VIVEKANANDA ROCK MEMORIAL DEDICATION
Thousand Island Park, New York
Friday, July 31, 2009
Remarks by Steve Taylor
Greetings and Welcome All! I am Steve Taylor and it has been my distinct honor to work with the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center to design these monuments; and with Roger Roch and the TI Park crew to build them.
The large bench stones were found nearby - among these rock-outcrops. Roger and his crew cut and shaped them to serve here.
The stone for the Memorials is granite that has been re-assembled from the foundation of an old rural building not far from here. We wanted to use stones that had a venerable and weathered character – stones that had been worked before - to remind us that Swami Vivekananda came here - more than a hundred years ago - with something very old - an ancient religious tradition with which he laid the foundations for an inclusive Hindu philosophy in the Western Hemisphere – what he called “a harmony of religions.”
Swami Nikhilananda came to America in the 1940’s. In following Vivekananda’s trail, he discovered the Dutcher cottage where Vivekananda had taught for seven weeks - and he established this place as a Hindu shrine.
I was a student of philosophy and religion and have long appreciated Swami Nikhilananda’s celebrated translation of the Upanishads. But not long ago, I learned something new about the remarkable influence of Swami Vivekananda.
Marilyn Lundquist – known locally as one of the Lloyd sisters - sent me a Washington Post review of the book Finding Oz - the story of L. Frank Baum’s writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - along with an interview with the author, Evan Schwartz.
In the interview I leaned that Baum had gone to Chicago, in 1893, to hear Swami Vivekananda speak to the World Parliament of Religions. He preached a set of meditations called the “Four Yogas,” describing the four paths to the True Self: the path of wisdom, the path of compassion, the path of courage and the path of inner harmony - the very paths that Dorothy and her three companions traveled along the yellow brick road. He points out too that word Oz means “inner strength” in Hebrew – a quality the travelers found they already possessed when they reached the end of the road. Indeed, it was that inner strength that got them there.
Today’s dedication establishes this as a place along the yellow brick road. Our paths converged here today and will shortly diverge from here. But this has been established as a place to which we can return - and a place where, in contemplating the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, we can regain our bearings as we travel along our own yellow brick road.