Of all the photographs associated with the life of Swami Vivekananda, a few are especially memorable. Presented below is a collection of 5 cherished snapshots, along with some enlightening anecdotes from the life of this great teacher of Vedic spirituality.
Swami Vivekananda Makes His Debut at the Parliament of Religions and Electrifies the Audience with His “Sisters and Brothers” Address
The Parliament of Religions was the platform that catapulted Swami Vivekananda from a relatively unknown monk, to a world famous and beloved teacher of Vedanta.
On 11th September 1893, Swami Vivekananda arose for the first time, to address an august gathering of 7,000 people, with the words “Sisters and Brothers of America” (instead of the customary “Ladies and Gentlemen”). This simple, yet sincere greeting from an unknown monk, so moved the audience that the entire hall immediately stood up to an applause which lasted for a full two minutes (Vivekananda a Biography, page 133: World, India).
Newspapers of the time report, that by the time his speech ended, the crowd was so enamored that people were clamoring over benches to get near him.
Later Swami Vivekananda reminiscing about the incident explained how the pure and noble thoughts, which he had meticulously cultivated all his life, had become the storehouse of so much power, that just a few words were sufficient to touch the hearts of many:
“In my first speech in this country, in Chicago, I addressed that audience as ‘Sisters and Brothers of America’, and you know that they all rose to their feet. You may wonder what made them do this, you may wonder if I had some strange power.
Let me tell you that I did have a power and this is it — never once in my life did I allow myself to have even one sexual thought. I trained my mind, my thinking, and the powers that man usually uses along that line – I put into a higher channel, and it developed a force so strong that nothing could resist it.”
- Swami Vivekananda in a conversation with Mrs. George Roorbach: Complete Works – Volume 9
An 1893 Souvenir Emphasizing Swami Vivekananda’s Profound Message to the World – “All Religions are True”
It was at the World’s Parliament of Religions that Swami Vivekananda delivered 6 fiery speeches against sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, religious fanaticism, which have repeatedly raised their ugly heads, to deluge the world in violence and bloodshed:
“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.
Do I wish that the Christian would become Hindu? God forbid. Do I wish that the Hindu or Buddhist would become Christian? God forbid.
The seed is put in the ground, and earth and air and water are placed around it. Does the seed become the earth; or the air, or the water? No. It becomes a plant, it develops after the law of its own growth, assimilates the air, the earth, and the water, converts them into plant substance, and grows into a plant.
Similar is the case with religion. The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth.
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.”
– Compiled from Swami Vivekananda’s address at the final session of the Parliament of Religions.
Swami Vivekananda Engrossed in Meditation
The above photo of Swami Vivekananda is popularly known as the meditation pose. It is believed to have been taken in London during a class on ‘Maya and Illusion’. The audience was so overwhelmed by the lecture that many began shedding tears.
Then Swami Vivekananda had a vision of (his guru) Sri Ramakrishna, who said to him,”Naren it is too much for them.” Naren was Swami Vivekananda’s childhood name. Swami Vivekananda then went into deep meditation and the photograph was taken at that time.
An Impression of Swami Vivekananda’s Hand, which Appears in a Palmistry Book, in Sharp Contrast to his Intense Dislike for Astrology
The above picture of Swami Vivekananda’s hand appears in the palmistry book “Language of the Hand” by Cheiro, who was a celebrated astrologer and clairvoyant of those times. In the book, Cheiro himself does not analyze the palm, but offers it as an example of famous hands, which palmistry enthusiasts could use in their study and analysis.
Now how did Swami Vivekananda’s hand come to be in an astrology book?
The answer is that he was likely introduced to Cheiro through his American friends, in whose homes he often stayed as a guest. Seances and other occult practices were extremely popular in America, and though the Swami himself was a skeptic, he probably accompanied his friends on their trips, as is evidenced from Sister Nivedita’s writings:
“In America he had been present at a number of seances as a witness, and he regarded the great majority of the phenomena displayed as grossly fraudulent. “Always the greatest fraud by the simplest means,” he said, summing up his observations.
Any dwelling upon the occult led inevitably, in the Swami’s opinion, to increase of desire, to increase of egotism, and to the fall into untruth.”
- Sister Nivedita in her book: The Master as I saw Him
Thus the appearance of Vivekananda’s hand in an astrology book stands in sharp contrast to his utter disdain for astrology and all things occult!
“You will find that astrology and all these mystical things are generally signs of a weak mind; therefore as soon as they are becoming prominent in our minds, we should see a physician, take good food and rest.
In London, a young man used to come to me and ask me, “What will become of me next year?” I asked him why he asked me so. “I have lost all my money and have become very, very poor.” Money is the only God of many beings. Weak men, when they lose everything and feel themselves weak, try all sorts of uncanny methods of making money, and come to astrology and all these things.
This I lay down as the first essential in all I teach: anything that brings spiritual, mental, or physical weakness, touch it not with the toes of your feet…and all these ideas such as astrology, although there may be a grain of truth in them, should be avoided.”
- Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 8: Man the Maker of His Destiny
The Temple at Belur, which Stands in Homage to Swami Vivekananda – One of the Most Beautiful Souls to have Ever Graced the Soil of India
Swami Vivekananda himself choose the spot where he was to be cremated. “Three days before his passing, as he was walking to and fro on the spacious lawn of the monastery in the afternoon with Swami Premananda, Swami Vivekananda pointed to a particular spot on the bank of the Ganga, and said to him gravely, “when I give up the body, cremate it there”. On that very spot stands the temple at Belur math in his honour.”
By Pulkit Mathur, The Spiritual Bee
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