ALL RELIGIONS ARE TRUE
SUCH IS THE MESSAGE BROUGHT FROM INDIA
BY A HINDU MONK
(New Discoveries, Vol. 1, pp. 200-202.)
[Daily Iowa Capitol, November 28, 1893]
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA TELLS OF ANCIENT FAITH
SPEAKS AGAIN TONIGHT
(The lecture was “The Hindu Religion”, delivered November 27, 1893, of which there is no verbatim transcript available. Cf. Complete Works, III: 482-84 for different highlights of the same lecture.)
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. . . .