As a child and then as an adult Swami Vivekananda had a great influence on his peers and friends. He left a notable mark on commoners and eminent personalities he met during his extensive travels all over India as a parivrajaka. Even after his samadhi, his life and teachings kept guiding and shaping the lives of important saints, freedom fighters of India, saints, academicians, writers, politicians and social activists of India. Noble laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sri Aurobindo, Bipin Chandra Pal and the likes found inspiration from the Swami’s philosophy and messages of humanity and unity. However, the world (West) recognised him during and after his speech to address the Parliament of World Religions. Here are some international luminaries on whom Swami Vivekananda left a profound influence.
Harvard University Professor John Henry Wright: “To ask for your (Swami Vivekananda’s) credentials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine in the heavens”.
Harvard philosopher William James: “Paragon of Vedantists, an honour to humanity.”
French Opera singer Emma Calve: “It has been my good fortune and my joy to know a man who truly “walked with God,” a noble being, a saint, a philosopher, and a true friend. His influence upon my spiritual life was profound. He opened up new horizons before me, enlarging and vivifying my religious ideas and ideals, teaching me a broader understanding of truth. My soul will bear him an eternal gratitude.
Russian academician and public figure Eugene Chelyshev: “Reading and re-reading the works of Vivekananda each time I find in them something new that helps deeper to understand India, its philosophy, the way of the life and customs of the people in the past and the present, their dreams of the future…”
French writer and Nobel laureate Romain Rolland: “Vivekananda was energy personified. He was a born king and nobody ever came near him in India or America without paying homage to his majesty. His words are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are through the pages of books, at thirty years’ distance, without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero.”
American writer, historian, philosopher Will Durant: “The speeches of Vivekananda were more ‘virile’ than the ones delivered in the Vedic times.”
The first president of independent Indonesia, Sukarno: “It was Swami Vivekananda who inspired me to become strong and to serve God and mankind.”
Historian and Indologist Arthur Llewellyn Basham: “Vivekananda can be compared with eminent religious figures of India such as Kabir, Adi Shankaracharya and Chaitanya.”
Chinese scholar Huan Xin Chuan: “Vivekananda was the most renowned social figure of modern China and Chinese socialists carefully study the works of Vivekananda.”
Former President of the United States of America, Barack Obama: “Instead of succumbing to division, you (Swami Vivekanand) have shown that the strength of India — the very idea of India — is its embrace of all colours, castes and creeds. It’s the diversity represented in this chamber today. It’s the richness of faiths celebrated by a visitor to my hometown of Chicago more than a century ago — the renowned Swami Vivekananda. He said that, “holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character.”