By a Hindu Monk
[Daily Iowa Capitol, November 28, 1893]
Swami Vivekananda Tells of Ancient Faith Speaks again Tonight
It was a rare as well as an odd treat which the people of Des Moines enjoyed last evening at the Central Church of Christ. A monk, of the ancient faith of Brahma, made a happy presentation of that faith, not so much of its peculiarities as of its underlying principles. The audience was a good sized one, perhaps 500 or 600 persons being present. The main floor being well filled and there were perhaps a couple of hundred in the gallery.
The speaker opened by saying that all religious systems were an attempt to answer the question What am I? This and the kindred ones, Whence Come I? and Whither Am I Going? are constantly recurring. Without following the speaker throughout the entire lecture, suffice it to say, that underlying the Hindu religion according to the speaker is the belief that “We are all divine”. In each is a conscious spirit that survives the body and the mind and is a part of the absolute. The speaker very ably defended religion against the attacks of science. The latter can use only the five senses, and unless a thing can be proven to be by these senses [it] is disposed to doubt its existence. But does science know that there are only five senses? The speaker contended for the existence of a supersensuous sense; through which man obtains revelations of spiritual truths. The Hindu word for revelation is “Veda”. Hence the “Vedas” are the revelations. These writings are not confined to those of the Hindus, but include those of all peoples; because said the speaker, all religions are true.
When “revelations” undertake to tell of material things they enter upon a domain which belongs to science and are not to be accepted. There was an ancient superstition that because Moses gave a revelation of the will of God, therefore everything Moses wrote must be true. There is a modern superstition that, because there are mistakes in the writings of Moses, therefore nothing Moses wrote is true. When Moses wrote the tables of the law he was inspired. When he told of the creation what he said was merely the speculations of Moses the Jew.
The speaker was not favorably impressed with the efforts to make Hindu converts–perverts he calls them–to Christianity, nor the converse. All religions being true, such perversions serve no good end. The Hindu religion the speaker claimed is not disposed to antagonize any belief; it absorbs them. As for tolerating different beliefs, the language of the Hindu has no word corresponding with the English word “intolerance”. That language had a word for religion and one for sect. The former embraced all beliefs. The conception of the latter the speaker illustrated by telling the story of the frog, who had no idea there was any world outside the well in which he had always lived.
The speaker urged his hearers to cultivate the divine within them and to discard the “nonsense” of sects.
The lecturer is an able, dignified and forcible speaker. His mastery of English is perfect, there being only the faintest indications of a foreign accent. The lecturer was followed with closest attention by the audience. After the lecture, the speaker consented to answer questions to a portion of the audience that remained for that purpose. In the course of the answers he said that the Hindus were altogether opposed to the destruction of the life of any animal. He admitted the worship of the sacred cow. He said further that the Hindus had nothing answering to our church organizations. He was his own priest, bishop and pope. . . .
Vive Kananda, the Famous Hindoo Monk and Scholar, Appears in Des Moines [Iowa State Register, November 28, 1893]
A Young Man of Thirty Years and a Big, Active Brain and True Heart
The people of Des Moines had a glimpse of Oriental life and thought at its best yesterday, from the lips of the famous Hindoo monk, Swami Vive Kananda. A central figure in the great Parliament of Religions at Chicago this summer, where he coped with some of the greatest minds of the country with honor to himself and his people, he gave those who heard him, and especially those who met him at Dr. Breeden’s, something new to think about. It was a message from over the sea, from another people of wholly different surroundings, training, customs and traditions, but as the monk says, the basic principles are the same in all religions. It is his doctrine that there is good in all religions and he preaches it with great power. . . .
Yesterday afternoon he met a large number of the brightest women in Des Moines, members of the various literary clubs, at the invitation of Mrs. H. O. Breeden, at her home, 1318 Woodland avenue, and he talked to them for two or three hours about his religion, his view of Christianity, in which he heartily concurs, and of the manners and customs of his people. The thing which Vive Kananda most strongly insists upon is that the Hindoo religion is not to be blamed for all that is bad in India any more than Christianity is to be blamed for all that is bad in America. And he insists that it is absurd to give Christianity credit for all the marvelous undertakings and achievements of the people who cherish it. He joins in the praise of the sublime things in the bible [sic], but says that when Moses undertook to speak of the creation of the world, he was merely Moses, the Jew and nothing more.
This view from the other side, and a sympathetic side at that, is a most helpful and instructive and intensely interesting one. Vive Kananda uses the purest English, for he was well educated in the English university, Calcutta.
He praises the American women most enthusiastically.
I do not know what would have become of me if it had not been for your women, he said to a reporter for The Register last night.
They took me up and took care of me and made all necessary arrangements for me. They are the best women in the world. They have been so kind to me, [the Swami said] with a grateful smile. . . . . . .