A hundred and seventeen (117) years ago one person came with a vision unparalleled of introducing to US a brand of spirituality that it had not since until then. On the morning of September 11 in 1893 at the World Parliaments of Religion in Chicago; a young man of 30 got up to speak and proudly declared:
Sisters and Brothers of America, It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.
He was no ordinary man. He was Swami Vivekananda, born as Narendra to a very well off family. His father was an attorney in the Calcutta High Court. This man, with all the comforts that an upper middle class life could afford anyone, went on to search for the ultimate meaning of life and encountered a great soul in Ramakrishna Paramhans. The meeting of these two changed the way world was thereafter.
That morning, Swami Vivekananda for the first time introducing Hinduism and its basic and inherent tenet of acceptance to the common man in the US. And with that he had a hope and a prayer for the humanity:
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.
Unfortunately, 108 years later, a band of 10 young men introduced their religious fervour to the common man in US in another way that again changed the face of this nation. On the morning of September 11, 2001. They brought to the center of New York two large planes crashing into two of the tallest buildings in the country.
The press had dubbed the protagonist on the morning of 911 in 1893 as “Cyclonic monk from India” – for unleashing a storm in the minds of the audience that changed the way they viewed the world again. The stunned New York Herald announced:
“Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation.”
Thereafter, until September 27, 1893; when the World Parliament of Religions ended, the young man from India gave several speeches – with one clear and unmistakeable thread of Universality and World Peace.
In 2001, a storm was unleashed as well. But this time, the storm was of fanaticism and hatred. It didn’t pray for the death-knell of fanaticism and bigotry; but of humanity itself.
The years after Swami Vivekananda brought his message, came many other mystics from India – bringing a brand of spirituality; that was perhaps last brought by Jesus Christ from the cradle of spiritual exploration. It is said, probably with some justification, that Jesus learnt and practiced spiritually with the greatest Masters in India in his missing years.
The same message was brought back again by Swami Vivekananda and the Paramhamsa Yogananda; apart from several other mystics.
While the press had questioned West’s attempts to send missionaries to the birthplace of Vivekananda; the press was unanimous in 2001 to send an Army into the place where those 10 young men got their goals from.
Interestingly, in the years after the 911 in 2001; unbridled fanaticism and hatred coupled with relentless double-speak was introduced in the community of the 10 hijackers of 911. While the credo from the “moderates” remained “Only a handful are terrorists” and that “Our religious institutions are for inter-faith dialog and community participation”; the truth was much different.
When investigated seriously and in an undercover operation, it was discovered in the UK – that a high profile mosque – the Green Lane mosque – that calls itself as the “Center of Interface Communication and Dialog”, which says it welcomes people of all religions – was anything but that! Its hate speech was insulting and scary!
The bigotry, fanaticism and hatred unleashed in that “Center” is very instructive. In fact the Channel 4 team of the program series “Dispatches” which made the program “Undercover Mosque” found that this fanaticism was on display in the biggest mosques in Britain. All the while, people like Lord Nazir Ahmed were indulging in obfuscation and lied through their teeth.
What you see is how the web of falsehoods, double-speak and an amazing attempt at brushing away of this level of intolerance so easily. One finds it also interesting that some of these mosques, where the undercover team discovered the message of Hate, Intolerance, Bigotry, and Violence were initially created as “Cultural Centers” and as “Pleaces of Inter-faith dialog and communication”.
In a strange way, this strategy of injection of Intolerance, Violence, and Bigotry cloaked in Political Double-speak and obvious Obfuscation is now being visited on the memory of 911 in 2001. As yet again, a hope of tolerance has been doled out in the form of a “Cultural Center which propagates Inter-faith dialog and communication”.
The state of such a “Center” across the “pond” was in full view on British Television; but somehow the Americans are not known to be interested or knowledgeable about anything beyond their own cities. Maybe such nonchalance is fine when it comes to sports, but it could hurt.. and hurt badly, when it comes to terrorism.
The mosque in question is the Park51 to be constructed just 2 blocks from Ground Zero.
Maybe the Center in New York will not go the same direction as the ones in Britain and countless across the world do. And maybe the sun will rise in the West too. Anything is possible. But before going ahead with the former, let’s see if something with similar odds – the latter – is even in the realm of actual possibility. Let’s make the former situation contingent on the latter one. For, no one has provided any guarantees that the odds for it are any lesser!
Meanwhile, the mystics from India still travel to US. But they preach the message of peace and Universal existence where nothing (not just humankind) is anything but one.