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Granite monument unveiled at TI Park to honor Swami Vivekananda

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THOUSAND ISLAND PARK — A granite monument has been installed to honor Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu religious leader who was inspired in the Thousand Islands.

The ceremony that unveiled the Vivekananda Landing Monument at Thousand Island Park on Wellesley Island was held Saturday .

Last summer, the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York, based in New York City, organized a weekend of events at the park to observe the 150th birthday of Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902). His 150th birthday celebration is a two-year event.

Swami Vivekananda’s teachings are known to millions worldwide and his name is a household word in his native India. That country’s greatest leaders of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, paid homage to him for the inspiration that his life and work had on their patriotism. His connection to the north country began in Chicago.

In 1893, Swami Vivekananda, a 30-year-old monk from Calcutta, took the podium at the World’s Parliament of Religions, an interfaith gathering in Chicago, and declared the faith he followed emphasized toleration and accepted all religions as true as he spread the word of his mentor, Sri Ramakrishna.

Two years later, Swami Vivekananda brought his message to Wellesley Island at the invitation of one of his students, Oswego native M. Elizabeth Dutcher. She invited the swami to rest from his labors at her cottage on a secluded hill behind the Thousand Island Park tabernacle. He lived and taught there for seven weeks.

The cottage he stayed at is now called Vivekananda Cottage, run by the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York, an accredited branch of the Ramakrishna Order of India. The building was rediscovered and restored by the center in 1947. It is an important, holy place of pilgrimage for devotees and admirers of Swami Vivekananda. His biographers and disciples have said the guru, while at Wellesley Island, achieved “nirvikalpa samadhi,” the highest state of communion or oneness with God.

Last weekend’s ceremony unveiled the etched bronze plaque on a pedestal of local granite. The event was attended by members of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, Bill Burns, president of the Thousand Island Park Corp. board of directors, the Rev. James Brown, a longtime summer resident of the park, other park officials and Thousand Island Park residents.

Representing the center was its minister and spiritual leader, Swami Yuktatmananda, who spoke about the universal spiritual message of Swami Vivekananda. The center’s choir performed musical selections that included popular Indian songs and American tunes including John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

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