In the first ever inter-faith gathering, Swami Vivekananda dramatically enlighted the Western opinion to the depth of Hindu philosophy and culture. Here are excerpts from website of ‘The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions’ –
The 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions, held on the shore of Lake Michigan, Chicago, was the largest and most spectacular event among many other congresses in the World’s Columbian Exposition. The World Congress of Religions marks the first formal gathering of representatives of Eastern and Western spiritual traditions. Today it is recognized as the birth of formal interreligious dialogue worldwide. A captivating Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda mesmerized the 5,000 assembled delegates, greeting them with the words, “Sisters and brothers of America!” This speech, which introduced Hinduism to America is memorized by school children in India to this day. Swami Vivekanada became one of the most forceful and popular speakers in spite of the fact that he had never before addressed an audience in public. He continued, “If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: “Help and not Fight,” “Assimilation and not Destruction,” “Harmony and Peace and not Dissension.”
Vivekananda’s speech was received wonderfully by the parliament and Parliament President John Henry Barrows praised Vivekananda greatly and said that he had a great influence over the entire audience. Vivekananda also received massive attention in the press who called him the “cyclonic monk from India”. Newspapers like the New York Herald wrote of him saying “Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation”.