A short life of swami vivekananda

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A short life of swami vivekananda

  1. 1. A SHORT LIFE OFSWAMI VIVEKANANDA SWAMI TEJASANANDA (Publication Department) 5 Dehi Entally Road Kolkata 700 014
  2. 2. Published by Swami Mumukshananda President, Advaita Ashrama Mayavati, Pithoragarh, Himalayasfrom its Publication Department, Calcutta © All Rights Reserved Fifteenth Impression, June 1995 16M3C ISBN 81-7505-030-6 Printed in India at Gipidi Box Co. 3B Chatu Babu Lane Calcutta 700 014
  3. 3. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 3 PUBLISHER’S NOTE TO THE SECOND EDITION Since the first appearance of the book certainnew findings about the life of Swami Vivekanandahave been made. In the present edition the bookhas therefore been slightly edited and correctedaccordingly. We are indebted to Amrita Salm of theVedanta Society of Southern California for her helpin this regard.10 April 1995 PUBLISHER
  4. 4. 4 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA PREFACE During his last illness, when Sri Ramakrishnacould not talk, he wrote on a piece of paper thatSwami Vivekananda (then known as NarendraNath) should have to work for the good ofhumanity. But Swami Vivekananda did not relishthis idea, since he was yearning to remain absorbedin meditation and enjoy perennial Bliss. Sri Rama-krishna then remarked that if Swami Vivekanandawould not willingly plunge into work, the DivineMother would force him to do it. Afterwards, whenSwami Vivekananda was in the ceaseless turmoilof work, moving like a meteor from the East to theWest, and the West to the East, he used to say, ‘Some-thing has possessed me and is giving me no rest.’The period of his active work was short, butposterity will some day be able to assess at its truevalue all that he has done for his motherland aswell as for the world. Meantime, one is concerned with the fact thatthe life and message of Swami Vivekananda are asource of great inspiration to many in their indi-vidual as well as collective life. His words give
  5. 5. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 5courage to a drooping soul, his message brings newhope for a sinking nation. Swami Vivekananda wasthe embodiment of strength, and if all his teachingswere to be summed up in one word, that wordwould be STRENGTH—a dynamic strength. It is forthe want of strength that individuals fail in life,nations suffer, and the world is in torment. As such,the number of persons who are eager to know aboutSwami Vivekananda or are likely to be benefitedby his message is legion. The present short biography is intended tomeet the needs of those who, with all their earnest-ness, have neither the time nor the opportunity toread longer works about the Swami. A versatilegenius as Swami Vivekananda was, and many-sided as were his activities, it is idle to hope or toexpect that a complete picture of that mighty soulcould be given in such a small compass. The attemptis here made only to give a glimpse, so that peoplemay become interested to know more about him. In preparing this book, we have utilized thematerials found in the Advaita Ashrama publica-tions about Swami Vivekananda. The present bookis a companion volume to A Short Life of SriRamakrishna.December 21, 1940MAYAVATI PUBLISHER
  6. 6. 6 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA CONTENTSCHAPTER PAGEI Boy Narendra Nath 9II Meeting With Sri Ramakrishna 22III Transformation 34IV A Wandering Monk 42V From the Old World to the New 56VI In the Parliament of Religions 62VII As a Teacher in America 70VIII In England 77IX Beloved India 84X Message to his Countrymen 88XI In the Company of Western and Eastern Disciples 101XII Second Visit to the West 106XIII Parting Glimpses 110XIV The Passing 117 Some Utterances 120
  7. 7. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 7 A SHORT LIFE OF SWAMI VIVEKANANDA BOY NARENDRA NATH The future Swami Vivekananda was born inthe famous Datta family of Simla, in Calcutta. Hisfamily name was Narendra Nath Datta. Hisgrandfather, Durga Charan Datta, was a gifted man,well versed in Persian and Sanskrit and had a greataptitude for law. But at the age of twenty-five, afterthe birth of his son, Vishwanath, he renouncedworldly life and became a monk. Vishwanath Datta,father of Swami Vivekananda, was also endowedwith many qualities of head and heart, for whichhe commanded great respect from one and all. Hewas proficient in English and Persian, and tookdelight in the study of the Bible and the poems ofthe Persian poet Hafiz. He took to law as aprofession and became a successful attorney-at-lawin the High Court of Calcutta. He was a man of
  8. 8. 8 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAdeep compassion and great sympathy, and hischarity very often knew no discrimination.Vishwanath was a great lover of music and had avery good voice. He it was who insisted that hisson Narendra Nath should study music, for helooked upon it as the source of much pleasure. Vishwanath was blessed with a wife who washis peer in all respects. She was exceptionallyintelligent and possessed royal dignity and fire ofone born, as it were, to regal estate. She won therespect and veneration of all who came in contactwith her, and her judgement was followed in theconduct of all affairs that mattered. Calm resignationto the will of God in all circumstances, strength,and reserve characterized this Hindu woman. Thepoor and the helpless were the special objects ofher solicitude. She was noted for her unusualmemory and knew by heart long passages from thegreat epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata,which she read daily. Of such parents was born, on Monday the12th January 1863, Narendra Nath, who afterwardsas Swami Vivekananda shook the world, andushered in a new age of glory and splendour forIndia. The influence of the mother in the formationof the character and the development of the mindof a child is always very great. Narendra Nath used
  9. 9. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 9to tell later how his mother had taught him his firstEnglish words; and he mastered the Bengalialphabet under her tutorship. It was at her kneethat he first heard the tales of the Ramayana and theMahabharata. His boyish imagination wascaptivated by the life of Sri Rama, an incarnation ofGod, and he purchased a clay image of Sita-Ramaand worshipped it with flowers. Sometimes Shivatook the place of Rama as the object of worship byNarendra Nath. But nevertheless the Ramayana hadthe greatest fascination for him; and whenever theRamayana was to be read in the neighbourhood,he was sure to be there. Sometimes he was soenraptured by the thrilling episodes of Rama’s lifethat he forgot all about home. Naren—as he wasnow called—liked to play at meditation. Thoughit was play, sometimes it awakened in him deepspiritual emotions which made him unconsciousof the outer world. One day he lost himself so muchin this mimic meditation in a secluded corner ofthe house that his relatives had to force open thedoor and shake him to bring him back to normalconsciousness. Naren had a fascination for wanderingmonks. Whenever a sadhu came to the door, Narenwould be delighted and give him anything fromthe house as an offering. Naren would also have apeculiar experience when he would try to go to
  10. 10. 10 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAsleep. As soon as he closed his eyes there appearedbetween his eyebrows a wonderful spot of light ofchanging colours, which would expand and burstand bathe his whole body with a flood of whiteradiance. As the mind became preoccupied withthis phenomenon, the body would fall asleep. Itwas a regular occurrence with him, and NarendraNath thought this phenomenon was natural witheverybody. But it indicated his great spiritualpotentiality. There was, however, another side of hischaracter. As a child Narendra Nath was verynaughty, and hard to manage. It needed two nursesto take care of him. He was of extraordinaryrestlessness and at times beyond control. Referringto this, his mother used to say, ‘I prayed to Shiva fora son and He has sent me one of His demons.’ He was also a great tease. He would annoy hissisters and when chased would take refuge in theopen drain, grinning and making faces at them insafety, for they would not follow him there. Thefamily cow was one of his playmates, and he had anumber of pet animals and birds, among whichwere a monkey, a goat, a peacock, pigeons, and twoor three guinea-pigs. Of the servants the coachmanwas his special friend, and one of the ambitions ofhis childhood was to become a syce or groom. Tohim the syce with his turban and his whip, which
  11. 11. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 11he flourished as the carriage rolled on, was amagnificent person! At the age of six Naren was sent to a primaryschool. At schools one is apt to meet with strangecomrades, and after a few days he had acquired avocabulary which quite upset the family’s sense ofpropriety. So he was removed from the school, anda private tutor was engaged for him. Soon Narenshowed remarkable intelligence in his studies. Helearned to read and write while other boys werewrestling with the alphabet. His memory wasprodigious. He had only to listen to the tutor ’sreading to learn the lessons. At the age of seven heknew by memory almost the whole ofMugdhabodha, a Sanskrit grammar, as well aspassages of great length from the Ramayana andthe Mahabharata. When seven years old, Narendra joined theMetropolitan Institution founded by Pandit IshwarChandra Vidyasagar. His exceptional intelligencewas at once recognized by teachers and class-mates.But he was so restless that, they say of him, he neverreally sat down at his desk at all. Narendra was a favourite of his companions.He was always the leader among his friends. Hisfavourite game was ‘King and the Court’. The thronewas the highest step of the stairs in a room. Therehe would install himself. No one was allowed to
  12. 12. 12 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAsit on the same level. From there he created hisPrime Minister, Commander-in-Chief, TributaryPrinces, and other state officials and seated themon steps according to their rank. He enacted aDurbar and administrated justice with royaldignity. The slightest insubordination was putdown by a disapproving glare. When he played, his play was lively. At theschool, when the class was dispersed for lunch, hewould be the first to finish and run back to theplayground. New games always fascinated him,and he invented many to amuse himself and hisfriends. Disputes often arose among the boys, andit was to Naren that the disputants came as to acourt of arbitration. Often he would turn theclassroom into his playground. Even during thelessons he would entertain his friends with storiesof the wild pranks he had played at home or withtales from the Ramayana or the Mahabharata. Once during a lesson the teacher suddenlyasked Naren and his friends, who were talkingamongst themselves, to repeat what he had beensaying. All were silent; but Naren, having thepower to double his mind, was able to listen to thelesson, while he amused the boys. He answeredcorrectly all the questions put to him. The teacherthen asked who had been talking during the lesson,and would not believe the boys when they pointed
  13. 13. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 13to Naren. Teachers would often find it difficult totackle such a student. A Story is told of him showing how dauntlessin spirit and impatient of superstition he was:Narendra Nath was in the habit of climbing a treein the compound of one of his friends, not only togather flowers, but to get rid of his superfluousenergy by swinging to and fro, head downward,and then somersaulting to the ground. These anticsannoyed the old, half-blind grandfather of thehouse, and he thought to stop them by telling Narenthat the tree was haunted by an evil spirit that brokethe necks of those who climbed the tree. Narenlistened politely; but when the old man was out ofsight, he again began to climb the tree. His friendwho had taken the words of the old man seriouslyremonstrated. But Naren laughed at his seriousnessand said, ‘What an ass you are! Why, my neckwould have been off long before this if the oldgrandfather’s ghost story was true!’ Naren was the beloved of all. With everyfamily in the locality, of high or low caste, rich orpoor, he established some sort of relationship. Ifany of the boys whom he knew suffered anybereavement, he was the first to offer consolation.His ready wit and pranks kept everybody amused,sometimes, indeed, making even the grave-mindedelders burst out into peals of laughter. He never
  14. 14. 14 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAsuffered from shyness and he made himself at homeeverywhere. Naren disliked monotony. He organized anamateur theatrical company and presented playsin the worship-hall of his home. Then he started agymnasium in the courtyard of the house, wherehis friends used to take regular physical exercises.It went on for some time till one of his cousins brokehis arm. Then it was stopped. Thereupon Narenjoined the gymnasium of a neighbour with hisfriends and began to take lessons in fencing,lathiplay, wrestling, rowing, and other sports. Oncehe carried off the first prize in general athleticcompetition. When tired of these, he showed magiclantern pictures in his home. At this time he conceived the idea of learningto cook, and he induced his playmates to subscribeaccording to their means towards the project, hehimself, however, bearing the greater part of theexpenses. He was the chief cook, and the otherswere his assistants. Though the boy was full of wild pranks, hehad no evil associate. His instinct kept him awayfrom the dubious ways of the world. Truthfulnesswas the backbone of his life. Occupied during theday in games and various amusements, he wasbeginning to mediate during the night and soonwas blessed with some wonderful vision. As Naren
  15. 15. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 15grew older, a definite change in his temperamentwas noticeable. He had a preference for intellectualpursuits, and he began to read books andnewspapers, and to attend public lectures regularly.He was able to repeat the substance of these to hisfriends with such original criticism that they wereastonished, and he developed an argumentativepower which none could compete. In the year 1877, while Naren was a studentof the eighth class, his father went to Raipur inMadhya Pradesh. Naren also was taken there.There was no school in Raipur. This gave Narenthe time and opportunity to become very intimatewith his father—a great privilege, for his fatherhad a noble and cultured mind. Vishwanath Dattaattracted the intellect of his son. He would holdlong conversations with him on topics thatdemanded depth, precision, and soundness ofthought. He gave the boy free intellectual rein,believing that education is a stimulus to thoughtand not a superimposition of ideas. Many notedscholars visited Vishwanath. Naren would listento their discussions, and he occasionally joinedin them. In these days he demanded intellectualrecognition from everyone. So ambitious was hein this respect that if his mental powers were notgiven recognition, he would feel indignant andmade no secret about it. His father could not
  16. 16. 16 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAsanction such outbursts and reprimanded the boy,but at the same time in his heart he was proud ofthe intellectual acumen and keen sense of self-respect of his son. Vishwanath Datta returned to Calcutta withhis family in 1879. There was some difficulty aboutgetting Naren to school, for he had been absent fortwo years. But his teachers loved him andremembering his ability made an exception in hiscase. Then he gave himself up to study, masteringthree years’ lessons in one, and passed the collegeEntrance Examination creditably. At this time Naren made great progress inacquiring knowledge. Even while in the Entranceclass he had mastered a great many standard worksof English and Bengali literature and had read manybooks of history. He keenly studied standard workson Indian history. At this time he acquired a powerof reading which he described as flowers: ‘It sohappened that I could understand an authorwithout reading his book line by line. I could getthe meaning by just reading the first and the lastline of a paragraph. As this power developed, Ifound it unnecessary to read even the paragraphs.I could follow by reading only the first and lastlines on a page. Further, where the authorintroduced discussion to explain a matter and ittook him four or five or even more pages to clear
  17. 17. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 17the subject, I could grasp the whole trend of hisargument by only reading the first few lines.’ After passing the Entrance Examination,Narendra Nath entered college. He first studied atthe Presidency College, Calcutta, and then joinedthe General Assembly’s Institution founded by theScottish General Missionary Board. In college, heattracted the attention of both Indian and Britishprofessors, who were astounded by his brilliantintellect. Principal W.W. Hastie once said, ‘I havetravelled far and wide, but I have never yet comeacross a lad of his talents and possibilities. He isbound to make his mark in life.’ Naren did notlimit his studies to the curriculum. During the firsttwo years of his college life he acquired a thoroughgrasp of all the masterpieces of Western logic, andin his third and fourth year classes he set himself tomastering Western philosophy as well as ancientand modern history of the different nations ofEurope. With all his seriousness there was another sideto Naren. He had a great love for pleasure and gavehimself up to it whole-heartedly. He was the soulof social circles, a brilliant conversationalist, a sweetsinger, and the leader in all innocent fun. No partywas complete without him. He was uncon-ventional in manners and with flashes of keen witwould often expose all shows and mummeries of
  18. 18. 18 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAthe world almost to the point of cynicism. He wasas keen for adventure as ever and detested any sortof weakness. By far the most important trait in hischaracter was purity. The opportunities forquestionable adventures were many; but theinfluence of his mother made itself felt here, for shehad made purity a criterion of loyalty to herselfand family. Then, too, ‘something’ always held himback, as he himself said later on. He had a monasticinstinct underneath the surface of the frivolous lifehe seemed to live. When his father began to urgehim to marry, with the tempting prospect ofopportunities for a good career, Naren rebelled. Andstrange to say, every time the subject of marriagecame up, some unforeseen difficulty would arise,and the matter would be abandoned.MEETING WITH SRI RAMAKRISHNA We have seen something of the religiousdisposition of Naren, his love for gods andgoddesses, and his tendency to meditate. But as hisintellectual horizon began to widen and he camemore and more in contact with Western philosophyand science, Narendra Nath began to question his
  19. 19. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 19youthful theism and orthodox beliefs. Graduallyhis doubts and questionings took the form of anintellectual tempest which raged furiously andmade him restless. He had faith and devotion, buthe wanted reason to support them. At times hewould think reason was the surest guide in lifeand reason could lead one to the realization of theultimate Reality. But it was patent that a pale,bloodless reason could not satisfy human emotions,nor could it save one in the hour of trials andtemptations. The study of John Stuart Mill, Hume,and Herbert Spencer raised a tumult of thoughtsin him till his harassing doubts turned into a settledphilosophical scepticism. But even in this, hisinnate religious nature gave him no rest. He longedfor the Unknown, hungered for the realization ofthe Reality. At this time the influence of the renownedBrahmo leader, Keshab Chandra Sen, over theyoung Bengali intellectuals was strong. NarendraNath also was captivated by the lectures andwritings of Keshab Chandra Sen. He began tointerest himself in the Brahmo movement andactually became a member of the Sadharan BrahmoSamaj. The Brahmo movement protested againstcertain forms and tenets of the orthodox Hindu,such as polytheism, image worship, DivineIncarnation, and the need of a Guru (spiritual
  20. 20. 20 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAguide). It offered a monotheistic religion whichrepudiated all these. On the social side, it stood forreforms in the way of breaking up of the caste systemand the caste consciousness, the recognition of theequality of man, the education and emancipationof women, and so on. It is not surprising that thismovement captured the imagination of youngBengal. Naren came to regard the Samaj as an idealinstitution in which might be solved all problemsof life, individual and national. He chafed underthe rigidity of caste and had no sympathy withpolytheism and image worship. He espoused thecause with all earnestness and became imbued withthe same ideas as the Brahmo leaders. For a time the intellectual atmosphere of theBrahmo Samaj satisfied him; he felt uplifted duringthe prayer and devotional songs. Gradually it beganto dawn on him that, if God was to be realized, hewas no nearer the goal than before he joined it.What were philosophies and Vedas but attempts todescribe the Indescribable? They were useless ifthey did not bring one to the feet of the Lord! In his longing to know the Truth he turned toMaharshi Devendra Nath Tagore, the Brahmoleader, who was regarded by many as one of thebest of spiritual teachers. Tense with excitement,one day he approached him and burst out with thequestion: ‘Sir, have you seen God?’ The Maharshi
  21. 21. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 21was startled by such a question. Mad in his spirituallonging, Narendra Nath went to the leaders of otherreligious sects, but not one of them could satisfyhim. While Narendra Nath was thus suffering—his faith in Hinduism being undermined, andhimself prey to the conflict of his own thoughts —there lived, four miles to the north of Calcutta, onewhom people knew as Sri Ramakrishna and whoselife was one long-drawn spiritual ecstasy—a blissof the highest kind. The life of Sri Ramakrishnawas just the antithesis of that of Narendra Nath. SriRamakrishna came of a poor, orthodox Brahminfamily of a village in the district of Hooghly, wherea ray of Western civilization had not reached. Hehad scarcely any secular learning and became apriest in the temple of Goddess Kali atDakshineswar. Soon by his sincerity and intenseSadhana (spiritual endeavour) he realized a livingpresence in the image of Kali, who was now morethan an earthly mother to him. Afterwards he per-formed spiritual practices as advocated by almostall schools of Hindu thought, and his life covered,as it were, the whole gamut of Hinduism. Notcontent with this he practised other religions alsoand came to the direct conclusion that all religionspointed to the same goal. Afterwards he lived a lifemore in tune with God than with the external world.
  22. 22. 22 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA Narendra Nath once heard about Sri Rama-krishna from the principal of his college, WilliamHastie. One day Principal Hastie, while holding aclass on Wordsworth, found it difficult to explainthe ecstasy of the poet to his students. Then he saidthat for visual proof of such an experience onemight go to Dakshineswar to see Ramakrishna,whom he had witnessed as enjoying that blessedstate. Narendra Nath also once met Sri Ramakrishnaat the house of a devotee in Calcutta, whereNarendra Nath was invited to sing. Now, in hismental crisis, Narendra Nath suddenly remem-bered Sri Ramakrishna and decided to go toDakshineswar to find out if Sri Ramakrishna hadthe direct experience of God. Narendra Nath went to Dakshineswar withsome friends. Wrapped in his own thought, carelessabout his body and dress, and unmindful of theexternal world, Naren entered the room of SriRamakrishna. His eyes bespoke an introspectivemind, as if some part of it were always concentratedupon something within. Sri Ramakrishna wassurprised to find such a spiritual soul coming fromthe material atmosphere of Calcutta, as he saidafterwards. Narendra Nath sang two Bengali songsat the request of Sri Ramakrishna. There was somuch feeling and devotion in these songs that SriRamakrishna fell into Samadhi. After that Sri
  23. 23. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 23Ramakrishna beckoned Naren to go to the sideroom as if to give some private instructions. WhenNarendra Nath did so, Sri Ramakrishna began toshed tears of joy like one meeting a long-lost dearone. Then amidst sobs and with great tendernessSri Ramakrishna began to tell how he was waitingfor him for a long time, for his ears were well-nighburnt in listening to the profane words of worldlypeople and he wanted the companionship of onewho could appreciate his innermost experience.Narendra Nath was also told that he had a greatspiritual mission to fulfil. Narendra Nath was bewildered and thoughtSri Ramakrishna must be a madman in talking thatway. Before Sri Ramakrishna returned to his room,Narendra Nath promised that he would comeagain. In great amazement Narendra Nath cameback to his friends. He now began to watch SriRamakrishna, and to his great surprise there wasno strangeness in his behaviour. From his wordsand ecstatic states it transpired he was a genuineman of God. In the course of conversation Sri Rama-krishna said, ‘God can be realized. One can see andtalk to Him as I am doing with you. But who caresto do so?’ There was so much ring of sincerity inthese words that Narendra Nath could notdisbelieve Sri Ramakrishna. It became apparent tohim that these words came from the depth of his
  24. 24. 24 SWAMI VIVEKANANDArealization. But how to reconcile this with thestrange conduct he had witnessed just now?Narendra Nath was in a great conflict. With utterconfusion he returned to Calcutta. He could notdecide whether Sri Ramakrishna was amonomaniac or not. But he could not deny that hewas a great saint. He was at a loss to account for thestrange feeling of blessedness that he experiencedin the presence of Sri Ramakrishna. In spite ofhimself, Narendra Nath was drawn to SriRamakrishna. In about a month Narendra Nath once againset out for Dakshineswar, this time to encounter astranger experience. Sri Ramakrishna received himvery affectionately and called him to sit on the bedby his side. Then as Sri Ramakrishna in an ecstaticmood touched Narendra Nath, the latter becameunconscious of the external world. To quote thewords of Narendra Nath as he described theincident afterwards: ‘The touch at once gave rise toa unique experience within me. With my eyes openI saw the walls and everything in the room whirlrapidly and vanish into naught, and the wholeuniverse together with my individuality was aboutto merge in an all-encompassing mysterious Void!I was terribly frightened and thought I was facingdeath....Unable to control myself, I cried out, ?Whatis this that you are doing to me? I have my parents
  25. 25. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 25at home!? He laughed aloud at this and strokingmy breast said, ?All right, let it rest now. Everythingwill come in time!? The wonder of it was that nosooner had he said this than that strange experi-ence of mine vanished. I was myself again and foundeverything within and without the room as it hadbeen before.’ This incident wounded the vanity ofNarendra Nath very much. He could not accountfor the fact that one, by mere touch, couldrevolutionize his mind. Was it mesmerism orhypnotism? It could be possible only with respectto weak minds. But Narendra Nath had so longprided himself on being just the reverse! This mancould not be a lunatic as he thought him to be.Everything seemed like an enigma to him. Therationalistic mind of Narendra Nath received anunpleasant rebuff at this failure in judging the truestate of things. In any case Narendra Nath was onguard to resist similar experiences. But at the sametime he was fascinated by the remarkablepersonality of Sri Ramakrishna. He looked as pureand simple as a child! Narendra Nath wasextremely drawn to him. So in about a week’s timehe came to Dakshineswar again. But in the third visit Narendra Nath did nobetter, though he was on the defensive against anyinfluence on the part of Sri Ramakrishna. This time
  26. 26. 26 SWAMI VIVEKANANDASri Ramakrishna took him to an adjacent gardenand fell into ecstasy. In that state as he touchedNarendra Nath, the latter, in spite of all precautions,was overwhelmed and lost all outwardconsciousness. When he came to himself he foundSri Ramakrishna stroking his chest. Narendra had no idea of what had happenedin the meantime. But it was then that SriRamakrishna learnt many things about him.Referring to this incident Sri Ramakrishna said lateron that in that state as Narendra Nath dived deepinto himself, Sri Ramakrishna studied his inner life,and the study only confirmed what he had inferredabout his future disciple. Narendra Nath was fully convinced of theextraordinary nature of that mighty power whichwas working through Sri Ramakrishna. The ideathat Sri Ramakrishna was a monomaniac wasreplaced by a feeling of profound respect for him.He recognized Sri Ramakrishna as a great spiritualpersonality, but his mind was not fully prepared toaccept him as a Guru. His mental make-up as wellas his associations with the Brahmo Samajprevented him from believing in the necessity of aGuru. How could a man, however great, be anunerring guide? So he would not accept any wordof Sri Ramakrishna without testing it by his ownexperience or reason.
  27. 27. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 27 But Narendra Nath was conquered by the loveof Sri Ramakrishna. He would now be coming toDakshineswar as often as he could. Sri Ramakrishnaalso would be eagerly waiting for him. If NarendraNath did not meet him for a long period, SriRamakrishna would pass sleepless nights. A mothersuffering bereavement of her only child does notfeel so much pang and anguish as Sri Ramakrishnadid at the absence of Narendra Nath. And whenNarendra Nath would come, at his very sight SriRamakrishna sometimes would go into ecstasy.There were many occasions when at the singing ofNarendra Nath, Sri Ramakrishna would be lost inSamadhi. Sri Ramakrishna saw the potential greatnessof Narendra Nath. He was all praise for him. If otherdevotees could be likened to stars, Narendra Nathwas a sun; if others were lotuses of six or ten orsixteen petals, Narendra Nath was a lotus of athousand petals. Narendra Nath was a liberatedsoul from his very birth, born on this earth for thegood of humanity. Often Sri Ramakrishna praisedNarendra Nath so much that the latter had toremonstrate with him, saying that thoseconclusions were the outcome of his weak mind—a mind weakened by too much love for him. With all his love for Sri Ramakrishna, Narendid not cease to wrestle with him. Naren did not
  28. 28. 28 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAbelieve in the need of a Guru, Naren did not believein image worship, Naren did not believe in spiritualmonism. Sri Ramakrishna had a hard timeconvincing his dear Naren about these. Sometimesexasperated, Sri Ramakrishna said to NarendraNath, ‘If you do not believe in my words, why doyou come to me?’ Immediately came the reply fromNaren, ‘Because I love you. But that does not meanthat I shall accept your words without exercisingmy critical judgment.’ Sri Ramakrishna onlyrejoiced at the intellectual sincerity of NarendraNath. Of all the disciples Narendra Nath was theonly one who would dare to challenge the veryrealizations of Sri Ramakrishna—so much so thatat times Sri Ramakrishna had to go to the DivineMother at the temple for a solution of the perplexitycreated in his mind by Narendra Nath. Narenwould take the utmost liberty with SriRamakrishna. For others Sri Ramakrishna wouldprescribe this or that restriction as a spiritualguidance. But for Narendra Nath, there was norestriction whatsoever. Naren was a roaring fire.No impurity could touch him. He could not gowrong. So there was no necessity for any imposi-tion on Narendra Nath. It is very difficult to describe the sweetrelationship that existed between Sri Ramakrishnaand Narendra Nath. Sri Ramakrishna confided the
  29. 29. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 29innermost secrets of his heart to Naren and helpedhim in a variety of ways to develop independenceof thought, thus increasing thousandfold Naren’sself-reliance, regard for truth, and innatespirituality. Naren’s regard for Sri Ramakrishna alsoincreased thousandfold as days rolled on, and hewas beginning to accept him as the highest ideal ofspirituality. When Narendra Nath was dreaming of thefulfilment of his spiritual longing, an unexpectedtrouble came for him which upset him altogether.In the first part of 1884 Narendra Nath’s father, whowas the only support of the family, suddenly diedof heart problems. He had spent more than he hadearned, and at his death the family was faced withdire poverty. The creditors were knocking at thedoor. Narendra Nath’s relatives, for whom hisfather had done so much, became enemies, eventhreatening to oust the family from the home. Theburden of support of six or seven people, therefore,fell upon Narendra Nath. He had passed his B.A.Examination and was admitted to Law college. Theson of a rich father, he was now the poorest of thepoor in the college. Even shoes became a luxury,his garments were of the coarsest cloth, and manytimes he went to his classes hungry.
  30. 30. 30 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA TRANSFORMATION It was the abiding confidence of Sri Rama-krishna in the integrity of Naren’s character as alsothe Master’s selfless love for him that conqueredhis powerful heart. With the growing intimacywith the Master, Naren’s tendency to resist lessenedand eventually led to complete self-surrender.Afterwards Naren often said, ‘Sri Ramakrishna wasthe only person who, ever since he had met me,believed in me uniformly throughout—even mymother and brothers did not do so. It was hisunflinching trust and love for me that bound me tohim for ever. He alone knew how to love another.’ With the ever increasing desire for illu-mination, the studies for the Law examinationbecame a torment to Narendra Nath. His buoyantimagination which had already caught fire from theflame of his Master’s spiritual life now refused to besatisfied with worldly aspirations. His soul wantedfreedom from the galling fetters of existence. Veryoften, for the relaxation of his mental tension, hewould run away from the stifling atmosphere of hishome and take shelter at the feet of the Master in theholy temple-garden of Dakshineswar. The inner as-pirations of Naren’s soul were fully visible to the
  31. 31. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 31spiritually illumined vision of Sri Ramakrishna, whowith infinite love and patience began to train him.Naren, his gifted disciple, was also astute enough torise to his lofty teaching, and with his brilliantintellect and fiery enthusiasm was able to follow inlife whatever practical suggestion and words ofwisdom fell from the lips of the Master. He was alsothe readiest among the disciples in arriving at thetrue spirit of the Master ’s pregnant gospel. Oneinstance will suffice. One day, some time during theyear 1884, Sri Ramakrishna was seated in his room atDakshineswar surrounded by his disciples. Theconversation drifted to the Vaishnava religion. TheMaster gave the gist of the belief of some of itsfollowers and finished saying, ‘This religion enjoinsupon its followers the practice of three things: relishfor the name of God, compassion for all livingcreatures and service to the Vaishnavas—thedevotees of the Lord.’ Hardly had he uttered thesewords when he fell into Samadhi. After a while hecame to a semi-conscious state of mind and said tohimself: ‘Compassion for creatures! Compassion forcreatures! Thou fool! An insignificant wormcrawling on earth, thou to show compassion toothers! Who art thou to show compassion? No, itcannot be. It is not compassion for others, but ratherservice to man, recognizing him to be the veritablemanifestation of God!’
  32. 32. 32 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA Everyone present there, no doubt, heard thosewords of Sri Ramakrishna, but none but Narencould gauge their meaning. When Naren left theroom he said to others, ‘What a strange light have Idiscovered in those wonderful words of the Master!How beautifully has he reconciled the ideal ofBhakti (devotion) with the knowledge the Vedanta(non-dualism). I have understood from these wordsof wisdom that the ideal of Vedanta lived by therecluse outside the pale of society can be practisedeven from hearth and home and applied to all ourdaily schemes of life. Whatever may be the vocationof a man, let him understand and realize that it isGod alone who has manifested Himself as theworld and created beings. He is both immanentand transcendent. It is He who had become alldiverse creatures, objects of our love, and yet He isbeyond all these. Such realization of Divinity inhumanity leaves no room for egotism. By realizingit, a man cannot have any jealousy or ?pity? for anyother being. Service of man, knowing him to be themanifestation of God, purifies the heart; and, in notime, such an aspirant realizes himself as part andparcel of God—Existence-Knowledge-BlissAbsolute. However, if it be the will of the Lord, theday will soon come when I shall proclaim thisgrand truth before the world at large. I shall makeit the common property of all, the wise and the
  33. 33. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 33fool, the rich and the poor, the Brahmin and thepariah.’ In the fullness of time this high-souleddesire of Narendra Nath came to be fulfilled to theletter and spirit. He proclaimed unto humanity thissplendid ideal of service, based on knowledge,which he received as a sacred legacy from hisMaster in the serene peace of Dakshineswar. It was in the middle of 1885 that Sri Rama-krishna showed the first symptom of throat troublewhich ultimately ended in the fatal cancer. He wasat first lodged in a house at Shyampukur fortreatment and afterwards removed to a garden-house at Cossipore. The Master, knowing that hewas approaching the end of his mortal existence,was eager to kindle in the heart of his chief disciplesa burning desire for the realization of God. He notonly imparted his spiritual instructions to hisdisciples, but he gave them likewise the stimulusand the strength to follow those teachings. His ownlife, the force of his utterances, the ease with whichhe entered into the highest Samadhi and hisconstant communion with the Divine—all thesewere a source of perennial inspiration to theseyoung souls. At the Cossipore garden Sri Ramakrishna waspractically alone with his young disciples. Havinggiven up their homes for the time at the urgentdesire of Naren, they dedicated themselves in
  34. 34. 34 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAloving and devoted service to the Master. Narenwas to them a constant source of inspiration.During their leisure periods, he would gather themtogether, and the time was spent in study, music,conversation, and discussions of the divine traitsof their Master’s character. Naren was the leader inevery respect. As the end of the Master came nearer, NarendraNath’s passionate desire for the realization of Godincreased and intensified. The Master would oftensend Naren and other disciples to meditate; andNaren, in the intensity of his meditations, becameblessed with many rare spiritual experiences. TheMaster had already initiated him into various pathsof spiritual discipline and was preparing him to bethe head of the group of young monks who wereto consecrate their lives in the near future tocarrying out his mission. One day the Masterexpressly commissioned him to look after the youngdevotees, saying, ‘I leave them to your care. See thatthey practise spiritual exercises even after mypassing away and that they do not return home.’Another day, in preparation for the prospectivemonastic life, the Master commanded the youngboys to beg their food from door to door as monksdo. The food which they collected in this mannerwas cooked in the garden and offered to the Master,who was overjoyed. The Master knew that soon
  35. 35. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 35these young boys would put on the ochre robe ofrenunciation and go forth in quest of God, beggingwhat food was necessary from householders. TheMaster himself initiated them as monks—thusfulfilling their heart’s desire. Now we come to the greatest moment ofNaren’s Sadhana, the very crest and glory of hisspiritual realizations. Naren was pining for a visionof the Absolute. He prayed to feel Divinity. To losethe ‘I’ in the vastness of Consciousness which isbeyond thought—was Narendra Nath’s intensedesire. Long did he pray to Sri Ramakrishna forthis realization. One evening, however, it cameunexpectedly. As he was meditating, he lost allbody-consciousness and his mind plunged into thesuperconscious state. It was a state of NirvikalpaSamadhi. Referring to this incident Sri Ramakrishnasaid afterwards, ‘I have prayed that the DivineMother may keep this realization of the Absoluteveiled from Naren. There is much work to be doneby him. But this veil is so very thin that it may giveway at any time.’ It was because of Naren’s intensedesire to realize the Absolute Brahman that SriRamakrishna decided to give that experience tohim. But the Master had no intention of permittinghim to stay there, since much work was waiting forNarendra Nath. Three or four days before his
  36. 36. 36 SWAMI VIVEKANANDApassing away, Sri Ramakrishna called Naren nearand actually commissioned him for future work. It was on August 16, 1886, that Sri Ramakrishnapassed away leaving his disciples in deep gloom.After the death of the Master, Naren began toorganize these disciples into a monasticbrotherhood. He went to the homes of those boyswho had resumed their studies, and, by awhirlwind of enthusiasm, tried to induce them toreturn to Baranagore where the first monastery ofthe Ramakrishna Order was started. Once at themonastery, they could not resist the spiritualimpetus of Naren’s songs and thrillingconversations. One by one the young disciplesjoined together and ultimately banded themselvesinto a holy brotherhood under the inspiringleadership of Narendra Nath. The boys were nowin the midst of extreme privations. They were sodetermined in their desire to follow the injunctionsof the Master that, forgetting sleep, they spent nightafter night in prayer and spiritual exercises. Narenalways spurred them on to burning renunciationand intense devotion. Hours were also consumedin the study of philosophy, both Eastern andWestern, to intensify their struggle for therealization of the highest Truth. All who camewithin the sphere of their influence were alsocaught up in their spirit of God-intoxication. With
  37. 37. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 37the delight of a martyr these monks practised theseverest of spiritual austerities, and the world hadno meaning for them at that time. Some time duringthis period they performed the sacred Virajaceremony and formally took the vows of lifelongcelibacy and poverty, dedicating their lives to therealization of God. The old names were changedfor new ones to complete their severance from theirearlier life and its associations. A WANDERING MONK Soon a tendency to embrace a wandering life,according to the traditions of monks, was mostirresistibly felt by most of these young monks.Naren, in spite of his anxiety to maintain the ties ofuniting the brotherhood, was himself tormentedwith the same desire to strike out into the unknownpaths of the monks’ life and to lose himself in thesilence of the wild, under the wide canopy ofheavens. Naren resisted the call to flight for twoyears, and apart from his short visits to someneighbouring places, he practically remained atBaranagore until 1888. But he was determined tobreak away from the monastery to test his own
  38. 38. 38 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAstrength, to gather experiences of a new life, to makehimself absolutely fearless, and at the same time toforce his brother-disciples to learn self-reliance andto stand alone. He therefore suddenly left Calcuttain 1888 and went to Varanasi, Ayodhya, Lucknow,Agra, Vrindaban, Hathras, and the Himalayas. Atthe railway station of Hathras he quiteunintentionally made Sharat Chandra Gupta, thestation-master, his disciple, who afterwards tookthe name of Sadananda. Sharat Chandra, withouta moment’s hesitation, left his hearth and homeand followed the Swami gladly in his itineracythrough the hills. For some time both were lost inthe silence of the Himalayas and were almost deadto the outside world. But physical hardship andsevere spiritual austerities undermined theirhealth, and both had to come back to theBaranagore monastery after gathering manifoldexperiences. After a year the Swami again went out andvisited, among other places, Ghazipur. During hisstay at Ghazipur, he met the illustrious saint PavhariBaba who had attained to great spiritual heightsthrough hard austerities and Yogic practices.Despite the useful lessons which he was able togather from his travels, his heart still panted for alife of absolute freedom from all external trammels.He wanted to plunge into the depths of the
  39. 39. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 39Himalayas to acquire through extreme forms ofmental discipline a tremendous spiritual powerwhich would enable him to carry on his Master ’smission without let or hindrance. With this end inview he broke loose at the beginning of July 1890,this time for many years, from the Baranagoremonastery. Swami Akhandananda, one of hisbrother-disciples, who had just returned from hisTibetan travels with a fund of wonderfulexperiences of the life and manners of the peopleof the Himalayas, became his companion. AtVaranasi the Swami wrote to his friend, PramadadasMitra, a great Sanskrit scholar, ‘I am going away;but I shall never come back until I can burst onsociety like a bomb, and make it follow me like adog.’ From the moment he left Calcutta he washappy. The solitude, the village air, the sight of newplaces, the meeting with new people and gettingrid of old impressions and worry delighted him.When they reached the Himalayas, the splendidscenery with its waterfalls, streams, wild forests,and its serenity and quietude and, above all, itsinvigorating atmosphere buoyed up the spirit ofthe Swami, and the occasional glimpses of theeternal snows filled his heart with unspeakableemotion and joy. They wanted to go to Kedarnathand Badrikashrama, but they had to give up theiridea of visiting those ancient places of pilgrimage
  40. 40. 40 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAas the road was closed by the Government onaccount of famine. By February 1891, the Swami finally became asolitary monk and began his historic wandering oftwo years through India. He wandered, free fromany plan, constantly with the thought of God inhis mind. The Swami, in the course of hispilgrimage around India, met with all sorts andconditions of men and found himself—today adespised beggar sheltered by pariahs or a brotherof the oppressed identifying himself in keensympathy with their misery, and tomorrow a guestof the princes, conversing on equal terms withPrime Ministers and Maharajas and probing theluxury of the great, and awakening care for thepublic weal in their torpid hearts. First he visited Rajputana, the land of heroes,where he met some of the most enlightened princesof the day. While at Alwar the Swami had a veryinteresting discussion with Prince Mangal Singh.The Maharaja asked the Swami, ‘Well, I have nofaith in idol worship. I cannot worship wood, earth,stone, or metal, like other people. Does this meanthat I shall fare worse in the life hereafter?’ Theeyes of the Swami alighted on a picture of theMaharaja which was hanging on the wall. At hisexpress desire it was passed to him. Holding it inhis hand, the Swami asked, ‘Whose picture is this?’
  41. 41. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 41The Dewan answered, ‘It is the likeness of ourMaharaja.’ A moment later those present trembledwith fear when they heard the Swami commandingthe Dewan to spit on it. The Dewan wasthunderstruck, and the eyes of all glanced in terrorand awe from the Prince to the monk, from themonk to the Prince. But all the while the Swamiinsisted, ‘Spit on it! I say, spit on it!’ And the Dewanin fear and bewilderment cried out, ‘What! Swamiji!What are you asking me to do? This is the likenessof our Maharaja. How can I do such a thing?’ ‘Be itso,’ said the Swami, ‘but the Maharaja is not bodilypresent in this photograph. This is only a piece ofpaper. It does not contain his bones and flesh andblood. It does not speak or behave or move in anyway as does the Maharaja. And yet all of you refuseto spit on it, because you see in this photo theshadow of the Maharaja’s form. Indeed, in spittingupon the photo, you feel that you insult your master,the Prince himself.’ Turning to the Maharaja, hecontinued: ‘See, Your Highness, though this is notyou in one sense, in another sense it is you. Thatwas why your devoted servants were so perplexedwhen I asked them to spit upon it. It has a shadowof you; it brings you into their minds. One glanceat it makes them see you in it! Therefore they lookupon it with as much respect as they do upon yourown person. Thus it is with the devotees who
  42. 42. 42 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAworship stone and metal images of gods andgoddesses. It is because an image brings to theirminds their Ishta (chosen deity), or some specialform and attribute of the Divinity, and helps themto concentrate, that the devotees worship God inan image. They do not worship the stone or themetal as such. Everyone, O Maharaja, isworshipping the same one God who is the SupremeSpirit, the Soul of Pure Knowledge. And Godappears to all according to their understanding andtheir representation of Him.’ The Maharaja whohad been listening attentively all this time said withfolded hands: ‘Swamiji! I must admit thataccording to the light you have thrown uponimage worship, I have never yet met anyone whohad worshipped stone, or wood, or metal.Heretofore I did not understand its meaning. Youhave opened my eyes.’ This is but one of the numerous instances toshow what illuminating discourses the Swami had,in the course of his tour, with men of learning andinfluence, and how, with his characteristicfrankness and boldness, he told all whatever hefelt to be true and proper in the inmost core of hisheart. But occasions were not wanting when theSwami learnt lessons of the highest wisdom evenfrom the lowliest and the lost. One instance wouldsuffice. Just before the Swami’s departure for the
  43. 43. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 43West, the Maharaja of Khetri, who had alreadybecome his initiated disciple, accompanied theSwami as far as Jaipur. On this occasion theMaharaja was being entertained one evening withmusic by a nautch-girl. The Swami was in his owntent when the music commenced. The Maharajasent a message to the Swami asking him to comeand join the party. The Swami sent word in returnthat as a Sannyasin he could not comply with sucha request. The singer was deeply grieved when sheheard this, and sang in reply, as it were, a song ofthe great Vaishnava saint, Surdas. Through the stillevening air, to the accompaniment of music, thegirl’s melodious voice ascended to the ears of theSwami—‘O Lord, look not upon my evil qualities!Thy name O Lord, is Same-sightedness.One piece of iron is in the image in the temple,And another is the knife in the hand of thebutcher;But when they touch the philosophers’ stone,Both alike turn to gold.So, O Lord, look not upon my evil qualities!One drop of water is in the sacred Jumna,And another is foul in the ditch by the roadside;But when they fall into the GangaBoth alike become holy.
  44. 44. 44 SWAMI VIVEKANANDASo, Lord, do not look upon my evil qualities!Thy name, O Lord, is Same-sightedness.’ The Swami was completely overwhelmed.The woman and her meaningful song at oncereminded him that the same Divinity dwells in thehigh and the low, the rich and the poor—in theentire creation. The Swami could no longer resistthe request, and took his seat in the hall of audienceto meet the wishes of the Maharaja. Speaking ofthis incident later, the Swami said, ‘That incidentremoved the scales from my eyes. Seeing that allare indeed the manifestations of the One, I couldno longer condemn anybody.’ The Swami’s itineracy led him through almostall the historic places of Rajputana, Bombay State,and Southern India till at last he reachedKanyakumari in all probability on 23 December1892. No doubt, every moment of these travels ofhis with an open mind for several years throughoutthe length and breadth of India—from the dreamypoetic regions of the snow-capped Himalayasdown to Kanyakumari, the last promontory of theland where the mighty ocean spreads out intoinfinity—were eventful. All this wandering had agreat educational value for him, opening up, as itdid, opportunities for original thought andobservation, the most striking element in all of
  45. 45. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 45which was his tireless search for unity in the worldof Indian ideals. Nevertheless, it was at Kanya-kumari that his pilgrimage throughout hismotherland, and his days and months of thoughton the problem of the Indian masses bore fruit. Happy as a child is to be back with its mother,so was the Swami when he prostrated before theimage of the Divine Mother in the seashore templeat Kanyakumari. After worshipping the Mother, heswam across some two furlongs of the shark-infested ocean and reached the farther of the tworocks that form the southernmost extremity of India.Over the three days he sat there, he was in a longand deep meditation. The Swami himself has toldof the thoughts that moved through his mindduring that period. He saw, as it were, the whole ofIndia—her past, present, and future, her centuriesof greatness and also her centuries of degradation.He saw that it was not religion that was the causeof India’s downfall but, on the contrary, the factthat her true religion, the very life and breath ofher individuality, was scarcely to be found, and heknew that her only hope was a renascence of thelost spiritual culture of the ancient rishis. His mindencompassing both the roots and the ramificationsof India’s problem, and his heart suffering for hiscountry’s downtrodden, poverty-stricken masses,he ‘hit’, as he later wrote, ‘upon a plan.’
  46. 46. 46 SWAMI VIVEKANANDA We are so many sannyasins wandering aboutand teaching the people metaphysics—it is allmadness. Did not our Gurudeva use to say, ‘Anempty stomach is no good for religion’? That thosepoor people are leading the life of brutes is simplydue to ignorance. We have for all ages been suckingtheir blood and trampling them under foot. …Suppose some disinterested sannyasins, benton doing good to others, go from village to village,disseminating education, and seeking in variousways to better the condition of all down to theChandala, through oral teaching, and by means ofmaps, cameras, globes, and other accessories—can’tthat bring forth good in time? All these plans I cannotwrite out in this short letter. The long and short of itis—if the mountain does not come to Mohammed,Mohammed must go to the mountain. The poor aretoo poor to come to schools,?and they will gainnothing by reading poetry and all that sort of thing.We as a nation have lost our individuality, and thatis the cause of all mischief in India. We have to giveback to the nation its lost individuality and raise themasses. The Hindu, the Mohammedan, the Chris-tian, all have trampled them under foot. Again, theforce to raise them must come from inside, that is,from the orthodox Hindus. In every country the evilsexist not with, but against religion. Religion there-fore is not to blame, but men.
  47. 47. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 47 To effect this, the first thing we need is men, and the next is funds. And that is why, in the presence of theMaharaja of Mysore, the Swami burst forth into aneloquent description of what was prompting himto go the West.1 He told the Maharaja that heintended to go to America to ask the West for themeans to ameliorate the material condition of Indiaand to take to it in exchange the gospel of Vedanta. The Swami again spoke of the same missionwhen he met by chance two of his brother-disciples,Swamis Brahmananda and Turiyananda, at the AbuRoad train station. To them he said with a patheticappeal, ‘I have travelled all over India. But alas, itwas agony to me, my brothers, to see with my owneyes the terrible poverty and misery of the masses,and I could not restrain my tears! It is now my firmconviction that it is futile to preach religionamongst them without first trying to remove theirpoverty and their suffering. It is for this reason—tofind more means for the salvation of the poor ofIndia—that I am now going to America.’ Of thismeeting with the Swami at the above station, SwamiTuriyananda said later on, ‘I vividly remember someremarks made by Swamiji at that time. The accentsand deep pathos with which they were utteredstill ring in my ears. He said, ?Haribhai, I am still
  48. 48. 48 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAunable to understand anything of your so-calledreligion.? Then with an expression of deep sorrowin his countenance and an intense emotion shakinghis body, he placed his hand on his heart andadded: ?But my heart has expanded very much,and I have learnt to feel. Believe me, I feel intenselyindeed.? His voice was choked with feeling; hecould say no more. For a time, profound silencereigned and tears rolled down his cheeks.’ In tellingof this incident Swami Turiyananda was alsoovercome with deep emotion. With a heavy sighhe said, ‘Can you imagine what passed throughmy mind on hearing the Swami speak thus? ?Arenot these,? I thought, ?the very words and feelingsof Buddha???I could clearly perceive that thesufferings of humanity were pulsating in the heartof Swamiji—his heart was a huge cauldron inwhich the sufferings of mankind were being madeinto a healing balm. Nobody could understandVivekananda unless he saw at least a fraction of thevolcanic feelings which were in him.’ The Swami next journeyed from Kanya-kumari to Rameswaram during the last days of 1892,and from there to Madras at the beginning of 1893.From the day of his arrival there he was besiegedwith numerous visitors and he seemed to be on theroad to public recognition. It was in Madras thatthe message of the Master gained a ready
  49. 49. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 49acceptance, and a brilliant group of enthusiasticyoung men became his ardent adherents. It washere that his intention to attend the Parliament ofReligions took a definite shape. During the monthsof March and April, 1893, the disciples of the Swamitook active steps to raise requisite funds for thispurpose. But before leaving for America, the Swamihad to visit Khetri at the earnest importunities ofthe Maharaja, his disciple. It was at the court of theMaharaja of Khetri that the Swami, at the Maharaja’srequest, assumed the name of Vivekananda bywhich he was to be known in future. He sailedfrom Bombay on May 31, 1893—a memorable dayfor India. FROM THE OLD WORLD TO THE NEW Swami Vivekananda went by way of Ceylon,Penang, Singapore, Hongkong, and then visitedCanton and Nagasaki. From there he went by landto Yokohama, seeing Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. TheSwami gradually accustomed himself to the life onboard the ship. His rich imaginative nature sawbeauty, in a thousand forms, in the swelling and
  50. 50. 50 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAfalling of the waters, in every gust of wind and inever-changing shapes of clouds. The mightyexpanse of water, the invigorating air, the carefreeatmosphere and the courtesy of all aboard recon-ciled him to his new surroundings. Besides, thesea voyage provided him a unique opportunity togather new experiences and study the life andtraditions of the people he came in contact with atdifferent places. He was much impressed at thesight of the various remains of Indian religiousinfluences in Chinese and Japanese temples. InChina he found to his amazement Sanskritmanuscripts, and in Japan Sanskrit Mantras writtenin old Bengali script. In fact, everywhere in Chinaand Japan his attention was attracted by all thatmight confirm his hypothesis alike of the religiousinfluence of ancient India over the empires of theFar East and of the spiritual unity of Asia. FromYokohama the ship sailed on to Vancouver—fromthe Old World to the New; thence by train hereached Chicago towards the end of July. A few days after his arrival at Chicago he wentto the Information Bureau of the ColumbianExposition. But his hopes received a rude shockwhen he came to learn from this office that theParliament would not commence until after the firstweek of September, that no one would be admittedas a delegate without proper references, and that
  51. 51. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 51even the time for being so admitted had expired!This was a great and unexpected blow. He foundthat he had left India much too early, and alsodiscovered that he should have come as arepresentative of some recognized organization.Then, too, his purse was gradually being emptied.A great depression came over him. He cabled to hisfriends in Madras for help and applied to an officialreligious Society to appoint him as one of itsdelegates, but the chief of the Society sent him avery discouraging reply. Girding up his loins even in the face of theseoverwhelming odds of a discouraging situation,the Swami proceeded to Boston, which was muchless expensive than Chicago. In the train fromVancouver he had made his first American friend—a rich lady from Massachusetts who struck by hisnoble personality and illuminating talks, gladlyasked him to stay in her house. She introducedhim to Professor J.H. Wright, of the Greekdepartment in Harvard University. The Swamidiscussed all manner of subjects with the learnedProfessor for four hours. The Professor became sodeeply impressed with his rare ability that heinsisted that he should represent Hinduism in theParliament, saying, ‘This is the only way you canbe introduced to the nation at large.’ The Swamiexplained his difficulties and said that he had no
  52. 52. 52 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAcredentials. Professor Wright, recognizing hisgenius, said, ‘To ask you, Swami, for your creden-tials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine!’The Professor wrote at once to his friend, Dr.Barrows, the Chairman of the Committee on theselection of delegates stating, ‘Here is a man who ismore learned than all our learned professors puttogether.’ He further presented him with a ticket toChicago, and also gave him letters of introductionto the Committee. The Swami rejoiced at this literalmanifestation of Divine Providence. But on his arrival at the Chicago train stationhe found to his dismay that he had lost the addressof the Committee. He was lost and did not knowwhere to go. Nobody would deign to inform acoloured man. At length, tired and helpless, hepassed the chilly night in a big empty box2 foundin the railway freightyard. In the morning hewandered from door to door for food only to meetwith insults and rebuffs from the fashionableresidents of the metropolis. On and on he went. Atlength exhausted, he sat down quietly on theroadside, determined to abide by the Will of God.At this juncture, the door of a fashionable residenceopposite to him opened and a regal looking womandescended and accosted him in a soft voice inaccents of culture and refinement, ‘Sir, are you adelegate to the Parliament of Religions?’ The Swami
  53. 53. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 53told her his difficulties. The kind-hearted ladyinvited him into her house and promised him thatafter breakfast she herself would accompany himto the offices of the Parliament of Religions. TheSwami was grateful beyond words to his deliverer,Mrs. George W. Hale. From now on the generouslady, her husband and children became his dearestfriends. With Mrs. Hale he called on the officers of theParliament, gave his credentials, was gladlyaccepted as a delegate, and found himself lodgedwith the other Oriental delegates. He soon madeacquaintance with many distinguished personageswho were to attend the Parliament. In the grandcircle of ecclesiastics that came and went in andabout Chicago, he moved as one lost in raptureand in prayer to the Master whose mission he hadcome to fulfil in this distant part of the world.IN THE PARLIAMENT OF RELIGIONS On Monday, September 11, 1893, the firstsession of the Parliament was opened in the greatHall of Columbus, where were seated repres-
  54. 54. 54 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAentatives of the religious beliefs of twelve hundredmillions of the human race. In the centre satCardinal Gibbons, the highest prelate of the RomanCatholic Church on the Western Continent. Onthe right and left of him were gathered the Orientaldelegates—Pratap Chandra Majumdar of Bengaland Nagarkar of Bombay who were representativesof the Brahmo Samaj; Dharmapala who representedthe Buddhists of Ceylon; Gandhi (a distant relationof Mahatma Gandhi) representing the Jains, andMr. Chakravarty representing Theosophy withMrs. Annie Besant. Among them was also seatedSwami Vivekananda who, with his noble bearing,bright countenance and gorgeous apparel, drewthe attention of the assembled thousands and soonbecame the cynosure of all eyes. It was the first timethat he had to speak before such an august assembly;and as the delegates, presented one by one, had toannounce themselves in public in brief speeches,the Swami let his turn go by hour after hour untilthe end of the day. At length, in the late afternoon, when theChairman insisted, the Swami rose and boweddown to Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning. Hisface glowed like fire. His eyes surveyed in a sweepthe huge assembly before him. When he openedhis lips, his speech was like a tongue of flame.Hardly had he pronounced the very simple
  55. 55. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 55opening words, ‘Sisters and Brothers of America’,when hundreds rose to their feet with deafeningshouts of applause. The Parliament had gonemad—everyone cheering the Swamienthusiastically. For two minutes he attempted tospeak, but the wave of wild enthusiasm created bythis significant form of address prevented it. Hewas certainly the first to cast off the formalism ofthe Congress and speak to the audience in thelanguage for which they were waiting. Whensilence was restored, the Swami greeted theyoungest of the nations in the name of the mostancient order of monks in the world—the Vedicorder of Sannyasins, and presented Hinduism asthe mother of religions —a religion which hadtaught the world both tolerance and universalacceptance. He quoted two beautiful, illustrativepassages taken from the scriptures of Hinduism: ‘As the different streams having their sourcesin different places all mingle their water in the sea,so O Lord, the different paths which men take,through different tendencies, various though theymay appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.’ ‘Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoeverform, I reach him; all men are struggling throughpaths which in the end lead to Me.’ It was only a short speech, but its spirit ofuniversality, its fundamental earnestness and
  56. 56. 56 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAbroadmindedness completely captivated the wholeassembly. There were other Hindu delegates whostood for societies or churches or sects, but theSwami, who belonged to no sect but rather to Indiaas a whole, proclaimed the universality of religioustruths and the sameness of the Goal of all religiousrealizations. In the course of his illuminatingaddresses during the sessions of the Parliament, theSwami placed before the distinguished audiencethe cardinal truths of Vedanta, the universalreligion of humanity. He said: ‘If there is ever to be a universalreligion, it must be one which will have no locationin place or time; which will be infinite, like theGod it will preach, and whose sun will shine uponthe followers of Krishna and Christ, on saint andsinners alike; which will not be Brahminic orBuddhistic, Christian or Mohammedan, but thesum total of all these, and still have infinite spacefor development; which in its catholicity will finda place for every human being, from the lowestgrovelling savage not far removed from the bruteto the highest man towering by the virtues of hishead and heart almost above humanity. It will be areligion which will have no place for persecutionor intolerance in its polity, which will recognizedivinity in every man and woman, and whosewhole scope, whose whole force, will be centred
  57. 57. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 57in aiding humanity to realize its own true, divinenature. Offer such a religion and all the nationswill follow you.? The Christian is not to become aHindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist tobecome a Christian. But each must assimilate thespirit of the others and yet preserve hisindividuality and grow according to his own lawof growth.’ The Parliament of Religions, he concluded,had shown to the world that holiness, purity, andcharity were not the exclusive possession of anychurch in the world and that every system hadproduced men and women of the most exaltedcharacter. In the face of this evidence, if anybodydreamt of the exclusive survival of his own religionand the destruction of others, he was to be pitiedand told that upon the banner of every religionwill soon be written, in spite of resistance: ‘Helpand not fight,’ ‘Assimilation and not Destruction’,‘Harmony and Peace and not Dissension’. The effect of these mighty words wastremendous. Over the heads of the officialrepresentatives of the Parliament they wereaddressed to a wider public, and Swami Vivek-ananda at once became the most celebratedpersonality of the Parliament. The American pressrang with his fame. The best known and mostconservative of the metropolitan newspapers
  58. 58. 58 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAproclaimed him a Prophet and a Seer. The New YorkHerald referred to him as ‘undoubtedly the greatestfigure in the Parliament of Religions’, and added,‘After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to sendmissionaries to this learned nation.’ The news of Swami Vivekananda’s unparal-leled success soon poured into India as well. Indianjournals and magazines—from Madras to Almora,from Calcutta to Bombay—were filled with theAmerican reports of his triumph at the Parliament.The happiness of the monks of the RamakrishnaOrder at Baranagore knew no bounds when theycame to learn that it was their beloved leader whohad taken the New World by storm. The citizens ofCalcutta organized a great representative meetingin the Town Hall to thank the Swami and the Amer-ican people. The name Vivekananda rang with ac-claim throughout the length and breadth ofHindusthan. Everywhere he was recognized as theman who had come to fulfil a great need. Theunknown monk without titles and ties blossomedinto a world-figure and became the man of the hour. But in the midst of this recognition of hisgenius, universal applause, and immense popu-larity, the Swami was never found for a momentforgetful of his duties to the sunken masses of India.On the very day of his triumph when he was invitedby a man of great wealth and distinction to his home
  59. 59. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 59and lodged in a princely room fitted with luxurybeyond anything he could conceive, instead offeeling happy in this splendid environment he wasmiserable. He could not sleep, pondering, incontrast, over India’s plight. The bed of downbecame to him a bed of thorns. He rolled down onthe empty floor and in agony of his heart cried, ‘OMother, what do I care for name and fame whenmy motherland remains sunk in utmost poverty?Who will raise the masses in India? Who will givethem bread? Show me, O Mother, how I can helpthem.’ He wrote inspiring letters to his disciplesand admirers in India to stimulate their hearts intoactivity and a high pitch of patriotic fervour. ‘Girdup your loins, my boys,’ he once wrote, ‘I am calledby the Lord for this. The hope lies in you—in themeek, the lowly, but the faithful. Feel for themiserable and look up for help—it shall come. Witha bleeding heart I have crossed half the world tothis strange land seeking for help. The Lord willhelp me. I may perish of cold and hunger in thisland, but I bequeath to you, young men, thissympathy, this struggle for the poor, the ignorant,the oppressed. Go down on your faces before Himand make a great sacrifice, the sacrifice of a wholelife for them—these three hundred millions, goingdown and down every day. Glory unto the Lord,we will succeed. Hundreds will fall in the
  60. 60. 60 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAstruggle— hundreds will be ready to take it up.Life is nothing, death is nothing. Glory unto theLord—march on, the Lord is our General. Do notlook back to see who falls—forward, onward!’ The Swami never forgot in the midst of luxurythe primary idea of his mission—to save his people,to mobilize them to help him in his task bywidening his appeal until it became the cause ofthe people, the cause of the poor and the oppressedof the whole world. In order to serve the cause of his motherlandhe accepted the offer of a lecture bureau for a tourof the United States. In the course of this apostoliccampaign in America he began to tell of the gloriesof India and the greatness of Indian culture andspirituality. AS A TEACHER IN AMERICA The Swami, finding that the lecture bureauwas exploiting and defrauding him, soon shookhimself free from American lecturing organizations.At the beginning of the winter of 1894, he returnedto New York after a whirlwind tour through variouscentres of learning and culture in America. His
  61. 61. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 61previous visits to this noted city had been onlycasual. He had given only a few public lectures butwas not in a position to begin any constructivework. With a view to starting regular work theSwami now readily accepted the invitation of theBrooklyn Ethical Association to deliver a series oflectures. These lectures produced the desired effectand opened a new avenue for organizing the workin America. He soon found a group of earnest soulswho were seriously bent on following theguidance of the Swami for spiritual enlightenment.The Swami gave his whole time to teaching bymeans of talks and lectures, and every dayinstructed this band of chosen followers in theexercise of the double method of Raja-Yoga andJnana-Yoga. His lectures at this time were repletewith the deepest philosophical insight and withextraordinary outbursts of devotion, revealing hisnature as essentially a combination of the Jnani andBhakta—the illumined saint and true mystic in one. Prominent among those who became hisardent followers at this time were Mrs. Ole Bull,Dr. Day, Miss S.E. Waldo, Professors Wyman andWright, Dr. Street, and many clergymen andlaymen of note. Mr. and Mrs. Francis Leggett andMiss MacLeod, well-known society people of NewYork, became his most intimate friends. By themonth of June 1895, the Swami had placed his real
  62. 62. 62 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAconstructive work on a solid foundation, and alsofinished writing his famous treatise on Raja-Yoga,dictated to Miss S.E. Waldo (afterwards SisterHaridasi), which soon attracted the attention ofAmerican psychologists like William James. TheSwami also had support from wealthy andinfluential followers, and whatever he could savefrom the financial returns he received went towardsfurther consolidation of his work. All through theyear the Swami’s work was enormous; he wasworking intensely; lecturing both privately andpublicly, he began to feel himself wearing out. Butthe Swami was satisfied that the ideals of theSanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion, werespreading and percolating through the wholethought-world of America, and that they were veryoften echoed in pulpits and in rostrums, though itmight be that he received no credit for them. Having almost exhausted himself by thisuninterrupted work of class and public lecturing,the Swami now eagerly sought a place of retreatwhere he could give a modicum of rest to hisshattered nerves and train up a group of studentsfor future action. One of the students, Miss Dutcher,owned a handsome cottage at Thousand IslandPark, the largest island in the St. Lawrence Riverand she offered the use of it to the Swami and asmany of the students as it would accommodate.
  63. 63. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 63The place was ideally situated, overlooking a widesweep of the beautiful river with many of its far-famed Thousand Islands. Not a human soundpenetrated the seclusion of the house. The inmatesheard but the murmur of the insects, the sweetsongs of the birds, or the gentle sighing of the windthrough the leaves. Part of the time the scene wasillumined by the soft rays of the moon and her facewas mirrored in the shining waters beneath. In this scene of enchantment, the devotedstudents spent seven blessed weeks with theirbeloved teacher, listening to his words of inspira-tion. This group of twelve included, Miss S.E.Waldo and Miss Greenstidel who later becameSister Christine and ably assisted Sister Nivedita inher educational work in India. During the Swami’s stay in this island hethrew light upon all manner of subjects, historicaland philosophical, spiritual and temporal. It wasas if the contents of his nature were pouringthemselves forth as a grand revelation of the many-sidedness of the Eternal Truth. Certainly the sevenweeks lived at Thousand Island Park were one ofthe freest and the greatest periods in the Swami’slife. Surrounded by ardent disciples he was therein the uninterrupted stillness of the island retreat,in an atmosphere reminiscent of that in which hisMaster had lived and taught in the Dakshineswar
  64. 64. 64 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAdays of old. The whirlwind of spiritual rhapsodyand ecstasy that had swept the souls of devotees inDakshineswar on the bank of the Ganga, swept hereanew the souls of other devotees in this lonelyregion. Some glimpses of his ecstatic utterances ofthis period can be had in Inspired Talks, a bookwhich owes not a little to the sedulous care andindustry of Miss Waldo, one of this enthusiasticgroup of students on the island. It was in the silenceof this retreat that the Swami wrote also theimmortal Song of the Sannyasin, which has nowbecome one of the most precious legacies tospiritually-minded souls. Having fulfilled his great work of trainingand initiating disciples into Brahmacharya andSannyasa at Thousand Island Park, the Swamireturned to New York, from where he soon sailedto England to carry to the British people the samemessage which he had preached in America.During his absence the work of spreading Vedantawas carried on uninterrupted by the group of histrained disciples. But the Swami’s presence wasgreatly needed in the New World for theconsolidation of the various work started there. Sohe soon returned. With a view to giving a concrete shape to hisVedantic work on the American soil, the Swamiafter the close of his public lectures in the latter
  65. 65. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 65part of February 1896, organized the Vedantamovement into a definite society and began to issuehis teachings in book form. Thus came intoexistence The Vedanta Society of New York, a non-sectarian body with the aim of preaching andpractising Vedanta and applying its principles toall faiths. Its members met regularly at appointedtimes for the purpose of carrying on co-operativeand organized work, and for the study andpropaganda of Vedanta literature. Some of the greatworks like Raja-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, and Karma-Yogahad already been published and aroused a interestamong some of the great savants and thinkers ofAmerica. One of the principal purposes of the Swamiin organizing his classes into this Society wasparticularly to bring about an interchange of ideasand ideals between the East and the West. Alreadyhe had in his mind the plan of bringing from Indiasome of his brother-disciples to teach and preachin America, and also of having some of hisAmerican, and English disciples in India to teachand preach there. In America it would be religiousteaching, and in India it would be practicaltraining—a message of science, industry, economics,applied sociology, organization, and co-operation.The Indian needed that energy, that dexterity inaction, that thirst for improvement which
  66. 66. 66 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAcharacterized the freedom-loving people of theactive West. In the opinion of the Swami, the Orientwould be benefited by greater activity and energylike that of the West, as the latter would profit by amixture of Eastern introspection and the meditativehabit. The Swami made Mr. Francis H. Leggett, oneof the wealthy and influential residents of the cityof New York, the President of this newly formedVedanta Society. The universal teachings and profoundlearning of the Swami made a deep impressionupon the minds of the American intelligentsia. Hewas even offered the Chair of Oriental Philosophyat Harvard university and at Columbia the Chairof Sanskrit. Besides the distinguished psychologistsand philosophers, influential persons of other fieldsof thought also were charmed with his eruditionand knowledge of science and arts. The fearlessoutspokenness of the Swami often alienated thatgeneral approval for which so many publicworkers slave and sacrifice their true views andtheir principles. But, after all, he found that theAmerican public, though at first it might appear toresent, would afterwards regard with greatadmiration one who dared to speak openly of whathe felt were the drawbacks of its civilization. At theend of his American work the Swami wasthoroughly tired. Everything he did, said, or wrote
  67. 67. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 67was at the white heat of intensity; and thisundoubtedly undermined even his strongconstitution. His friends knew that he had givenhimself wholly and unstintedly for the good ofthose who made his message the gospel of theirlives. IN ENGLAND We have already seen that Swami Vivek-ananda, after closing his teaching work inThousand Island Park, visited England in the latterpart of 1895. As a matter of fact, he made three visitsthere; from September to the end of November 1895;from April to the end of July 1896; and from Octoberto December 16, 1896. From the moment he set footin England he breathed a quite different atmosphereof culture and tradition. He discovered here a nationof heroes, brave and steady. But while he admiredthe English people, he never lost sight of his Indianmission. He once wrote to Mr. Leggett in America,‘The British Empire with all its drawbacks is thegreatest machine that ever existed for thedissemination of ideas. I mean to put my ideas inthe centre of this machine, and they will spread all
  68. 68. 68 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAover the world.’ On the way the Swami visited Paris,the centre of European culture, and was delightedto see the museums, churches, cathedrals, artgalleries, and other artistic wealth of the nation.He was introduced in Paris to some of theenlightened friends of his host, with whom hediscoursed on subjects which ranged from the mostlearned studies to the highest spiritual thoughts. On his arrival in England, Swami Vivek-ananda was warmly received by friends, amongthem being Miss Henrietta Müller, who had alreadymet him in America, and Mr. E.T. Sturdy. After afew days rest he commenced work in a quiet way.During the day he paid visits to every place ofhistoric or artistic interest; in the mornings, andoften in the late evenings, he held classes and gaveinterviews. His reputation spread at once, andwithin three weeks of his arrival he found himselfengaged in strenuous activity. The Press welcomedand heralded his ideas, and some of the most selectclubs of the city of London and even some leadersof its prominent clerical institutions invited himand received him with marked admiration. He wasmoving in the best circles of English society, andeven members of the nobility were glad to recognizehim as their friend. This completely revolutionizedthe Swami’s idea of Englishmen and women. InAmerica he found that the public was most enthu-
  69. 69. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 69siastic and responsive in taking up new ideas; butin England he discovered that, though his hearerswere more conservative in their praise anddeclaration of acceptance, they were all the morefervent and staunch, once they had convincedthemselves of the worth of a teacher and his ideas. Though his stay in London was very shortthis time, he had the joyous satisfaction of beingable to count many as his sincere friends and earnestsupporters. Among these was Miss Margaret Noble(afterwards Sister Nivedita) who was theheadmistress of an educational institution and aconspicuous member of the Sesame Club, foundedfor the furtherance of educational purposes. Shemoved in quiet but distinguished intellectualcircles and was deeply interested in all moderninfluences and thought. She was struck with thenovelty and the breadth of the Swami’s religiousculture and the intellectual freshness of hisphilosophical outlook. Swami Vivekananda visited England for thesecond time in April 1896. A pleasant surpriseawaited him there. Swami Saradananda, one of hisbrother-disciples, who had been asked by theSwami to come to England to continue the workstarted during his first visit, had arrived fromCalcutta and was the guest of Mr. E.T. Sturdy. Thistime the Swami opened regular classes on Vedantic
  70. 70. 70 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAthought; his illuminating lectures on Jnana-Yoga—the Path of Wisdom—which were as brilliant asimpressive, made a direct appeal to the mostintellectually gifted people of England and createda very good atmosphere for the spread of Hinduthought and culture in their purest form. He alsogave several courses of lectures in public as well asto private circles. One of the memorable events during theSwami’s stay in London was his meeting with thegreat Orientalist, Professor Max Müller of OxfordUniversity, at his residence, by special invitation,on May 28, 1896. To quote the Swami’s own words:‘The visit was really a revelation to me. The nicelittle house, in its setting of a beautiful garden, thesilver-headed sage, with a face calm and benign,and forehead smooth as a child’s in spite of seventywinters, and every line in that face speaking of adeep-seated mine of spirituality somewhere be-hind.?’ Max Müller was anxious to know from theSwami more than what he had already gatheredabout Sri Ramakrishna, and told him that he wouldbe glad to write a larger and fuller account of hisMaster ’s life and teachings. The facts, as far asavailable, were placed very soon by the Swami atthe disposal of this venerable Professor, who set towork at once and embodied them in an instructivevolume which was soon published under the title
  71. 71. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 71Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings. The book, aidedmaterially in giving the Swami and his mission afirmer hold on the English-speaking world. The Swami in his previous visit had madeacquaintances, which ripened into friendship, withsuch talented souls as Miss Henrietta Müller, MissMargaret Nobel, Mr. E.T. Sturdy and others. Nowthey became his disciples and were ready tosacrifice everything for him and his cause. To thisgroup were soon added two of his most faithfuldisciples, Mr. and Mrs. Sevier. Indeed the Swamiheld Sister Nivedita, J.J. Goodwin, and Mr. and Mrs.Sevier as the finest fruits of his work in England. Exhausted with the strenuous exertions of hisLondon work, the Swami accepted the invitationof three of more intimate friends for a tour and aholiday on the Continent. He spent most of thesummer of 1896 in the midst of the snowy ranges ofSwitzerland. It was there in a village at the foot ofthe Alps, between Mount Blanc and the Little St.Bernard, that he first conceived the plan offounding in the silent retreat of the Himalayas amonastery where his Western and Eastern disciplesmight be united. And the Seviers, who were withhim, never let the idea lapse; it became their life-work. While enjoying the stillness and freshnessof the mountain retreat in Switzerland, there camea letter from Professor Paul Deussen, the celebrated
  72. 72. 72 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAIndologist of Germany, inviting him to visit him atKiel. To see him the Swami shortened his stay atSwitzerland. He, however, managed to visitHeidelberg, Coblenz, Cologne, and Berlin: for hewished to have a glimpse at least of Germany, andhe was impressed by her material power and greatlearning. His reception at Kiel was as cordial andtheir relations as animated as might have beenexpected from such an ardent Vedantist as PaulDeussen. After the continental tour the Swami againcame to London, and Professor Paul Deussen joinedhim there. The Swami spent another two monthshere seeing Max Müller again, meeting EdwardCarpenter, Frederick Meyers, Canon Wilberforce,and other celebrities, and delivering another seriesof lectures on the Vedanta, on the Hindu theory ofMaya, and on the Advaita. This heavy strainseriously affected his health, and his friendssuggested complete rest. But the voice of India wasnow calling him back. He began to feel that hispart of the work in the West had been done, and itwas time for him to fling himself passionately intothe treadmill of action in India for the service of hismotherland. For the management of his works inAmerica in his absence, he soon sent Swami Sarada-nanda to New York in response to the repeatedrequests of his disciples and students of Vedanta
  73. 73. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA 73there; and he brought from India Swami Abhed-ananda, another of his brother-disciples, for thework in London. The Swami did all in his powerto impress the newcomer with the responsibilitiesof his new life. Day after day he trained him so thathe would be able to carry on the work alone. Hewas eager to leave behind a worker fitted bothspiritually and intellectually to take his place, andthe Swami was delighted to find in him a very ableexponent of the Vedanta and a capable substitutefor doing the Master ’s work even after hisdeparture. Thus relieved, the mind of the Swaminow pointed like the needle of a compass to India,the home of poor and sunken millions for whomhe had crossed the Atlantic. BELOVED INDIA On December 16, 1896, the Swami with Mr.and Mrs. Sevier left London for the Continent. Itwas also arranged that Mr. Goodwin sailing fromSouthampton would meet them at Naples. TheSwami rejoiced that he was free again. He said toMr. and Mrs. Sevier, ‘Now I have but one thoughtand that is India. I am looking forward to India!’
  74. 74. 74 SWAMI VIVEKANANDAOn the eve of his departure an English friend asked,‘Swami, how do you like your motherland nowafter four years’ experience of the luxurious,glorious, powerful West?’ His significant replywas: ‘India I loved before I came away. Now thevery dust of India has become holy to me; it is nowthe holy land—the place of pilgrimage, the Tirtha.’ The party travelled to Milan via Dover, Calais,and the Mont Cenis, and had a short tour throughItaly. As the train left Florence for Rome, the Swamiwas full of emotion, for of all cities in Europe hewas most desirous to see Rome. One week was spentin this imperial city. At Rome the Swami wasexceedingly delighted to witness the various placesof historic importance—its magnificent seats oflearning, arts, and religion. When the party leftRome, however, the Swami was not sad, for herealized that each day was bringing him nearer tothe desired event—the departure for India. FromRome the next move was to Naples, where theywere to embark. The ship arrived at last fromSouthampton, bringing Mr. Goodwin as one of itspassengers, and left Naples for Colombo onDecember 30, 1896, with the Swami and his disciplesamong others, on board. The home-coming of the Swami was a greatevent in the history of modern India, for a unitedIndia rose to do him honour. For about four years

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