My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who,
referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off
nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I
am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal
acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as
true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees
of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have
gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and
took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by
Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still
fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a
few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is
every day repeated by millions of human beings: "As the different streams having
their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various
though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee."
The present convention, which is one of the most august
assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the
wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: "Whosoever comes to Me, through
whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead
to me." 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 honor 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.
ADDRESS AT THE FINAL SESSION
Chicago, September 27, 1893
The World's Parliament of Religions has become an accomplished
fact, and the merciful Father has helped those who laboured to bring it into existence,
and crowned with success their most unselfish labour.
My thanks to those noble souls whose large hearts and love of
truth first dreamed this wonderful dream and then realized it. My thanks to the shower of
liberal sentiments that has overflowed this platform. My thanks to this enlightened
audience for their uniform kindness to me and for their appreciation of every thought that
tends to smooth the friction of religions. A few jarring notes were heard from time to
time in this harmony. My special thanks to them, for they have, by their striking
contrast, made general harmony the sweeter.
Much has been said of the common ground of religious unity. I am
not going just now to venture my own theory. But if any one here hopes that this unity
will come by the triumph of any one of the religions and the destruction of the others, to
him I say, "Brother, yours is an impossible hope." 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. In the face of this evidence, 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, and point out to him that upon the banner of every
religion will soon be written in spite of resistance: "Help and not fight,"
"Assimilation and not Destruction," "Harmony and Peace and not