Sitting on a small rock just off the coast of Kanyakumari, at the southernmost tip of India, Vivekananda went into deep meditation-- but what a strange meditation! He meditated not upon God, but upon India. It was as if all the pages of India's history opened up before him. Engrossed in deep meditation, he felt in his heart of hearts that India would rise only through a renewal and restoration of that highest spiritual consciousness which has made of India, throughout its history, the cradle of religions and cultures.
No nation can survive without the policy of give and take. As India's greatest deficiency was her poverty, India would have to learn from other countries how to remove it, and for this it was urgently necessary to learn Western science and technology. But India would not just take like a beggar; she would also give something as well. India's strength is in her spirituality, so India would make the whole world understand what true religion is. Swami Vivekananda then decided he would spread India's region and culture throughout the whole world.
Meanwhile, news reached India that the world's first Parliament of Religions was going to be held in the United States of America in Chicago. Swamiji's South Indian followers asked him to take part in it. Swamiji thought of about it, but he wanted divine guidance. At last it came. One night while half asleep, he saw
Sri Ramakrishna walking into the ocean and saying to him: "Go". Swamiji then wrote for permission to the Holy Mother, Sri Sarada Devi, who is regarded as another manifestation of Sri Ramakrishna. The Holy Mother wrote back giving her blessings. Now Swamji felt sure that his mission of going to the West was ordained by God.
At times he even had the conviction that great things would be accomplished by him through this Parliament of Religions. One day, when Swamiji was with one of his brother desciples, Swami Turiyananda, he said:
"Haribhai, I am going to America".
On 31 May 1893, Swamiji sailed from Bombay for America on board the ship 'Peninsular'. After changing ships, he reached Vancouver, Canada, on 25 July. From there he went by train and reached Chicago on 30 July 1893.
Excerpts from "Swamiji's Return to India", Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.