18 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dṛg Dṛsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen alongside the biography of Swami Vivekananda.
What questions arise when I focus on the “sisters and brothers of America” as objects of Vedanta meditation?
In 1893, Swami Vivekananda traveled by boat from India, through Hong Kong, Japan, and to Vancouver, and he finally made his way to his destination: Chicago. Though he was not formally scheduled to speak as a delegate, Professor Wright of Harvard University assured him, “To ask you, Swami, for credentials is like asking the sun if it has permission to shine.” On September 11, 1893, Swami Vivekananda stood before a large crowd who was attending the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, and he said, “Sisters and brothers of America …” And the crowd burst into an uproar of thrill and applause at the simple utterance. It was a well-worn phrase for opening up a speech, but the way Swami Ji said it, with his projection, the wisdom that supported every word he spoke, and his presence transformed a common speech opening into a statement of simple truth: our humanity makes us kin.
I’ve been spending time just sitting and imagining the scene at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. With three words, Swami Ji convinced us we are family. I’ve been repeating the historic moment in my head, letting it run through me the way I practice mantra japa unto embodiment of the mantra. It is refreshing to deeply meditate, to repeatedly conjure that feeling that we are sisters and brothers.
Meditating on sisters and brothers, a Jnana yogi might ask, “Oh Sisters and brothers of America, are we experiencing our kinship as real right now? Sisters and brothers of America, are we feeling strong desire to know Advaita (non-dual reality)?”