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ADDRESSES AT THE PARLIAMENT OF RELIGIONS
RESPONSE TO WELCOME
At the World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 11th September 1893
Sisters and Brothers of America,
It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us.
I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of the millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.
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 honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration.
I am proud to belong to a religion that 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 that has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.
I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern
India took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny.
I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation.
I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings:
“As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, 30, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies,
various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”
For India herself ^ the short address forms, as has been said, a brief Charter of Enfranchisement. Hinduism in its wholeness the speaker bases on the Vedas, but he spiritualises our conception of the word, even while he utters it. To him, all that is true is Veda.
“By the Vedas, “ he says, “no books are meant. They mean the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times. “ Incidentally, he discloses his conception of the Sanatana Dharma.
“From the high spiritual flights of the Vedanta philosophy, of which the latest discoveries of science seem like echoes, to the lowest ideas of idolatry with its multifarious mythology, the agnosticism of the Buddhists, and the atheism of the Jains, each and all have a place in the Hindu’s religion.”
To his mind, there could be no sect, no school, no sincere religious experience of the Indian people — however like an aberration it might seem to the individual — that might rightly be excluded from the embrace of Hinduism.
And of this Indian Mother-Church, according to him, the distinctive doctrine is that of the Ishta Devata, the right of each soul to choose its own path, and to seek God in its own way.
No army, then, carries the banner of so wide an Elmpire as that of Hinduism, thus defined. For as her spiritual goal is the finding of God, even so is her spiritual rule the perfect freedom of every soul to be itself.
Yet would not this inclusion of all, this freedom of each, be the glory of Hinduism that it is, were it not for her supreme call, of sweetest promise :
“Hear, ye children of immortal bliss ! Even ye that dwell in higher spheres ! For I have found that Ancient One who is beyond all darkness, all delusion. And knowing Him, ye also shall 6e saved from death.” Here is the word for the sake of
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