Today is the annual commemoration (Jayanti) of Narendra Nath Datta’s birth. Narendra, better known as Swami Vivekananda, singlehandedly put Hinduism on the map in America. Vivekananda preached a universal, interfaith message, upholding respect for all peoples and religions. The Swami first declared his message during the World’s Parliament of Religions, which convened in September 1893 in Chicago.
On Monday, we celebrate the national holiday honoring 21st century American saint Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963. Dr. King’s speech almost didn’t come about. He was reading a prepared text, when Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted to him, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” This caught his attention. Jackson again shouted, “Tell ‘em about the dream!” Dr. King set aside his prepared remarks and, over the next 17 minutes, walked into history with his soul stirring words.
From Swami Vivekananda’s September 11, 1893 speech:
“Sisters and brothers of America … 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.”
From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, August 28, 1963:
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. … And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”
Narendra and Martin: two brothers in God, preaching universal equality and love for one another.