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DEDICATION CEREMONY: Site on island important for followers of noted swami
MONDAY, JULY 27, 2009

The Vivekananda rock memprial is located in Wellesley Island State Park.

THOUSAND ISLAND PARK — The rock is literally off the beaten path, but it has tremendous meaning to the followers of Swami Vivekananda.

On Friday, a dedication ceremony at the rock will honor the significance of the spot for the swami, whose teachings are known to millions worldwide. The ceremony will dedicate a memorial to the swami, who died in 1902.

Swami Vivekananda's 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.

But the swami's link to Northern New York is more than the rock.

In 1893, 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, Swami 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.

Swami Vivekananda's biographers and disciples have said the guru, while at Wellesley Island, achieved "nirvikalpa samadhi," the highest state of communion or oneness with God.

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.

The Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center bases its teachings on the "system of Vedanta," which combines both the religion and philosophy of the Hindus. It's led by Swami Yuktatmananda, spiritual leader of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York in New York City. Each summer, Swami Yuktatmananda leads seminars for hundreds of people at the cottage and it's also an important place of pilgrimage for followers of the Ramakrishna Order.

The memorial is within Wellesley Island State Park, adjoining the Thousand Island Park Rock Ridges Nature Trail.

"We approached the state park for the memorial and they were very receptive," said Barry Zelikovsky, a monk at the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center. "Members of our order and others can go there for a quiet place of reflection and meditation."

The memorial will note the importance of the site to Swami Vivekananda, who stayed seven weeks during his 1895 visit.

The swami talked daily to his followers, usually in the evening breeze on a high, roofed-in porch off his guest room. He "seemed to be speaking to himself in words of fire," according to S. Ellen Waldo, who that summer wrote down his words, which have been published by the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in a collection titled "Inspired Talks."

Above is the plaque installed at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial.

Mr. Zelikovsky said that on the morning of Aug. 7, 1895, the final day of Swami Vivekananda's stay at the then-20-year-old Thousand Island Park, he sat in deep meditation under a low-branched tree.

"He became still as a bronze statue," the memorial reads. "A thunderstorm came up and it poured, but the swami did not notice anything. Later that day, boarding a steamer to take leave of the islands, he said, 'I bless these Thousand Islands.'"

WHAT: Vivekananda rock memorial dedication

WHEN: 5 p.m. Friday.

WHERE: Directions and guidance will be provided at Vivekananda Cottage at Thousand Island Park, Mountain Avenue, on the southwestern tip of Wellesley Island, at 4:30 p.m. Friday. The memorial site can be approached from the final leg of the Thousand Island Park Rock Ridges Nature Trail.

EXCERPTED From: http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20090727/CURR04/307279997