Swami Vivekananda's Impact
I cannot write about Vivekananda without going into raptures. Reckless in his sacrifice, unceasing in his activity, boundless in his love, profound and versatile in his wisdom, exuberant in his emotions... I can go on for hours and yet fail to do the slightest justice to that great man. He was so great, so profound, so complex. He was a Yogi of the highest spiritual level, in direct communion with the Truth, who consecrated his whole life to the moral and spiritual uplift of humanity.
–Subhas Chandra Bose, one of India's most beloved freedom fighters
Swami Vivekananda will be remembered as one of the most significant figures in the whole history of Indian religion, comparable in importance to such great teachers as Shankara and Ramanuja. Since the days of the Indian missionaries who traveled in Southeast Asia and China preaching Buddhism and Hinduism more than a thousand years earlier, he was the first Indian religious teacher to make such an impression outside India.
–A. L. Basham, Indologist
I have gone through his works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country became a thousand-fold.
The going forth of Vivekananda as the heroic soul destined to take the world between his two hands and change it was the first visible sign that India was awake…He was a power if ever there was one, a very lion among men. We perceive his influence still working gigantically in something grand, intuitive, upheaving…
–Sri Aurobindo, 20th Century Saint
Where can you find a man like him? Study what he wrote, and learn from his teachings, for if you do, you will gain immense strength. Take advantage of the fountain of wisdom, of Spirit, and of fire that flowed through Vivekananda!
–Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India
Vivekananda said that there was the power of God in every man, that God wanted to have our service through the poor. This is what I call real gospel. This gospel showed the path of infinite freedom from man's tiny egocentric self beyond the limits of all selfishness. This was no sermon relating to a particular ritual, nor was it a narrow injunction to be imposed upon one's external life. Vivekananda's gospel marked the awakening of man in his fullness…If you want to know India, study Vivekananda.
–Rabindranath Tagore, who Gandhi called Guru-Dev, Divine Teacher
It is an undisputed fact that it was Swami Vivekananda who first held aloft the banner of Hinduism as a challenge against the material science of the West. It was Swami Vivekananda who first took on his shoulders this stupendous task of establishing the glory of Hinduism in different countries across the borders. And he, with his erudition, oratorical power, enthusiasm, and inner force, laid that work upon a solid foundation. Twelve centuries ago Shankara was the only great personality who not only spoke of the purity of our religion... but also brought all this into action. Swami Vivekananda is a person of that stature.
–Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Vivekananda championed the cause of Hinduism in the Parliament of Religions held at Chicago in 1893. There, in the presence of the representatives of all the religions from almost all the countries in the world, the young monk from India expounded the principles of Vedanta and the greatness of Hinduism with such persuasive eloquence that from the very first he captivated the hearts of the vast audience. It would be hardly an exaggeration to say that Swami Vivekananda made a place for Hinduism in the cultural map of the modern world. The civilized nations of the West had hitherto looked down upon Hinduism as a bundle of superstitions. Now, for the first time, they not only greeted with hearty approval the lofty principles of Hinduism as expounded by Vivekananda, but accorded it a very high place in the cultures and civilizations of the world.
–R. C. Majumdar, one of India's greatest historians
I have felt inspired to voice the unanimous and heartfelt gratitude and appreciation of the cultured and broadminded portion of our public, and to give my personal testimony, as the President of the Scientific Section of the Parliament and of all the Conferences connected with the latter, and therefore an eyewitness, to the esteem in which Paramahamsa Vivekananda is held here, the influence that he is wielding, and the good that he is doing...Intense is the astonished admiration which the personal presence and bearing and language of Vivekananda have wrung from a public accustomed to think of Hindus, thanks to the fables and half-truths of the missionaries, as ignorant and degraded "heathen"...Never before has so authoritative a representative of genuine Hinduism, as opposed to the emasculated and Anglicized versions of it so common in these days, been accessible to American inquirers: and it is certain that the American people at large, will, when he is gone, look forward with eagerness to his return...America thanks India for sending him.
–Mr. Merwin-Marie Snell, President of the Scientific Section of the Parliament of Religions, January 30, 1894
A great yogi, a spiritual teacher, a religious leader, a writer, an orator and, above all, the most selfless worker for humanity –– that was Swami Vivekananda. I had the honor of living with this great Swami in India, in England, and in America. I lived and traveled with him day after day and night after night and watched his character for nearly twenty years, and I stand here to assure you that I have not found another like him in these three continents. As a man, his character was pure and spotless; as a philosopher, he was the greatest of all Eastern and Western philosophers. In him I found the ideal of Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga; he was like the living example of Vedanta in all its different branches.
The paragon of all Unity systems is the Vedanta philosophy of India, and the paragon of Vedantist missionaries was the late Swami Vivekananda who visited our land some years ago. I have just been reading some of Vivekananda's address in England, which I had not seen. The man is simply a wonder for oratorical power...the Swami is an honor to humanity.
–William James, the"Father of American Psychology"
Please send me the book by Swami Vivekananda. It is more than a pleasure, it is a broadening of the soul.
Vivekananda's writings are the modern commentary on the Upanishads in English. What Sri Shankara did a thousand years ago through his Sanskrit commentaries, Swami Vivekananda did in modern times through English in propagating the eternal values of our spiritual lore. His words are live and direct; you feel you are hearing him straight and not simply reading his words. They are music to the soul. They go home straight. His writings and lectures form his greatest monument and the priceless treasure of his legacy. They are the Gospel of the future. Swami Vivekananda's works will be considered one of the greatest contributions of India to the world at large.
He traveled on foot all over India, walking barefooted thousands of miles, during many years, teaching and helping the people. In the snowy Himalayas, in the marshy plains of Bengal, amidst pestilence and famine, undergoing privation of every kind, he persevered in his loving ministry, bringing hope and comfort to thousands of disconsolate hearts…To know Vivekananda was to love him, and to know him well was to revere him.
His Divine presence spread peace and tranquillity wherever he went. None knew him but to love him…No being lived so low, be he a man or a beast, that Vivekananda would not salute. His was not only an appeal to the poor and lowly, but also to kings and princes and mighty rulers of the earth. Vivekananda shook the world of thought in all its higher lines. Great teachers bowed reverently at his feet, the humble followed reverently to kiss the hem of his garments; no other single human being was revered more during his life than was Vivekananda.
–Dr. M.H. Logan
Vivekananda’s words are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his at thirty years distance without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. The present leaders of India: Gandhi, Aurobindo, and Tagore, have grown, flowered, and born fruit under the double constellation of the Swan (Ramakrishna) and the Eagle (Vivekananda) –– a fact publicly acknowledged by both Gandhi and Aurobindo.
–Romain Rolland, Nobel Prize Laureate
Vivekananda's address before the Parliament of Religions was broad as the heavens above us; embracing the best in all religions, as the ultimate universal religion –– charity to all mankind, good works for the love of God, not for fear of punishment or hope of reward. He is a great favorite at the Parliament, from the grandeur of his sentiments and his appearance as well. If he merely crosses the platform he is applauded, and this marked approval of thousands he accepts in a childlike spirit of gratification, without a tram of conceit. It must be a strange experience, too, for this humble young Brahmin monk, this sudden transition from poverty and self-effacement to aggrandizement.
–Boston Evening Transcriptt, September 23, 1893
Swami Vivekananda, the Hindu monk, spoke three times in Des Moines. During his stay in the city Vivekananda met many of the best people in the city, who found their time well spent discussing religious and metaphysical questions with him. But it was woe to the man who undertook to combat the monk on his own ground. His replies came like flaashes of lightning, and the venturesome questioner was sure to be impaled on the Indian's shining intellectual lance. The workings of his mind, so subtle and so brilliant, so well stored and so well trained, dazzled his hearers, but it was always a most interesting study. He said nothing unkind, for his nature would not permit that. Those who came to know him best found him the most gentle and lovable of men, so honest, frank, and unpretending, always grateful for the many kindnesses that were shown him. Vivekananda and his cause found a place in the hearts of all true Christians.
–Iowa State Register, December 3, 1893
The spirit that reigned over the Parliament and dominated the soul of almost every religious representative present was that of universal toleration and universal deliverance, and it ought to be a matter of pride to India, to all Hindus specially, that no one expressed, as the American papers say, this spirit so well as the Hindu representative, Swami Vivekananda. His address struck the keynote of the Parliament of Religions...The spirit of catholicity and toleration which distinguishes Hinduism, forming one of its broadest features, was never before so prominently brought to the notice of the world as it has been by Swami Vivekananda, and we make no doubt that the Swami's address will have an effect on other religions, whose teachers, preachers, and missionaries heard him, and were impressed by his utterances.
– The Indian Mirror, March 21, 1894
Swami Vivekananda was the epitome of all that was great and good in the India of the past. With Shankara's intellect he combined Buddha's heart, Christ's renunciation, and the Prophet of Arabia's spirit of equality, and the result of this holy confluence will in time flood the whole world. Though he was the most accomplished of men, none possessed greater humility. As to his power of eloquence who shall describe it? Truly has it been remarked, "His words are not mere letters, but Spirit itself!" Every sincere reader will testify to the truth of this statement from his own experience…His life and message have given the necessary impetus for the ushering in of a new era in the history of the civilization of man.
He has been a revelation to Christians...he has made possible for us all a diviner and more nobler practical life. As a religious teacher and an example to all I do not know of his equal...He has given us in America higher ideas of life than we have ever had before.
–John J. Bagley
Swami Vivekananda’s life and teachings are of inestimable value to the West for an understanding of the mind of Asia. His message is not merely for the hour, but for the modern age; not for a particular nation, but for humanity. The reader will be stirred, for every word he spoke is charged with power. And what he accomplished in short span of his thirty-nine years will nourish humanity for centuries."
A striking figure, clad in yellow and orange, shining like the sun of India in the midst of the heavy atmosphere of Chicago, a lion head, piercing eyes, mobile lips, movements swift and abrupt –– such was my first impression of Swami Vivekananda, as I met him in one of the rooms set apart for the use of the delegates to the Parliament of Religions. Off the platform, his figure was instinct with pride of country, pride of race –– the representative of the oldest of living religions, surrounded by curious gazers of nearly the youngest religion. India was not to be shamed before the hurrying arrogant West by this her envoy and her son. He brought her message, he spoke in her name, and the herald remembered the dignity of the royal land whence he came. Purposeful, virile, strong, he stood out, a man among men, able to hold his own.
On the platform another side came out. The dignity and the inborn sense of worth and power still were there, but all was subdued to the exquisite beauty of the spiritual message which he had brought, to the sublimity of that matchless truth of the East which is the heart and the life of India, the wondrous teaching of the Self. Enraptured, the huge multitude hung upon his words; not a syllable must be lost, not a cadence missed! "That man, a heathen!" said one, as he came out of the great hall, "and we send missionaries to his people! It would be more fitting that they should send missionaries to us!"
-Dr. Annie Besant, who helped popularize the movement of Theosophy, with her impression of the Swami at the Parliament.