How Swami Vivekananda changed John Rockefeller

How Swami Vivekananda changed John Rockefeller December 8, 2011

A French lady Madame Drinette Verdier has an interesting fact in her diary. Madame Emma Calve, a French disciple of Swami Vivekananda had once narrated an incident to her. In March/April of 1894, John D. Rockefeller heard of this Indian Monk who was inspiring people all over with his unusual way of looking at things. Swami Vivekananda was staying with one of the partners or associates of John D. Rockefeller. He had been invited over to meet the Indian Swami by his friends but somehow it hadn’t worked.

One day he went to his friend’s house and went directly to see the “Indian Monk”.

As Rockefeller entered the room, Swami Vivekananda kept on doing his work, without looking up at his new guest. Unlike how he was otherwise treated, the Swami eventually acknowledged his guest and both started talking. In very short time, it became apparent to Swami Vivekananda that Rockefeller had an unusual fortune.

“If you have that much more money than other people, do you think that much smarter than other people?” he asked the wealthy tycoon.

“Of course”. retorted Rockefeller.

To this Swamiji tried to reason to the brashness – maybe Rockefeller was only 3 times smarter but had amassed 100 times the wealth of an ordinary American citizen. It may be a good idea to consider himself as an instrument to give some of it back.

“Why don’t you think about it? And why don’t you consider leaving some of your money for other people?” he said as his last advice. None too pleased that someone had dared to even talk to him like that Rockefeller left without any word. Not even a good-bye.

One week had passed by after this incident. Rockefeller decided to pay Swami Vivekananda another visit. This time because he wanted to.

He went to Swami Vivekananda and shoved a piece of paper in front of him on his table. He had given some amount of money for charity. The money wasn’t much given Rockefeller’s wealth, but it was something to start with nevertheless.

“Well, there you are”, he said. “You must be satisfied now, and you can thank me for it.”said Rockefeller.

Without lifting his eyes or moving, he picked the paper shoved by Rockefeller and read it. Then said – “It is for you to thank me”. That was Rockefeller’s first major donation to charity.

15 years later, John D. Rockefeller set up his Rockefeller Foundation which did immense charitable works.

Beings like Swami Vivekananda are very rare. In their short life span, they are able to impact the world in multiple ways and on multiple fronts. We had earlier discussed how Swami Vivekananda was instrumental in establishing the research in Fundamental Science through what is now the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. (A Voyage in 1893 that Changed India!!)

(Information sourced from The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda and R. Gopalakrishnan’s speech, Executive Director of Tata Sons)


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