How and Why I Adopted the Hindu Religion
October 2, 1902 – Hindu Ladies’ Social Club, Bombay, India
I am a born and bred Englishwoman and unto the age of eighteen, I was trained and educated as English girls are. Christian religious doctrines were of course early instilled into me. I was even from my girlhood inclined to venerate all religious teachings and I devotedly worshipped the child Jesus and loved Him with my whole heart for the self-sacrifices He always willingly underwent, while I felt I could not worship Him enough for His crucifying himself to bestow salvation on the human race. But after the age of eighteen, I began to harbor doubts as to the truth of the Christian doctrines. Many of them began to seem to me false and incompatible with truth. These doubts grew stronger and stronger and at the same time my faith in Christianity tottered more and more. For seven years I was in this wavering state of mind, very unhappy, and yet, very very eager to seek the Truth. I shunned going to Church and yet sometimes my longing to bring restfulness to my spirit impelled me to rush into Church and be absorbed in the service to feel at peace within, as I had hitherto done, and as others around me were doing. But alas! No peace, no rest was there for my troubled soul all eager to know the truth.
During the seven years of wavering it occurred to me that in the study of natural science I should surely find the truth I was seeking. So, ardently I began to study how this world was created and all things in it and I discovered that in the laws of Nature at least there was consistency, but it made the doctrines of the Christian religion seem all the more inconsistent. Just then I happened to get a life of Buddha and in it I found that here, alas, also was a child who lived ever so many centuries before the child Christ but whose sacrifices were no less self-abnegating than those o the other. This dear child Gautama took a strong hold on me and for three more years I plunged myself into the study of the religion of Buddha; and I became more and more convinced that the salvation he preached was decidedly more consistent with the truth than the preachings of the Christian religion.
And now came the turning point for my faith. A cousin of your great Viceroy Lord Ripon invited me to have tea with him and to meet there a great Swami from India who, he said, might perhaps help the search my soul was longing for. The Swami I met here was none other than Swami Vivekananda who afterwards became my Guru and whose teachings have given relief my doubting spirit had been longing for so long. Yet it was not during one visit or two that my doubts were dispelled. Oh no! I had several warm discussions with him and I pondered on his teachings for more than a year. Then he asked me to visit India, to see the Yogis and to study the subject in the very country of its birth, and I found, at last, a faith I could lean upon and obtain my Mukti through the uplifting of the spirit till it merged into Ananda. Now I have told you how and why I have adopted this religion of yours. If you care to hear more, I would gladly go on.
I love India as the birth place of the highest and best of all religions; as the country that has the grandest mountains, the Himalayas; as the place where the sublimsest of mountains are located. The country where the homes are simple; where domestic happiness is most to be found; where the woman unselfishly, unobtrusively, ungrudgingly, serves the dear ones from early morn to dewy eve; where the mother and the grandmother studies, foresees and contributes to the comfort of her belongings, regardless of her own happiness, and in the unselfishness raises womanhood to its highest eminence
You, my sisters, each of whom I dearly love for being the daughters of this lovely land of India, each of you I urge to study the grand literatures of your East in preference to the literatures of the West. Your literature will uplift you. Cling to it. Cling to the simplicity and sobriety of your domestic lives. Keep its purity as it was in the ancient times and as it still exists in your simple homes.
Do not let modern fashions and extravagances of the West and its modern English education spoil your reverential humility, your lovable domestic ties consisting in the loving forethought the elders display for the beloved ones, depending on them, and the resulting respectful deference filially and dutifully accorded by the young to the aged. I make this appeal not to my Hindu sisters but also to Mohammedan and other sisters of mine too. All are my sisters being the daughters of my land of adoption and where I hope to continue the work of my revered Guru Vivekananda.
Source: Nivedita, Sister. “How and Why I Adopted the Hindu Religion.” Printed in The Great Speeches of Modern India, Ed. Rudrangshu Mukherjee (India: Random House) 2011.