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Swami Vivekananda

This disciple of Ramakrishna is credited for "introducing yoga to the West" and founding the Vedanta Society.

By Phil Catalfo

When the learned but shy disciple of the great Hindu saint Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), rose to address the first World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, he not only introduced yoga to the West, he also created a sensation. "Sisters and brothers of America," he began, prompting thunderous applause from the nearly 7,000 attendees; his brief speech, rapturous in its profession of "toleration" and the essential truth of all religions, went on to decry "sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant fanaticism," which, he said, "have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often . . . with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair." The date was September 11, 1893—exactly 108 years to the day from a tragic event that would underscore the truth of his words. He won great praise in the American press-the New York Critic called him "an orator by divine right"-and toured the country for four years, lecturing on Hindu philosophy, especially jnana, bhakti, karma, and raja yoga. He became a national hero in his native India and went on to establish the Ramakrishna Mission there as well as the Vedanta Society in the United States. Today there are presently 13 Vedanta chapters located in America and more than 125 around the world. For more information, visit and

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