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It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us . I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world ; I thank you in the name of the source of religions , and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects .

My thanks , also , to some of the speakers on this platform who , referring to the delegates from the Orient , have told you that these people from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration .

I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance . We believe not only in universal toleration , but we accept all religions as true .

I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth .

I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites , who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny .

I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation .

I will quote to you , friends , a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest childhood , which is every day repeated by millions of human beings :

" As the different streams having their sources in different paths which people take through different tendencies , various though they appear , crooked or straight , all lead to Thee . "

The present convention , which is one of the most august assemblies ever held , is in itself a vindication , a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita :

" Whosoever comes to Me , through whatsoever form , I reach ; all are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me . "

Sectarianism , bigotry , and its horrible descendant , fanaticism , have long possessed this beautiful earth . They have filled the earth with violence , drenched it often and often with human blood , destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair . Had it not been for these horrible demons , human society would be far more advanced than it is now .

But their time is come ; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism , of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen , and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal .

The World's Parliament of Religions has become an accomplished fact , and the merciful Lord has helped those who laboured to bring it into existence , and crowned with success their most unselfish labour .

My thanks to those noble souls whose large hearts and love of truth first dreamed this wonderful dream and then realized it .

My thanks to the shower of liberal sentiments that has overflowed this platform .

My thanks to this enlightened audience for their uniform kindness to me and for their appreciation of every thought that tends to smooth the friction of religions .

A few jarring notes were heard from time to time in this harmony .

My special thanks to them , for they have , by their striking contrast , made general harmony the sweeter .

Much has been said of the common ground of religious unity . I am not going just now to venture my own theory . But if any one here hopes that this unity will come by the triumph of any one of the religions and the destruction of the others , to that one I say ,

" Friend , yours is an impossible hope " .

Do I wish that the Christian would become Hindu ? GOD forbid .

Do I wish that the Hindu or Buddhist would become Christian ? GOD forbid .

The seed is put in the ground , and earth and air and water are placed around it . Does the seed become the earth , or the air , or the water ? No . It becomes a plant . It develops after the law of its own growth , assimilates the air , the earth , and the water , converts them into plant substance , and grows into a plant .

Similar is the case with religion .

The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist , nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian . But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve one's individuality and grow according to one's own law of growth .

If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world , it is this :

It has proved to the world that holiness , purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world , and that every system has produced people of the most exalted character .

In the face of this evidence , if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of one's own religion and the destruction of the others , I pity that one from the bottom of my heart , and point out that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written in spite of resistance :

" Help and not fight " ,
" Assimilation and not Destruction " ,
" Harmony and Peace and not Dissension " .



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