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Hundreds join birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda

October 09
22:24 2013
Lamp lighting at Meadows Club event

Lamp lighting at Meadows Club event

CHICAGO: America not only extended a heartfelt welcome to an Indian monk, Swami Vivekananda, when he came to address the first ever Parliament of Word Religions here hundred years ago but picked up his teaching – Vasudha Aive Kutumbkam – of universal love and brotherhood without reservation.

The same spirit flowed here when Illinois Governor Pat Quinn declared September 28 as Swami Vivekananda Day for the entire State of Illinois as a mark of respect to this towering spiritual personality who came and conquered Chicagoans with his love and humility. The Governor had this declaration coincided with two days of celebrations hosted by twenty plus Indian organizations pooling their resources and manpower to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of the Indian spiritual master in most befitting manner.

In sharp contrast, and it is a sad revelation, that the Indian Consulate, a wing of India Government, literally chose to ignore this event. It is all the more revealing to note that its newly appointed Consul General Dr Ausuf Sayeed had agreed to attend the celebration on Saturday September 28 at the Meadows Club and had his acceptance conveyed to three members of the event organizing committee. He was conspicuous by his absence and he talked away his absence by referring to an impending visit of Indian Federal Ministers.

When pointed out that the visit of Indian ministers are planned much in advance and are not done impromptu, he said that yet another consideration was the presence of a prominent Indian political figure at the event that gave it somewhat political color. The organizers had made it clear that this was a non-political event and no room was given for political verbiage.

It is interesting to note here that a group claiming to represent a minority had unleashed a propaganda that amounted to giving a different tint to the program.

Many in the Indian community felt that the entire matter left a bitter taste and needs to be probed further. As put by an objective analyst “after migration to any foreign land, one is expected to leave behind all the dirt and old home politics behind.”

Iftekhar Shareef, Chair FIA Trustee Board and a community activist, was gracious enough to come out with statement saying “Many of you have called me and or emailed me on the matter and to all of you I have to say that we live in US peacefully and need not be anti anybody. We can be pro of whatever religion we follow but respect every other religion. Please let’s not debate on this and harp on mistakes. Forget and forgive and move forward in a secular manner.”

All said and done, in the celebrations here as in many parts of the world, Swami Vivekananda was remembered with gratitude for his spiritual, educational and cultural contributions.

People of Chicago, the city blessed by his presence and teachings, celebrated this event with great enthusiasm on two days at Fullerton Hall in Art Institute of Chicago, Meadows Club, Rolling Meadows, and Jain Temple in Bartlett, with thousand of people attending the functions along with eminent spiritual leaders like Baba Ramdev, Swami Chidananda, Sharanandji of Chinmaya Mission, Geoffrey Armstrong, Steven Knapp, Dr Richard Benkin, Congresswomen Swati Dandekar, Dr Mahesh Mehta, founder of VHP, Muni Lokeshji and the representative from Brahmakumaris. They also addressed the meetings.

The function in Meadows Club, the World Without Borders, started with lighting the sacred lamp and a short invocation followed by presentation of Indian classical dance. Harendra Mangrola, one of the organizers, welcomed the audience and briefly talked about Swami Vivekananda. Following it, each one of the guests talked about Swami Vivekananda and briefly presented the life, letters and his addresses across America and India. Truly Swami Vivekananda introduced Sanatan Dharma to the vast number of American people and established the first Vedanta Society in America.

Denis Halt, a reputed flute player rendered a strota in praise of Lord Ganesh, “Jai Jai Jai Ganesh Pahi Mam Rakshami.”
Following this Chidananda Swami spoke about Vivekananda and said “He is not gone, he is here. I am extremely happy that you have created this World Without Border, which in fact reflects the spirit of India and shows the mind of Indians. India is a big pariwar. Our attitude is clearly living for others like the Upanishadic saying, Paropakararthyam Idam Shariram.

“Things might have changed but the spirit lives in Indian hearts. We have never attacked or conquered any nation or country outside of our borders blessed by nature. Our Rishis said, “Conquer Yourself”. We are the true supporters of the UNO, though we are living in an inimical world. We must work for “Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Let all living beings live in comfort and without hatred.”

Pranav Pandyaji, the Head of the Gayatri Pariwar, had sent a message, which read “Shri Vivekananda is my role model. He through sheer strength of his personality was able to convert many people into believing Bhakti and Karma for development of character.”

Stephen Knapp, a devotee, scholar and author who had dedicated his life to Hare Krishna Movement and Bhakti, said Hindus must be proud that he did not conquer and convert any nation or person. All Hindus must become ambassadors of their faith.

Jeffrey Armstrong, a scholar and author of many books and teacher of Hindu Dharma for the last 40 years and director of Academy of Vedic Astrology, said that most of our knowledge came from our Rishis and Munis and Swami Vivekananda belongs to that spiritual order.

Dr Subramanyam Swamy, founder of Janata Dal and known for his tireless work for saving the Rama Setu, said that Hindu Dharma considers the whole humanity as one family. “We never conquered any other country with our armed forces, but our expansion was fully cultural unlike Spain, France and England. We went to China, Tibet and South East Asian countries purely disseminating the message of Buddha or Vedic Dharmic philosophy

“There is a common misconception that Karate, popular art of self-defense was born in China or Japan. Truly this art was the creation of Bodhidharman, a Buddhist monk who wanted a personal defense mechanism when he went to China for the purpose of spreading Buddha Dharma. Similar the science of Yoga is the gift of the Hindus to the world. This has become extremely popular in the West, especially in the US, as a science of physical well being.”

He pointed out that the British also tried to divide us as Aryans and Dravidians. In fact according to DNA evidence both the so called different races share same DNA. Actually Ravana, the king of Ceylon was a Brahmin and reportedly he was born in North India in the modern Noida and subsequently moved to Simhala or Ceylon, captivated by the natural beauty and highly safe and naturally protected region. “I could add that so called Brahmin and Shudra also share the same DNA,” he added.

He further stated that Sanskrit should actually be our official language, because almost all Indian languages are Sanskrit based, including those spoken in Southern India. Tamil has more than 40%of its words in Sanskrit, Malayalam 80% and Bengali 90%. Hopefully we will be able to make Sanskrit as India’s official language. In fact Sanskrit has been adjudged as the most scientific language by NASA.

In his inspiring address, Baba Ramdev said that the roots of our culture and religions are strong and nobody could shake them. He added that Swami Vivekananda gave his address from this land and insisted that no one should degrade other religions and conversion must be stopped. To serve and convert had been the aim of other conquerors, but in India Sadhus and Rishis never did that. “We suffered a lot of pain, attempts had been made to destroy our Sanskriti, but we stand with honor and continue to respect all faiths,” he said.

“One hundred and twenty years ago, a Maha Purusha came here and today many spiritual and social organizations have joined their hands together to honor the Yuga Purusha, Swami Vivekanand, and we owe our gratitude to them. And this day is historic at least in those lives that are here and participate in this holy day.

Secretary of Governor of Illinois Ms Teresa Mah read the message of the Governor, praising his admiration for Swami Vivekananda. Truly the Swami believed in a world without borders which promoted harmonious life. This is highly relevant in our society and every one must dedicate to the proposition of making the world a big family. We will then realize the most important need of our society, that is love and peace.

The event at Jain Center too had commenced with lighting of ceremonial lamp by the dignitaries present with Pandit Anil Joshi of Grays Lake Temple chanting Vedic Mantras and blessing everybody. Speeches that followed charted the same path of love towards humanity and the need for tolerance to accept diversity of faith and beliefs.

In conclusion, Shyam Seth proposed vote of thanks naming each person and organization for their help, cooperation and service in every which way possible.

It is but appropriate that scores of Indian associations who pulled together to host this function, and especially Vandana Jhingan, the coordinator of this gargantuan task, be thanked for their unselfish service in disseminating Swamiji’s principles and philosophy of service without ego. The three MCs were Parth Mangrola, Birva Trivedi, and Harshil Patel. Jain Center event was emceed among others by Nirav Virani and Anju Malhotra.

Surendra Ullal & Asian Media USA

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