20 May 2014

Swami Vivekananda And John D. Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller or John Davison Rockefeller, Senior. (8 July 1839 – 23 May 1937) was an American businessman. He was a co-founder of the Standard Oil Company and became one of the world's wealthiest men of his time. In his later life he became a very well-known philanthropist.

Our this article's topic is Swami Vivekananda and John D. Rockefeller.

Madame Emma Calvé told the following event to Madame Drinette Verdier (see "Reference" #4 below)

Swami Vivekananda and John D. Rockefeller

1st day

Swami Vivekanada, standing
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Once[1] John D. Rockefeller heard from his friends that Swami Vivekananda was staying in Chicago. His friends suggested him to meet the "extraordinary Indian monk", but initially Rockefeller was not interested to do so. He was a strong-willed person and everyone knew that it was almost impossible to change his opinion or decision. But, finally one day Rockefeller somehow decided to go and meet the Swami.

Rockefeller went to the house in Chicago where Vivekananda was residing and informed the butler of the house that he wanted to meet the Swami. The butler asked him to wait at the living room, but Rockefeller ignored the request and decided to go to study room directly.

Rockefeller entered the study room and found Vivekananda was seating at his writing table and writing something on a paper. Vivekananda did not even lift his eyes from the writing pad to see who had entered. Rockefeller went forward and stood in front of the writing tabel.

After a while, Vivekananda, without lifting his eyes from his writing papers, started telling Rockefeller about his past, secret events and incidents, his anxities etc. These were unknown to even closest friends or Rockefeller. Then Vivekananda told him in a polite way that the huge amount of wealth he had accumulated was not his own, but that was only an opportunity for him, given by God, by which he could serve the society by helping poor and distressed people. Finally Vivekananda suggested him spend his money for the welfare of the society.

Rockefeller was clearly annoyed. He never thought that anyone could dare to talk to him in that way. He left the study room, not even bidding a goodbye.

2nd day

About a week later Rockefeller returned to house where Vivekananda was staying and entered the study room. This time too he found Vivekananda busy with his writing and reading works. This time he brought a copy of a newspaper of the day with him that mentioned his pledge to donate a huge amount of money to a public institution.

He put the newspaper on Vivekananda's study table and then said—
There you are. You must be satisfied now. You can also thank me for this.
Swami Vivekananda, who had not lifted his eyes from his writing papers and books so far, picked up the newspaper and started reading the news article.

After finishing his reading, he quietly said—
Why should I thank you? Rather you should thank me for providing the suggestion.

This was Rockefellers' first large donation towards humanity.

See also

You just read Vivekananda's comment "Why should I thank you? Rather you should thank me for providing the suggestion.". Here is a related article—
  1. Art of giving — suggested by Swami Vivekananda


We have studied the following books—
  1. Bornstein, Erica (30 May 2012). Disquieting Gifts: Humanitarianism in New Delhi. Stanford University Press. pp. 34–. ISBN 978-0-8047-8208-1.
  2. Chattopadhyaya, Rajagopal (1 January 1999). Swami Vivekananda in India: A Corrective Biography. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 339–. ISBN 978-81-208-1586-5.
  3. Sankar (2011). Indian Ethos And Values In Management. McGraw-Hill Education (India) Pvt Limited. pp. 238–. ISBN 978-0-07-106779-9. 
  4. New Discoveries, Burke, Mary Loiuse (Sister Gargi) Vol. 1, pp. 487-88, Immediate source: Vivekananda, Swami, Complete Works, Volume IX


  1. "Once" is a vague word. You may surely ask "When?" Well, we do not the exact date and month. We have studied 3-4 books, but could not find this information anywhere. But most probably, it was  1894. Emma Calvé met Vivekananda for the first time in Chicago in early 1894. Rockefeller went to meet Vivekananda after that.

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This page was last updated on: 20 May 2014. 4:44 pm IST (UTC+5:30 hours)
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