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Friends and admirers

Nagendra Nath Gupta

His thoughts ranged over every phase of the future ofIndia , and he gave all that was in him to his country and to the world. The world will rank him among the prophets and princes of peace, and his message has been heard in reverence in three continents. For his countrymen he has left priceless heritage of virility, abounding vitality, and invincible strength of will. Swami Vivekananda stands on the threshold of the dawn of a new day for India , a heroic and dauntless figure, the herald and harbinger of the glorious hour when India shall, once again, sweep forward to the van of the nations.

(Source: Prabuddha Bharata,  April 1927)


K. Sundarama Iyer

The Swami’s towering personality and marvellous career must be said to mark an epoch in history whose full significance can become discernible only in some distant future time. But to those who have had the privilege of knowing him intimately, he seems to be only comparable to some of those immortal spiritual personages who have shed an undying lustre on this Holy Land . It is very pleasant to have recorded these personal reminiscences, meagre as they are, and even though they can add little or nothing to our knowledge of the Master, who enchanted and enchained the heart of human society in the East and in the West in his time and generation.

(Source: Reminiscences of K.Sundarama Iyer )


Harriet Monroe

Harriet Monroe

Harriet Monroe the founder of Poetry A Magazine of Verse, through which she introduced many of America ‘s now famous poets attended the World’s Fair in 1893 and years later in her autobiography, A Poet’s Life, recorded her impressions of the Parliament of Religions and of Swami Vivekananda:

The Congress of Religions was a triumph for all concerned, especially for its generalissimo, the Reverend John H. Barrows, of Chicago ‘s First Presbyterian Church, who had been preparing it for two years. When he brought down his gavel upon the “world’s first parliament of religions” a wave of breathless silence swept over the audience-it seemed a great moment in human history, prophetic of the promised new era of tolerance and peace. On the stage with him, at his left, was a black-coated array of bishops and ministers representing  the various familiar Protestant sects and the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches; at his right a brilliant group of strangely costumed dignitaries from afar-a Confucian from China, a Jain from India, a theosophist from Allahabad, a white-robed Shinto priest and four Buddhists from Japan, and a monk of the orange robe from Bombay.

It was the last of these, Swami Vivekananda, the magnificent, who stole the whole show and captured the town. Others of the foreign groups spoke well-the Greek, the Russian, the Armenian, Mazoomdar of Calcutta, Dharmapala of Ceylon-leaning, some of these upon interpreters. Shibata, the Shintu, bowed his wired white headdress to the ground, spread his delicate hands in suave gestures, and uttered gravely with serene politeness his incomprehensible words. But the handsome monk in the orange robe gave us in perfect English a masterpiece. His personality, dominant, magnetic; his voice, rich as a bronze bell; the controlled fervor of his feeling; the beauty of his message to the Western world he was facing for the first time-these combined to give us a rare and perfect moment of supreme emotion. It was human eloquence at its highest pitch.

One cannot repeat a perfect moment-the futility of trying to has been almost a superstition with me. Thus I made no effort to hear Vivekananda speak again, during that autumn and winter when he was making converts by the score to his hope of uniting East and West in a world religion above the tumult of controversy.




Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim

Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim

Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (February 5, 1840 – November 24, 1916) was an American inventor who emigrated to England at the age of forty-one and adopted British citizenship. He was the inventor of the Maxim Gun – the first portable, fully automatic machine gun – and the ubiquitous mousetrap. He patented the first silencing device for a firearm, and laid a claim to inventing the lightbulb. He also experimented with powered flight, but his large aircraft designs were never successful. However, his “Captive Flying Machine” amusement ride, designed as a means by which to fund his research while generating public interest in flight, was highly successful.


Sir Hiram Maxim wrote of his impression of Swami Vivekananda

From Marie Louie Burke’s “New Discoveries”

To some members of the great Parliament audience Swamiji stood as the victorious opponent of all that was stereotyped, dull, and unthinking in Christian churches. Among these was Sir Hiram Maxim, one of the brilliant engineers and inventors of his day, who, in 1893, had not yet left his native America to become a British subject. Twenty years later, in a foreword to his anti-missionary treatise, Li Hung Chang’s Scrap-Book, Sir Hiram recalled the Parliament of Religions and the figure who was still vivid in his mind as its hero. Maxim wrote:

A few years ago there was a Congress of Religions at Chicago . Many said that such a thing would be impossible. How could any understanding be arrived at where each particular party was absolutely right and all the others were completely in the wrong? Still the Congress saved the American people more than a million dollars a year, not to mention many lives abroad. And this was all brought about by one brave and honest man. When it was announced in Calcutta that there was to be a Congress of religions at Chicago , some of the rich merchants took the Americans at their word, and sent them a Brahmin monk, Viva Kananda, from the oldest monastery in the world. This monk was of commanding presence and vast learning, speaking English like a Webster. The American Protestants, who vastly outnumbered all others, imagined that they would have an easy task, and commenced proceedings with the greatest confidence, and with the air of “Just see me wipe you out ” However, what they had to  say was the old commonplace twaddle that had been mouthed over and over again in every little hamlet from Nova Scotia to California. It interested no one, and no one noticed it.

When, however, Viva Kananda spoke, they saw that they had a Napoleon to deal with. His first speech was no less than a revelation. Every word was eagerly taken down by the reporters, and telegraphed all over the country, where it appeared in thousands of papers. Viva Kananda became the lion of the day. He soon had an immense following. No hall could hold the people who flocked to hear him lecture. They had been sending silly girls and half educated simpletons of men,  and millions of dollars, to Asia for years to convert the poor benighted heathen and save his alleged soul; and here was a specimen of the unsaved who knew more of philosophy and religion than all the parsons and missionaries in the whole country. Religion was presented in an agreeable light for the first time to them. There was more in it than they had ever dreamed; argument was impossible. He played with the parsons as a cat plays with a mouse. They were in a state of consternation. What could they do? What did they do? What they always do-they denounced him as an agent of the devil. But the deed was done; he had sown the seed, and the Americans commenced to think. They said to themselves: “Shall we waste our money in sending mis- sionaries who know nothing of religion, as compared with this man, to teach such men as he? No!” And the missionary income fell off more than a million dollars a year in consequence.