Ideals the world ignored
126 years after the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago on September 11, 1893, the whole world is suffering from hatred, jealousy and intolerance
The Russell-Einstein Manifesto published on July 9, 1955, sixty-two years after Swami Vivekananda's speech at the World Parliament of Religions which was held in Chicago on September 1893 stated: There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot there lies before you the risk of universal death.
Earlier, Russell had written 'The Bomb and Civilization' which was published in the Glasgow Forward on August 18, 1945, where he maintained that "The prospect for the human race is sombre beyond all predicament. Mankind is faced with a clear-cut alternative: either we shall all perish, or we shall have to acquire some slight degree of common sense. A great deal of new political thinking will be necessary if utter disaster is to be averted".
On August 6, 1945, the US dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima and three days later Fat Man on Nagasaki killing at least 100,000 people.
No one knows how many people have died in the wars that have taken place after the World Parliament of Religions. Besides the two Great Wars, hundreds of wars have taken place since the Chicago conference 126 years ago and the main reason behind any war is hatred and the desire to annihilate the opponent. The situation has worsened over the years as little attempt has been made to reduce violence and develop mutual respect.
It was Swamiji who had first pointed out before an international audience that unless mutual respect and tolerance is developed, the future of the world is bleak. Swamiji had severely criticised those who stalled human progress and forced people to face untold misery.
In the first extempore lecture delivered by him on September 11 at the World Parliament of Religions, Swamiji said, "Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled up the world with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be advanced than it is now."
Swami hoped that the Parliament of the World's Religions will put an end to violence and said, "I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal but through different paths."
Swamiji had delivered six lectures at the Parliament. If we read them carefully we find that Vivekananda had presented his thesis, stating that to set up a peaceful world, the views of others should be respected and people should be more tolerant, in the most logical way in three lectures delivered by him on September 11, 19 and 27.
Swamiji delivered his first lecture at the inaugural session of the Parliament on September 11. He read out the Paper on Hinduism on September 19 and addressed the valedictory session on September 27.
If we read the three lectures one after the other, we can easily understand the thesis he had presented before the Parliament. In the first lecture, Swamiji had mentioned about those who had spread venom in the world because of their narrow and sectarian views. They cannot see anything beyond their own skin and are fanatics. In Paper of Hinduism, Swamiji had presented his views on how the world can be saved from the fanatics and in the last lecture he talked about the peaceful future world which was the conclusion of his thesis.
Swamiji believed that only tolerance and universal acceptance can save the world from disaster. He spoke about "infinite universal individuality, this little miserable prison-in-individuality must go." He went ahead and maintained "Superstition is a great enemy of man, but bigotry is worse".
For Swamiji, the solution is "Universal Religion". As a matter of fact, he was the first person to talk about this concept. It is the highest ethical principle and this has nothing to do with institutional religion. He felt that the follower of this principle can automatically accept the views of others and he trains up his mind in such a way that the person becomes a universal citizen. World peace can be achieved when a person becomes intellectually honest and tolerant at heart.
He gave his view on Universal Religion is the most flawless manner. He said, "The Hindu may have failed to carry out all his plans, but if there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time; which will be infinite like the God, and whose sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and of Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahminic or Buddhistic, Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development. It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognise the divinity in every man and woman, and whose scope, whose whole force, will be centred in aiding humanity to realize its own true, divine nature."
Swamiji was confident that universal religion will be followed to save the world from disaster. In the final session, he said, "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."
We did not listen to Vivekananda and the result has been disastrous. The whole world is suffering from hatred, jealousy and people are becoming more and more intolerant. To set up a peaceful world, Swamiji's philosophy needs to be followed in life. He was a person without a frontier and time has really come to break the barriers that do not widen the mental horizon. Vivekananda takes the mind to a higher plane and makes individuals the citizens of the world.
To commemorate the 126th anniversary of the Chicago Address, Ramakrishna Mission is holding youth conferences throughout the country to get the youth acquainted with the philosophy of Vivekananda. Swamiji believed that the future of India will be so bright that it will eclipse the past and the youth will make the new India.
(The author is Resident Editor, Millennium Post, Kolkata. The views expressed are strictly personal)
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