VIVEKANANDA ROCK MEMORIAL DEDICATION
REPORT OF THE DEDICATION OF VIVEKANANDA ROCK MEMORIAL
AT THOUSAND ISLAND PARK, NEW YORK, USA
Devotees and community gather to pay tribute to Swami Vivekananda and dedicate bronze plaques and monuments at historic Vivekananda Cottage and Vivekananda Rock at Thousand Island Park
More than two hundred people gathered on Friday, July 31, 2009, in a section of New York State’s Wellesley Island State Park, adjacent to Thousand Island Park’s Rock Ridges Nature Trail, to unveil and dedicate a newly built Vivekananda Rock Memorial Monument. (The site actually falls within the boundaries of the New York State Park.) The crowd was made up of Thousand Island Park neighbors as well as followers and admirers of Swami Vivekananda, who in the summer of 1895 spent seven weeks in Thousand Island Park in the cottage now known world-wide as Vivekananda Cottage. The Swami’s stay at the Park followed his triumph at the first Parliament of the World’s Religions held in connection with the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. It was through his addresses at that Parliament, followed by a whirlwind series of lectures throughout America, that Swami Vivekananda became widely known. Often referred to as the first Indian spiritual teacher to make a mark in the West, he is regarded by many as the pioneer of the interfaith movement – a spiritual renaissance that today continues to grow in popularity in America and abroad. (Complete wording of the plaque is attached)
Installed by the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York, in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the new memorial monument marks the spot where the renowned Swami sat in deep meditation on the final day of his stay at Thousand Island Park. The monument consists of a large stone base topped by an engraved bronze plaque bearing a likeness of Swami Vivekananda, and a description of the historic event. Two natural stone benches, one on each side of the monument, were fashioned from nearby large stone slabs found at the site. The plaque inscription reads as follows:
Vivekananda Rock Memorial
Following his appearance at the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in connection with the Columbian Exposition, Swami Vivekananda (1863‐1902) was at once acclaimed the foremost champion of the harmony of religions. Almost overnight this unknown young monk of India shot into prominence as a great world teacher. His stirring message of the basic truth of all religions gave rise to the interfaith movement. In the summer of 1895, the Swami spent seven weeks at Thousand Island Park in the cottage of Elizabeth Dutcher, imparting his teachings to a number of earnest disciples. Those teachings, later published as Inspired Talks, have made their way to every corner of the world, providing inspiration to seekers of peace and spiritual fulfillment. At this spot on the morning of August 7, 1895 Swami Vivekananda sat in deep meditation on the final day of his historic stay at Thousand Island Park. The Swami and two disciples strolled about half a mile from the cottage where all was forest and solitude, and sat under this low‐branched tree.
Suddenly the Swami said: “Now we shall meditate. We shall be like Buddha under the Bo‐tree.” He became still as a bronze statue. A thunderstorm came up and it poured, but the Swami did not notice anything. Later that day, boarding a steamer to take leave of the Islands, he said, “I bless these Thousand Islands.”
Installed by the Ramakrishna‐Vivekananda Center of New York in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Summer 2009.
Many attending the dedication ceremonies felt the significance of that final blessing by Swami Vivekananda as they contemplated the natural beauty and atmosphere of peace that pervades the historic spot, and indeed all of the Thousand Islands.
The dedication began with a procession of the attendees through the wooded trail leading to the Vivekananda Rock. Once there, they were to witness the spiritually charged Vedic Chanting (Sanskrit hymns) by the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center’s choir. Swami Yuktatmananda, Spiritual Leader of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York (a branch of the Ramakrishna Order of India), led the program with a talk on Swami Vivekananda’s universal message, based upon the spiritual unity of humankind and harmony of all religions. Swami Yuktatmananda then placed a garland of red and white carnations on the Memorial Plaque “as an offering to Vivekananda on behalf of all those present and all who would come in future.”
Participants in the program included Kevin Kieff, Thousand Islands Regional Director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (Mr. Kieff’s remarks are attached), Steve Taylor, Thousand Island Park Builder and Designer, who assisted in the design and installation of the memorial monuments, and Nellie Taylor, representing the Thousand Island Park Rock Ridges Nature Trail. Swami Vidananda, a monastic member of the Center, read out the inscription of the memorial plaque, followed by a reading from the Introduction to Inspired Talks of the account of the event that occurred at the historic site in 1895.
The ceremony concluded with the choir’s musical rendition of Swami Vivekananda’s poem, The Song of the Sannyasin, composed at Thousand Island Park, and expressive of the high spiritual mood that characterized the Swami’s experience at Thousand Island Park. Swami Vivekananda himself remarked that he was “at his best” in Thousand Island Park. Upon their return to Vivekananda Cottage, all those present were treated to an assortment of Indian and Western delicacies, prepared especially for the occasion.
Vivekananda Cottage also receives Memorial monument:
On the auspicious occasion, a similar engraved bronze plaque bearing a likeness of Swami Vivekananda was also installed in front of the Vivekananda Cottage. The inscription on the Cottage’s plaque, providing visitors with a brief description of the Cottage and its significance, reads as follows:
In the summer of 1895, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) spent seven weeks at Thousand Island Park in the cottage of Elizabeth Dutcher, imparting his teachings to a number of earnest disciples. Those teachings, later published as Inspired Talks, have made their way to every corner of the world. Acquired by the Ramakrishna-
Vivekananda Center of New York in 1947, the Vivekananda Cottage serves as the summer retreat of the Center and a place of pilgrimage for devotees and admirers of Swami Vivekananda from America and abroad.
“On Monday, September 11, 1893, Swami Vivekananda gave his opening address at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in connection with the World’s Columbian Exposition. He was at once acclaimed not only as the expositor of Hinduism, but as a champion of the basic truths of all religions. Almost overnight this unknown young monk of India shot into prominence as a great religious leader. After inviting the Swami, Miss Dutcher added a new wing to the cottage for his accommodation. This wing, three stories high, stood on a steep slope of rock, like a great lantern-tower with windows on three sides. The room at the top was set apart exclusively for the Swami’s use; the lowest room was occupied by a student; the room between, with large windows and several doors opening on the main part of the house, was used as the Swami’s classroom.”
–Swami Nikhilananda, from Introduction to Inspired Talks
“The same love that was born as Buddha, the Compassionate One, once again assumed human form as Vivekananda. Though he lived only thirty-nine years, he strides like a colossus across the whole of modern history and culture.”
–Swami Adiswarananda, from Vivekananda, World Teacher
“It may be that I shall find it good to get outside my body – to cast it off like a worn-out garment. But I shall not cease to work. I shall inspire men everywhere, until the world shall know that it is one with God.”
In its July 27, 2009 article published in advance of the dedication program, the Watertown Daily Times, a prominent newspaper of northern New York State, noted the following examples of Vivekananda’s teachings: “It is impossible to find God outside of ourselves. Our own souls contribute all of the divinity that is outside of us. We are the greatest temple.”
“This is the gist of all worship – to be pure and to do good to others.”
Later, on August 8, 2009, the Watertown Daily Times published a feature article describing in detail the dedication ceremonies, along with a color photograph of the participants standing beside the newly installed Vivekananda Rock Memorial.