Swami vivekandanda's First visit to the West (1893–1897)
Vivekananda started his journey to the West on 31 May 1893 and visited several cities in Japan (including Nagasaki, Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo), China and Canada en route to the United States, reaching Chicago on 30 July 1893, where the "Parliament of Religions" took place in September 1893.
The Congress was an initiative of the Swedenborgian layman, and judge of the Illinois Supreme Court, Charles C. Bonney, to gather all the religions of the world, and show "the substantial unity of many religions in the good deeds of the religious life."
It was one of the more than 200 adjunct gatherings and congresses of the Chicago's World's Fair, and was "an avant-garde intellectual manifestation of cultic milieus, East and West," with the Brahmo Samaj and the Theosophical Society being invited as being representative of Hinduism.
Vivekananda wanted to join but was disappointed to learn that no one without credentials from a bona fide organisation would be accepted as a delegate. Vivekananda contacted Professor John Henry Wright of Harvard University, who invited him to speak at Harvard.
Vivekananda wrote of the professor, "He urged upon me the necessity of going to the Parliament of Religions, which he thought would give an introduction to the nation".[On learning that Vivekananda lacked credentials to speak at the Chicago Parliament, Wright said "To ask for your credentials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine in the heavens".]
Vivekananda submitted an application, "introducing himself as a monk 'of the oldest order of sannyāsis ... founded by Sankara,'" supported by the Brahmo Samaj representative Protapchandra Mozoombar, who was also a member of the Parliament's selection committee, "classifying the Swami as a representative of the Hindu monastic order."
Hearing Vivekananda speak, Harvard psychology professor William James said, "that man is simply a wonder for oratorical power. He is an honor to humanity."