Sri Chinmoy's opening meditation at the Parliament of World Religions

This is one of the stories in our Story-Gems project, a collection of our experiences with our Guru, Sri Chinmoy. Project homepage »

Swami Vivekananda (second from right, in turban) and other religious leaders, at the Parliament of World Religions in 1893

By way of background, in 1893 the Parliament of the World’s Religions met in Chicago as part of the World Exposition being held there. Of course, this was when the great Swami Vivekananda first became known to America. (Guru has written and spoken much on Swami Vivekananda. My sense is that they are like inner “brothers”.)

In 1993, one hundred years later, a second Parliament of the World’s Religions was being convened in Chicago. Guru was invited to open that event with seven minutes of meditation. I think that Guru himself considered this to be one of his most auspicious manifestations. And of course, there was talk of Vivekananda all that year.

Early in 1993, there was no talk of a concert, only the Parliament. I confess I was relieved by this. (Sri Chinmoy had tasked me to organise large Peace Concerts for the previous few years).

I was in Ottawa for a work-related event when I received a call from Ashrita with a message from Guru. “Vivekananda’s soul came to me. He said that he lived 39 years on earth, so he has requested me to offer 39 concerts. The last concert has to be in Chicago and should be for 13,000 people.”

“Oh…okay,” came my not-so-enthusiastic reply.

A few minutes later the phone rang again. It was Ashrita with an addendum. He told me, “Guru said that Vivekananda actually wanted 39,000 people, but your soul immediately came to Guru and said that you would die a thousand deaths.”

My soul was correct.

In August of every year, Guru’s students gather in New York in celebration of his August 27th birthday. This is a 2-week event which includes meditations, runs, performances, singing and more. It is two weeks of inspiration. But 1993 was a very unique experience. Guru’s actual birthday event ended early and most of us packed up and left New York for Chicago on August 28th. Guru opened the 100th Anniversary of the Parliament of the World’s Religions with a seven minute meditation. This was an absolutely wonderful event and experience.


At that opening event, I swear Guru brought God down in front of thousands of people in absolute silence. The rest of the people who shared the opening dais with Guru just talked and talked and talked.

I was so proud of Guru, and equally proud to be escorting him around the crowd. I was in the elevator when a woman noticed me and recognized me as the individual escorting Guru. She said, “I wish he had meditated more and everybody else had talked less!”

“Me too!” I thought to myself as I smiled in acknowledgement.

Guru came twice to Chicago that year. Just two weeks after the Parliament, Guru returned to Chicago to offer the concert that Vivekananda requested. In his honor, we called it the Oneness-World Vivekananda Peace Concert.

O Chicago’s World Parliament of Religions!

The heart of an Indian monk,

Became your boat;

His soul became your boatman;

And his vision’s one religion —
Became your Golden Shore.

Sri Chinmoy 1