Some divine plan must have been there. Sri Ramakrishna had this wonderful message, but how would it spread? He needed the right voice. At last Swami Vivekananda needed the right setting. Chicago provided that. Chicago was the place form where the message spread. When Vivekananda spoke there at the World's Parliament of Religions in 1893, probably few people knew then that a new message was being ushered in - a message of religious harmony and under respect for all. It was Chicago that opened the door to the rest of the world for Swami Vivekananda. And it was Chicago that made Vivekananda a hero in his own country.
Much research has been done on Vivekananda's experience in America, especially his life in Chicago. Sister Gargi's (Marie Louise Burke) research alone has run into six large volumes. But still many details of his life have remained obscure. For those devoted to Swamiji's life and work, every incident is important and adds work, every incident is important and adds to our knowledge of this great saint. Is it still possible to unearth more material on Swamiji's life in Chicago?
Thanks to the enthusiasm and hard work of Mr. Asim Chaudhuri, who now lives in the United States, it has been possible. Using our present knowledge of Swamiji as his foundation, Mr. Chaudhuri presents in fascinating style his discoveries in this book, Swami Vivekananda in Chicago: New Findings. Again, he has not only presented some new facts, but also confirmed beyond any doubt that Swami Vivekananda created an extraordinary, if not the greatest sensation at the Parliament of Religions.
Swami Vivekananda was so vast a being that one can study his thought and the many facets of his personality for years and never come to an end of him. Is it any wonder, then, that there seems no end to tracing the footprints he left behind on this earth? Into the few years of his public mission he seemingly crammed the work of many lifetimes; his inexhaustible love for mankind and his desire to relieve the suffering that men and women seem heir to could not otherwise be satisfied. Only when he knew that he had given enough, as he said, to feed the soul of humanity for hundreds of years was he content to leave this world.
And now, as the years pass and we become more and more aware of who he was and what he did, we want to know all there is to know about him - impossible as that wish will ever be to realize. His biographies, however long, cannot possibly search out every moment of his life; at best, they are only pointers to further research, more discoveries and additional books. Still, with research, we can learn more and more.
It is of course true that the details of the life of even the most ordinary of persons are without limit. What he or she thought or did, where he went, who she knew
Where can it end? But of most people such matters are of no or very little consequence. Like dead leaves, they can be swept up and burnt, and no one will be the loser. Indeed the paraphernalia and the incidents of the lives of most of us are best quickly destroyed and forgotten. But of Swamiji, even a small scrap of paper or a shred of cloth that he left behind becomes an object to enshrine and worship. Whatever he touched became charged with his own vibrant holiness and can impart to us some aura of himself. There is no detail of his action too small to record, no whiff of his thought too inconsequential to ponder over, perhaps to write tomes about. If he spoke to some fortunate man or woman for five minutes, we want to know the biography of that person; if he entered a building, we want to know its architecture and its history.
In the past few years several assiduous researchers and devotees of Swamiji have been seeking out unrecorded details of his life in America. Outstanding among these dedicated sleuths is Asim Chaudhuri, who has supplied Swamiji's fellow devotees not only with many details, but has as well uncovered material and information that adds substantially to our knowledge. Indeed, he has discovered many other fascinating facts, hidden until now. I won't here give away his findings. Readers will find them for themselves in the pages of this work to their delight. Indeed, Asim Chaudhuri himself teases us a bit by withholding some of his most juicy discoveries until the later section of his book, not, he says, in order to keep us reading, but because the material falls more naturally later on. And to be sure, he needs no gimmick of any sort to keep us turning pages!
One of the great services Chaudhuri's book has done is to give the lie to certain curious attempts undertaken in recent years to belittle the sensation Swami Vivekananda created at the Parliament of Religions and later as he lived in and around Chicago. Again and again in these pages we find firsthand witnesses commenting upon the sheer power and luminosity of his personality. Testimony of this sort already exists, but here is more for those who need to be convinced that swamiji was no ordinary delegate to the Parliament, no ordinary person at all, and that those who came within his orbit, could not miss his grandeur. Indeed his like had never been seen before on this earth, and perhaps will never been seen before on this earth, and perhaps will never be seen again- his prophecy notwithstanding: "How many Vivekanandas shall be born in time!"
There cannot be enough books that dwell with pains-taking accuracy, as does this excellent book by Asim Chaudhuri, on the details of so unique a life as Swamiji's. Chaudhuri has confined himself to examining the details of Swamiji's life during his appearance at the Parliament of Religions and his activities during the few months that came immediately thereafter, as well as during, his later visits to Chicago. These were important times in Swamiji's life in the West and though, as the author points out, the then raw and largely money obsessed city of Chicago did not fully appreciate the great Swami, it was nonetheless through the portals of that city that he entered the world, for which his mission was meant. Through Chaudhuri's efforts our history of this incomparably great soul has been made richer. Our thanks to him!-Sister Gargi
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