Vivekananda and America

Swami Vivekananda first arrived in America to attend the “Parliament of Religions” held in Chicago in September 1891. His address at the parliament, began with the words – “Sisters and Brothers of America”. It is in that spirit that I share some of his gratitude towards America and its people today, July 4th 2018. Vivekananda attained final liberation on July 4th 1902.

My mission in America was not to the Parliament of Religions.

That was only something by the way, it was only an opening, an opportunity, and for that we (the Indian people) are very thankful; but really, our thanks are due to the great people of the United States, the American nation, the warm-hearted, hospitable, great nation of America, where more than anywhere else the feeling of brotherhood has been developed. That is the character of the American race, and we highly appreciate it. Their kindness to me is past all narration, and it would take me years yet to tell you how I have been treated by them most kindly and most wonderfully.

– Swami Vivekananda (Collected Works, Volume 3, page 330)

The Swami was treated poorly by a few who did not like him or his ideas – but there were also many, who came to his aid and helped him greatly.

There is good and bad everywhere, true — but a nation is not to be judged by its weaklings called the wicked, as they are only the weeds which lag behind, but by the good, the noble, and the pure who indicate the national life-current to be flowing clear and vigorous…

– Swami Vivekananda (Collected Works, Volume 6, page 248-49)

Among those who came to his aid, gave him shelter in their homes, and became his greatest supporters, were various very kind-hearted women.

Nowhere in the world are women like those of this country. How pure, independent, self-relying, and kind-hearted! It is the women who are the life and the soul of this country. All learning and culture are centered in them…

There are thousands of women here whose minds are as pure and white as the snow of this country.

– Swami Vivekananda (Collected Works, Volume 6, page 252-53)

Vivekananda in Boston



I was not aware of the moment

when I first crossed the threshold of this life.

What was the power that made me open out into this vast mystery like a bud in the forest at midnight!

When in the morning I looked upon the light

I felt in a moment that I was no stranger in this world that the inscrutable without name and form had taken me in its arms in the form of my own mother.

Even so in death the same unknown will appear as ever known to me.

And because I love this life,

I know I shall love death as well.

The child cries out when from the right breast the mother takes it away in the very next moment to find in the left one its consolation.

— Rabindranath Tagore

In this poem, Nobel Laureate poet Tagore seems to address the “divine” #Mother and her infinite love for us, her children… In a different poem, he had suggested that “we need not fear, for She, who gave us birth, knows every single hair on our head”… In this power, he addresses the other transition… as we move from life to life…

The First Thanksgiving 

I send #Thanksgiving greetings to all who share so generously of whatever they have with those who are in need. 

I believe, through personal experience, that this is one holiday that represents the true ethos and heart of what is America – a giving, sharing, celebrating, welcoming people at their core – who took this stranger into their home – yes, literally – thirty years ago, sat me (and my two graduate school roommates from India who had barely been here for eight weeks) at their family holiday table and poured so much love, affection and food(!) into us that it became the glue that cemented us to them and this country – all three of us are still here – now with families, careers and doing our small part to give back and share that same heart and ethos with others – yes, even strangers.

Thank you, Shirley and family of Blacksburg, VA. I still remember the prayer that hung on your kitchen wall that day and reflected your spirit of giving – “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…”. You may have lived in small town America but your heart was as vast as the prairies on which the winds sing the songs of grace and gratitude…

I celebrate you, all of you and the spirit of thanksgiving today. May the thanks and the giving continue…



Healing America… 

Sharing with all of you  my thoughts as a non-partisan voter in the US Election – this had percolated through my heartbox, in bits and pieces, one stanza at a time, over the course of the day on the eve of the election… I let it brew some more, and now, after minimal editing, choosing to ‘set it free…’ / a poem, a prayer, a call for healing… and a bit long :)// 

Beyond the sea of red, white and blue

Beyond the fields of yellow and green 

Beyond the rising rhetoric and punditry

Lies hidden a divide that has rarely been seen

Have we become more or less like the enemy?

Full of the same hate that we denounce? 

Have we become better through the process?

Or is it mere platitudes of love we pronounce?

How and when shall we ALL heal from the pain?

The die has been cast, the mold has been set; 

So much strife in the name of choices cast

How many months till their insults we forget?

And after the casting and counting Is over

One eye shall exult, the other shall bear pain; 

But who shall really win and who shall lose? 

When from divisions deep, we choose not to refrain?

For life and liberty are great gifts given

And so is our celebrated freedom to choose;

But is there any reason for us to long rejoice?  

If in the process, our pure spirit we slowly lose?! 

So let me pause; pray for the heart to prevail 

We have no choice — it must, it must!

For the sake of the republic that we truly love

Lest it shall be damaged further, beyond all trust…

And perchance among all of the silenced voices

A new rhythm and harmony, shall for sure arise; 

Where love’s paintbrush melds all the colors together

Red and blue sing as one, ‘America’ reprise!

And the white that denotes the purest purity

Will again be remembered, for what it stands; 

Peace lilies will spring among fruited plains 

We shall heal one another – and humanity gains! 

– Kumud 


Letter from a Mother

I did not promise you flowers blooming
I did not promise you sun-shiny days
I did not promise you paths straight or even
I did not promise you years of not living apart
I did not promise you that I would not leave before my time

For I could not promise you what I did not have to give
I did what a Mother does best…
I filled you with all the love and light that swelled within
I sang to you all the songs that my heart could sing
I wrote to you all the letters that my hands could write
I shared with you all the best of what was given to me
I raised you with all the courage that I could muster
And if I did not promise you anything more
I hope that you know
That you
Who pauses and kneels to smells the flowers not yet bloomed
Who sees the sun shining behind the clouds gray and low
Who walks the paths whether they be twisted and slippery
Who feels my light from the universes here and beyond
Who believes that the Infinite wraps her arms around our time together
Yes you
Are the greatest promise that I made to the world
Thank you
For honoring the promises I could not even make
For listening to my songs and replying to my letters
And for making new today
Some promises of your own…


Letter from Mother Nature

What are these magical clouds, 

That the full moon often rides; 

What is this faintly scented mist, 

That trails her flowing strides…

If dusk would pause her falling, 

She would set the blossoms alight;

The robins would stop and stare

Till the dawn of tomorrow’s twilight..

She taught me to ask questions,

So many answers I never knew;

Her fingers combing my hair, 

Shooting stars streaking in skies blue..

Mother Nature waits with patience, 

For her to arise, spring us awake;

The brave shall ask forgiveness,  

Honor her gifts, admit their mistake..

The gentle breeze blows off the lake,

Migrating geese lifted into flight;

Baby bluejays are long fast asleep,

FullMoon vies with tall pines for height..

The gift that keeps on giving,

May we pay forward with grateful hands;

Hundreds of generations we can change,

In our actions, their future stands..

#spring #fullmoon #EarthDay

Letter from the Moon

The blossoms of spring claim​, 

They reach for me high; 

With nature’s designs, 

who am I to argue? 
At dusk I rose, 

drawing attention wide

upwards the robins looked, 

as homeward they flew;
Stare not yet, 

at my vista incomplete, 

I need to work all night 

With spring’s bold hue; 
The sunset this eve, 

lingered an extra while 

Choosing colors carefully, 

To match my silver and blue;
If only I could time it right, 

to rise and set in sync, 

Embrace my lover’s light 

And my favorite orange hue;
They break out in verse 

When they see me getting full; 

I’d love to someday read 

more poetry when new…

– Letter from an almost-full moon

by Kumud Ajmani #poetry #EarthDay