BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Photos by SFA Productions
Atlanta, GA, January 9, 2019: “Sisters and brothers of America,” the landmark opening lines by an Indian monk at the Chicago World Parliament of Religions in 1893, marked the beginning of the concept of globalization. The monk, Swami Vivekananda (Swamiji), whose thoughts were clearly beyond his time, have proven to be timeless and treasured over the years. Asserting this message of universal brotherhood, Swami Sarvadevananda, Head Minister of Vedanta Society of Southern California, spoke about the relevance of Swami Vivekananda today at the Indian Professionals Network (IPN) meeting held at Ashiana Restaurant in Global Mall on December 20, 2018. Br. Shankara, Resident Minister of Vedanta Society of Atlanta was present at the event.
“I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true,” Swami Sarvadevananda quoted from Swami Vivekananda’s address. Tolerance and universal acceptance, he noted, are two important concepts that are particularly relevant in the current turbulent times of extreme fanaticism.
“Swamiji delivered the speech on 9/11, 1893. And on another 9/11 there was destruction of twin towers. What was the grounds? Spirituality? Religion? What is religion? Religion, as Swamiji said, is realization of God,” said Swami Sarvadevananda highlighting the universal message it bears.
Throwing light on the usage of the term Hinduism, Swami Sarvadevananda said word Hindu was a misnomer. “Hindu word has come into use wrongly by the Persians. It is actually Sanathana Dharma – eternal religion that is meant for everyone.” The Persians, he said, inadvertently pronounced Sindhu (another name for River Indus) as Hindu. The concept of Sanathana Dharma, of global acceptance, was evident from his opening lines embracing people from all faiths at the Chicago address, he added.
“Swamiji’s visit to the US was twofold – to bring the ancient wisdom of India, spirituality, to the west and carry technological and educational advancements of the west back to India,” reasoned Swami Sarvadevananda, stressing upon how it elevated India in the realization that it had something supreme to offer to the world and also trying to build upon its shortcomings learning from the west. To inculcate the best of all worlds is the universal message that is applicable even today, he explained.
“Today we try to understand the commonality of all religions. But Swami Vivekanada knew that back then. That is why it is important to understand his eternal message that all paths lead to the same goal,” said Swami Sarvadevananda quoting Swamiji “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”
“One night he was walking restlessly, and no one understood. Next day it was found that Fiji there was a volcanic explosion and people were in pain.” His heart had felt their suffering, that was how much he had tuned into people, he explained. He cited another example, when Swamiji and his team mistakenly walked into a red-light area in Cairo and Swamiji simply cried at the plight of the women. He also noted that Swamiji was one of the first to talk about women’s empowerment, encouraging Sister Nivedita to serve and help women in India.
‘You don’t need to read volumes, just a few of his lines, truly understood and adhered to, will transform your life,” said Swami Sardevananada, adding that one particular quote, “Each soul is potentially Divine. The goal of human birth is to realize this Divinity within and manifest it for the welfare of the humanity, and essentially all religions lead to the same realization,” sums up the essence of life.
“We are greatly thankful to the USA and India for discovering Swami Vivekananda who lifted us to the consciousness that we are all divine,” concluded Swami Sarvadevananda.
Rajan Vedak, in his vote of thanks expressed gratitude to everyone. Swami Sarvadevananda thanked Ravi Ponangi for facilitating the lecture.
The east and the west will forever be ignited by the exalted goals Swami Vivekananda set for mankind and inspired by the universal reach of his teachings. His concepts derived mostly from Upanishads and the Gita are relatable and relevant even today.
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