The initiative to spread the philosophies of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda has been taken! In the days of hate speech and racism all over the world, this work seems to be a responsibility to history as well. He was thinking like this while sitting in Chicago, the seat of Swami Vivekananda’s message of inter-religious harmony in the World Congress of Religions. Welcoming the plans and initiatives of Swami Ishatwananda, the monk of Ramakrishna Mission, Maharaj Swami Smaranananda, the principal of the monastery and mission also sent blessings. In those days, the Vivekananda Vedanta Society’s ‘Home of Harmony’ was built in Irving Park, Chicago.
It can be hard to imagine in the days of the complexity of mosques and temples in this country! But in Chicago’s 100-million-year-old Irving Park United Methodist Church, people of different faiths, with the help of many people, sit neatly a tall statue of Lord Ramakrishna. It is said that the 17 feet tall Paramahansadeva is the longest Ramakrishna sculpture in the world. However, the house is an open door to practice all religions. The church’s 19th-century red brick architecture has been preserved in accordance with American heritage law.
Upanishads’ message at the entrance of Home of Harmony, Truth is One, sages call it by various names (Ekang Sadbipra Bahudha Badanti) are present too! Symbols of different religions are drawn around this writing. Guest house, monastic residence, two-storied house with spacious sadhana room. It includes the School of World Religions too.
Lack of patronage led to the lack of care of the old church. It was then bought by the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, Ramakrishna Mission. Columbus Hall, the site of Swami Vivekananda’s historic lecture at the Art Institute in Chicago, is now called Fullerton Hall. The road in front is Honorary Swami Vivekananda Way. But the mission’s monastery is just outside the city of Chicago. So the ashram authorities were keen to buy the church in Irving Park and set up an institution.
Words of a pastor and Ishatwananda
Thomas Rollinson, pastor of the former church, said at the recent official inauguration of the new building, “I am proud of the conversion of this Christian place of worship. God created this world out of love, but we humans have made noise over and over again. People of different religions will come here and practice harmony among them, it is the grace of God (Grace).” Representatives of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Persia, Sikhism, and Christianity, from the local city of Chicago, marched in colourful processions that day to ‘build heaven’ on earth.
Swami Ishatwananda (Debu Maharaj), the principal of the ashram, said, “From the beginning it seemed that the church house should have something to do with all religions, not just one religion. Because that is the feeling of Thakur, mother, Swamiji. Thakur has observed it in his own life. Swamiji spoke of embracing all religions in Chicago. It is also a reminder of that ideal in the Home of Harmony. The demand of the time is to talk about the unity of human beings, not division.”