As soon as we hear the words “9/11”
we are reminded of the sad destruction of twin towers in 2001
However many do not know that another incident of a contrasting nature took place on 9/11 in 1893. Swami Vivekananda delivered his historic speech on this day in the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago
in which he talked about the urgent need of having harmony among the religions of the world and putting an end to all sorts of fanaticism. He said in his brief speech; “……we believe not only in the universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true ………. 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 civilization, 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; and 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.” We did not pay any heed to this indirect warning of Swami Vivekananda and paid the penalty by the loss of 5000 lives. What a strange coincidence this was also 9/11 in 2001 and that too in U.S.A.!
On the concluding day of the World’s Parliament of Religions on 27th September, 1893 Swami Vivekananda once again expressed his concern for and hope of bringing about harmony among various religions of the world and said, “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 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 Dissention’.
Unfortunately this has yet to take place. We can ignore this message of harmony of Religions at our own peril. We have already paid a heavy price by not saying goodbye to fanaticism and who knows, what is in the store!
Advancements in communication and transport have brought people of the world closer together than ever before and have converted the world into a global village. However, the existing creeds and ideologies continue to be a main source of conflict. If we want a global civilization to usher in, we must have a global religion as dreamt by Swami Vivekananda. In his paper on Hinduism he said on 19th September, 1893 in the Parliament of Religion,- “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 it will preach, and whose sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and of Chirst, 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.”
During the centenary celebration of Swami Vivekananda’s participation in the World’s Parliament of Religions – held at UNESCO, in Paris, thirteen years ago, the Director General of UNESCO, Dr. Frederico Mayor said that the most important factor that drew him to this celebration was Swami Vivekananda’s universalism. Nobel historian Dr. Arnold J. Toyanbee thinks that the harmony of religions as preached and practiced by Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa who experimentally verified the validity of spiritual disciplines of various religions in the laboratory of his life, can save the world from the nuclear destruction.
Last year, Mr. Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, while addressing the joint session of Parliament, started his speech by quoting from Swami Vivekananda’s speech on 9/11 at the World’s Parliament of Religions and ended his speech also by quoting Swami Vivekananda saying, “ I would argue that among many contributions that India can make to the world history, there is first of all its spirit of tolerance. I would like to quote if I may ,Vivekananda again, part of conclusion of deeply meaningful remarks he delivered in Chicago in 1893 –‘help and not fight’, ‘assimilation and not destruction’, ‘harmony and peace and not dissension.”
Let us celebrate ‘9/11’ as the day of ‘Harmony of Religions’ to usher in a global civilization in this age of globalization and to save the world from future catastrophes like destruction of twin towers caused by terrorism fueled by fanaticism.