British Clergyman’s Admiration for Swami Vivekananda
There were many Anglican clergymen who looked upon Swamiji as a welcome “missionary” from the East. Among them, and perhaps one of the most ardent of them, was the Reverend Hugh Reginald Haweis. Mr. Haweis often attended Swamiji’s evening classes and on the Sunday of June 21 he gave two sermons at his own church – morning and evening – on the subject of Swami Vivekananda. Mr. Goodwin attended them both and gleefully reported to the household that the minister had sung Swamiji’s “praises and had talked about Backty [bhakti] and Backto [bhakta] at great length.” In his newsletter, dated June 23, to the Brahmavadin, Goodwin wrote more soberly of Haweis’s appreciation of Swamiji:
The Rev. H. R. Haweis, the leading English authority on Church Music, and himself a delegate to the Chicago Parliament of Religions, from the Anglican Church, preached two sermons last Sunday at St. James’ Chapel, Marylebone, London on the Swami. I wish those in India and elsewhere who are so eagerly following the Swami’s movements could have heard the eloquent and generous tribute paid to him by this other worker in God’s Vineyard. The Rev. gentleman spoke of the Swami’s teachings from the point of view of the support they give to Christ’s teachings, and what better evidence could I give that thc “Ideal of a Universal Religion” is not falling on barren ground?
Even the Christian Commonwealth mentioned the Reverend Mr. Haweis’s evening talk on Swamiji, which had evidently been an extemporaneous continuation of the morning’s sermon. His announced theme, the journal noted, was “Occultism,” but he had little to say about it on Sunday evening. “Where shall wisdom be found?” was his text, and his exhortation was to accept the truth no matter whence it comes. Christ’s teaching, he said, was limited in time, and necessarily, therefore, He was not able to embrace all knowledge and wisdom.
At the end of the season, when Swamiji brought his classes to a close in mid July and was about to vacation in Europe, Mr. Haweis sent him a little book of his own sermons, inscribing it: “To the Master Vivekananda from one who both reverences and admires his teachings, H. R. Haweis.” A note accompanying the gift read:
My dear Schwami
With every sentiment of profound esteem & admiration I wish you heartily God speed & a return to London. Your teaching is of a kind peculiarly adapted to the Western mind & you are doing inestimable good. Allow me to ask your acceptance of the accompanying little booklet 10,000 of which are now in circulation. It is nothing but a few condensed short hand reports of my general teaching –
Yours truly & faithfully