Of the states in the union, Swami Vivekananda visited New York the most often Since 1886, the Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island has been welcoming people from other countries, whether immigrating or just visiting. Although he entered the continent for the first time through the West Coast-Vancouver to be exact-all his other trips to and from the U.S. were through the port in New York City.
By the time Swami Vivekananda set foot in the Empire City of the West (September 1893), it was at the height of its success and power, a paragon of modern life and thought. Although a huge influx of poor immigrants, corruption in the municipal governments, rise of a plutocracy, and many other problems plagued the city, it had the right heart and soul to overcome the threatening perils. The oppressed people of the world found a haven in the great melting pot called New York City, and one of their representatives, a Hindu monk named Vivekananda, was determined to set them free.
The Statue of Liberty, located in New York City harbor and dedicated in 1886, proudly welcomed Swami Vivekananda with its famous inscription, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." The message could not have been more appropriate because it was a symbol of the Swami's mission as well at that point of time.
There is no end to tracing the footprints of a person as unique as Swami Vivekananda. Published in 2000, Swami Vivekananda in Chicago: New Findings by Asim Chaudhuri describes Swamiji's visit to Chicago, where he first introduced himself to the world. But Vivekananda's mission to spiritualize America was not limited to Chicago; he traveled extensively across the United States, from Maine to California and many other states in between.
Swami Vivekananda in America: New Findings reveals interesting details of his travels following the Chicago Parliament of Religions. Asim Chaudhuri, the author and a former student of the Ramakrishna Mission, Deoghar, India, is now settled in the United States. In this book he sheds new light on Vivekananda's mission and travels in the United States which extended from coast to coast across America.
I congratulate Mr. Asim Chaudhuri for his dedication and diligence in bringing this succinct chronicle of Vivekananda American sojourn to fruition. There are new facts here that eluded vigilant research by many other authors. The book is uniquely organized according to each state Vivekananda visited. It shows the extensive nature of his travels and allows readers to follow his lecture engagements, as well as explore all the places touched by him that still exist today.
It is my hope that this book will inspire all Vivekananda devotees and admirers to learn more about his wandering mission and message in American and enlighten those aspirant introduced to him for the first time. I am please that Advaita Ashram is publishing this meticulous effort to document every detail of Vivekananda life in American. May this book be an inspiration to everyone who read it.
There were essentially two reasons behind Swamiji's mission to the West. First, it was his hope to improve the material condition of the Indian masses through financial help from the West. Second, it was to fulfill his master's prophecy that Swamiji would spread Sri Ramakrishna's spiritual message, the message of Vedanta, all over the world. Though he subsequently abandoned the idea of raising funds in the West, his plan to deliver his master's message remained intact.
Chicago will always be associated with Swami Vivekananda, because through the portals of that city he entered the world. Swami Vivekananda in Chicago: New Findings, a predecessor to this book, was written primarily to emphasize that point and that the city was his "home away from home." Details about his wanderings in other parts of the U.S. were deliberately omitted, thus leaving the possibility for a sequel. This book happens to be that sequel.
Source materials for this book were collected over a period of time. A couple of years after publication of the first book, I took early retirement to follow Swamiji's footprints in other parts of the U.S., outside Chicago and its vicinity. But before crystallizing my findings in black and white, and also in color, J wanted to see if there was enough interest among the admirers of Vivekananda for such a book. The feedback I received convinced me to plunge into writing the second book, Swami Vivekananda in America: New Findings. If the readers see a general similarity between this book and Sister Gargi's six volumes of Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries, they will be entirely correct; this book, however, does not include Swamiji's European sojourn.
There are major differences, however. This book is shorter, mainly for two reasons: r have referred to Sister Gargi's volumes, the Complete Works, and the Life for a multitude of newspaper reports, articles, letters, and other information; and this book deals with Swamiji's visit to the U.S. only. This is also more time- place-person focused. There are a liberal number of photographs for people to identify places associated with Swamiji. The chapters in this book have been organized by states, and the states appear chronologically according to his first visit to it. That done, all his wanderings in a particular state have been documented chronologically in the chapter dedicated to that state. This is intended to give the residents of the state, or the visitors to it, a chance to trace Swamiji's footprints in their neighborhood. It also contains a host of "new findings" and additional information that were unearthed after Sister Gargi had written her volumes.
Along with the benefits, there are at least two problems I have encountered organizing Swamiji's visit state by state that the readers will no doubt discover as they turn the pages. First, the overall calendar continuity is lost when there are multiple visits to one state. Although it is mentioned where Swamiji went out of the state on a specific date, readers may find it hard to move to another chapter and pick up his trail there. Second, a person who has been introduced in one chapter (state) may have been taken for granted in another. Whenever I could, I have tried to introduce a person when he or she is mentioned for the first time in a chapter and refer to that chapter when the person appears again later in another chapter, but I don't claim infallibility in this regard. Although I don't consider this (' problem, I hope that my rigorous attention to dates and other details hasn't robbed the book of spontaneity.
I wrote this book as a sequel to Swami Vivekananda in Chicago: New Findings for two reasons. First, to stress the point that there is no end to tracing Swamiji's footprints. Those had reached far beyond Chicago, actually all the way from Maine to California, diagonally across the entire country. Second, like the previous one, this book also pays special attention to the homes, places, and buildings associated with Swamiji that can still be identified after more than one hundred years. I sincerely hope the book can inspire his admirers to remember him and visit those places. Those who are not familiar with the name Vivekananda, I hope this book will show them how one mendicant monk from India contributed to the culture, heritage, and the history of the richest and most powerful nation in the world.
Although this book may be considered a sequel to my previous book, it is not designed to pick lip where the other left off. Rather, its contents can be inserted chronologically between the pages of the previous book to make the consolidation a complete chronicle of Swamiji's wanderings in the U.S. He, as far as we know, visited fifteen states (sixteen if we consider a short private visit to Newport, Rhode Island) and Washington, D.C. Illinois and Indiana have been covered in my previous book, this covers the rest.
Nothing is more exciting than solving "mysteries" associated with Swamiji. The two major ones in America were the "Case of the Mystery Couple in Chicago," and the "Mystery of the Twelfth Student at Thousand Island Park." The first mystery was solved in my first book, Swami Vivekananda in Chicago: New Findings; this book has the solution to the second one. Few other mini- mysteries, like who was Miss Spencer in Los Angeles, Swarniji's Medford and Stockton visits, Breezy Meadows-I and II, his hosts in Baltimore, etc., have been solved as well between the pages of this book. Many "unrepublished" items, such as reports on his lectures, book reviews, announcements, and comments from various newspapers and other sources have also been included, without mentioning them as such in every instance.
To familiarize the reader with the states and cities Swamiji visited, I have shamelessly drawn from the historical information provided by the various cities, states, and other sources. These information, mostly posted on websites or advertised in brochures and pamphlets, are difficult to cite as references. I hope those responsible for providing that information will consider my use of their materials a "fair use." My objective was not to narrate history just for the sake of it, but to put Swami Vivekananda's visits in a historical perspective.
I have used the American style of spelling throughout this book for two reasons. First, after living in the U.S. for forty years I have virtually forgotten the English style. Second, the most of the quoted materials in the book are from American sources. The original spellings from non-American sources, however, remain unaltered.
I owe a debt of gratitude to a number of people and institutions who helped me in my endeavor. For facilitating my research as I crisscrossed the U.S., I am grateful to Tapan Datta, Ria Guha, and the Vedanta Societies in Boston, New York, Hollywood, San Francisco, Chicago, and Maryland (Greater Washington, D.C.). The officials at various public institutions also have been very generous in providing information and other assistance. Those who helped me with the information related to the people and places touched by Swami Vivekananda and deserve special mention are Joseph Peidle, Ellen deLalla, Eric Holcomb, Ellen Lipsey, Michael Bowden, Kathleen Rawlins, Jack Simpson, Rosanne Adams, James Montgomery, Dorothy Harrigan, and Shirley Chipman. I am indebted to Peter Schneider and John Schlenck for editing some parts of the manuscript, but I owe a monumental debt to Brinda Gupta for editing the lion's share. Dr. Gordon Stavig (Gopal) also has been very helpful by bringing to my attention various incidents involving Swamiji, and providing me with the relevant documents. Finally, I would like to thank my children Mickey and Anurita for supporting me in my work. I am affectionately grateful to my wife Nandita for facilitating my travel, for putting up with my being away from home for extended periods, and for bearing with my spending innumerable hours in front of the computer while at home; she also helped with editing the final manuscript.
Last, but not least, I owe a special debt of gratitude to His Holiness Swami Gahanananda, President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, for writing the "Foreword," and to Swami Bodhasarananda, President of the Advaita Ashrama, for his kind advice and encouragement in bringing this effort to fruition.
Swami Vivekananda's life prior to his historical journey to America is well known. 1 He left Bombay on May 31, 1893, on his way to Chicago to attend the Parliament of Religions to be held there from September 11 to September 27. He was hoping to use the Parliament as a springboard to launch a two-prong mission in the West: to improve the material condition of the Indian masses through technical and financial help from the West, and to fulfill his Master's prophecy about spreading the message of Vedanta. The two-prong mission can be visualized as one: bartering Indian spiritualism for Western scientific and technical expertise.
After touching Colombo, Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong, Nagasaki, Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Kobe, and Yokohama along the way, Swamiji reached Vancouver on July 25. He spent the night aboard the ship, and took the Canadian Pacific Railway to Chicago the next morning. The "divine master plan" clicked on during this trip when he met Kate Sanborn on the train, the details of which will be covered in the following chapter.' She gave him her card, and invited him to her home in Metcalf, Massachusetts.
Swamiji arrived in Chicago, IIlinois,* on July 30, 1893, and after spending a day or two at a downtown hotel spent the next few days as a houseguest of Erskine Mason Phelps, a wealthy shoe merchant and a director of the World's Columbian Exposition. Phelpses were the "high society couple" he was introduced to by Varada Rao from Madras.' While staying with the Phelpses, Swamiji paid multiple visits to the World's Fair and learned some stark facts about the Parliament of Religions he had come to attend. He found out that the Parliament would not convene until the second week of September, and that no one would be admitted without proper credentials. He wasn't comfortable staying with the Phelpses, didn't have enough money left to sustain himself elsewhere in Chicago until the Parliament started, and he had no credentials. Disappointed and distraught, he decided to leave Chicago and go to Kate Sanborn's house in Metcalf, Massachusetts. Swamiji was not very sure what the future held for him at that point.
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