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Month: January, 2014

The Greatest Speech Ever: Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago Address in 1893

(January 12, 1863 - July 4, 1902)

(January 12, 1863 – July 4, 1902)

When the Intelligent Life Magazine, the culture-technology-lifestyle sibling of The Economist posed a question, “What was the greatest speech ever?” in their July 2013 issue to six writers, Mark Tully, BBC’s former bureau chief for India has chosen Swami Vivekananda’s speech at the first World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.

Here is the complete transcript of what Swami Vivekananda spoke on11th September, 1893:

“Sisters and Brothers of America,

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 mother 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 men from far-off nations may well claim the honour 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 a the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines form a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings:

As the different streams having there sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various through 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 him; all men 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 civilisation, 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 has come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour 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.”

As Tully notes, New York Herald said:

Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. He was relevant then and is relevant today for his constant affirmation that all religions are paths to God, and his call for tolerance.


The Power of Encouragement

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (May 12, 1828 - April 9, 1882)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Self Portrait     (May 12, 1828 –     April 9, 1882)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the famous 19th-century poet and artist, was once approached by an elderly man.

The old fellow had some sketches and drawings that he wanted Rossetti to look and tell him if they were any good, or if they at least showed potential talent.

Rossetti looked over them carefully. After the first few, he knew that they were worthless but Rossetti was a kind man, he told the elderly man as gently as possible that the pictures were without much value and showed little talent. He was sorry, but he could not lie to the man. The man was disappointed, but seemed to expect Rossetti’s judgement.

The old man then apologised for taking up Rossetti’s time, but asked him to look at a few more drawings.

Rossetti looked over the second batch of sketches and immediately became enthusiastic over the talent they revealed. “These,” he said, “oh, these are good.”

“This young student has great talent. He should be given every help and encouragement. He has a great future.”

Rossetti could see that the old fellow was deeply moved.

“Who is this fine young artist?” he asked. “Your son?”

“No,” said the old man sadly.

“It’ me – 40 years ago. If only I had heard your praise then! For you see, I got discouraged and gave up – too soon.”

– Author Unknown

Image: Wikipedia

Perseverance Personified

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 - April 15, 1865)

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865)

Abraham Lincoln could have quit many times – But he didn’t and because he didn’t quit, he became one of the greatest presidents in the history of United States.

The sense of obligation to continue is present in all of us. A duty to strive is the duty of all of us. I felt a call to that duty.

Probably the greatest example of persistence is Abraham Lincoln.  He is, indeed, perseverance personified. If you want to learn about somebody who didn’t quit, look no further.

Born into poverty, Lincoln was faced with defeat throughout his life. He lost eight elections, twice failed in business and suffered a nervous breakdown.

But Lincoln was a champion and he never gave up. Here is a sketch of Lincoln’s road to the White House.

1831 – Failed in Business

1832 – Defeated for Legislature

1833 – Second Failure in Business

1836 – Suffered Nervous Breakdown

1838 – Defeated for Speaker

1840 – Defeated for Elector

1843 – Defeated for Congress

1848 – Defeated for Congress

1855 – Defeated for Senate

1856 – Defeated for Vice President

1858 – Defeated for Congress

1860 – Elected President

“The path was worn and slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other out of the way,” Lincoln said, after losing a Senate Race. “But I recovered and said to myself, It’s a slip and not a fall.”

– Author Unknown

Image Source: Wikimedia commons

The Touchstone

stones-4_00448612 (1)

When the great library of Alexandria burned, the story goes, one book was saved. But it was not a valuable book; and so a poor man, who could read a little, bought it for a few coppers. The book wasn’t very interesting, but between its pages there was something very interesting indeed. It was a thin strip of vellum on which was written the secret of the Touchstone!

The touch stone was a small pebble that could turn any common metal into pure gold. The writing explained that it was lying among thousands and thousands of other pebbles that looked exactly like it. But the secret was this: The real stone would feel warm, while ordinary pebbles are cold.

So the man sold his few belongings, bought some simple supplies, camped on the seashore, and began testing pebbles.

He knew that if he picked up ordinary pebbles and threw them down again because they were cold, he might pick up the same pebble hundreds of times. So when he felt one that was cold, he threw it into the sea. He spent a whole day doing this but none of them was the touchstone. Yet he went on and on this way. Pick up a pebble. Cold – throw it into the sea. Pick up another. Throw it into the sea.

The days stretched into weeks and weeks into months. One day, however, about mid-afternoon, he picked up a pebble and it was warm. He threw it into the sea before he realised what he had done. He ha formed such a strong habit of throwing each pebble into the sea that when the one he wanted came along, he still threw it away.

So it is with opportunity. Unless we are vigilant, it’s easy to fail to recognise an opportunity when it is in hand and it’s just as easy to throw it away.

– Author Unknown

Great Movie Speeches: ‘Carpe Diem’ from Dead Poets Society

Carpe Diem

Robin Williams plays a teacher (Keating) trying to energise his students through poetry in the much-acclaimed movie of 1989, Dead Poets Society.

Keating asks Pitts,a student of the class to read a poem. Pitts begins reading the poem: Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a flying, and this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying.

Keating gives this memorable and inspiring short lecture:

“Thank you Mr. Pitts. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. The latin term for that sentiment is Carpe Diem. Now who knows what that means? Carpe Diem. That’s ‘Seize the day.’ Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Why does the writer use these lines…. Because we are food for the worms lads. Because believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die.

Now I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. You have walked past them many times. I don’t think you’ve really looked at them. They’re not very different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their live even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilising daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, Lean in. Listen… Do you hear it? (whispers) Carpe. (whispers again) Cape. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

Wisdom of the Winningest Coach: Phil Jackson


Widely considered as one of the greatest coaches in the history of NBA (National Basketball Association) in America, Philip Douglas Jackson won a record-breaking eleven NBA titles. He won six of these as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls (1989 to 1998) and five more as the head coach of his next team, the Los Angeles Lakers (2000 to 2010). What is more, he won two championships as a player.

His holistic approach to coaching earned him the nickname ‘the Zen Master.’  Jackson won a number of awards during his illustrious career. Here are some of his more important awards and accolades:

1996: NBA Coach of the Year Award.

1996: Named as one of the 10 greatest NBA Coaches of all time

2007: Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame

Here are some of his most famous quotes, which are illuminating and inspiring.

1. Basketball, unlike football with its prescribed routes, is an improvisational game, similar to jazz. If someone drops a note, someone else must step into the vacuum and drive the beat that sustains the team.

2. Approach the game with no preset agendas and you’ll probably come away surprised at your overall efforts.

3. The ideal way to win a championship is step by step.

4. Once you’ve done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into the action and put your heart on the line. That means not only being brave, but being compassionate towards yourself, your teammates and your opponents.

5. I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you’re doing. You have to be a salesman and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you are trying to accomplish on the basketball floor.

6. In basketball, as in life true joy comes from being fully present in each and every moment, not just when things are going your way. Of course, it’s no accident that things are more likely go your own way when you stop worrying about whether you’re going to win or lose and focus your full attention on what’s happening right this moment.

7. Yes, victory is sweet, but it doesn’t necessarily make life any easier the next season or even the next day.

8. Like life, basketball is messy and unpredictable. It has its way with you, no matter how hard you try to control it. The trick is to experience each moment with a clear mind and open heart. When you do that, the game and life will take care of itself.

9. Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ‘Me’ for the ‘We.’

10. I gave it my body and mind, but I have kept my soul.

11. Wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.

12. There are no Zen masters, there’s only Zen. ‘Zen Master’ is a contradiction in terms. You don’t master Zen.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Shake it off and Take a step up

donkey (1)

One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well.

The animal cried for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbours to come over and help him. They all grabbed a dirt and began to shovel dirt into the well.

At first, the donkey didn’t realise what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing.

He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer’s neighbours continued to shovel the dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off.

How do you get out of your deepest wells? By not stopping. By never giving up. By shaking it off and taking a step up.

Remember what Zig Ziglar, the famous salesman, author and motivational speaker said: it’s not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it is how you handle what happens to you.

– Author Unknown