much more our present religious and spiritual leaders should be able to accomplish, living as we are in an independent Bharat, and having come together on a single platform, and above all, with the unstinted support of a resurgent Hindu society!

 

     And this evening, when eminent spiritual leaders from India have gathered here, as a part of the Vishwa Dharma Prasar Yaatra organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which also did organize, last year, a historic Yaatra of 108 Religious and Spiritual Leaders of Bharat, in the context of the U. N. Millennium World Peace Summit, at New York, it is but meet that we pay our homage to Swami Vivekananda, and also invoke his blessings so that we too may work vigorously for the cause which was very dear to him, namely, the propagation of the message of the Sanatana Dharma for World Peace and Harmony.

 

    We render our reverential Homage to Swami Vivekananda in the following words:

 

     "Victory unto Swami Vivekananda, the intrepid Hindu Monk of Bharat, who was keenly interested in the welfare of the entire humanity, and who was a rare ascetic totally dedicated to the service of God in man. Victory unto Swami Vivekananda, who proclaimed the gospel of our Sanatana Dharma for the mankind of the New Age, from the platform of the World's Parliament of Religions at Chicago, more than a century ago. Victory unto Swami Vivekananda, who was supremely dispassionate like Mahavira, kind, compassionate and renunciant like the Christ and the Buddha, a yogi par excellence like Adi Shankara, and who was endowed with a noble character, to whom the whole world was one big family, and who is ever residing in the hearts of hosts of people, all the world over."

 

    

* * * *

    

vishwahitaishi mahaamanishi janaseva-taapasi,

    

jayatu Vivekananda Swami, jayatu veera sannyasi II

    

vishwadharma sammelana pithe, vividha dharma guru garva garishte,

    

naanaa dharma dhwaja pratishte, navayuga maanavadharma ghoshanaa

    

jagarjayo saahasi, jayatu veera sannyasi II

    

Mahaaveera iva parama viraagi, Krista-Buddhavat karuno tyaagi,

    

Shankara iva digvijayi yogi, udaara charito vishwa kutumbi,

    

janagana hrdaya nivaasi, jayatu veera sannyasi II

    

(For full Sanskrit text of the Homage to Swami Vivekananda, with English translation, refer to page 852 & 853, of the book: "Vivekananda -- His Gospel of Man-making", 5th edition, Aug. 2000).

    

* * * *

 

    

Epilogue: “Practical Spirituality” --- Need of the Hour

 

     The devotees of Vedanta and the Vedic Dharma, who are the harbingers of Peace and Harmony, have ushered in the New Millennium. At this critical juncture, they have an important function and a divine mission to fulfill, for the welfare and happiness of one and all. With their message of divinity of man, unity of all existence, universality of outlook, and universal brotherhood (vasudhaiva kutumbakam, "world is one single family"), they have a unique role to play in the spiritual regeneration of the entire humanity, thereby paving the way for much needed World Peace and Harmony. Swami Vivekananda, their spiritual guide, has already propounded a grand vision and a profound mission of Vedanta and the Vedic Dharma. In the following words he has boiled it down and presented to the world at large as “practical spirituality”. It is now for everyone to respond to him favorably:

 

    "Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within…. All power is within you; you are the reservoir of omnipotent power. Arise; awake,manifest the divinity within you and everything will be harmoniously arranged around you.... Awake from this hypnotism of weakness. None is really weak; thesoul is infinite, omnipotent and omniscient. Stand up, assert yourself, proclaim the God within you.... 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 the sleeping soul is roused to self-conscious activity. .... This infinite power of the spirit brought to bear upon matter,evolves material development, made to act upon thought, evolves intellectuality, and made to act upon itself, makes man a God. First let us be Gods and then help others to be Gods. 'Be and make'. Let this be our motto. Say not, man is a sinner. Tell him that he is God.... Say that to the world, say it to yourselves and see what a practical result comes, see how with an electric flash everything is manifested, how everything is changed. Tell that to mankind and show them their power. Then we shall learn how to apply it in our daily lives.... My ideal indeed can be put into a few words, and that is: to preach unto mankind their divinity and how to make it manifest in every movement of life.... Man making is my mission of life.... The older I grow the more everything seems to me to lie in manliness. This is my New Gospel."

 

     The greatest of all benefactions, according to Swami Vivekananda, is the act of rousing man to the glory of the divinity within. The awakened man solves for himself all his problems, secular and sacred. "The solution to all human problems is in man's becoming Man in all his dimensions, by manifesting his divinity. Problems are understandably many. But the solution is one -- to become the new kind of man, who being simultaneously scientific and spiritual eventually becomes free. It is this new man, pure in heart, clear in brain, unselfish in motivation, who works in a balanced manner with his head, heart and hand, who has shed all his smallness and illusions, who has experienced unity of existence in his expanded consciousness -- this selfless, spotless and fearless man of character, enlightenment and love, is the hope of the world. Hope is not in more machinery, wealth, politics of cleverness and power. The world is looking forward to the coming of this new man -- who is aware of his own divinity and is always anxious to discover and worship the same divinity in all others -- in ever increasing numbers."

 

    The main concern of the world today is peace and harmony. The path that the world has until now traversed has imperiled peace. If peace and harmony are to rise and reign in the hearts and minds of people all the world over, they should have an opportunity to be exposed to the revealing insights of spirituality which Swami Vivekananda has bequeathed to humanity. Hence an earnest and vigorous propagation of his spiritual teachings is the most important means of serving that divine mission. The more the life and teachings of the great Swami are made known, the more will the spiritual perspective of humanity be widened, thereby paving the way for enduring world peace everyone is hankering for.

 

    Swami Vivekananda is a bridge between the East and the West. He is a dynamic spiritual force to shape the future of humanity. His teachings have set in motion a spiritual force, which can eventually bring into western civilization the much-needed qualitative change.

 

    Time has proved the truth of the words Swamiji uttered before he left his mortal coil: "It may be that I shall find it good to get outside my body -- to cast it off like a worn out garment. But I shall not cease to work. I shall inspire men every where until the world shall know that it is one with God."

 

    "Vivekananda is today a voice without form. He has transcended the limitation of human personality. He has become concretized into an impersonal institution. He is a system of thought, an attitude of men and things, an approach to life, a tradition, which has woven itself inextricably into the world. His spirit ismore alive today than his body was a century ago. It permeates the re-awakening India. It revitalizes man. It infuses new life and strength. Acquaintance with him opens a new portal to life. Accepting his message and applying it in full makes one's life exalted."

    

Swami Jyotirmayananda

C/o Vivekananda Vedanta Society,

5423 South Hyde Park Blvd.,

Chicago, Illinois 60615.
October 3, 2001.
E-mail: swamijyoti@hotmail.com
Web site: http://vivekananda-gospel.tripod.com

 


 

Swami Jyotirmayananda is an independent monk of the Ramakrishna tradition. His only humble work is that he has been instrumental in bringing out a book on Swami Vivekananda titled: "Vivekananda -- His Gospel of Man-making" (web site: http://vivekananda-gospel.tripod.com, for details), and his only mission is to spread the gospel of Swami Vivekananda. [Patrons interested in the cause are welcome to lend a helping hand in these endeavors].

 

On an invitation from the Vivekananda Vedanta Society, Chicago, he participated in the "Vedanta in the Third Millennium" Conference organized by them (June 22-24, 2001). Later, he also happened to participate in the "Vishwa Dharma Prasaar Yaatra 2001" program in Chicago (August 24, 2001).

 

In 1993, in the context of the centenary of Swami Vivekananda's visit to America, he participated in the "Global Vision 2000" Program organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Overseas, at Washington, and the Parliament of Religions at Chicago. The First International Edition of his book on Swami Vivekananda was introduced in both the programs. In August 2000, he attended the U.N. Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, at New York, where the fifth edition of his book, brought out in the context of the Summit, was released.